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114 photos this month
Ruddy Ducks with Tails Up, Down & at 45 degrees
February 29, 2016
Well, quacking, really. But I assume there's a communicative element to her quacking. Hence, "talking." And despite that I have read it's usually the female ducks who quack, I saw just as many male Ruddies quacking today — one each.
I found dozens, maybe a hundred Ruddy Ducks in the place I usually find Ruddy Ducks, and I snuck up on them this time. With tripod and big honking camera and lens honker, too. I got within 50-60 yards of these birds swimming fairly close to the shore, which is what attracted me to them in the first place.
Then I moved up 20 paces, put down the tripod, shot a few shots, then 20 more paces, then closer till I was near the edge. Eventually, some ducks figured out I was up to photographing them, and the whole flock of them slowly slid — no raging panic — out, but by then I'd got all these shots. It probably helped that I was shooting at very low ISO, at the magic f/8.
I was about to say the closeness has a lot to do with how sharp those images were, but this one is that close, and it's not all that sharp. So I made the image smaller, hoping it'd look sharper. Its eye seems sharp, and that's the rule — that a lot of people pay way too much attention to. I tried to get the whole bird sharp, but I aim at whichever eye I can see, and mine aren't all that sharp anymore, either.
And this one is sharp. Who knows. All today's pix were shot with the big cam and the big lens on a big tripod that sometimes scares birds when I hoist it up on my shoulders and carry it. So this time, I moved it in front of my, three pods near the ground — and no sudden movements. I guess, sometimes the tripod was vibrating slightly, and sometimes not.
I suspect whether its tail is up or down or at a diagonal, makes some sort of difference. I tried to find info about why they raise or lower their tails, and I kept reading that Ruddies are especially aggressive to each other and to other species, but I didn't see any of that today, and as you can see, I was closer to them than I have been in a long time.
Ruddy Ducks who are much less ruddy are very probably nonbreeding Ruddy Ducks. Most of the Ruddy (reddish) Ducks I saw and photographed today held their tails at an angle of approximately 45-dgrees.
Since I don't see any correlating information, I'm going to stop writing about tail angles and up or down or whatever.
Compare with over-exposed grebe below, but I still wish it had not been swimming away, so I could have seen more facial detail.
Oh, and this business of pre-dating journal entries is driving me crazy confused, so I'll probably go back to the previous system, whatever that was. As you've probably noticed, I've also changed the purple all-cap subheads to smaller red caps and lower-case, which takes up too much room, and the new style is more legible, and the copyright notice on images to white, so they aren't so easily confused with the amber captions below. Pretty much the same with the size and color of the date.
I read a story more than a decade ago — maybe in the 90s — in some tech magazine, that we should all be making web pages that adhere to general rules, instead of getting caught up in visually specific instructions, like mutliple-column designs. So everything squeezes when it's gotta be smaller and expands the rest of the time. Ocassionally, I still check other people's hand-held phones, tabs and whatnots, just to be sure, but this design seems to adapt.
This view was taken while I was standing in the median on Garland Road, with tripod, while I was waiting for the traffic to unbusy itself, so I could go home.
Sunshine in Sunset Bay
February 27, 2016
Fairly unusual to see a Muscovy flying, though not exactly rare. When they need to go a little faster than swimming, they sometimes fly. Flying is usually accompanied by huffing and puffing like a major long freight train locomotive, but this one was too far or the wind was blowing or some other excuse.
Ring-billed Gulls get bored, too. Though this 'game' may not be for nothing. They need to learn to dive and catch something sometimes, although the only instance I can think of for that is stealing another gull's catch. So they practice. When I see a Ring-bill flying up, let one of its wings go slack, thus stall and fall, it's probably because it is chasing something down — and a more or less controlled fall is sometimes faster than flying. I was not quick enough, however, to catch it catching this small black object.
So I had to follow it some more till I caught back up to it. Focus is not automatic. Well, it's supposed to be, as long as I hold down the shutter button and keep the bird in the viewfinder frame, but its flight and/or my following it was erratic. The game is it drops it, then dives down and catches it, then flies up, and drops, catches, flies … etc. Gulls just wanna have fun.
More than several years ago, maybe five black ducks got left off by somebody who didn't want to take care of them anymore, and sometimes we see them here again. They are not Black Ducks, which is a specific species of dark ducks. They are ducks who happen to be black, and in this case, certainly, Black is Beautiful. Like most duck species and hybrids, these fairly obviously descended from Mallards — green head, yellow beak, etc.
Red-shouldered Hawks hatch and grow up very close to this side of the lake, so it's not unusual to see them fly over Sunset Bay. I would have preferred that it flew over closer, but I take what I can get..
Can't really see the cormorant's eye very well, and the pelican's is covered with a nictating membrane that protects it when it's, oh, say, sleeping out there. I usually avoid showing pix of those eye-lid-like skin things, but that's silly. They have them; they use them; humans gotta get over being squeamish about it. The one other thing interesting to me about this particular picture, is that it's of something bright, blazing white and something mostly dark. It's easy enough to photograph one or the other, but an exposure that's right for a bright white bird often renders a black cormorant too dark. Not sure why it doesn't do that here, but it doesn't. I suspect, it really should be a little darker.
Here, however, the exposure that was right for the Pelican and cormorant was too bright for this grebe, so its tail feathers, neck 'ring' and that bright, blazing white beak, is overexposed. But this was my only shot of it, so it's here. I should know better.
When I photographed these birds across the lagoon, I assumed they were Mallards. But I don't think they are now that I've seen some of their details. Next, I assumed they were American Wigeons, but the colors and tones aren't in the exact right places, so now what?
I still think female Mallards are beautiful, especially when they're back-talking some other bird.
I haven't seen more than one Northern Shoveler at the lake for awhile — maybe more than a month. And that one was at the Old Boat House Lagoon. So Eric and I were excited when we saw these guys — and a bunch more — they would be much smaller here if I included all the Northern Shovelers in this photograph.
And these, of course, are also the same distance away, just blown up even more, although the image is getting a little too soft, so no more enlarging.
I assumed it was a Double-crested Cormorant, but it looks different somehow. Maybe just because it's looking this way. I dunno.
About here, I figured I was finished for the day, but I wasn't. There's more, and I'll show you some of those Sunday or so, so I'll have room and time to deal with the art story I've recently begun. The other thing I've been working on, is my snark. I lost it when someone wrote me at DallasArtsRevue complaining of it, so I've been working it back into my routine. Lucky you.
18 Birds, A Possum & Rain
February 26, 2016
People are only interesting for a little while, and if I don't get off my duff and go find some birds — even if it's gray, gray, gray and raining, it's worth my while. I tried all around the lake, and guess what, gang? I found birds in Sunset Bay.
I didn't see the rain. All I saw was the grackle and the stone table nowhere else but in The Stone Tables, on the other side of the creek that runs from very nearly Buckner Boulevard (Loop 12) to the lake.
Before I could photograph them in the small series of small ponds this side of shore. Their decision.
All I was trying to do was sneak up on them.
They looked especially distinguished with splatters of raindrops on their coats.
Wet and getting wetter, but very dead all along.
I backed up into somebody's very short driveway uphill, so I could photograph the crows up there without shooting through the trees.
With water droplets splattering.
I shot several times. This one was headless, but the crow was in focus.
2 Birds and 5 People
February 23, 2016
On top a smallish tree overlooking White Rock Lake, I saw this at some distance and shot at least a dozen times with the camera and lens crammed against the edge of The Slider's driver's window. I got maybe four decent shots with it looking the right direction — I couldn't really see where it was looking either through my eyes or through the lens, but hoped the camera would, and it did. I'm being a little circumspect about where I saw it, because they are a dying breed.
I kept driving around and around looking for birds, but finding people:
I kept seeing people photographing couples, as in prenuptial photos, engagement or whatever. No idea where these people were going — or what they'd do when they got there, but they looked photographable, up in the trees by the big apartments down the hill past Doctor's Hospital, where next April we'll probably see owls.
She was well in front of the guy with the great shirt. After I got these, I didn't see them again, since The Slider is faster. I hoped to find birds, but sometimes people are more interesting, though I'd still rather photograph birds and use people as transitions — like in so many, many movies, they use birds for those.
Eating something vegetable.
No idea why these humans were up there, but the guy on the right was getting down and the upper guy was not. I've only maybe a half dozen times in the 9+ years I've done this journal, see tree-climbing humans.
Person — I didn't want to look closely enough to determine sex, but it's got a purse — standing along Poppy Drive by Doctor's Hospital on my second or third drive by there. I've often seen people chugging ciggies with their heads in, then out of oxygen bags along that stretch, but I'm rarely this ready to photograph them. So since I was, I did. They were blatantly in public, probably the only where they could go to suck smoke and have a Coke.
First Day Back at the Lake
February 20, 2016
Red-winged Blackbirds were taking over the lake again when I left for the Sunny South, so there were plenty pro claimers to choose from.
On top of old Winfrey.
As they often do — until some people with little cameras creep closer and closer through those reeds and weeds, when they flee slowly, a subset of our pelicans hung out along the shore west of the pier.
I can't always capture close-ups of our predominant gull species, but today I did it twice, and this is the better of them today.
No weeds and reeds in between now.
They were finding something to put in their big, back-lit beaks worth tipping back and swallowing as they swam out to the logs, and nobody was even bothering them.
One cormorant, one American White Pelican, one splash from hopping, and two more Double-crested Cormorants on some loglets. And what I keep missing, that looks like part of the logs, but is really a Ring-billed Gull heading this way.
An enlargement of the that same pelican.
I was following it, but I love how the logs behind were rendered in this shot, all nice and out of focus, but we know what's out there, nonetheless.
Kala King told me last time I featured this lovely duck exactly who it was, but I forget. Of course. Then she reminded me, it's a Blue Swedish Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus).
Over Sunset Bay.
I'd hoped to get lots and lots of photos of birds at my usual drive-by bird haunts at Mitchell Lake and that Catholic college, but the lake parts of Mitchell Lake were closed, because somebody had put ruts in their wet dirt (mud), and the City Park by Our Lady of the Lake College where we usually slide a little down the hill to photo the rookery island, was closed for refurbishing, and there was another fence around it all, that was difficult to shinny through.
Not that it stopped me, just that it slowed me, my lens, cam and tripod, down, although the rumors of ruts stopped me at the other birding venue where one does not have to hike (Mom can't walk without her cart), because the lake was closed to cars. But the fences and lakes were still ahead of us [below].
So when I saw the bright white egret, I continued driving down the street a bit, turned around, then photographed this cardinal. Such a handsome critter.
At first I assumed it were a Great Egret but leg color and that ever-so-light dusting of reddish-brown on top of its head mark it as a Cattle Egret, although I didn't see any cows on the outside of a fenced-in place Mom and I saw as we drove down the road looking for birds.
The other side of the fence is where the mostly cormorants but some egrets, too, are nesting or just hanging out. In the water were ducks and cormorants (They were pretty much every where.) This light stand is across the lake, which looks like a river, except it doesn't flow very fast. Unfortunately, around the lake were two sets of wire fences, one I could and did get through, and another I couldn't.
Luckily, the one I could, was closer to the birds, and the one I couldn't was closer to the Our Lady of the Lake parking lot where I usually park, and this time I parked Mom in The Slider there in an imaginary slot just outside the last real slot, like I'd seen one other car occupy, and I hoped nobody else would notice, because she needed to see what I was doing, without crawling through fences.
There were also many many Northern Shovelers. Note the big, long beaks, whence comes the 'shoveler' term.
Four different birds in flight in one photo. I was amazed when I shot it, and I still am.
Nice view of all that color and contrast vs. the mostly all-black cormorant.
Sure looks different from the Double-crested Cormorants we have around here.
And there were many, many more shovelers in the Our Lady of the Lake lake.
I didn't so much recognize this female duck, but I think I know where to find the I.D of the males that were around there, but apparently I haven't worked up a pic of the male, so I can't quite identify them yet.
Looks a lot like a Mallard.
Wet from diving and staying under until I nearly despaired it would ever come back for one more photographic attempt.
with Lots of Birds
February 14, 2016
When in doubt, I lay them out in chronological order, and see what sense can be made of it. Didn't know what this was while I was photographing it, and I only got this one shot. I knew what it was planning to do, then I captured it when it did. That doesn't happen near enough times. But thanks for this one. They talk about Robins being the harbingers of spring, but around here, it's more likely to be Cowbirds.
No idea where I shot the Cowbird, but these were from along "The Big Thicket" area of White Rock Lake around and past the Yacht Clubs. I assume these are ducks and/or gooses.
I was only carrying the telephoto, and for this what I really needed was a wide-angle zoom, so I just backed up out into the road, checking traffic both ways, and clicked. I assume they are drying in the wind and sun after being oared around the lake.
I've seen American White Pelicans under the Mockingbird car Bridge often, but this is the first photo of it in a long time. Note the accumulation of potential pelican perching logs jammed in under there by the floods.
The first seven times I tried to make something of this image, I failed miserably. So I put it away for the night, and the next noon, came up with this, which I really really like. Its right eye is in focus, but otherwise it's rather untraditional a pose, which, of course, I had no say in.
This was even more trouble, but there's qualities in this I really like, as much trouble as it was.
Eventually, after photographing it too many times without checking the LCD to see what I'd got, I did, changed the exposure, and got this comparatively more boring shot, even if it is better exposed.
With the lens pointed toward Dreyfuss Point. That's the creek area in the trees the farthest away. I'd been watching the rain ponds slowly dry up, then today noticed the glistening of the wet — mud, not grass — had to back up immediately, and shoot this wetscape out the window of The Slider. This was shot from where Dixon Branch crosses Buckner Boulevard (Loop 12) then East Lawther Drive.
But there's still plenty pond left. After awhile, I looped back to Winfrey Point via Garland Road.
I'm trying to remember if I had already seen Killdeer at the lake, if not this is a FOS for me (first of the season). I photographed it from Emerald Meadow Drive.
I doubt it was worried about me and The Slider parked in the middle of the Drive, but this pose makes me remember that Killdeer sometimes choose the most dangerous sites to nest.
Right after I drove out of the lot, a woman with two big dogs drove in, and they all got out for a nice long walk.
I'd circled back up Winfrey Point Drive to the look-off point of the parking lot to watch for birds in the trees along the north edge of the parking lot behind the Winfrey Building.
They've been getting more and more obvious over the last month or so, but if these are nests, some of them must be getting residents by about now.
Pelicans on a Cold and Windy Day
February 10, 2016
My temp gage said only 41, but it sure felt colder than that. I paused at five different birding sites around the lake, but settled into Sunset Bay, even though I didn't see any more birds than at those other places, I just decided to stop here, and go stand on the pier., which happens to be my favorite place in the known universe.
What I found was a small island of American White Pelicans just off the pier's right wing.
At first, they looked spooked, stood up in alert mode as if they were seriously thinking about flying away. I think they are afraid of my tripod, so I put it down, mounted the camera on it, and told them gently what I was doing, and that they needn't worry, my tripod, camera and I weren't going to hurt or bother them in any way.
They calmed down, tucked themselves back into their furry white rugs, and I took a couple hundred pictures of them and anything else that swam or flew by.
But there probably were many times more cormorants in the bay than pelicans, as usual.
I especially like the swept-back feathers on the pelk at the right. Mostly they just look streamlined.
What grabbed my attention today, was that eloquent light and its effect on all those bright white feathers.
The gold part of the title is from the sun and this pelican's beak and fin beak, which shows that he or she is an adult in breeding condition.
Only one Male Lesser today. Others tell me they've seen four or more, I have only, so far, seen one, and I was there right about 8 ayem.
Nice detail, nice bright white. Lots of soft white details. Sunshine and clouds ganged up for those today.
A little like shooting pelicans in a barrel.
Awfully windy windy cold. Was no one else in sight most of the time I was there this early Monday morning.
It was preening its own feathers most of the time, then it seemed to bend way back and preen somebody else's I don't remember seeing that before, but it other species, it sometimes happens when the other bird is sick or injured. Doing it upsidedown seems odd.
Scrumptious angel details.
Even a few flying pelican images, just for old time's sake.
Getting close, very close.
I'd been watching them awhile, then caught on that some were diving, I didn't know why yet, so next time one had got going, I started photographed it, still hoping to figure out what for. These are presented in as close to these gulls — not just one's — usual diving sequence as I could manage, so this series makes some sense. Not my traditional chronological, because that way, they were in the wrong order.
Trouble is they were at differing distances and with different sets of other birds, so while the action is sequential, the players are not. Oh, well.
Wing-power up, lift-off, head-down dive in.
These last two are so similar, yet so different, I'm putting in both. I like the singularity above and the camaraderie here.
Fold wings, while keeping powering down …
Beak's probably on the bay floor about now, and …
it needs that little extra wing-push to stay down long enough to grab something tasty.
I saw several of these morsels, all the same colors and texture.
Mid-Day at Hagerman Wildlife Refuge
February 1, 2016
We drove a long way not finding any birds before this one suddenly appeared close. We assumed it assumed that because it was holding still, we couldn't see it, but it had chosen its background badly this time, and we could see it very well indeed. It's always a thrill to sight a Roadrunner, and today was no exception. Yee-haw!! Beep-beep.
We knew who they were without getting up close and personal, and indeed they were Ring-billed Gulls, the most populous gulls around here. Lake gulls. Calling them sea gulls is a little silly this far from the nearest ocean.
There had been a recurring Male Pintail Duck in Sunset Bay the previous couple of summers, but he did not show up last summer, and we miss him, although we assume he found a mate and has settled down.
Our second roadrunner for the day was a little quicker, and it stayed more distant, and it too, seemed to believe it was invisible if it was still, but it appeared to believe even more in the theory that if it skedaddled out of there, it was far more likely to achieve disappearance. This is it stopping one more time on its way to invisibility. So much so, that like most other birds, after not long a while, all we could see was movement, not bird.
I seriously underexposed this shot by clicking first, then asking questions like, should I compensate for all that sky coming in from the background? later. I should have, but the nice thing about underexposing is that we can generally alter the tonal range by brightening-up everything in the picture. Like this. Over-exposing does not work that way, at all, ever.
It stood there just like this long enough for me to focus on its head and click the shutter. Later, it resumed looking like an ordinary Great Blue Heron.
We saw lots of Turkey Vultures today, but only one ever flew over us this close.
This is a different GBH (Great Blue Heron). We only saw a half dozen all the time we were there. I'm sure many more were out there, but after not finding many birds in the few places we fully explored, we kinda gave up. It would have helped if we would have gone the early we attempted, but I did get to sleep in after thoroughly waking up, then we got back out there noonish. If we'd been there at seven or eight instead, we probably would have been a lot "luckier" with birds.
I stupidly managed to spook a couple hundred of them by erecting my tripod between them and Anna's car. Setting it up on the other side later, helped a lot. But I hated to waste a good, through dumb (on my part) Snoagies rush, and though I dearly wished I had my wide-zoom more handy, so I could see and capture the whole flapping immensity of seeing them all winging their way across the tundra, I shot with the usual 300mm with a 1.7x extender — and netted these — an overabundance of fuzzy, out of focus, Snoagie pix.
It's hard to miss the Snow Geese when they're around. There's hundreds of them, and they like to settle close to the road, making it especially easy to photograph from a car. The Blue Morphs here are at the top left and top center of this photograph. The others are all the much more prevalent White Morphs.
Snow Geese come in two flavors — The White Morph (right above) and the Blue grubbing for the roots of plants on the left.
At first the old guy (a lot older even than me) officiating inside the window, outside of which included containers of food for the birds, said this was something else (I forget what.), then he decided it was, instead, a Pine Siskin. I messed up the color when I brought this back from near total underexposure, and never really knew it, so couldn't match it, but another, sorta similar bird was nearby:
Hard to say whether the pic above this one fits the pix in my bird books of Pine Siskins, but this image definitely does not. Some birds tend to travel in pairs, and if these two comprised a pair, (meaning a male and a female, not just two birds flying in the same sky or resting out the windows of the same National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, then the "Pine Siskin" and this one are a pair, but they sure don't look it.
Which is the long way around saying I don't know the correct identification for either.
My first photo today was at 11:10 AM. My last, leaving Hagerman was at 3:11 PM. I still want to go back for an earlier run at it, but I might wait till closer to almost spring, and I definitely want to get there when it opens.
Relevant websites: Hagerman's US Fish & Wildlife Service site features pelicans, but we didn't see a single one today. The Friends of Hagerman's site has some interesting photos though they're not credited. The Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge page on Wikipedia has no photos, but it does have the deepest information about various aspects of the refuge. Directions are on Recreation.gov's Hagerman page.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2016 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission from and payment to Writer and Photographer J R Compton. I am an amateur. I've only been birding since June 2006, and most of that is documented in this Journal, all the pages of which continue online. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964.