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The Amateur Birder's Journal - Stories & Photographs by J R Compton
All Contents © 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. DO NOT USE images without permission & payment.
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January 31 2007

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron in Flight - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron

So I went back today. Sunless gray and colder. I'd read the manual and got it right, except I also got it darker, so I had to bump the exposure index (used to call it film speed), which made it pixilated (used to call it grainy). My resolution for tomorrow is to leave the thriving heron population at the Boat House Lagoon alone.

Trees Full of Herons - copyrignt 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Tree Full of Herons - I count ten, may be more

By also photographing a mess of egrets today, I'm pretty sure now that herons do spend time in trees waiting. For their turn. One heron was on this side of the lagoon when I arrived. On the shore waiting for a fish to come close enough. If I hadn't brought me and my camera, it might have caught one.

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron - copyrignt 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron

Too cold for fragile me to walk, so I drove around. Lucky I did. I discovered about thirty Great Egrets standing majestically around a stream that feeds Parrot (actually parakeets) Bay. They were taking turns flying down into the creek and making a stab at fishing. I caught several — but not all — of them coming out with fish in their beaks. Otherwise, it looked like the usual egret melee.

Egrets Taking Turns Fishing - copyrignt 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Egrets Taking Turns Fishing

Not only do egrets and herons hang out together, without, it seems, taking much notice of each other, their families are similar, so maybe their styles are, too. I like the notion of them taking turns. I don't know who decides, though. Is it like at a 12th Step meeting where whoever needs it the most goes first? Or is there some sort of pecking order? I'd have to pay entirely too much attention to ever find out. I am way too excited for twiging the turns bit.

When It Wasn't Their Turn - copyrignt 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

When It Wasn't Their Turn, They Watched

For the first pics, I shot from afar. For the series that netted this shot — after noticing they didn't budge when a car drove over it, I drove right up to the bridge they were gathered around. They flew a few feet that way, then turned around and came back. Wasn't worth fleeing from as good a fishing spot as this for some amateur birder, even if he did tote a big black lens.

Bottom Shot of Cedar Waxwing - copyrignt 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Driving home toward warmth, I ducked in to the Pump House drive and saw birds up through my sun roof, including this, which I looked up in my bird books and to photograph nearly directly above me in the tree, and learned it is a Cedar Waxwing. I remember a friend saying it was her favorite bird, and me thinking, yeah, it's real likely we'll be seeing one of those around here... I don't call me "amateur" for nothing.

Pretty distinctive with the gray overall color, that amazing swept-back crown, red tipped wings and bright yellow tipped tail. I should go back on a sunnier day and catch it better, from the side. But I think birds take less notice of us in cars than they do us out walking. Most vehicles just drive on by. Walkers get nosy.

Tree Full of Unsubs Flying Away - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Tree Full of Birds Flying Away

I drove to the vicinity of the electric sub-station to see any Monk Parakeets, but I didn't see anything but doves. By then, I wasn't interested in getting out of the car, so maybe they were hiding in up there. I did find this tree full of unsubs. In several photos of them all I.D. details were lost in the pixels.

January 30

Doing the Cormorant Hop - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Cormorant Taking Off by Hopping - A

Cormorant Taking Off by Hopping B - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Cormorant Taking Off By Hopping - B

Cormorant Taking Off By Hopping C - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Cormorant Taking Off By Hopping - C

I've been worrying whether cormorants got flying by running on the water's surface or by hopping. I thought the latter improbable, but it's what the evidence seemed to leading me to believe. Today, finally, I got to photograph one in enough detail to see for nearly certain that they do not run left-right-left, they hop.

If you could flip these three images like I have on my screen, you'd believe. They were from a longer sequence which followed the bird down the concourse at the Boat House Lagoon, behind plants and finally, out into the open. My camera shoots up to 5 frames per second, so it's about a fifth of a second between shots. A half second or more after Photo C, the cormorant became airborne and flew away.

For comparison, here's a coot running, obviously flinging his big feet left and right, not keeping them together.

Coot Running Over the Water - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Coot Running Over the Water Surface - Note the
Big Left-Right Extension of Those Big Feet

I wasn't there for coots or cormorants, however. I went seeking herons flying, and I was sorely disappointed by a long series of just out of focus shots of older and younger Black-crowned Night Herons flapping up and down the lagoon. Beautiful poses, great wing extensions and turning around in mid-air. Great shots, except they were almost every single one of them, slightly out of focus. I think because of my new lens' Vibration Reduction.

Bug-eyed Imature Heron Flying. - Copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron

These are the best of the bunch, sharpened more than I like to in Photoshop, interesting for their detail of immature herons. These guys usually stay in the shadows, which is probably why they're called Night Herons, except when they fly above or alongside, the trees.

Imature BCNH About to Land - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron About to Land

Near as I could tell, Black-crowned Night Herons of various ages spend most of their time just standing around in the trees, hardly moving. Then when one jumps into flight up or down — I finally captured a few herons flying toward me, though not in focus — the row of trees on the far side of the lagoon, others would join in. I got as many as four flappers in one shot, all in pretty lousy focus.

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

When I shot this, I thought of it as an Unsub.
Now I'm pretty sure it's a very young cormorant.
Are they breeding around here in secret?

There'd be no movement for ten or fifteen minutes, then flight would erupt again. I guess I haven't watched them enough to know why changing trees or branches is advantageous. But it happened whether I was walking, standing or sitting still, leaning up against a tree, warm in bright sunlight, yet cooled by a wicked breeze.

I've never seen herons do anything in trees but wait. I assumed they were waiting to go fishing, but I really don't know what they were waiting for, unless it was a chance to fly to another tree to wait some more.

January 26

Not A Cactus Wren - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Not a Cactus Wren — So then, What?

Reader Nancy Nichols says it may be a White-crowned Sparrow. Pics in the book show those to have a light, plain undercarriage, but it's close. Reader Xiao suggests they're female Red-winged Blackbirds and sent a a link that's very close. I'm not calling it, because I haven't seen any male Red-winged Blackbirds in awhile (and I'm a big fan, so I'd notice.) But then, I haven't seen a female Lesser Scaup at our lake — and there's gobs of males, so many things are possible.

The drawing at the link shows that RWBB female wings have spots of red but most of this bird's wing stripes are reddish, not neutral, and in the pic her breast stripes are contiguous. That bird's face has more white, and the tails are differently shaped. But the page states, "no other similar species has her well-defined stripes on its underparts." Whic is hooey, since lots of birds have them.

The National Geographic Field Guide's image of a female Red-winged Black Bird definitely does not have the white, postocular (behind its eyes) swash this bird has.

grAnna had very young Alice June, so we met at Sunset Bay on this warmish and sun shining day. I expected pelicans and gooses and ducks, if that many.

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

Tiny Brown and White Unsub — A House Sparrow?

Reader Xiao sent another link showing this bird or a close cousin. Looks pretty close, but this one's beak looks black, not yellow. So I'm not calling it yet. It may be an optical dillusion in my photograph.

What we got were pelicans, no gooses and some littler birds I didn't recognize. Unsubs.

New species is one of the funs of watching birds, but I'd thought I'd surely be able to I.D them by now (about 3:30 ayem, when I usually put these entries together). But no. I've gone through two books, searching carefully page by page, and I don't see these. Yet.

The brown stripeys at today's top numbered perhaps a half dozen, mostly on the ground searching for food, then shyly retiring to trees to wait to go back to the ground. Striking stripes, pretty, limited palette but a nice reddish brown with black.

I, the amateur in this web suite's title, assumed they were starlings. But they're not.

Pelican Beak Stretch Extreme - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Extreme Pelican Beak Stretch — What Pelicans Do

Meanwhile, there were pelicans doing what pelicans do. Which are sometimes amazing to watch. And the mystery of which is male and which female. Except that in late winter to spring, breeding males begin to sprout fins on their beaks, I might never have known. Anna guessed the females have pink beaks and the males are yellow-orange.

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

Pelican Pair — He On Left; She On Right

The females' pink beaks may become more pronounced as the breeding males' beak fin does also, which is the last week or so, though I'd wondered before whether the ones with pink beaks could possibly be females. I try to avoid anthropomorphisms, but wouldn't it be amazing if pink beaks were the gender tell-tale?

In the photo above, at least, he and his beak are bigger. He has a more conspicuous outcrop of flaring feathers off the back of his head. She's smaller, more rounded.

I'll be checking carefully whether these comparisons hold up with other pairs as we head toward spring.

Pelican Flying Low & Close - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pelican Flying Low and Close

I'll end today's entry with a shot that's not pelican, but first there's these two remarkably close shots as these amazing birds flew me by low and so close I struggled to keep them in my frame as they shot across my view. Such elegant flyers. Powerful wind-stirrers who seem to float near effortlessly. I'm always in awe around them, even when they are stretching their lips.

Low & Close #2 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Low & Close #2

My heavy newish (since last February) camera hurts my right hand holding it, and after not too long it hurts even worse, but it's close passes by my favorite birds (big and still fairly exotic) that make standing out there on the pier hurting worth the while. I've been imagining a frame vaguely similar to the Early Bob Dylan's harmonica holder to hold my camera in front of my face, where I only need to squeeze a bulb or electronic clicker to fire click-click-click. I'll look goofy, but it'll hurt less. If I can get it out of my head and into reality.

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

Gull vs. Coots Competing for Food Flung by Humans

This last shot for today is a gull, a species for which I have little empathy. I'm more on the coots' side in any skirmish, and greedy-gut gulls find almost any excuse to skirm with coots, almost always after food flung by humans. I'm opposed to humans feeding birds bread — especially white bread, but essentially anything humans too often choose to feed the birds (I'm all for the guys in trucks who feed our lake's birds corn every evening), but I've never seen a family with kids throwing corn or any straight grain to the birds. No. Usually, it's white bread or Fritos or other unhealthful objects that the gulls happily fight the coots for.

January 25

Heron Flying Away - copyright 2007 by J R COmpton. All Rights Reserved.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

May be one of those great personal quests. To capture a flying heron close and in focus, and still be beautiful. Hard to do. Watching and waiting at the egret-filled lagoon today, egrets flapped and soared from one end to the other, high and low. Not herons. Herons materialized just past the middle of my view, going away every time, then disappeared toward the lake.

Egrets Racing Through The Trees - copyright 2007 by J R COmpton. All Rights Reserved.

Egrets Racing through the Trees

The Lagoon was a bird busy place this bright sun-shiny afternoon. The egrets drew me in with their major installation. Eegs everywhere, in the trees, along the creek, in the meadow on the other side of the bridge. Eeg replete.

Egret Lagoon - copyright 2007 by J R COmpton. All Rights Reserved.

Egret Lagoon

I assume they were there to fish. Except for one Great Egret flying with its catch, I didn't see anything approximating an egret fishing. But they weren't down there for the glorious white display of it. Although they did seem to be having Johnathan Livingston Seagull-like fun flying through the trees.

What Do Egrets Eat? - copyright 2007 by J R COmpton. All Rights Reserved.

Egret with Fish

Herons, ever the gray masters of blending in, were harder to find. If they held as still as egrets sometimes do, they'd be impossible. But when one moved, I'd zero in and train my lens on it, then wait for the decisive moment. Or what passes for it.

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron - copyright 2007 by J R COmpton. All Rights Reserved.

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron

I watched this Black-crown a long time. He barely moved and passed for tree most of the time I watched egrets. When he shifted feet, I found him. Looks obvious here, but from across the lagoon, he was gray on gray in gray. With bits of brownish and green further back.

Splashing Corm Take-off - copyright 2007 by J R COmpton. All Rights Reserved.

Splashing Cormorant Take-off

Less noticeable among so much egret white and flapping gray, were dark cormorants swimming and flying at low altitude. I'm still keen to catch one in the wet act of taking off after splashity-splashing down the runway — to find out if it hops or runs. Plenty of splashing, but too quick to tell. Or I'm too slow.

Cormorant Feather Dipping - copyright 2007 by J R COmpton. All Rights Reserved.

Feather-dipping Cormorant Flying Very Low

These guys fly so fast, it wasn't till I got the image on my monitor that I discovered I'd caught it dipping feathers in the green murk. Nice reflection, too. Approaching elegance.

Coot Showing Off Its Legs - copyright 2007 by J R COmpton. All Rights Reserved.

Coot Showing Off Its Leg

Coots, because of their bright white beaks and dark selves, are a challenge to expose correctly. Here, we even got a little of what looks like attitude. But it's really just a coot swimming in the murky lagoon. I shot it, because it shows that strange lobed foot hanging back there.

I kept it, because of that red eye, for once in the last six months correctly exposed head and beak, and it's here for the attitude, real or imagined. I love the notion of a fierce coot, and those beads of water on its back add to the overall sharpness.

Mockingbird - copyright 2007 by J R COmpton. All Rights Reserved.

Mockingbird in the Branches

The one other, incredibly elusive bird, that I caught here, is the Mockingbird. Some day I'll be quick or calm enough in hurried circumstance to capture one flying flashing their striped wings. I think I know what that'll look like. I've seen it in real life, but never in a photograph.

Till then, this fine little nearly full-frame portrait, in this bird's natural habitat, nearly hidden among the branches, will do. Shows off the amazing sharpness of my new 70-300mm Nikon VR lens, too.

January 23

Fishing Armada

Fishing Armada

Lots of egrets around the lake today. Hardly sunning themselves in this gray, although I had the cam set wrong so this shot is too blue. Cold, too. Some light, though. Enough. Cormorants and pelicans among a fishing armada in the middle of the lake. Gulls circling excitedly overhead. Thin lines of corm heads poke out of the drink. Big flapping pelks leading the way.

At Sunset Bay, pelks were swimming toward Dreyfuss as I arrived. All of dozen of them.

Ducks Eating Corn

Ducks Eating Corn

Round the dam to Tilley's Point to watch ducks and grackles and coots eat corn. I'd never paid attention to their lean-all-the-way-forward posture when they do that. I don't think I could balance.

I almost drove off at Mockingbird Lane, U-eed just back to Cormorant Bay, stepping carefully to avoid the splatter pattern and stench, and stood in the cold to learn more cormorant secrets. Strange birds, not just stinky.

Cormorant Running on the Water

Cormorant Running on Water About to Take Off

They do it a little differently from American Coots, but both leave white splurts behind them as they run across the surface to get up speed. Seconds later, this cormorant rose off the surface, and flapped away. Coots run, splat-splat-splat like running in the rain. I haven't figured out the corm footwork.

Do you suppose they hop? Are those feet poised parallel or alternating as if running? Are those white puffs wingflap splats? So many questions. This early last century people worried whether all four horse hooves were off the ground at the same time. Some guy with a camera proved they were. I need to shoot faster and closer to learn if corms run or hop.

Thick With Cormorants

Thick With Cormorants

Spooky all them out there like that, the woods dense with dark shapes.

I know what they do, thick in the trees along the arching top of Cormorant Bay. They sit and stink. Looks like snow in Stinky Bird Season. But doesn't smell like snow. They perch and scat and wait for just the moment to fly over to the next tree, plop down in the water or run off on it like our runner (hopper?) above.

Blurry Cormorant Flying Over

The Shape

Lots of corms flying every which way in their bay. I concentrated on the ones close. Sometimes my new lens focused, but like its cheap predecessor that jumped headfirst off the shelf last month, it does not appreciate being tipped up. Often as not tilting blurred it out completely. I'm posting the image above small, because it was so out of focus, but the shape, that amazing cartoon shape ... !

Cormorant Over J R

Cormorant Over J R

Works great horizontally, though. Worked this time, too, because I followed focus from way out over the bay. It's supposed to focus wicked fast, but ya gotta help it sometimes. I don't know why anymore than I know why cormorants sit in one tree for a couple hours then get all antsy to fly over to another tree. Probably a social thing.

Last-minute Negotiations

Last-minute Perch Negotiations

They don't seem to plan where they'll perch till they get there. Don't necessarily fly to an empty or uncrowned branch, either. No, they fly where another cormorant is already planted and do some serious last-minute negotiations as they arrive or just bump it out of the way.

Maybe the corm on the right is the local tree boss, and the newcomer has to make nice, work out a little agreement while he's flapping around out there. This particular Double-crested Cormorant (on the left) was not agreed with. It flapped around clumsily a few more seconds. Then flew off. Just wasn't good enough for that tree.

January 20

Egret on Shore - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Egret on Shore

Instead of standing out in the rain in any one spot, we drove around the lake looking for birds, stopping at nearly all the stops. First ones we found were three egrets standing on the near side of the Boat House Lagoon. When we stopped, they took turns flying away, so I only got one.

Egret Flying Among Wires - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Egret Among Wires

Shooting sitting down in a car is more awkward than standing free (and getting soaked). I blurred the first half dozen shots of it flying away. Then this. I love all those wires. They're so realistic. That whole area is dominated by big metal towers draping thick wires back to where the Monk Parakeets nest, near the Old Fish Hatchery and out into the world.

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

Mean African Brown Goose

At Tilley's Point we hoped for and were indeed greeted by the usual gang of gooses. I don't know if they're this friendly to everybody, but they came right up to the car window. I mean as close as this image seems, although my lens wouldn't focus that close, so this image is actually from a few more feet away.

Note the orange rings around all their eyes and where the white glue used to glue on their face plates shows.

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

Friendly White Swan Goose

I never trust the browns, but this white Klingon Goose, more officially known as the Swan Goose, among other names, came so close I seriously considered touching it, though I demurred since didn't want to lose any fingers. They guy who scatters grain at Sunset Bay assured me they'd never bite, but a brown has actually bit me, though he (I assume a he) only got pants leg that time.

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

Domestic Brown Goose

As you may have noticed, they were all eating something green before we arrived, braying like a donkey — or gooses ourselves. Anna and I do consider these handsome birds friends, or friendly acquaintances, even though they're not all that wild. The grain guy told us he bought several of the gooses now at the lake.

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

Canadian Goose

Though neither the Klingons or the Canadian Gooses. Our Canadians probably flew down from Canada. They're banded, so someone more knowledeable than I (!) thought they were wild. The only two I've seen at White Rock showed up last summer at the Lagoon as a seeming inseperable pair. Now this one hangs out at Tilley's, and the other can usually be found across the lake among the goose gang at Sunset Bay.

Cormorants in a Tree in the Middle of Sunset Bay - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Cormorants in a Tree in Sunset Bay

Where the Dreyfuss Club was till some idiot left a burner running hot after a party, and the whole place burned down before the firemen finally found the right burning building at White Rock Lake, is where we saw the last big bunch of birds on our lago circumnavigation. Corms in the near trees and pelicans on the far side, though all you can see here are the cormorants.

January 18

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

Lone Pelican Out in Sunset Bay

At least it wasn't freezing, though it was still cold. I shot pelicans from the shore for awhile, then got out on the pier, where the cacophony of nearly percussive duck quacks and coot barks got me dancing. Anna, warming in her car, said I was hilarious out there boogying.

Two Gooses Gaping - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Two Gooses Watching the Dancing J R

That's probably why, when I withdrew from the pier to near (off to the west) where the gooses hang out, I got to waddling like they do. Which nonsense got their attention, as well as that of armies of coots and ducks, a great many of whom came up from the water, to watch the show.

Two Gooses Standing - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Two Gooses Watching

Anna later told me one of the African Browns started to attack me when my back was turned but stopped soon as I turned back around. I I later caught him in the same act, but stooped me down to his level, backing him off again.

Stiff-necked Goose - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Another Strange Step
in Goose Dancing

Anna called me a pied piper, and they did follow my goofy goose dance, and we were both species of us honking and walking funny, and gathering quite a crowd. About when the gooses and ducks lost interest in my strange shenanigans, I photographed one particular, goose-stepping duck along with all the others, heading back to the shore.

Ducks of Differing Drummers - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Some Ducks Walk Standing Up

Ducks walk differently according to where their legs are attached to their bodies. Most are mid underbelly, and they walk duckish-normal with their tails wagging, cantilevered behind them. Others stand upright, like the gray above on the right.

It has to do with how they swim and after what and where, etc. Ducks with wider-spaced feet attached at the end of their bodies are better divers. We've noticed the gray before, and that National Socialist Duck is always good for a giggle.

Head Dunk Underarm Licker - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Head-dunk Under-arm Licker

Speaking of odd positions, this pelican's head is upside down nearly dunking into the drink, while it orders feathers in that that precise under-arm place that needs it. Amazing grace gesture.

Pelk Lip Stretch - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pelk Lip Stretch

And that only seems vaguely odd compared to a full pelican lip stretch following a resounding lip wiggle and itself followed by a full lower lip inversion over its breast.

January 17

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

Ducks Landing

It were stingingly cold and gray and not quite wet and I didn't like standing out of my car, but I did for awhile — neatly forgetting how vivid colors often are when the whole world seems gray, then I walked back up the hill and drove away.

No pelicans in close. A spare few singles out wandering around in the middle of the lake. But a good packet of them partying on the trees in the middle of the bay. More kept flying in in grand elegant style I tried to photograph, but they were just too far away and small.

Ducks, however, were startlingly vivid.

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

Pelican Party in the Middle of Sunset Bay

Few birds in near sight except little gray birds all puffed up to keep warm (in their built-in down jackets) in one tree, and another tree full of pigeons, not, for a change, flying around in big circles trying to figure out where they were and where they wanted to go. They just wanted, like I did, to be warm.

Cormorants that weren't flying around on the far side of the lake, mostly just stood out there, boring black (although one or other of them would splash across the water like long-legged coots, till they gained air speed and ever so slowly rose into the air) beside the brilliant oranges and whites of American White Pelicans, who were partying in the balmy evening air.

Having a high old time.

January 14

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

Cold & Gray: Puddle Suckers and Coots

Felt colder than it was, not quite freezing. Curious what effect the weather'd have on the birds. Though not many in easy sight to check — ducks on the post-rain ponds dipping, and darned few coots swimming at Sunset Bay.

But no pelicans in sight. Before I bundled up and set out today, I imagined photographing pelicans flying higher than they have been the last week or so. I knew they tend higher when it's really cold, but until I'd checked out a couple ground-level sites, I didn't think to look up, way up.

Pelicans High Up - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Long Telephoto — A Few of Many
Pelks Exploring from Way Up

When I did, I saw dozens of pelicans and only a few scattered gulls, both flying way higher than I'd ever seen them. Like maybe migration altitude. Then, I suspected they were seeking someplace warm to settle and bring in the troops. Later, I decided they were more likely searching for food.

January 12

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

Goose Action A

Usually when I write these entries, I have some idea what's going on in the photographs. Usually. This time, I'm baffled. Whenever I see a fracas, I shoot, then figure out what happened later. I still haven't figured out this goose action.

Goose Action B - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Goose Action B

I generally assume any fuss this hyperactive is about sex. That's what usually happens when these guys go at it like this. Gooses can be ornery, even belligerent, and they may well try to bite you (me), but they are not usually fighters. Although that's the closest analog I can imagine.

It didn't seem to be about food, and it wasn't sex.

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

Goose Action C

Lots of splashing and swimming fast, and chasing around, but no pushing anyone under and mounting. Nobody else "helping" push her under to keep her submerged. The closer I look at this series, the more likely it seems it's just these two, the African Brown with the bulbous (Klingon) faceplate and the Domestic White.

Goose Action D - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Goose Action D

A few words or thoughts exchanged; some gooses looking all innocent while others are fully engaged . . .

Goose Action E - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Goose Action E

Is that other domestic white involved in the fray or just trying to stay out of their way? Clearly, something fierce going on. But what, exactly? Of course, it could be about sex. I don't know, and I can't tell which are males or females — until I see them do it.

Like I say, sex is usually pretty noisy and splashy. Patently unpleasant to watch, and that did not happen or attempt to happen. But nonetheless whatever it was has some aspects that are very similar to goose sex.

If it were sex, after the couple of seconds that takes, the male would swim a few feet away . . .

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

Goose Action - The Victory Flap A

Tilt up out of the water and do a quick Victory Flap. Then calm would return to the world of lake goosedom. This time, however, there were apparently two dominators — and no dominated.

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

Goose Action - The Victory Flap B

Everybody's a winner.

 

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

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

I shot more confusing and complex tree-full-of-herons shots, then I put serious effort into rendering one of the younger herons, using the VR to its (I finally read the instructions) max. This image is a small portion of a much larger photograph from all the way across the lagoon, but it came out pretty good, considering.

The posture, patterning, size, shape and colors all show this bird to be a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron — probably one of the youngsters from last spring we've been following.

Int ee cute?

January 11

Lobed Coot's Feet - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Lobed American Coot Feet

Got my telephoto lens today. It's the same focal length zoom that I dropped last month, that I loved, despite its cheapness. This was more expensive and should have much better IQ (image quality) but it also has Image Stabilization (Nikon calls it Vibration Reduction) and focuses much much faster. Much. I like it.

So it's surprising the first photo I put up today (after not putting up anything for a week of ennui about shooting the same birds doing the same things for so long) is not a true telephoto shot, but the best shot of coot's feet I've ever taken, even though you have to imagine the coot part.

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

Pelicans Beaking

Even this is not that much of a tele shot. I used to think pelican beaking like this was combatative. But now I'm thinking it's gentle, a little romantic, like touching, a courtship behavior. Wish I could tell them apart better, so I could follow them through spring. They leave in April.

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

Pelican Patrol Coming in Low

This, at last, is telephoto, very telephoto. (Because the sensor is smaller than film was, this 70-300mm lens is equivalent to a 105-450mm lens on a 35mm camera.) Those birds were way out there, coming in low and fast, the picture looking compressed like telephoto shots seem.

All the photographs on this page before today were shot with my nearly 18-years-old Nikon 180mm f/2.8 auto focus (very slow back then, too) lens.

Okay, just one more pelk picture.

New Pelk Position - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

New Pelk Position

I hadn't seen a pelk fold its neck back like this. Egrets and herons do it, but their necks are longer so they can fold back, either while swimming or, especially flying. Streamlines them, but I cannot yet imagine why a pelk would do this swimming. It seems happy enough, though, and relatively relaxed.

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

I've been watching our all-male Lesser Scaup population closely. They haven't done anything fascinating lately, except hang out with coots, which people confuse them with, despite their obvious differences. I confuse them, too, especially when many of them are swimming together fast.

What is, however, amazing to this amateur birder is that they are all males again. Even that one female I photographed in December has moved on. How can they do that? Don't they need females to continue the species? Is there only one female per flock?

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

Gooses Dipping (only head under)

I don't get tired of photographing pelicans, but I feel guilty enough about my addiction that I click other birds, too. Gooses engaging in light dipping (no full immersion like last month) . . .

Portrait of a Pigeon - copyright 2007 byJ R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Portrait of a Pigeon

. . . and a handsome pigeon, who may or may not have been one of those engaging in courting behavior, walking funny and bobbing their heads in a suggestive manner.

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

Lotsa Gulls Over the Spillway

On our way back west down Garland Road, heading toward our lake's major heron infestation around the Boat House Lagoon, we saw gobs of gulls flying over The Spillway. I shot these out the window as Anna drove.

Sighted Great Blue Heron - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Great Blue Heron Pausing Before Flight

Rounding Lawther  through the main entrance to White Rock Lake Park, under where the tracks used to be, at the pond end of the lagoon, we sighted this colorful character. I got out the car, found a place I could shoot between branches and got one fallishly foliaged shot before this frilly Great Blue Heron took wing.

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

Up, Up and Away

So we drove up to Tee Pee Hill, turned in toward the Boat House and saw the far side of the lagoon filled with herons. I eventually counted 18 birds — mostly herons, with one egret in the trees, though herons are so good at camouflage there may have been others.

The Heron Tree - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

The Heron Tree

Six birds in one slightly cropped shot. Clockwise from the top right, they are: a young Black-crowned Night Heron, an Egret, three more adult Black-crowns and in the center, a Great Blue Heron that I watched carefully and photographed often.

Two Shots Same Bird - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Two Shots — Same Great Blue Heron

I could not get all the herons and egret to stick their noses out simultaneously sidewise, so we could more easily see what they were, but the GBH in the middle struck some elegant poses.

January 6

In my own back yard working this afternoon while the sun still shined, I saw five different species of birds in easy camera distance, resting on branches and wire. When I put away my tools and came back with the camera, there were none. Zero.

Pelican in the Setting Sun - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pelicans Into the Setting Sun

I'd hoped to avoid the lake again today and again it didn't work. So it was straight to Sunset Bay — no beating around bushes. But only one pelican in sight when I got there. I waited and waited and was rewarded when the pelicans came back flying low from wherever they'd gone — I had not seen them anywhere else on my way.

Just as they were settling in, a turkey in a canoe paddled right through where they'd gathered, as if he never even saw all those long-nosed giant white bumps, frightening them back to the limbs out near the middle of the bay, well outside the range of my longest lens.

Pelican Comiing in Very Low - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pelican Coming in Very Low and Streamlined

Note the tightly tucked-in tootsies, not stuck out dragging in the trailing wind like egrets and herons. A little lumpy to call it streamlined exactly, but doing awfully well considering the shapes it was dealt. Large calibre bullet-like.

January 5

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

The Pelican Fleet

Once again I chased the pelican fleet. I sighted it while driving east on Garland Road, again. After looping down Lawther to Winfrey, back down Garland to near the little Garland bridge, I parked in the ritzy residential area across the street and ran down to the lake to catch them swimming rapidly away.

So I relooped Lawther, photographing them very close to where I'd run to to get the upper photo, this time a long telephoto shot about half way across the lake. Most of the time in fleet mode, they proceeded placidly, swimming along.

Fightin For Fish - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Fighting For Fish

Then suddenly, without any notice I (not being a pelican) could sense, a half dozen or so of them would rush to a portion of the queue (usually near the middle) with lots of splashing, flapping of wings and activity that looked like fighting, but was probably just jostling for position.

Once, before such a melee erupted, I saw one pelican at the locus of subsequent infighting, tilt its beak back and appear to swallow something. I'm guessing a fish.

January 4

Little Gull - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Little Gull?

For a change, I went to the lake to walk, not photograph birds. Good thing. Not many birds out this cold and gray day. Lot of grackles and cormorants flew over. Not much else.

I'd noticed a gull that was littler than most but didn't give it much thought. Later, I met a birdwatching couple who had just sighted and were hoping to soon sight again a Little Gull, right about where the small gull is near the center of the photo above.

The big white bird near the trees on the right is probably an egret. I didn't notice it when I shot.

Like Ring-Bills (most of our gulls) but with dark underwings, a thin cap atop their heads and smaller. Ring-bills are 17 inches long with 48-inch wingspans. Littles are 11 long with 24 wingspans. 

Great Blue Heron Dark - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

A Black Egret?

Coots were widely scattered everywhere I walked. Not many ducks. And this. Which, looking up at it flying over the sunless spillway, looked like a black egret. The give-away, however — ignoring that egrets don't come in black, are the rusty orange epaulets — like Great Blue Herons, which are dark and look like egrets (or egrets look like them). And Blues tend to go solo.

January 3

Pelican Squadron - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pelican Squadron Coming Back from a Mission

Yesterday, I wondered if I'd get another chance to photograph another squadron of American White Pelicans coming back from a mission in low formation. I guess the answer is yes. Very next day. One of the things we gotta remember is that pelicans have 12-foot wingspans. So in this telephoto shot, we're experiencing a significant amount of avian real estate.

Pretty Female Wod Duck - Copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

There's more ducks than almost any bird besides grackles at the lake, and I know almost nothing about almost all of them. Looking through my books tells me this is a female Northern Shoveler — not at all what I expected. I  just thought she was pretty. Still do.

Gull - Copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Ring-billed Gull

Another misconception was that those snazzy polka dots (which are actually more like elongated triangular bell-shapes) were on tail feathers on these Ring-beaked Gulls. But today when I was watching carefully, I noticed they are wing tips. I tried to photo them outstretched, but I wasn't quick enough.

Pelican Poised - Copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pelican Poised

Not that I entirely ignored my precious pelicans. I liked this one's paralleled feet — tinier than a duck's, it's quite a contrast with that much-bigger--than-a-duck body. And it's been days and days and days since I ran a photo of a stretched pelican pouch, so here goes.

Pelican Beak Stretch - Copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pelican Beak Stretch
 

January 2 2007

The Flurry Fleet - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

The Flurry Fleet at Maximum Chaos

Today's big game was chasing down the flurry fleet. I found them again on the Garland Avenue side, near the dam. Then chased them past the Boat House, round Tilly's Point, by which time they'd thinned and calmed down some.

Flurry Fleet with Bath House - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

A Subdued Fleet Cruises Past
the Bath House Cultural Center

Mostly comprising cormorants with maybe 50 pelicans, the splashathon was a wild and competitive flotilla that sped across the lake flushing fish. Every once in a while, I'd see a pelican tip back its beak, a sure sign it'd caught something.

Line of Pelks Comin' In - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

A Line of Pelicans Flying Low into Sunset Bay

I'd intended to avoid Sunset Bay again, but since I was tracking the fisher fleet near there, I dropped in — and caught the pelicans flying in low formation back to their home port. I'd expected them higher up and was surprised to see them lined up barely a few feet off the surface.

Pelk Fly By - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pelican Fly-by

When I stood facing the sun, it was warm enough without my jacket. 53 degrees F this afternoon. Warm enough for pelicans to bathe. Lots of wet slapping of wings, but they didn't settle near the pier, since that tree had floated off in recent rains. I'd hoped someone had anchored it down, but apparently it'd just floated in. Then out.

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

Three Pelicans

A few pelicans settled temporarily close to the the pier, but most set up shop across the bay near the trees around Hidden Creek, about a third of the way toward Dreyfuss Point. I imagined myself in hip boots and long underdrawers and thick sox dragging a downed tree to about twenty feet east of the pier, then anchoring it with chains and heavy sinkers. Anybody want to help?

Black-crowned Night Heron

Earlier, when I tried to catch up with the fleet by the Boat House (They'd gone north by the time I got there.), I managed to capture the first Black-crowned Night Heron flight in a couple months. Every time I go visit that area, I see them in the trees across the lagoon, but since the demise of my long zoom, I haven't been able to capture them that far off.

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

No reproduction without
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Formerly "The Addlepated Birder's Journal"


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