January 31 2007
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.
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
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
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, 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.
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 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.
Cormorant Taking Off by Hopping - A
Cormorant Taking Off By Hopping - B
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
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 Surface - Note the
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 — 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 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
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 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.
Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron
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
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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 Leg
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 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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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
the near side of the Boat
Lagoon. When we stopped, they took turns flying away, so I only got one.
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
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.
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
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
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.
Though neither the Klingons or the Canadian Gooses. Our
Canadians probably flew down from Canada. They're banded, so someone more
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
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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
A few words or thoughts exchanged; some gooses looking all innocent while others are fully engaged . . .
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 - 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 - The Victory Flap B
Everybody's a winner.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
. . . 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 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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
January 2 2007
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.