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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 photos without permission.
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January 31 2009

hawk on tele pole - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-tailed Hawk on Telephone Pole

This was the last, not the first, shot of this hawk we watched dismantling what looked like a short stick in the first tree I watched it fly into. It's here out of chronological order, because today's the last day of this month, and I want something really nice for the top of this page as this month's journal gets archived. Before this I watched it swoop into that tree. Then when it got tired of us photographing it among the branches, it flew nearby to this telephone pole.

Red-tail Swoop - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-tailed Hawk Swooping Up Winfrey Hill

Soon as I saw this bird, it went behind a tree. I thought it was something different from a cormorant, gull or a grackle, so when it emerged closer, I made a chance shot (only try) as the hawk flew up into a tree, apparently to rest and chew on a stick.

Standing in Swoop Position - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Standing in Swoop Position

Hawk shows off a pretty good approximation of its swoop mode — sans outstretched wings, svelted body and tucked it toes, while standing in a tree. See the image next up for the full side version.

Square - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Square Hawk with Sad or Worried Eyes

This may be the head-on view of the same pose. Squarish but cool, like a hwk. That's the stick in its left claw. T

Messing with Stick - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Messing with a Stick

When I saw it pulling on the stick, I thought it was a little more animate than ... uh ... a stick. I checked the swoop pic to see if it had brought something to eat. It was definitelyingesting something up in that tree.

Stick-puller - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Stick-puller

Rip it off and chew. Now. Well, now, it looks like a stick. My trusty Lone Pine Birds of Texas that I quote here too often already says, "It eats mostly rodents." Guess we can add sticks to its known menu.

Full View Front - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Full View - Front

Don't usually manage a complete view of a hawk in a tree, but Anna found a fuller view point.

Red-tail on Telephone Pole - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-tail on Telephone Pole

Shot from a distance shortly after it landed on the pole. Today's top photo is after we came up close as we dared to its high perch.

Raccoon Trudging up Hill - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Raccoon Trudging Up Winfrey Hill toward Us

Today's other fascination was a raccoon. I first noticed it very near the bottom of the hill looking like a stump that moved slightly one of the times I stared at it. After that, it began to trudge up the hill, as I photographed nearly every pained step. By the time it crested the hill, we were pretty sure it was seriously injured.

Raccoon Side View - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ailing Raccoon - Side View

It walked right by us, as if it were not a nocturnal animal, and we were not humans. After reading up on it, I believe it had distemper, which unfortunately is usually fatal though not harmful to humans and very different from rabies. (Racoon warnings) It tried to climb a tree next to the front porch of the Winfrey Building, but it slipped down almost as quickly as it made the attempt. We could have pet it, if we didn't mind getting raked by claws or bitten.

Sickly Racoon - Front View - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Sickly Raccoon Up Close

Mottled light doesn't make it easy to see exactly, but this is as detailed a shot as I got. We thought it might have tangled with a coyote or a dog. Last we saw it, it was in the shadows under a truck unloading stuff for a wedding there. We told the truck's driver it was there and to be careful with it, because it was so confused. T

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January 30

 Flock in the Reeds - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Flock in the Reeds

Heard them from a hundred feet away. I was driving Blue up my usual east side past DeGoyler and heard a blackbird raucous in the reeds. More visually than audially attuned, I still wasn't sure, but it was a sunny, if not entirely warm day, and I needed to walk, so I did. Getting anybody in focus in the reeds is a booger, but sometimes I could get one, usually female, Red-winged Blackbird. Like here. Lens going crazy trying to focus on reeds blowing and RWBBs flying away. More than half of today's shots of these birds don't have any birds. This one does, and it has one. Hurray!

Redwing Flock - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Redwing Flock

Never expected better luck photographing them flying away than perched, even in the reeds, but here we are, and there they go. Red and black and brown. A little yellow. Maybe one bird not in the Red-winged Blackbird category, almost dead center in the image below. Hanger-on flying along or an eccentric uncle.

Redwing Flock Detail - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Central Detail of Above Shot

Most of today's shots of redwings flying are blots of pure out-of-focus nothing. Not even streaks. Just blobs. Why these few turned out so well, I don't know. I aim and click and hope.

Flock Flying This Way - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Flock Flying This Way

I assumed the effort would not be rewarded, but when they took to the air up the slope toward DeGoyler proper, I clicked along. I remember waiting the few milliseconds to acquire focus, but I don't remember colors, or specific shapes. This is a whole new vision.

Redtail - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-tailed Hawk Over This Close — Looks Like It Has a Walrus Mustache

Trudging back to Blue wondering if I'd got or would get anything in focus at all today, I looked up. Not sure why, except I do that sometimes hoping for birds. There, this far away, was a Light Adult Red-tailed Hawk floating directly above me. Raise the Rocket Launcher and go click, seven times I think. Low ISO, so slow shutter speed. Most of them blurred. This one matched pretty well to the hawk's low-to-no flying speed. Rare moment in birding time as seconds stretch into universes, amazing it and I both going nowhere, retrogressive in the wind, as I bent over nearly backwards following it, more buffeted by the wind than flapping. Aerodynamically ideal.

Some sort of minor miracle. I'll take it.

January 29

 Redwinnged Blackbird Looking into Water - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile (?) Red-winged Blackbird

The topic of today's treatise is Red-winged Blackbirds. We haven't seen much of them this winter, mainly because I tend to go up the other side of the lake, because it loops back home easier than the west side doesn't.

RWBB in Reeds - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-winged Blackbird in the Reeds

So today I went up the west side. I saw pelicans, grackles, sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds (RWBB), among others. RWBBs live in and around the reeds at the edge of the lake. Or in trees overlooking the reeds. Or taller trees overlooking the shorter trees that overlook the reeds.

RWBB in Water - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

RWBB in Water

The reeds are important. Probably where they find food. I've often photographed males there anouncing themselves, their territory and the mates they attract. Interestingly, female RWBBs tend to travel separately. They eat seeds, grain, invertebrates, insects, berries and what humans put out in feeders.

Four Red-winged Blackbirds - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Four Red-winged Blackbirds

These were all busy eating — something. The Lone Pine Birds of Texas calls this natural territory their "cattail kingdom." Note rufous (reddish) area on the middle bird's wing feathers, just to remind us what species she is, with her darkish uppers and black and white streaked rest. Flanking her are three males, their shoulder insignia mostly yellow now, reddish and more yellow later.

RWBB on Reed - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

RWBB in Reeds

There is a species called a Tri-colored Blackbird, but our own Red-wingeds are very similar, and this is probably the latter variety, because the Tricolors mostly hang out on the far edge of the West Coast (California). Females have striped breasts, and males usually are all (but the colored bit on their shoulders) dark. If I could see this one's unders, I might be able to guess its sex. Maybe. I remember a First-summer variation male RWBB (May 2008) on the pier at Sunset who had just past a hint of the evenual epaulets but striped unders, back and brow.

RWBB Escape - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

RWBB Escape

But I'm fairly sure this was a male, though both sexes are quick and shy. Grackles don't much care about humans unless you come right up on them. At least three times when I thought I was photographing RWBBs today, what I really got was an empty perch. This shot is transitional, at best.

Red and Orange - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Nacent Red with Yellow

What, maybe three bits of red among the yellow among the black. Which will grow into a spectacular little show of color.

Sparrow in the Reeds - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female House Sparrow in the Reeds

Another reed-dweller is this ... uh ... er ... , I really should know this one. Sparrow?  Actually, I was assuming it was a House Sparrow, but then I go unsure, but now I'm fairly sure. Pretty little thing, really. Problem is it doesn't look much like the one in the Lone Pine book I keep raving about. At all. But it looks a lot like Sibley's illustration of it, so it is. I hate to remind you, but I do call this an Amteur birder's journal, after all.

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January 28

 Buffle-headed Duck - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Bufflehead

Had to sneak up on him to get this close and focus. Had watched him fly up the coast along DeGoyler along Lawther paralleling my own drive and didn't know what it was. Something white with black stripes. Or black with white. Parked Blue, ran across the road and trail when I saw it dive. So I was in place with the camera and lens all set up when it came up still dripping.

Buffle Swimming - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Buffle Swimming

Stood there clicking each time it arranged itself where I could see the colors and maybe even his eyes. (Note its tail thrust straight back as if floating along behind it.) I knew it wouldn't be long till ...

Buffle Dive - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Buffle Diving

... it dove again ...

Splurtch - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Buffle Ripples

... leaving only ripples. In that Lone Pine Birds of Texas I often quote here, it lists White Rock L. (Dallas); Hornsby Bend (Austin); Warren L. (Harris co.); Mitchell L. (San Antonio)" as the state's best sites for seeing them and their individualistic ripples.

Pelk Take-off - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Take-off 1

Years ago, when I first started noticing our 70 or so returning winter visitors, the American White Pelicans, I wondered how they attained flight. Did they run on the surface — left, right, left — of the water like Coots do, till they attained escape velocity? Or did they hop?

Pelican Takeoff 2 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Takeoff - 2

These are not exactly conclusive evidence, but what we see are a series of splashes at each double-footed hop. I have also seen them just to decide to be in the air, and suddenly they were, by simply jumping into it. They are amazing aerialists.

Pelk Takeoff 3 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Takeoff - 3

And not really on the surface, but actually just below it. (Note the large beak fin on this pelican. see yesterday's entry for more info on what I often stumble and call its "nose fin."

Pelk Takeoff 4 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Takeoff - 4

Till the bird with the second widest wingspan in America make the final splashing hop ...

 

Pelk Takeoff 5 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican in the Air

... jumps safely into the air ...

Pelican Flying - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Landing

... Flies away till it spies a nice place to land. In the background, on the other side of the lake are the new wood bridge over that lagoon and the old Boat House.

Pelican Landing - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Splash Landing

Lands in a splashing streak and swims off. I quit following it as it splashed along behind the weeds we see partially obscuring this shot.

Northern Cardinal - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Male Northern Cardinal

Common as Cardinals are, I've rarely get decent shots of them. Note the beard.

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January 27

 Tree Lump - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Tree Lump

Too cold to photograph birds today. Way too cold. So I bundled five layers light and drove to the lake. At the top of Winfrey I looked down and all around, as usual. Carefully, ever hopeful. Eventually, I saw a lump on the top of a distant tree. The full frame above is as close as I got with my 750 mm (35mm equivalent) telephoto — not close enough for good detail, but this is a special case. The rest of today's photos are enlarged greatly.

Cold Puffed-out Osprey - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Our Friend, a Bald Eagle

When I saw the white head at the great distance, I thought eagle. Big, puffed out eagle in the cold. Then I remembered our friendly neighborhood Osprey, that I'd hoped to keep seeing till I got it right.

Since then, a reader told me that someone on the Dallas Audubon Bird Chat had reported seeing a Bald Eagle in the Old Fish Hatchery area we usually call "The Fitchery," and that I should recheck my photographs of what I had originally identified as an Osprey. So I've been looking at photos and drawings of Ospreys and Eagles, and I believe (again; that was my first inkling, but I couldn't believe it. But now I do) that this big, white-headed bird really is a Bald Eagle.

This is the best of this day's shots of this bird for identification or detail (not much), although some of the tail shots are also informative. Note the side of this bird's face. Ospreys have a dark stripe back from its eye, level with its beak. This bird does not, but two of my January 20 Osprey photographs do. So I was right about that sighting, and wrong about identifying this one.

Wow. A Bald Eagle at White Rock Lake!

Special thanks to reader Dana for emailing me about it.

Wing Stretch - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Bald Eagle Wing Stretch

Today's vision was brief. Almost as soon as I started shooting out of Blue's window, the bird decided it needed to be somewhere else, perhaps more secluded, and apparently it managed to keep away from prying birder eyes for whole week.

Flapping Bald Eagle - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Bald Eagle Jump

I'm pretty sure he didn't see me, since there were other cars in the hilltop parking lot, and they'd been there awhile, mostly engines running since it was so cold. So cold, in fact, I'm wondering if our white-tail-feathered friend came down in the big Blue Norther that brought us this cold, cold weather, hitching a ride on a big wind as migratory birds often do.

Osprey Airborne - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Bald Eagle Airborne

Nobody was walking around the lake that day. I only saw maybe seven cars at the lake today. And five humans walking or running, three die-hard runners (oddly enough fully dressed) and one bundled-up couple who got out of their car laughing, walked down the slope about forty feet, then came scuffling back in a big, cold hurry.

Full Wing Extension - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Full Wing Extension

Osprey's wingspans are 4.5 to 6 feet. By comparison, an American White Pelican's wingspan is up to 9 feet. A Bald Eagle's is 5.5 to 8 feet; and a California Condor's is an inch longer than a pelican in some books, equal in others.

Big Bird Flies Away - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Big Bird Flies Away

At first I thought this shot was just too much — a big, poofed-out in the cold bird showing mostly its rear end. That's when I thought it was just an Osprey. Now that I know it's a Bald Eagle, why not?

Sayanara - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Sayonara, Baldie

Then it was gone. I walked all around Winfrey hoping to find it in another tree, but I saw no more big bird bumps that day.

This photo series began at 3:17:02 pm Tuesday January 27, 2009 and ended at 3:17:16. Elapsed time 14 seconds. Or maybe I might have got better photographs.

Coots & Mallards - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Coots & Mallards

At Sunset Bay, though, after a drive around Dreyfuss, I found lots of coots. Some were diving. Most, when they saw me standing around on the shore there, swam toward me thinking, I assume, I was Charles and ready to pour corn in long lines for them to supper upon. I told them he'd be coming, but it wasn't me.

Coots Feet - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Coots Feet

While they were stills standing around, I took my usual photographs of their feet, with which I am utterly fascinated. Weird feet. I've seen them used as propellers, and they're a lot of why they can run on the water. Very strange feet.

Cold Pelx - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cold Pelicans

The pelicans had moved across the way a bit, because of the cold wind blowing.

Pelk Jump into Water - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelk Jump into Water

I watched as one finally decided to jump into the water.

Pelk Splash - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelk Splash

Splash in.

Wing-out Swim - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wing-out Swim

Then swims elegantly away.

Winged Creature - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Winged Creatures

I liked the white on the darker lilac of sky and water.

Pressed Pelican - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pressed Pelican Passing

Usually, I watch out for pelicans coming in, but this one surprised me. I guess it just dropped out of the clouds. But maybe I wasn't watching.

White on Lilac Sky - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

White on Lilac Sky

It dropped quickly toward the water.

Drop to Land - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Drop to Land

Obviously, I was paying more attention to the bird than to the horizon.

Near Landing - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Near Landing

 The pelican knows exactly where it's going to land. But it takes me awhile to figure it out.

Finned Pelk - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Finned Pelican

See the fin on its upper beak? They don't mate here, but when they get back to NW U.S. or Canada, where they do — or maybe here before they leave or on the way, they can all tell who are the breeding adults of either sex in the bunch. I've seen much smaller ones earlier, but not on a pelican surrounded by dark ducks and a lilac sky.

Duck Landing - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Duck Landing

I shot at lots of ducks landing this afternoon.

Duck Plash Down - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mallard Splash Down

But this is the only one I actually captured splashing down.

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January 24

 The Killdeer and th e Coot - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Killdeer and the Coot

Actually, continuing my already strained time-travel metaphor, it's still yesterday far (near?) as these photographs are concerned.

I also added an whole new date's worth  plus several individual images scattered through the last couple weeks while I play with that T plug-in.

Inquisitive Killdeer - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

That Inquisitive Head Tilt

Must be Killdeer season, but then I guess every season is. My treasured Lone Pine Birds of Texas, which I love more for the stories and big pictures and info about what birds eat than any sort of thorough illustration of all varieties or even both sexes, calls them ubiquitous.

Stopped From Running - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Stopped Briefly from Running

Specifically citing their preference for "open fields, gravel driveways, beach edges, golf courses and abandoned industrial areas" which "has allowed it to thrive throughout our rural and suburban landscapes."

Hippie with a Mustache - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Hippie with a Mustache

Then the authors go on to describe how Killdeer mothers will pull the old broken-wing routine to lure us away from their on-the-ground nests, then miraculously recovers enough to fly away and eventually back to the chicks.

Killdeer Close-up - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Killdeer Close-up

This only looks like a close-up, some forty feet away from the photographer (I almost always guess about forty feet, because I have no facility for guessing distances.

Killdeer Escape - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Killdeer in Flight

Then it flew away, and I and the Rocket Launcher followed its aerial path getting ...

Killdeer Flight II - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Killdeer Flight II

... one out of four or five shots on target and in focus.

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January 23

Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk

Today's lead shot is of a Red-shouldered Hawk flying at some distance away and pretty high. This is one of two instances where using that Topaz plug-in today made any sense, which saved the under-wing areas from disappearing into shadow darkness, and replacing that darkness with detail in. I tried it on others of today's shots, but it wasn't worth the effort except one other time.

Instead of ballyhooing their name, from now on, whether I go forward or backward in time, instead saying the name of the plug-in, I'll just plop a purple T there to indicate the image got its second chance via Topaz Enhance. I think I've said it enough already.

 Who Are These Ducks? - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Who Are These Ducks?

It was another scattershot day, though I thought I'd found something unique when I saw these guys swimming up DeGoyler. They look like something particular, but I didn't find them in my books. My fault, probably. They must be something.

Anna to the rescue: They're Gadwalls, and I think maybe my first. Lone Pine's Birds of Texas says they "have a dignified appearance and a subtle beauty," although mine don't look much like the ones in their book and only vaguely like the ones in Sibley's Guide to Birds, which I mostly keep open on my extended desktop.

Male & Female? - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Male and Female Gadwalls

The top pic is two males, and this is one male and one female of the species.

Unsub in Elaborate Pren - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gadwall in Elaborate Preen

I love this shot of a male Gadwall with his wings up as he preens.

Another Preen Position - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Another Preening Position

Underwing preening and the Mrs.

Preen Master - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Closer-up, Eye-rolled Feather Mending

Its eyes really aren't rolled back, just its splatter shield is down.

The Log - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Log

Always lots of action out on the logs. Through the seasons, they take turns out there. Right about now, everybody's sharing it.

Pelk Drinking - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Drinking

I watched curiously as this pelican dipped a snout full of lake water, then tipped back and swallowed.

Pelican Dripping - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Dripping

Then tipped forward again and dripped for awhile.

Ringbill - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile Ring-billed Gull with Enhanced Spots

This is the other, more or less successful instance where that Topaz thing did anything worthwhile. What it did here, in addition to whatever else it did, was to darken the spots unnaturally, making this Ring-bill look dramatic but very unlike itself.

Grackle Shuffle - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Grackle Rouse

I still like grackles, which is sort of ridiculous, since there's so many of them, especially here lately. Darned few of them, however, look like this or for very long, and this one was especially good at it. Love the straight-on stare.

Natural Grackle - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Roused Grackle

I think maybe my new camera is better with colors.

Female Scaup Racing - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female Scaup Racing

Then there's the one rare female Scaup racing after white bread thrown by a screaming little girl on the pier at Sunset Bay, which I probably shouldn't bother with on a Friday afternoon. I also got some pretty good shots of a Killdeer on The Beach, but you'll see them here sooner later.

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January 21

 Black Vulture - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black Vulture

Visited Lake Worth and its various parks on the other side of the Fort today, with the absurd notion that we'd find bigger birds there. Instead, we found pretty much the same birds we have found at Sunset Bay in dear old White Rock Lake, which is a lot closer. After grackles, the first truly impressive bird we saw was a Black Vulture, which was scanning the skies from a wide and sweeping path around the lake. I was thrilled, although we see them occasionally at our local lake, they're usually neither as magnificent nor as close.

Noble Muscovy Duck - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Noble Muscovy Duck

Something else I'm trying today (besides fun western travel with Anna just past our Fourth Anniversary) is a new Photoshop plug-in called Topaz Enhance, which offers some fascinating and wild effects, a few of which you will see in today's entry. In this very Muscovy Duck, for one instance, where it's brought out some of the shadow detail usually lost in all that darkness in these ponderous goose-like ducks' feathers.

Lake Worth Black Duck - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Lake Worth Black Duck

Or in any of the usually dark areas of this black duck. Notice I did not say Black Duck. It's not a new species, to my miniscule birder's knowledge, but it is an old one with a new, black, twist. Here's a rather pretty, nearly jet black duck rendered light enough to fully appreciate.

Gull On A Buoy - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gull on a Buoy

Not much enhanced here, T intensified the buoy's colors and not much else. I was not able to turn much of any of my today's photographs as wild as the images on their online ads, but it's all just an experiment. It's free for 30 days, while I evaluate it. I'm so far impressed but think I could do a lot of what this can do in Photoshop instead, but we'll see.

Lake Worth Cormorant - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Lake Worth Cormorant Flyover

Here, it's let me subtly lighten the dark shadows under this bird which is flying between the sun and me. Mostly just so we can see them. Usually, these guys look mostly dark, with lightish breasts, necks and orange faces.

Killdeer Escape - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Psychedelic Killdeer Escape

Walking toward a tiny island where an egret I wanted to photograph stood, I frightened a previously invisible (to me) Killdeer from wherever it was, and I'm always amazed when I catch one of those, especially with this big lunk of a lens (which behaved very well today), and this is that catch. Badly overexposed against a junky, weedy, background in someone's extended back yard. We were careful to stay on the public side of the park.

I prefer to use digital tricks to enhance my photographs, not turn them psychedelic or psychotic, but this one was so utterly awful, why not see what fun I could have with it?

Lake Worth Egret - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Lake Worth Egret on the Tiny Island

This the egret I mentioned. Usually, I prefer to get them out in some sort of open, but I was here and it was there, and why not blow a frame or two. I like the weed flowers and the darkish background. I tried every one of the dozen or so T presets, but none of them helped in any way, so this is another straight shot.

TV Over - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Everybody's Got TVs

Black Vultures seem more magnificent somehow, but I've always liked TVs. Often call them "Jonathan Livingston Turkey Vulture" because of their amazing grace in the sky. Don't usually get their bald, red faces this well (I realize it could have been much better, but it wasn't.), but from this angle, those trailing white feathers usually turn out much darker. I  tried to dredge up more detail with that filter, but nothing happen.

A Walk on the Beach - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

A Walk on the Beach

Though it brought up a little tonality in the otherwise bleak blank background, it didn't do much good for the bird we found in another little park-lette tucked near a bridge. I pulled Blue as close to the sand as I dared, used the Rocket Launcher to suck it in close. The filter also brought up the little fuzzies of feathers around the belly curve, with the sun shining from behind and above. I like this shot, because it reminds me so much of a guy in a striped sweater ambling up the beach. We always enjoy those fast-action Killdeer legs.

Killdeer Escape II - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Killdeer Escape II

When I brought Blue closer, the bird skidaddled, and I was again amazed to have caught it and in this close to focus. The plug-in again brought tone back into the background water and put a tad more detail back in the escaping bird. Worked out pretty well this time.

Another Kind of Bird - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Another Kind of Bird

Looking for bigger birds is what got us on the other side of Fort Worth, but this was the second biggest bird we captured. There was also a big, slow transport chugging around the sky. But this was was zipping fast, twisting corkscrews low through the air, and we watched in wonder as it charged up and up at a 70-degree angle.

I hadn't seen the plane's details when I was busy photographing it but assumed it was Air Force and was hoping for another like it I could catch upside down, but apparently this was the only. Not sure whose logo that is (Anna says it's Lockheed Martin.), but Air Force insignia are clunky. I used four or five of the plug-in presets on this once seriously-overexposed jet shot. It svelted the plane while fattening the trees.

Then There's This - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Then There's This

There was a less naturalistic cow a few feet down the little loop that curled us down in front of individualist middle class homes along the shore of Lake Worth. We liked a lot about the neighborhood, but we could have found all those same birds in Sunset Bay. No plug-ins this time, all simple Photoshop tricks.

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January 21

 Sunset Gulls - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Sunset Gulls

This edition of January 21, 2009 happened at White Rock Lake later that same day. Guess after seeing all my old pals on the far side of Fort Worth, I just had to go to go back to Dallas, to see these.

Nose Detail - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Bust & Beak Details

I assume they're Ring-billeds, but their beaks sure look strange. T enhanced. Visitors maybe. Any guesses?

 Tree with Grackle - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Tree with Grackle

I think I was on some sort of cosmic roll. I didn't think so when I first saw them, but upon reconsideration, I think these are beautiful.

Amber Grackle - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Amber Female Grackle

It used to take me about a year to figure out which of my photographs were the best ones and thus deserving of printing and matting and framing and trying to get into some show somewhere.

White Gulls in Amber - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

White Gulls in Amber

Now I'm a little quicker on the uptake. Usually, I can figure them out quicker than a week, often only takes me a few minutes, but it's kind of reassuring that sometimes it takes a little longer to sink in.

fudd

Amber Gulls

The lens wanted desperately to focus on the trees, which were not flying around willy-nilly, so those are in focus and the gulls just are not. Still there's a quality there that I admire. I may even revisit Sunset Bay at sunset again, just to try this with the gulls sharp. If I can only get someone to stand down there and throw nasty old white bread up at them. T

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January 20

Osprey Over - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Osprey Flying Over

Had just shot more detailed shots of Ruddy Ducks (just below) along DeGoyler, drove up the hill to Winfrey, where I almost always get out as far as I can onto the edge of the parking lot overlooking vistas north past the Bath House toward Mockingbird Lane, then coast very slowly down the hill, when I saw what I initially thought was a different sort of gull, and I'm always curious about new gulls, so I paid attention.

Ospery First Sight - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

First Sighting

When it got close enough — this is my first shot, the one above was the second and better, my stupid Sigma lens went into full malfunction mode again (It's the "Rocket Launcher" when it behaves; and the "Stupid Sigma" when it doesn't — blame where it belongs) so I had to turn it off and on, try it, then off and on again, before it would shoot the much better and bigger photo above — to photograph what by then I'd decided was some sort of hawk, not a gull, at all.

By then I had to shoot up through the narrow confines of the open sun roof and only got three shots off before it flew off toward the west, but I still knew it wasn't anything I'd ever shot before, and as it flew off toward DeGoyler I hoped it really wasn't. Eight seconds elapsed time from the first shot to the last.

 Two Ruddies Riding the Waves - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Ruddies Eying Each Other

Earlier, it was rare indeed to have even one Ruddy Duck photographed with its eyes open. Here are two. It was cold but the reason I didn't get out of Blue and walk the several more feet to the edge was that last time I did that, all the Ruddies swam away.

Detailed Ruddy - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

More Ruddy Detail than Ever Before

So I shot from my car, sidled as close as I could to the intermittent curb. Close enough apparently, that cars passed me on my right. These photographs are my best yet of the elusive Ruddy Ducks. We see feathers and spots and colors of feathers here.

Two Ruddies - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ruddies Riding Waves

Tail out at 30 or 45 degrees, coif showing, sidewalls delineated, no eyes in sight and all males as far as I can tell.

Three Ruddies - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Three Ruddies; One Showing One Small Patch of Red

Two eyeballs showing, neither particularly sharp, although all their tails are. Seems like a variation a hair dos, and the far one of the right has that one, small patch or reddish feathers. Why they're called Ruddy Ducks. More red shows in spring and summer.

Two Ruddies in Rough Water - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Ruddies in Rough Water

Now, of course, I want to get even closer, for another order of closeness closer for even more detail, but this will do for the moment, and our thousands of Ruddies are still here, so maybe I'll get a chance.

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January 19

 Kestrel on a Pole - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

American Kestrel on a Telephone Pole at the Drying Beds

Not really photos from January 19, of course, in actuality, it's tomorrow sometime. But this date will do for the moment, at least until yesterday. This is an American Kestrel i saw from a long way away. From that distance I knew it was worth paying attention to, because it wasn't anything I was entirely and hopelessly familiar with.

Kestrel Stoop - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Diving Down the Telephone Pole

First I saw the bird, then I saw the mustache. Eventually, I saw the red and blue — as well as the white — feathers. American Kestrel, red, white & blue. Etc. Then I saw it dive down, grab a bug on the ground.

Diving Kestrel - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Diving Kestrel

Later, I saw it dive after something else. Then it went far away and started hovering. We knew it was hovering, because it was flapping and flying, but it wasn't going anywhere. It stayed in place up there, looking down a lot. Looking for food, no doubt.

Hovering Far - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kestrel Hovering Far

I didn't think I'd get decent shots of it hovering way out there, and these shots pretty much proves the point.

Kestrel Hovering Far - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kestrel Hovering Far and Looking My Way

There was also a lot of real estate between the kestrel and me, deep grassy, weedy, rural landscape with lots of bugs. Then it moved even further from me, and I nearly gave up hope. But I kept watching it. Eventually, it came way back and for the following photos it stayed — oh, I don't know, I'm terrible at judging distances. I had hoped my lens would remember things like that, but apparently, it doesn't.

Kestrel Hovering Closer - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Kestrel Hovering Closer

Then I fretted a long time about how to show you that the kestrel really was hovering and not just flying somewhere, especially since there's nothing in the background, just sky and bird — feathers and air.

Hovering Closer - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kestrel Hovering Closer 2

I abandoned the concept yesterday / tomorrow / Sunday. Did not see a way out. Then I realized I had some pretty pictures of the Kestrel's tail that needed to be used for something.

Hovering Closer - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kestrel Hovering Closer 3

Here, seemed a good place to start. This is one of my favorite shots. Such pretty reds and browns. The blue looks gray here, as it usually does.

Kestrel Hovering Closer - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kestrel Hovering Closer 4

Then it hit me. Maybe if I put up all these tail shots of an American Kestrel, showing me photographing a bird flying away, except said bird doesn't seem to be moving very far in all that flapping...

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January 18

Wilson's Snipe - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Wilson's Snipe Beak in the Water

Last time we'd seen a Wilson's Snipe was also in the Arlington Drying Beds, but it was far away and weak on detail.

Wilson's Snipe Beak Out - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wilson's Snipe - Beak Out

This time, gradually, they seemed to warm to us and allow themselves to be photographed closer and closer.

Wilson's Snipe Prancing - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wilson's Snipe Prancing

I managed to get some decent detail, even a little action, although most of our time with them, like most of their time, they spent sticking that great long spike of a beak down into the water.

According to the Lone Pine Birds of Texas, which I like for its species maps of Texas birds and clear info on feeding, nesting, habitat and ID, though it rarely has more than two illustrations, one nice a large and the other skimpy small — even though most birds have sex and age varieties it mostly ignores.

Wilson's Snipe Among Straw - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wilson's Snipe Among Straw

Like so many birds, their natural camouflage is amazing. As I was quoting the Lone Pine edition, "probes soft substrates for soft-bodied invertebrates, also eats mollusks, crustaceans, spiders, small amphibians and some seeds."

They also describe Wilson's Snipes as "well-camouflaged" and "shy and secretive, often remaining concealed in vegetation. Only when an intruder approaches too closely does the snipe flush from cover, performing a series of aerial zigzags" and that "Hunters skilled enough to shoot a snipe came to be known as 'snipers,' a term later adopted by the military."

Wilsnipe on Beach - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wilson's Snipe on the Beach

Luckily for my inexperienced identifying skills, there's no other bird close to having this much texture running in those directions in the books. I remembered the long beak from last time, and gradually today, slowly, over hundreds of shots (nearly 400 of all today's birds), I managed to get some decent and even interesting shots.

Wilson's Snipe Back View - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wilson's Snipe - Reverse Upskirt View

Including a fluffed up back view ...

Wilson's Snipe Flying - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wilson's Snipe Flying

... and a shot of one flying, although it's not really in focus.

Wilson's Snipe Looking Over Its Shoulder - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wilson's Snipe Looking Over Its Shoulder

From the flying picture, up, are shots taken from fairly close — just down the ridge and on this side of one of the ponds.

Wilson's Snipe with Beak Open - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wilson's Snipe with Open Beak

These are blown up larger from smaller portions of the frame. But cool still, because of that great long beak.

WS Preening - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Preening - Rubbing Lanolin on Feathers

We've grown accustomed to watching birds with bigger and longer beaks, because White Rock Lake has lots of herons, egrets and pelicans.

Wilson's Snipe Preening Tail - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Preening Tail

Unlike those guys, this is a comparatively small bird — 10.5 to 11.5-inches long with an 18-inch wingspan, compared with Great Egrets at 36 - 42 inches long with 48 inches wingspan and American White Pelicans at 54 - 72 inches long with wingspans of up to 9 feet (108 inches).

Preening Breast Feathers - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Preening Breast Feathers

I like bigger birds, because they're easier to photograph, but I'm warming to littler ones now that I have my Rocket Launcher (Sigma 150-500mm), which behaved badly today, refusing to focus three times and shooting white-out once and black-out twice. Really annoying, and another reason I shot so many today, mostly of the Wilson's Snipes, of which there were at least a dozen at the beds today.

Little Gray Bird - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Little Gray Bird

When we leave the beds, there's often a guy with a tele lens walking back and forth up the tree-lined entrance road photographing little birds in the branches there. We've been rushed for time before, but this time I laxed out, leaned on Blue, and waited for the birds to come back after we parked on the side of the road. Within a couple minutes, lots of these cute little gray birds fluttered into and out of view.

Another Gray Bird - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Another Gray Bird that Might Be the Same

Oh! There it is. It's my usual seasonal Fooled-Me-Again bird, what experienced birders (not me, yet) call the Butter Butt, a Yellow-rumped Warbler. I used to misguess Grackles, Mockingbirds and female Red-winged Blackbirds. Now I misguess Butter Butts. Okay, you're right, I've always misidentified these cute little fellers, and we just saw some in the Fitchery last week. But that time I only got one shot.

Egret - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Egret

We also saw two egrets of the variety we see every single solitary time we visit White Rock Lake. Maybe it should be called White Egret Lake, instead.

Black Vulture - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black Vulture

And four Black Vultures flying in formation somewhere near a Turkey Vulture I shoot so often I didn't even bother, except they were all way up high, and this is the only shot shot then and there that was anywhere close to having birdly details like a beak.

Tomorrow, or probably Tuesday, I'll show some really nice shots of an American Kestrel we saw hovering over prey for long minutes — long enough for me to get them in focus and sharp, too. And a much more detailed shot of a big Wild Hog clunking around like he owned the place. And maybe another long-beaked small bird without all the textural hieroglyphics of the snipe.

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Yesterday & the Day Before

Torpedo Woodie Colors - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Woodie Colors

Been wondering about the colors of our Wood Ducks this mid-January. First I thought they were quirks of the amber late afternoon light in Sunset Bay, then when they showed up in earlier daylight, maybe something going on with photoshop or my new camera (which does represent colors more intensely), then I saw images Anna shot on my old camera, and they had those same intense colors in sunlight.

All these shots are from earlier this week, when I was so busy doing a bunch of other stuff, I didn't have enough time to do these. Usually, it's like that in spring, never expected this many fascinating birds to show up in early, cold, winter, but this is Texas and the weather, like everything else, can surprise us.

Wood Duck Colors - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Amazing Iridescent Wood Duck Colors in Winter

I've been carefully watching Wood Ducks — adults and their growing families — for the last three years, and I've never seen colors like these. Did a bunch of Wood Ducks get accidentally irradiated? Did somebody spill psychedellia on them?

Colorful Woodie Beak Colors - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Amazing Wood Duck Beak Colors

The sun is lower in winter, and sometimes it seems to splay more deeply saturated colors. Maybe that's it. Maybe not.

Bluejay Working - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Blue Jay Working

Blue Jays are hardly unusual almost anywhere in the country, but I've never before captured an adequate representation of this, one of my favorite birds. He was in a tree working — looking for and I suspect, finding insects in the lower branches near Dreyfuss' parking lots. Reason they're one of my favorites is because I've had them (plural) land on my head shooting touch and goes while I was photographing their nests in the park around our glorified City Hall back when I was a staff photog for the Dallas Dimes Terrible. We'd got alarmed reports from people there who said the Blue Jays, a belligerent bunch anyway, had been attacking people. So I went over and got attacked. Great fun and one of my earlier direct encounters with avian life.

American Kestrel Sighting - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Sighting an American Kestrel

Nearby, I saw a familiar set of feathers and colors on a wire, looking down at all it surveyed.

Ameican Kestrel - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

American Kestrel on a Wire

I sure don't know all my birds yet, but I knew this one soon as I saw him. Instant recognition and need to get closer, so I snuck up into the shadow of a tree a little closer to the Kestrel's wire.

Kestrel Action - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Landing After Catching Something to Eat

Clicking away, I saw it suddenly dip down to the short grass on the ground below, and I hoped I could follow all along. But, of course, it was way faster than me, so all I got was blurs, and by the time I finally caught up with its loop down to the ground where it grappled briefly with something, then took it back up to its perch on the wire was finished. This is just after that loop.

Kestrel Stare - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kestrel Stare

I assume he's making sure the coast is clear to eat his catch, still trapped in its claws, firmly grasped to the wire.

Insect Morsel - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Insect Morsel

He gobbled that insect — this last, dangling morsel looks like a head with antennae — quickly, working it with its free hand, the other holds him balanced on the wire.

Kestrel Eating - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

After the Last Bite

He's still chewing and still holds its claw as if to hold it, so it's not long gone, but gone, gone.

Then It Flew Away - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Then It Flew Away

I panned along with it, catching the first two shots sharp, but after that, it was moving to fast — or I was too slow, and the difference blurred the bird.

Kestrel Gone - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Disappearing Down the Slope

Still, I got it eating something — a first for me — and seen it catch something, and some nice shots of it perched up there and flying away. Great moments.

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January 15

 Red-bellied Woodpecker in a Tree - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-bellied Woodpecker in a Tree

I'd seen a light-looking little bird flip flop fly across the bay from Hidden Creek, wagging all over the place, up and down, in and out. Knew it weren't one of my usual birds, but which one it wasn't I did not know. Notice its little red, triangular area of belly. Hence its name.

Red-bellied Woodpecker Underside - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-bellied Woodpecker Underside by Half

Till it started flitting up the tree in plain, colorful sight. Since yesterday at the Fitchery, I'd decided that the only way to adequately photograph a woodpecker is by holding down the shutter button whenever it was in sight, then waiting till it was again. Just going click at the decisive moment is absurd, because I never know when that is, and I can barely see them till I get them here.

Red-bellied Woodpecker Full Side View - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pretty Good Side View

Shooting up at him seemed odd, so I backed off about thirty feet and shot a couple more times. In a flycatcher, all that whiskery-looking hair-like feathers around its bill would be for catching insects, which these eat, too. I don't think I've ever got a woodpecker of any stripe or herringbone quite so clear before.

Gull With Drop Rock - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gull with Drop Thingie

I'd seen this sort of gull game before. I try to remember that gulls just wanna have fun, as Anna says, but they're usually such greedy guts, I forget.

Gull Drops Rock - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gull Drops Thingy

Till I see one playing the drop and pick up game, that tends to go on and on.

Go Down Pick It Up - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Go Down, Pick It Up

Almost no matter where the puck drops. At first I thought it might be a rock.

Take It Back Up - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Take It Back Up

But rocks don't float, so it's probably something else.

Drop It Again - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Drop It Again — What Else?

Something fun to drop.

Catch It Again - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Catch It Again

Catch mid-air.

Only to Catch It Again - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Carry It Off Someplace

Then cart around.

So You Can Drop It - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

So You Can Drop It Again

And well, by now you've probably figured out the game.

And If You Drop It Too Farr - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

And If You Drop It Too Far — Go Fetch

And if you drop it too far, go get it, no matter how deep you gotta stretch.

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January 14

 Woody Hanging - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Downy Woodpecker Hanging

Anna and I had planned to drive to one of the Fort Worth area's many birding areas, when she decided, okay instead of driving all that far, let's go to the Fitchery, where we haven't been in a long time, instead. So we did. We looked a lot, saw some and captured a special few. Like this one. At least I think it's just one bird.

Showing Red - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Almost Right-side-up

But from almost every angle, it looks quite different, and I have to wonder whether some of these shots are another woodpecker altogether. Once we finally found it, much closer that we thought it sounded like, rat-a-tat-tatting into the wood.

Woodpecker Right Side Up - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

All the Way Right Side Up

Pecking away. Here there's no hint of red, and it's right side up, briefly. I stood and shot until I couldn't hold the camera still anymore, so I lay down in the leaves against a berm. Easier to sight and focus, but the heavy zoom kept creeping back to less telephoto, so I had to hold that up, also.

Woody's Back - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Woody's Back

I probably shot a couple hundred shots of this one bird to get essentially one shot from each side. In that time it spent more time upside-down than right side-up and never for more than a few seconds held anywhere near still, so it was quite a challenge to get anything in focus or sharp.

Woody's Underside - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Woody's Underside

Not ever certain the mind is all that intact, but no red in this view either, and almost no splatty white on black. Interesting merkin, though.

Upper Feather Spread - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Upper Feather Spread

It'd flittered down to a lower limb, when we both were amazed to see it do what's in the next image. We missed this initial, more subtle stretch, because it was so sublte and so distant above our heads.

Lower Feather Spread - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Lower Feather Spread

Milliseconds after the upper stretch, the woodpecker stretched wing and tail feathers, like this. After both, we asked each other, "Wow, did you see that?" We did, indeed.

xRed Head - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Woodie II

Obviously a whole different woodpecker bird this time, but it was so close to the same time frame I didn't figure that out till I worked this one up on the monitor. Different back, differing head, a lot more red. Wonder how many more of the above shots are different birds?

Butter Butte - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Butter Butt

On the other hand, I only got one shot at this one before it flew away. I got only one shot at a couple other birds in the Fitcherey (Anna's shortening of The Old Fish Hatchery Area) today. Those shots aren't here, because they got rendered as big blurs.

White Wing Dove - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

White Wing Dove

Even doves, of which there were plenty, were difficult to photograph, posing only for seconds before they squeaked away.

Titmouse - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Tufted Titmouse

Looked black, lost in the shade of a million branches when I first saw it, I eventually recognized it wasn't nearly as dark as I'd thought. Handsome though. I'd seen Tufted Titmouses in there before, not last year, more like several years ago. And I did not get this one sharp even once, although I shot at it half a dozen times. Speedy little critter, flitting this way and that.

Bearded White Bird - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Bearded White Bird

I know this is a new bird for me. I don't even remember having seen it in a book, although I'm about to. Saved by the Anna, who had it I.Ded as a Carolina Chickadee. Sure looks like a beard there. Amazingly so. This bird is on all the plaques on stands along the lake, but this is my first-ever CC.

Little Yellowish Bird - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Little Yellowish Bird

When I placed this image on the page, I just quietly stared at it. Oh, no, I thought. Another bird I don't know and will have the devil's own time finding in one of those books. My best guess... Well, my only guess, so far, is Orange-crowned Warbler, although that's simply a guess. Lotta little birds running around the Fitchery today.

Reader Karin MA says it's not an Orange-crowned but might be a Bell's Vireo. She's probably right. My only other OCW was in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and it looks different.

Yellow Bird Upsidedown - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Yellow Bird Hanging

Eyes rolling and rolling around in my head. Another little bird to identify. Arghhh. Cute little bird, though. Very picturesque.

Yellow Bird - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Yellow Bird Upright

And nice enough not to pose in amid a lot of little limbs and branchlettes, so I could focus very precisely on it. Took me awhile to figure out it was the same little yellowish bird I saw two clicks above. Hmmm.

Mockingbird - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mockingbird

I know this one. I know this one. It's a Northern Mockingbird. One of my favorites. I still remember photographing one when a lady insisted upon interrupting me doing that so she could ask me if it were "a little eagle." I still think of them as little eagles sometimes. Ha.

Keet Home - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Parakeet Home

In the vicinity of Monk Parakeets' sometimes home in The Big Hum down the hill from the Pumphouse, we heard their loud cries echoing a little. Look up, no birds in sight. Interesting industrial design, and oh, nice little bits of keet nest. They must be inside.

Killdeer Close - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Killdeer Close

About to leave the lake, I was watching the ground pass below us up a hill slowly and saw these guys standing on the right side, apparently waiting for the others in their group. People walking by, other cars, five Kildeer crossing the road and walking — such a cute, quick-leg walk.

Killdeer Standing - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Killdeer Standing

If this is one of their places, I may have to keep a watch for a nest in the coming months. Nice of them not to fly away soon as they saw us.

Killdeer at Eye Level - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Killdeer at Eye Level

Most of today's shots are big enlargements of tiny portions of a frame. These Killdee shots are very nearly full-frame. Nice detail for a change.

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Before

Three Ruddies Floating - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Three Ruddies Floating

Many birds are elusive. Ruddy Ducks are mostly elusive because they're either shy or because they like to stay away from the shore. They float in great large scatters some distance away from photographers and others. I've counted hundreds, I suspect there for awhile in the last week or so, we had thousands. Migrating from as far north and west as the lower bumps of Alaska to as far south as lower Mexico. This a stopover or a stop, I know not which. I guess I'll know when I see them here again in their thousands.

Ruddies Tails Out - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Heads In, Tails Out

These photographs were taken the last day of last year, but I didn't work them up till today (January 14), because I kept hoping I'd get them closer. The day before yesterday, I saw acres of Ruddies along DeGoyler, maybe thousands. Yesterday, I didn't see any, but they often move from the east to west sides of the lake. When my precious pelicans decide to go, they're gone. I don't know about Ruddies. This is the first time I've noticed so many of them.

Ruddies with Faces - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ruddies with Faces

This particular bunch kept swimming comparatively close to the shore along Yacht Club Row, then out again, then back in. They never got close enough to photograph them in the detail I eventually expect (hope, hope, hope) to capture all birds in. But this is the closest I've got them to come to me.

Ruddies Perking - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ruddies Perking Up

Always before, I've felt very lucky to have them get about twice as far away as this. In these shots, we can begin to see some details. In some shots they seem to have blue beaks (summer/mating) and in others they appear to be black (winter).

Perked - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Perked Up

Then, each time that happened, they'd float — or swim — off. Then in a while, come back. I don't see cheek swaths, but that second duck from the left appears to have a much darker cheek than the others here, so this may or may not be a stag party. I suspect what the books show and what the reality is, is different, and the ones with lower black areas are females.

Female Ruddy Duck - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female Ruddy Duck

So much for theories. This is definitely a female, so if I've identified a ruddy with a bad rug as a female, I was wrong (again), but this is a female, and she was traveling with two males. This image and this verbal maddness was added later.

Female Ruddy - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Even later than that, I've included this T "enhanced" image that's better in some ways but not in others. I'm evaluating the software and needed a direct comparison.

Four Ruddies in Decent Detail - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Four Ruddies in Decent Detail

It's very difficult to determine the sexes when most of the time, they are in rest mode, with their beaks down along their backs in the feathers there. Here, we see eyes, for the first time. I knew they had them, just they're so hard to see among the dark feathers on their heads.

Ruddies Leaving - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ruddies Leaving

According to National Geographic's Complete Birds of North America, "The Ruddy is the only widespread stiff-tail in North America." And that feature is primarily how I and probably we all recognize them. More than their ruddy color, because they are only really red in summer breeding time. In winter, as here, they are much less colorful. The females are very like the males, except they have a horizontal blackish swath across their cheeks, none of which do I see among these, but they may still be too far away for that sort of detail, although there does seem to be differences among the facial details above.

Six Male Ruddies - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Six Male Ruddies

Or, all these are males. The Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas says the species "dives for aquatic vegetation and lesser amounts of crustaceans and insects. "

One Guy Ruddy - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

One Guy Ruddy

This is an enlargement more than a closer shot. Not much more detail, but a little more concentratable. If his head weren't in shadow, we might see his eyes, and if my exposure were closer to correct, we might see tonality in his chest. But we can see that stiff tail pretty well.

A Tale of Three Tails - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

A Tale of Three Tails

Here's another T comparison for me. I found where the profiled Ruddy's eye was and lightened that in Photoshop, so we could see it, albeit darkly. Then I ran all three ducks with their three different views of a Ruddy Duck tail through the Enhancer plug-in, and very much like the results. January 25 addition.

Three Ruddies Coasting - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Three Ruddies Coasting — Again

And this is they drifting, swimming, floating away again.

On January 15, I saw large scatters of maybe several hundred Ruddy Ducks along DeGoyler. The first batch was huddled up against the shore against the cold till I got out of my car and walked close enough to photograph them, at which point they sleep swam out away from my prying eyes.

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January 12

Green-wing Teal - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Better Photo of a Green-wing Teal

So we went back out to the Arlington Drying Beds looking for birds, this time we each had a tele zoom lens and the inclination to photograph us some birds and animals. Fewer animals this time, slightly more variety, maybe more birds, certainly more Northern Shovelers. Those were everywhere we looked. Some old favorites, too. And nine surprise guests.

Pintail Horizontal - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pintail Duck in Normal, Horizontal Position

Plenty Pintails to photograph in a variety of modes: Swimming normally.

Two Horizontal; One Veretical  - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Horizontal; One Vertical Pintail

Two males swimming horizontally, and one dabbling and thereby showing off the full extent of that great pin tail.

Two Male Pintails - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Male Pintails Swimming

Two males swimming in unison.

Pair of Pintails Flying - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pair of Pintails Flying

And a pair of pintails flying away. Next are some close cousins of the Northern Pintail.

Shoveler Shoveling - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Northern Shoveler Shoveling

Not just lots more shovelers, but sometimes brazen and close enough to fill a frame. Shoveling Step A.

Shoveler Shoveling All The Way In - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Northern Shoveler Shoveling in Full Shoveling Mode

Shoveling Step C, full engagement. I'd tell you what they eat, but I remember typing it all out before, so I'll track it down and link to it. Last time we were there.

Curled Up Shoveler - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Curled Up Shoveler

Not at all sure what this one was doing. Probably figured out I was capturing their various moves and wanted to lay one on me.

Northern Shoveler Flying - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Northern Shoveler Flying

This one's flying. Ahead by a beak, a great long shoveling beak. Female of the species but still very distinctive.

Male Shoveler Flying - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

And here's a male Northern Shoveler flying. Previously too dark in his own shadow to show, this image was brought back through T that, among other things, brings color and detail back from shadows.

Phoebe Perched - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Eastern Phoebe

Biggest issue with running up against a species that's not common as dirt is that I have to identify it. I am learning more and more species, and I do believe it just takes time. And it's working. This is an uh .... My first guess was a Phoebe, maybe because I liked saying and spelling it.

Wrong again. I'm used to it by now. Betsy Baker affirms my initial I.D as a phoebe. It is an Eastern Phoebe.

Phoebe from the Back - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Eastern Phoebe from the back

I knew better, but the name came out of nowhere, and I like those best. Could be an Eastern Kingbird except its map shows them here in summer or breeding only, and it's winter. Juvenile Eastern Kingbird sure could be it. Except they're gray, and this looks brown, but my colors could easily be off, and nothing else comes close except, of course, an Eastern Phoebe, which is what it is.

Hawk One - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Hawk One

No doubt about it. This is a hawk. Usually a hawk here or wherever in the U.S. is a Red-tailed Hawk, and this one has a red tail. 

Hawk Four - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Hawk Two

Sure enough, according to Hawks From Every Angle and my near-sighted, squinty eyes, this is a Red-tailed Hawk Adult Light - Western.

Hawk Three - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-tailed Hawk Adult Light - Western.

Which was probable, anyway.

Hawk Four - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Hawk Four

And always a trip.

Great Blue Heron Landing - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Blue Heron Landing

We didn't see the resident Great Blue Heron till we were nearly right on it, and even then we didn't capture its photo essence till it landed on the far side of the pan we were overlooking.

GBH with Ducks - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

GBH with Mystery Ducks

Where it sorted its wings, walked a few feet — but oh, so elegantly — over to a bush, looked like it was gonna spear something any second now for ten long minutes till we gave up on it. This photograph is not quire natural lighting and color. In reality, it was a real booger to even see the GBH even though we knew right where it was. When we looked with bare eyes, it was usually invisible. With my Rocket Launcher, whose frame this is a crop of, I could find it as long as I didn't move the lens. One little twitch to one or the other side, and it'd be a real hunt for a few seconds to nearly a minute to pick it out again, so amazing right on was its own camouflage.

Those birds swimming just this side of it? I was afraid you were going to ask. Back to the books. They do appear to be ducks, and they do not appear among the nice, big pictures in my Lone Pine Birds of Texas, which means I'll have to float through littler photos in bigger books. They seem to have long beaks, and with a honker like that, they could only be Northern Shovelers, but the colors and textures are all wrong, so I don't know.

Nutria - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Nutria

I know this one, though. No doubt there, it's a Nutria, which I assumed was the biggest pest and danger to birds at the beds.

  Feral Pigs - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Feral Hogs

Then we saw nine of these. Feral hogs, not to be confused with Javelina. Anna found this site, which explains a lot.

My apologies for forgetting to post the pix today. Ain't Mercury Retrograde fun?

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From Before

 Gulls Taking Turns - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gulls Taking Turns

Some occurrences are just difficult to believe. Probably because they exist outside my personal belief system. I'm okay with some pretty wacky things. But others that some other people might consider over the edge and outside the lines, seem comfortably inside any lines and safely on this side of edges I can accept. We all have our startlements. These are some of mine.

Nature Photog with Dog - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Nature Photog with Dog

Gulls are greedy-guts. Even Pixar and the ghost of Walt Disney know this and portray them crying "mine, mine, mine" all the time. That's how we know they are gulls. By their squeals of first-person-singular demand. Nobody's got it like gulls do.

Birds are afraid of dogs. This dog is cute, probably cuddly and warm. He might even have a cute name. But someone who brings their dog — it is on a leash at least — to take pictures of nature has something out of order in the logic of it. I've seen a dog on a leash set all 70 or so pelicans fleeing for their lives, and I've cleaned up the carcass of one who did not get away. And small as ihe is, this is a hunting dog.

The Noble Gull - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Noble Gull

So here's that bird guy who's never been all that friendly toward gulls showing a photograph that makes a gull — our usual ring-nose variety — look noble. How dare I?

January 9

 Down Draft Landing Continuation #1 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Down Draft Landing Continuation #1

Remember the other day when my camera followed several pelicans down in their precipitous near-vertical landings?

Down Draft Landing Continuation #2 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Down Draft Landing Continuation #2

The wing position and forms may be different here, but here is a similar descent into the melee of pelicans along the island sandbar dirt-scrub forming across Inner Sunset Bay.

Down Draft Landing Continuation #3 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Down Draft Landing Continuation #3

Just consider this short series the continuation of that earlier series, and you get the idea of how amazing some pelican landings really are. From the clarity of the sky then suddenly down into the compression of pelican town.

Down Draft Landing Continuation #4 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Down Draft Landing Continuation #4

How do they land with such pin-point accuracy? Musta been practicing.

Back to Tranquility - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Back to Tranquility

Then, just when they all get all docile and cozy...

Freak Out City - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Freak Out City

Some nature-loving idiot with two big dogs comes right up to the shore maybe fifty feet from the resting pelicans, and all heck breaks loose, as they start flapping, and flying off in the other direction, paddling away fast as their tiny little feet will propel them.

Female Scaup - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female Scaup

A baker's dozen scaups in the water around the pier in Sunset Bay today. One full dozen males and this lone female.

Black On Whites - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black (grackle) On Whites (pelicans)

A short study in black and whites.

Whaz Zat? - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Whaz Zat?

I'd watched this light brown shape with bright leading wing edges circle slowly over the Hidden Creek area where I'd seen a Turkey Vulture rocking earlier. Now, finally, I can tell a hawk from a TV. It circled toward the Sunset Pier, then back toward Buckner several times. I'd scan the sky in that direction when I wasn't shooting something else, willing it to como right over me.

Comin' Closer - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Comin' Closer

Gradually, eventually, that seems to be what it decided to do, though it disappeared into wisps of clouds often — or my lens would lose track and go to full blur.

Oh, Man, Is It Uh Neegle? - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Oh, Man, Izzit Uh Neegle?

Finally, it flew directly overhead. By then the pier was crowded with teenagers asking what sex the gooses honking nearby were. I was pointing the rocket launcher almost straight up into the sky, and I doubt if one of them even noticed. Nice shots of probably that same Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk who flies through here and I photograph as often as I get a bead on it.

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January 8

 Mr. Wood - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mister Wood

Musta got there too late for the Pelk fly-in or too early for the evening swim- or fly-out. Usually shoot at ISO 200, 250 or when I'm stretching it, 320. These are all shot at 800, and yeah, there was a lot of color noise, but I made most of it go away with some silly filter. All we got left are a bunch of Wood Ducks.

Color Face - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Color Face

They'd flown in to eat corn poured out along the shore at Sunset Bay. Along with a great many other ducks, gooses, a bunch of human children and adults and a hungry squirrel. It was a lot darker than it looks here, and this and all the rest of these shots were made with the dreaded on-camera flash

Mr. Wood among Females - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wood Among Females

Reason I usually avoid using flash are the usual harsh shadows, but those are mostly dissipated in the considerable distance these were shot at through the Rocket Launcher, as usual set at 500 (=750mm, more or less).

Mrs. & Mr. Wood - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mrs. Wood

Maybe the nicest part is the lively glint in nearly every flashed birds' eye or eyes.

Mrs. & Mr. Wood in a Favorite Spot - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mrs. & Mr. Wood on a Favorite Perch

I thought I was over with Wood Ducks when I remembered that they really liked hanging around the concrete culvert off to the right, and sure enough, there they were.

Gull Wing Walking - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gull-wing Walking

And oh, why not one shot of a Gull-wing walking? With one of those all-round shadows I was talking about.

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January 7

 Swivel, Turn, Drop - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Swivel, Turn, Drop 1

Making art shows happen tears it out of me. I slept the first couple days. Yesterday on the way to buy some envelopes, a constable stopped me and gave me a citation (what, no ticket?) for no registration update or vehicle inspection.

Swivel, Turn, Drop - 2 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Swivel, Turn, Drop 2

Very soon thereafter, I got Blue inspected, then rushed to the lake to find the batteries — I thought I'd checked — on the new cam at zero. Wouldn't  even turn on enough to tell me how much power was left in them.

Swivel, Turn, Drop 3 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Swivel, Turn, Drop 3

Today, catching me up on my VA medicine prescriptions I was suddenly out of, Anna invited me to go to the lake to take pictures. I offered to drive but when I mentioned my citation and that I still didn't have registration updated — tomorrow, tomorrow — she drove us around the lake. We saw the picnic table and wondered, and we saw coots, even some egrets.

Swivel, Turn, Drop 4 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Swivel, Turn, Drop 4

But it took getting us to Sunset Bay to find real birds doing real bird things. In this case employing various techniques to get from flying back from all around the lake where we'd seen them out in the middle fishing, down and back to the flock.

Swivel, Turn, Drop 5 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Swivel, Turn, Drop 5

I'm calling this first extended technique "Swivel, Turn, Drop," because each of them seemed to swivel in the sky...

Swivel, Turn, Drop 6 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Swivel, Turn, Drop 6

turn almost magically ...

Swivel, Turn, Drop 7 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Swivel, Turn, Drop 7

then drop precipitously almost vertically

Swivel, Turn, Drop 8 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Swivel, Turn, Drop 8

toward their targeted spots. It was at that very point where my camera decided — it's smarter than I am — to stop focusing for a little while. {This sequence is more or less continued a couple days later when my lens worked fine, focusing all the way down.]

Stall Drop - 1 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Stall Drop Skid - 1

The second technique I witnessed today involved another turn moderately over Sunset Bay...

Stall Drop - 2 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Stall Drop Skid 2

Gracefully stalling and falling in a highly controlled manner — notice those feet out back catching the draft and its tail feathers employed like we've rarely seen them, sticking straight out from its tail...

Stall Drop - 3 - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Stall Drop Skid 3

Dropping out of the sky, still maintaining forward momentum, dropping landing gear...

Stall, Drop, Skid - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Stall Drop Skid 4

skidding on the surface with wings pulled in...

Stall, Drop, Skid - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Stall Drop Skid 5

still skidding across the water to a safe and comfortable stop a little ways on.

Long-top Table - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Long-top Table

The first one we saw just looked wrong. Then a couple normal tables that looked fine. Then one in three with the extended top. Then I noticed the concrete apron below, and eventually Anna figured it was for handicapped people in wheel chairs.

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January 2

Armada - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Armada

Although it's comparatively rare that I get photographs like this of such a multi-species fishing party, I suspect it happens almost every day. Every bird's daily project is to feed itself. It keeps no larder, no freezer, no stockpile of foodstuff. It has to feed itself every single day. For all the apparent excitement, that's what's happening here. A bunch of birds out there finding fish to eat.

Sunlit Armada - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Into the Sunlight

Sporadic Fishing - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Fishing & Flying

Splash Diving - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Splash Diving

Thin Line - Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Thin Line

Every day.

January 1 2009

Black-face Muscovy - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

"Checker-face Muscovy"

A new tomorrow? Well, at least a new today and a new year. Happy new year, ABJ readers. Thanks for coming back.

Far as I know, there is no such species or breed as a Checker-face Muscovy, it's just yet another in what seems an infinite variety of Muscovy ducks. Once we got used to the gentle muscovies (wrongly named for Moscow; they actually originated in South America), we find exotic beauty in their wartish faces, but this one is special. Possibly the most exotic muscovy we've seen, and we've seen lots. Darned few of which, we might note, that resemble the images in bird books.

Dark Goose - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Dark Goose

We were visiting friends on Lake Arlington, which I'd only previously seen on maps, never had cause to visit before. Very unlike White Rock Lake, this much larger lake has only three public access points that we could find. And only the usual culprits at those public park locations — gulls, ducks, muscovies and one lone Great Blue Heron, although we heard of many more species, including an Ibis that has been seen by lake residents.

This dark goose — or huge (Muscovy size) duck seemed new to us. We thought we'd seen most of the usual suspects at Texas watering holes, but we'd somehow missed these large, reddish bodied, brown-eyed ducks.

Dark Goose Face - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Dark Goose Face

This one's bill is similar, as are its overall colors, but those eyes are very different. Guess we don't know who hangs out in public spaces as well as we thought.

Other Dark Goose - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Other Dark Goose

I'm not utterly convinced they are gooses. They are as big as geese, maybe even bigger than muscovies, which are ducks. We didn't see — or hear — them fly. Muscovies sound like freight trains huffing with each flap. The only action we saw from them was when they lined up three abreast as they waited for us to feed them. We didn't, but that did not dissuade them.

Great Blue Heron in the Distance - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Blue Heron in the Distance

Those are mostly gulls around our silhouetted sunset Great Blue Heron. We saw another standing just as still on an island behind our friends house right on the less public part of Lake Arlington. That one we could see color in. It was resident where we saw it, and can, we were told, usually be seen standing right where we watched it for long tens of minutes before the light finally disappeared entirely.

Just before dark finally fell, we began wondering what the neighborhood Great Blue Heron was thinking about out there just right of its tree. Moments later, it did a lovely fly-by for us, and we figured that's just what it'd been cogitating so seriously.

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All text and photographs copyright 2009 by J R Compton.
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without
specific written permission from the writer or photographer.

My favorite answer is, "I don't know." I am, after all, still an amateur.

Thanks always to Anna.

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