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The Amateur Birder's Journal - Stories & Photographs by J R Compton
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Learning my latest camera.     If you can help me identify unsub birds here, I'd love to hear from you.

The Emory Eagle Fest

January 28, 2012

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

Crested Caracara — a.k.a. "Mexican Eagle"

On Saturday January 28 we visited Emory, Texas' annual Emory Eagle Fest, although there were no eagles directly related to either the crafts sale inside Rains High School or in the wild bird presentations inside or out of the building, and there was one lecture on the American Bald Eagle while we were off hunting eagles at nearby Lake Fork.

The Eagle Count in Emory in mid-January 2012 found 27 eagles. Two years ago, at an Eagle Fest in Vancouver, attendees counted 7,300 bald eagles. There are Eagle Fests all over the world [partial list below], though not all of them have anything to do with eagles as birds.

On our unheated schoolbus ride to the lake for our early-morning eagle hunt, I heard a festival volunteer say that "only one eagle "was available, and it [something-something] too much." Cost?

Bald Eagle bump on distant tree - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

What We Saw: Bald Eagle bump in Distant Tree — a few more images below.

The two eagles we actually saw and photographed on the "Barge Tour" were very far away, more like dark lumps in distant trees to our naked eyes, although my long lens rendered them better than I thought they could be. Our exciting pontoon boat ride to capture those few eagle visions are included in this journal below, but first, this image from their brochure, then more live birds much closer and in greater (!) detail.

17th Annual Eagle Fest brochure picture - no credit or location given

Uncredited and luridly colored image on the cover of the Rains
County Chamber of Commerce 17th Annual Eagle Fest brochure

We loved the pair of eagles on the cover of the Emory Eagle Fest brochure, and we wondered whether anyone else knew the upper eagle (he) was mounting the lower eagle (she), and they were about to have sex, which would probably only take a few seconds. No one was credited for the photograph, and there was no indication where the pair was photographed, although it appears they were photographed in a sunset, although the tree they're in was not. Clip Art?

If it had been photographed near Emory, it was cause for celebration, and we heard that eagles are nesting in the area. Some years ago, the Texas Legislature declared Emory "the Eagle Capitol of Texas," but they don't investigate claims. The recent, mid-January, local Eagle Count found 27 eagles in the county.

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

Crested Caracara Up Close — This Is Not An Eagle

We were on our way to hunt eagles when the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center had their Live Bird Presentation indoors, but we'd seen them in April, 2011 when they were new, and we were happy to be on the cold school bus driving toward Lake Fork for our great eagle hunt, when that demo was in the Rains County High School building where we'd boarded the bus.

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

Crested Caracara with Coin

As soon as the emcee of the Last Chance Forever donation bird show started talking about a species of raptor that used to only be found in South Texas but had recently spread to these parts of north central and eastern Texas, we knew he was talking about this gorgeous bird, which we had seen several of around Emory on our earlier trip to reconnoiter the area, hoping for eagles but we saw none then.

Caracara Teaches Crowd Where to Put the Money - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Crested Caracara Teaches the Crowd Where to Put their Donations

We're big fans of more avian aspects of the yearly World of Birds show in the Bandshell at Fair Park during the State Fair of Texas, but we draw the line at birds trained to fetch currency from audience-members, then fly back to deposit the money in a box near the front stage.

These traveling bird shows make their money by collecting it during their free shows "to help rehabilitate injured and sick birds," but it probably goes for everything else they do, too. It seems tawdry to employ supposedly wild birds to fetch money. These guys did exactly that, also. This hapless bird is teaching the audience where to put their coins and folded dollar bills — "Does anybody have a hundred dollar bill?" the emcee jokes.

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

Red-tailed Hawk Struggles with Gloved Hand

There must be dozens of traveling shows that appear outside and inside various venues all over the country, and they're often free to attend and free for festival and fair organizers, so they get paid directly from their audiences. Some, like the one at the State Fair of Texas involve skits and play-acting that appear spontaneous, but we've seen their shtick too often to believe anymore, and except for the birds, those shows get really old, but they attract large crowds and lots of little bucks.

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

Red-tailed Hawk Head Detail

Red-tailed Hawks are also native to this area — and almost every other area in North America. Common as they are, however, they've still beautiful, especially up close, and I love the opportunity to photograph them easily.

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

Red-tailed Hawk on Glove

There may be something wrong with teaching wild birds tricks — and we disliked asking the audience to applaud each one in the show — as if birds appreciated the sounds of hands clapping, but these birds have been imprinted on humans and can never be released into the wild, because they'd just find a likely human (their judgment may not be that good.) and beg for food. It might get them food or it might get them shot or imprisoned till they starve.

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

Red-tailed Hawk from back

For us, these shows are marvelous opportunities to get close enough to show these species in the detail and real colors that they sometimes hide in the wild. And there's little likelihood one would feel territorial enough to attack us for doing that.

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

Harris's Hawk on PA Speaker

The emcee also called this a Bay-winged Hawk, a term we had not heard before. Wikipedia says it's what Harris's Hawks used to be called, but this emcee repeatedly called this one that.

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

three-quarter view of Harris's Hawk, with MC

These images may even help me identify birds in the wild, and as regular readers know, I need all the help I can get.

Harris's Hawk from Side - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Harris's Hawk from the side and closer

You probably should remember, however, that these were shot with a 300mm lens, so these birds are farther away than they appear here. Still, it takes quick shooting and fast focusing and composing, which keeps it sporting for us. I used to photograph dance for that same impulse when I worked for the Dallas Times Herald and didn't want to shoot Cowboy Football, but birds are much more beautiful and difficult to predict.

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

Harris's Hawk with Wings Upraised

We'd rather photograph them out in the open than in cages.

Harris's Hawk Catches Lure - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Harris's Hawk Captures Lure

To show off birds' special hunting skills, spikes were tapped in the ground as corners, then a sturdy strap wrapped loosely around them, then pulled, so a lure that looked — and may even have smelled and tasted — like a rabbit, rapidly scooted, turning corners and moving quickly over the ground enough like one that it triggered the expected response from these captive birds, who are usually fed more directly. Sport for the crowd as well as the bird, who carefully guarded its captive bag of flesh.

Harris's Hawk with Prize - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Harris's Hawk with Prize

The fast-talking emcee kept emphasizing that they don't get their birds to do anything they don't want to do — although the state fair show may not have as strict rules, but there seems to be a lot of leeway in how they get these birds to do un-birdlike acts. This time out, this hawk quickly chased and caught its 'rabbit.'

Then the emcee made a careful show of 'trading' something the bird would probably not shred before our eyes, for an more quickly swallowed piece of meat, diverting it from the lure by offering the meat behind the bird's back, then quickly disappearing the meat into a fanny-pack.

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

Harris's Hawk - Primary Feathers Detail

The Lone Pine Birds of Texas cites Harris's Hawk's size as 17-24 inches long with wingspans of 3.5 feet.

Harris's Hawk on Roof - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Harris's Hawk on Roof

Many of the birds, still fettered with straps and strings of various sorts, were allowed to fly free around the football field while they were "on."

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

Child in Bird-like Hat on that Cold and Windy Day

It was very cold. We thought we'd watch a little while, since we've seen these things before, then go inside where it was warm. Instead, we were continuously intrigued by the photo opportunities and patter of information, and I stayed through the end, and am glad I stuck it out. I had two pairs of socks on, and my toes didn't get really cold till our drive home. We pulled into a Taco Mayo in Quinlan and slept for about a half hour, got awful BLT tacos, then drove the rest of the way home after the bird demo.

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

Black Vulture Profile

I'm already a big fan of vultures. No longer think of them as repulsive beasts, although they stick those long sharp beaks down into smelly carcasses to pull the juicy bits out and eat them. I have talked with some in big cages at Rogers Wildlife, and although I couldn't tell if they understood what I was saying, they did seem interested and very intelligent, and the MC said they were. I think they're a strange kind of handsome and, they and the more colorful Turkey Vultures, fly like the wind.

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

Standing Black Vulture

Handsome devil, huh?

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

Black Vulture Release

Milliseconds after being released. I love my new lens, and I got lots of practice with it in Emory and its wetter environs.

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

Black Vulture Attack

Again, these open-air shows give photographers a great opportunity to photograph birds flying, very close and frame-filling without much danger of becoming prey. Note how warmly dressed people in the crowd were.

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

Black Vulture Flying Turn

It's always amazing when I even got them in sharp focus. Though with the new lens, it's getting less amazing.

Black Vulture on the Ground - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black Vulture after Demonstrating Its Walk

The emcee unfettered it, so it could show how a Black Vulture walks — a mix of a stumbling, aimless awkward bumbling and ambling like a dedicated drunk on a Saturday night, but it got right where it was instructed to go. Which was right here, so it could bite the lower pant leg of the emcee, which it did repeatedly.

This is the cleanest Black Vulture I've seen. In the wild, even the urban wild, they scat all over themselves and each other, white on black. Urohidrosis in the process by which they urinate on their own legs to foster evaporative cooling in the heat of summer. Unlike their more solitary Turkey Vulture cousins, Black Vultures usually find food by sight, not smell, and they fly higher than their red-headed cousins. Black Vultures vary from 22-27 inches long and weigh between 3-6 pounds. They tend to travel and consume in packs for mutual protection.

When we were in Austin, Texas a few years ago, their scavenging prowess had been officially approved as an adjunct City sanitation method, and they were not to be disturbed during carcass cleanups. The name vulture, from the Latin vulturus, means "tearer." Wikipedia's Black Vulture page is the single best source I've found for information.

Fist-feeding the Black Vulture - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Fist-Feeding the Black Vulture

The emcee had bits of meat in his closed fist, arranged so the vulture had to poke its beak down inside, as it prefers to do with carrion. Several of the birds were fed more or less constantly while they were held — probably to keep their attention on the food, so not be concerned about all those other people jockeying for position around them.

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

Great Horned Owl

According to the festival brochure, "Last Chance Forever is a nonprofit, tax exempt organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of sick, injured and orphaned birds of pray — hawks, owls, eagles, falcons and vultures — scientific investigation and the education of the public. Each year the organization gets 150-300 birds for care, and 65-80% of cases are returned to nature."

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

Great Horned Owl Close Up

Birds who are non-releasable and not suffering are used in propagation projects, natural science centers for educational purposes or humane research projects. And these shows.

Great Horned Owl Full View - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Horned Owl - Almost Full View

We missed the one ornithologist who spoke about Bald Eagles, and we also did not attend the "Branson Style Country Music Live Entertainment" at the Cotton Pickin' Theatre that night, somewhat after we got back to Dallas.

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

Not a Baby Great Horned Owl — It's an Eastern Screech Owl

Sorry I didn't get a full front shot of this tiny owl that, the emcee said, is often mistakenly identified as a "baby Great Horned Owl," because it kinda looks like it and is much smaller. Great Horned Owls are 21-22 inches long, and Screech Owls are 8 to 9 inches. According to my treasured Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, Eastern Screech Owls hunt at dusk or at night, take small mammals, earthworms, fish, birds and insects, including moths in flight. I think they even look like moths.

Introduction to Falcon 1010 - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Intro to Prairie Falcon 101

Again, according to my Lone Pine Birds of Texas, male Prairie Falcons are 14-15 inches long with a wingspan of 3-3.5 feet and females are larger at 17-18 inches long with 3.5-feet wingspans. Fascinating details about all the stuff attached to this and other falcons can be found on Wikipedia's Falconry Training and Technique page. This bird even has its phone number on an attached leather strap. The hood keeps the bird calm.

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

Partially Unfettering the Falcon

According to my Birds of Texas, "The Prairie Falcon is a medium-sized falcon that commonly soars for long periods on updrafts or along ridge lines."

full Back-view of falcon - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Full, Back-view of Falcon as if In Flight

The yellow object above its tail is a telemetry transmitter that makes it easier to find, if it doesn't return. This bird seemed to have a wanderlust, and we all watched it fly farther away from the goalposts the show was near, than any other bird in the show. And it stayed gone longer, pausing for more than a minute on a distant shed roof as if pondering whether to return at all.

Full, Back-view of Falcon with Wings Folded - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Full, Back-view of the Prairie Falcon with Wings Folded and Wingtips Crossed

The emcee said falcons are the fastest animals on earth, and they kill prey by flying fast and hitting hard. Birds of Texas says they use "high-speed-strike-and-kill by diving swoops, low flights or chases on the wing." They eat squirrels, small birds, large vertebrates and big insects. Wikipedia says the fastest a falcon has been measured flying was 87 mph while a Golden Eagle has been timed at 198.83 mph. Peregrine Falcons are faster than Prairie Falcons.

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

Falcon In Flight with Transmitter Dangling

We did not see this falcon get up to full-speed, or I would have photographed only a blur.

About to Land on Lights - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Falcon About to Land on Field Lights

If I had that many antennae and strings attached, I'd be falling all over myself. Earlier that morning, I surprised myself by keeping my feet during the barge ride. Because our eagle hunt took so long, waiting for the wind to die down — which it never did, but we went anyway — before we got on the bus, we missed our later-scheduled bus tour of the lake, so I still don't know what that was all about. I had timed the two rides to neatly coincide. We'd get off one, I thought, then onto the other. Luckily, the bus ride was only a $5 loss each.

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

Falcon Flying Left

By the time the falcon performed, Anna had already sought warmth inside the high school, and after the falcon, so did I.

There are other Eagle Fests in Clarksville, Memphis and or Dover, Tennessee; Neosho and/or Stella, Missouri; Narrowsburg, Croton Point, Yorktown and Harrison, New York; Billings, Montana; Houston, Texas; Ash Flat and Vilonia Arkansas; Chicago, Illinois; Hawley, Pennsylvania; Los Angeles, California; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Arlington, Washington; Vancouver, BC, Canada; Istanbul, Turkey; and probably many others that don't have websites.

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

American White Pelican heading toward shore on Lake Fork

Setting out for our great eagle hunt, I wondered if my doubled long telephoto was too high-powered for seeing eagles, but I needn't have worried. We didn't see anything but some American White Pelicans, three Common Loons (our first ever), lots of cormorants and a few Great Blue Herons anywhere near close up. I'm not sure why exactly Rains County is billed as the Eagle Capital of Texas.

Our Intrepid Barge Drivers, Lake Fork Guides and Eagle Scouts

We'd been warned that it would be, and it was very cold out on the water, and we sometimes got splashed. I'd brought a plastic bag to protect my camera and lens, and I usually kept it and me hunkered down behind the box that protected the midship 250-gallon tank for holding fish caught in at Lake Fork fishing competitions.

The festival brochure called Lake Fork "the bass fishing capital" and nearby Lake Tawakoni "the catfish capital," though it didn't say the capitals of what. I wish I remembered their names. They were good company, knew their territory and were very helpful. Emory is between the two lakes.

Emory Eagle Bigger Than We Could See - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Emory Bald Eagle in Way More Detail That We Could See from the "Barge"

Till I got my images large on my monitor at home, I was never certain what I'd photographed actually was an eagle. My Birds of Texas says it's 30-43 inches tall with a wingspan of 5.5 to 8 feet.

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

A Somewhat Enlarged version of What We Could See from "the barge"

It lists Bald Eagles as "threatened species (USFWS), locally uncommon resident on the coastal Plain and eastern third of the state, uncommon to locally common migrant and winter resident east of the Pecos River, and north of the Lower Rio Grande Valley." Our barge guides told us eagles used to only be migrants, but now they nest here and stay year-round.

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

Bald Eagle Flying Away

I could see it jump into flight but didn't get the lens on it till it was flying away, and yes, I'm amazed that it's in focus. Pretty good lens. And this was a vaguely familiar site. See my fourteen seconds worth of being the only person to have photographed a Bald Eagle at White Rock Lake here.

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

Common Loon. L 28-35 inches. 4-5-feet wingspan

We saw three Common Loons today in the water either side of the barge. Our guides slowed our choppy ride, so we could get photos. I thought they seemed large. But then, I'd never seen one before, so I was pleased at the opportunity to see them swimming along.

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

Great Blue Herons in Trees

These guys were also mostly only bumps in trees far away to my eyes. I took this shot, so I could figure out what they were much later. We also mistook mistletoe and other bunches of leaves for possible eagle sighting along the way, and spent a lot of time navigating between submerged trees that, because of recent drought, were poking up through the water.

White Rock Lake

Five or Six American White Pelicans in One Shot - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Five American White Pelicans in One Shot (maybe six)

Another day of testing my new lens, this time with the gizmo that doubles its focal length, enlarging twice as big / pulling the birds in closer, depending upon how you look at it. I look at it as a way to wear out a good J R. I photographed birds and stuff all afternoon, and when I finally got home, I fell into bed and stayed rock-steady-still for many long, lovely minutes. The gizmo only adds another 11 ounces, but it was heavy before that, and that seemed impossible, till I tried it, then it got down to just being exorcize.

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

Feathery Pelican Peek

Not that I don't need it, and I now remember when I first got the Rocket Launcher I though it would be impossible, too. When I hoisted the Rocket Launcher / Blunderbuss, I grabbed it by its handle, and I flipped it over with one hand. This new telephoto nonzoom (although I reached up for the zoom ring about a dozen times today) is much more heavier, so I couldn't just flip it over with the tripod stand / handle with one hand.

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

Long Orange Beak

Such much of today was took up with figuring how to hoist and heft the new lens. The Rocket Launcher weighs 4.2 pounds. This one weighs 6.4 pounds without the gizmo and 7.09 pounds with the gizmo, which I used all afternoon today. 2.89 pounds more. Oof!

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

American White Pelican with Something to Add

Luckily, I've been hefting 10-pound dumbbells these last few weeks, or I'd be dead, or my arms would have fallen off today. Felt like they did, anyway.

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

Pelican of the Dangling Feet

I'd been wondering what I'd do when I could only get "too close" with the new 20% longer-that-the-Rocket-Launcher lens. I'd decided I'd keep shooting and just get parts. I mean why buy a new lens, then not shoot with it. I wasn't sure I could make sense with the details, but this one worked well.

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

Too-Zoomed Pelican

Again, there's no zooming this new lens. It is what it is, and it ain't what it ain't. One of what it is is significantly sharper than the Rocket Launcher. Which you and I can both see in many of today's images. Gobs of distinct details, not all blurred together like that other lens always did. And look at the gorgeous skid-water splash. Yum~

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

Wing-up Skid Deceleration

I'm in love with the sharpness and the detail. Delicious!

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

American Coot Portrait

I shot everything that moved or didn't move for a couple seconds. Coots are the devil to expose correctly but this is about perfect. See the sharp, water drizzling down its breast and bits of feathers on its head and neck? That's why I got this heavy new lens and gizmo, too.

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

"The Front Side"

A woman with a much lighter telephoto lens standing on the swayback pier (thanks to yesterday's flood) in Sunset Bay said she wished these guys would all turn around, so she could get them from the front. I told her there were a bunch more down on the island past where the peninsula would probably come back in another week or so, but she insisted those were all gooses. Gooses there were, but these were among them, and these ain't gooses.

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

Town Cryer and the Goose Parade

When gooses go someplace, they generally go all in a more-or-less line. Wilbur (head goose with the biggest wattle) used to always lead them, but Wilbur's getting older, so now some other goose does the honors. I don't know its name yet. I like the way this adult Double-crested Cormorant is perched with its head slightly back as if it were mocking a rooster.

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

Portrait of a Gray Goose (or is it brown?)

This is actually a bit of a crop, but look look look how sharp it is. Amazing sharp. I'll stop crowing about its sharpness in the next couple of days, but I am impressed!

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

Inverted Lower Pelican Mandible

See "The Things Pelicans do with their beaks" for more examples. Or just keep scrolling down. For many years on this journal, I lived for the few seconds during which selected pelicans would engage in the multi-step procedure of stretching out their pouch. Today, everybody seemed to be doing it.

Three Pelk-stretch steps in one shot - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Three Pelican Pouch Stretch Steps in One Shot

There really isn't any prescribed order in this procedure to stretch out and make even more stretchable by stretching it out — very useful for dredging under water to fill with fish, but these are distinct steps in that endeavor.

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

Male Scaup

I keep being surprised how different birds look through my new, sharper lens.

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

Gull and Pelican

These two birds stayed fairly close together for at least a half dozen shots today. And it's remarkable how well both — they're probably at least six feet apart — both are rendered sharp. It helps that it was a bright, sunlit day.

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

Adult Pied-billed Grebe Pair

Must have been all the stuff yesterday's rain and flood dredged up that attracted some species I hadn't seen and some that usually stay far away from photographers even with medium-sized telephoto lenses. But today, they were so busy hunting and finding food, my presence didn't seem to bother them much.

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

Female and Male Buffleheads

These ducks are usually especially shy, and they are usually found far from shore. Like the grebes, they don't spend much time on top of the water but would far prefer to be diving well under it and for quite a while. That's where their food hides. These last two shots were taken from Dreyfuss.

Two Females and One Male Bufflehead Ducks Flying - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Female and One Male Bufflehead s

I needed practice photographing birds in flight (BIF), so I drove around to the Bent Bridge in Cormorant Bay, because this time of year, there are always plenty of corms flying in and out of there. I was surprised to see the Buffleheads there, and am not that good at capturing BIFs with the new lens yet, but this one was plenty sharp — except for the flock of cormorants well in the background.

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

Yacht Club Masts with Skyline Back

I've been closing entries with shots of the landscape lately. Many of the Journal's readers are here to check up on the lake, and I like lakescapes, too.
 

January 25

Sitting on the Pier of the Day - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Standing on the Pier of the Bay

My favorite place in the near world — where I imagine myself standing on a balmy day with a good breeze when doctors and nurses check my blood pressure — was a little under the weather today. These guys are standing on the posts that hold up the pier at Sunset Bay, and you can't even see the pier. I guess I've been avoiding Sunset Bay lately, so I could come photograph it today strange like this. Cold. Very cold. Pelican weather. Birds don't panic. They just adapt.

Five Black Ducks with Green Heads - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Five Black Ducks with Green Heads

Only in this light they look mostly brown, which they really are. That's the pier in the empty space behind them and that one coot. The coot is probably got his drawing on the interpretive sign. I bet the dark ducks don't, but their progenitor Mallards certainly are.

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

Pelicans Sharp Despite Intervening Trees and Weeds

I did not manage to focus my latest lens on any of the pelicans flying in the air past the pier at Sunset Bay today. I can barely figure out how to hold the strange and bulbous thing. It's heavier than the Rocket Launcher but shorter and more to the point. It'll take me awhile to figure out how best to hold and aim it. The biggest problem with focusing on flying pelicans today, was that when they flew in from wherever they've been out fishing, there was no dry place to stand out beyond the trees, because the bases of all the trees that used to bees out on the edge of shore were underwater, so I stayed high, dry and unable to capture birds flying in — which I usually accomplish by standing on the pier.

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

Bright White Pelican About to Land in the Gray Murk

They're still gangbusters fun to photograph landing, I just had to pick my position more carefully today — and there weren't much to choose from. I'm sure they noticed the change in land patterns, but they didn't seem overly concerned about it. The many other Bay denizens were hanging out exactly where they would have been if there wasn't all that water all over the land on the edge. Just they were a foot of so up, on the water's surface, instead of walking around on the grass.

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

Pelicans Being Pelicans

Jockeying for position on the pier. Same as always.

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

dark duck by the Bridge

I was driving down between the new ocean along the inside of the curve around toward Stone Tables, and I saw this handsome young guy being dry, if not exactly warming in the sunshine. The new lens is much sharper, so let this be a dark precursor to more sharper images. I suspect this is what I've been calling a "dark duck," which is not a species. Actual, correctly capitalized Black Ducks have medium brown heads, so despite its (her?) color, it's not one of those.

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

Pinto Muscovy

And this handsome critter. Just out standing in their high and dry field.

Mallards and Dark Ducks along the Creek - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mallards and a few "dark ducks" Along the Creek Behind Stone Tables

Stone Tables was under water. These guys stayed on top of it.

The Lifeguard Stand Behind the Bath House - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Lifeguard Stand Behind the Bath House

Saw darned few birds in the betweens of the places where lots of birds gathered. Behind the BAth House, this elderly Lifeguard Stand, where dozens of cormorants often huddle, were no cormorants and nothing dry.

Watering The Bath House Tree - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Watering the Bath House Tree

Water up to and including the floor of the basement under the Bath House. No concrete rim marking the beginning of the long-submerged swimming area showing. Flood stage. Probably brief and gone soon, but it'll be wet down there for awhile.

Trees along the Shore West of the Bath House - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Trees Along What Yesterday Was Shore West of the Bath House

There's probably a bird in one of those branches.

January 24

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

Finished With Fishing, Time to Fly Home

These guys have all been fishing. The pelican is heading home. Never know about cormorants. Some are headed off to fish some more.

But the Cormorants are Still At it - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

But the Cormorants Are Still At It

Many cormorants are staying on just in case more fish turn up — or down. Cormorants have a definite advantage, because they dive and go down where the fish are. Pelicans can only dip down as far as their heads and long beaks can reach.

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

Heading for Home

A bit of autumnal splendor in the background as this pelican flaps its way back home.

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

Pelican Past Winfrey Point

Flying low and fast, maybe as much as a foot off the surface of the water.

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

Stripy Unsub

I had this one figured for a female Red-winged Blackbird, mostly because that's what most striped-breast birds whom I cannot initially identify turn out to be, but female RWBBs' stripes go all the way down under them and don't stop, like this white-bottomed bird 's do. So it's something else I can't quite identify.

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

Male Grackle on a Post in the Water

Called Great-tailed Grackle when they are called anything cooth at all, these magnificent birds irridesce in bright sunlight, giving them a bright purple they don't ordinarily possess.

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

Male Grackle Lying Down

Odd sight, this. I was very careful to go around to its bright side, so it wasn't just a bird-shaped chunk of shadow, though I probably needn't have been so careful. This bird had an injured leg or foot. It looked like it might be able to fly, but it had a lot of difficulty standing up. Which is probably why it was the only Grackle I've ever seen lying down on its front in the grass. Last year was the first time I've ever seen an egret lying down like this, but they got up and flew away easily.

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

A Duck Called Gadwall

Not really enough information for me to make an identification. People who can identify birds could probably do it, but not me. Unless, of course, it's another Gadwall.

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

One of those Ducks Flying Away

Whatever it was, here is another one flying away. I was scrambling to get the exposure better and trying to sneak up toward the shore, so they would be bigger in the frame, but swimming birds often take such a photographer maneuver to be the opportunity to ske-daddle, so they did, and I only got the last, slowest one of the bunch.

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

Here's Another Longing Long Shot of Sunset Bay

Longing, because I am avoiding hanging out in Sunset Bay, where I know many of the birds by their first names, I spend so much time there. On the left and above are gulls. Probably mostly Ring-billed Gulls. In the middle and to the far right just under the pier — and at the bottom of this image — are American White Pelicans. The black dots to the left/front of the pier are American Coots. This side of the biggest bunch of those are gooses.
 

January 19

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

Red-tailed Hawk Flying (from the last entry)

I got an email this morning before I got up, from Lakehill Preparatory School Director of Environmental Education Melissa Carpenter who said, "I have a what I believe to be a red-shouldered hawk that is dead on our grounds near WRL. Do you have any interest in the feathers or looking at it close up? If so, let me know. A red tailed hawk has been perched on it and guarding it."

I left a message for her soon as I read her email, yes, of course I was interested. But by then the story had got considerably longer and the evidence shorter.

As Carpenter and students watched, the Red-tailed hawk attacked and killed the Red-shouldered hawk, knocking it to the ground at Lakehill. There, the victor ate the best parts, for awhile guarded its kill, then flew away, so students and faculty could study the remains more closely.

Cat on the School Grounds - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Local Wildlife on the School Grounds — All of today's bobcat photographs by Joel Rodriguez

Carpenter and students gathered feathers and the wing section, which she called "fresh," from the initial attack site and brought the wings in to spread out on the exterior of a building there. Then they went about their business. Meanwhile, another varmint, apparently well-known to many at Lakehill, had caught the scent of fresh kill, reconnoitered the area, and found what it perceived to be food.

Cat Eating

Juvenile Bobcat Eating Feathered Remains

Wary Cat with Feathers

Wary Bobcat Among a Pile of Feathers

And ate everything but the feathers, and probably some of the more bloodied parts of those, too.

Shadowcat by Joel Rodriguez

Shadowcat on the Prowl

Special thanks to Melissa Carpenter, Joel Rodriguez and the students of Lakehill Preparatory School, 2720 Hillside Drive, Dallas, TX 75214.
 

January 17

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

Red-Tailed Hawk at TeePee Hill

At least that's what it'd been known as for decades. Now there's a sign that calls it "T.P. Hill," but you never know what the City is up to.

My good friend X, who', like almost everybody I know, is better at bird I.Ds than I am, says the above bird is a Red-tailed Hawk, anc learly different from the Red-shouldered Hawk below. She's right. I'm wrong again. You'd think I would have noticed the obvious differences, but no. I did not. Ooops, again. Thank you, X for helping keep me honest. I really appreciate it.

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

Red-shouldered Hawk in a Tree

There are prettier birds, and there are more rare birds than hawks, but I go jelly when I see one and hope I can photograph it better than this. It's still in this tree, but when I got close enough to take this shot, it decided to leave, which it's in the process here. Leaned forward, wings up to catch air and push it down and itself up. It'd be a great shot without the tree.

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

Red-shouldered Hawk Outta Here

One more image in comparative focus after this one.

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

And gone

Great detail here, but after this, it disappeared. Poof.

 

January 14 2012

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

American White Pelican Flyover

I was watching the crew of about forty American White Pelicans perched on the big log just west of the pier at Sunset Bay and standing on the peninsula on the east side and farther away, when I saw one pelican flying around up there. I had watched one pelican split off from the gang on the peninsula, but didn't see where it went. I assumed it was going to flap around in a noisy bath, but instead, it disappeared. Then this one came flying it.

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

Pelican Curving Around Up There

I assume it was the same one, but since I didn't see it take off, it could have been any pelican, not that it really matters. On the pier, I tend to lend my attention to whatever bird is engaging in the most interesting activity at the moment. It's easier to keep track when there are several photographers out there who are talking with each other. Some do, some don't. Part of why I stand on the pier in Sunset Bay is because it's away from a lot of people.

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

Pelican Banking Left

But I love talking with other photographers. There was a guy there taking pictures, and we exchanged a few sentences, but neither of us was calling out where specific birds were. We each seemed engaged in photographing mostly different birds. If we had been conversing more heavily, he might have seen this one before I did and told me about it, and versa visa, for that matter. Suffice to say, what we usually say about pelicans in the inner bay, "It came out of nowhere." But it didn't seem to be in any hurry. It was up there mostly coasting in big circles.

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

Pelican Banking

It didn't start with the huge altitude they sometimes flyover at, but it got closer, which indicated I might get to photograph it for awhile, and I was hoping to get to follow it down.

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

Lone Pelican with Gulls

I don't think it was actually flying with the gulls, although both species were up there, it looked a lot like, having fun. If this looks farther away, it's probably because I backed the zoom off to show more birds up there, although I'm pretty sure these are not in strict chronological order, because I prefer to put the best shot of the day on top.

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

Lone Pelican Landing

Although this particular action did come after it flew around up there for what seemed like quite a long, slow-motion time. And following an American White Pelican around in the sky then down to the lake's surface is one of my most favorite things to do. Tomorrow I'll show more birds bathing, then a quick interlude with a very local hawk, then I really don't know.

Crow snow-surfing roof

Friday January 13

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

Dead Parrot

About a week ago, somebody left this dead parrot on my porch. Or maybe it fell from the sky into my inner driveway. Of the possibilities, it seems more likely that they left it on my porch, and one of the neighborhood cats who spend time on my porch dragged it down to my driveway. Hardly matters which scenario actually happened. I really have no way of knowing.

I found it lying on the driveway very close to where I stand to get in my car. I promptly put it in a clear plastic bag and sealed it. I didn't want whatever killed it. I have no idea what killed it. It very probably was or had been a pet. I worry about people who "own" parrots. Because parrots are sentient like human beings are, can talk and make meaningful requests and know who they are and what's happening, owning a sentient being seems wrong.

I never met this parrot until after it had been dead for awhile. Then, I allowed someone whose olfactory sense is a lot keener than mine to decide that it was stuffed. Never mind that it had no stiff armature inside it holding it in some "parrot-like" position the way a taxidermist would have. It was floppy, and apparently fresh. But I allowed myself to accept that it was stuffed, so I left it in the bag for more than a week, till my life calmed down some, and I had time to deal with it.

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

Dead Parrot

I never knew what to do with it. In the past I have set out to bring dead birds back to photograph them under a lot of light, because I wanted to know something about them and needed to poke around in their feathers to find that out. But I had no such desires with this carcass. And then I kept it in the plastic bag way too long, and the next time I looked carefully at it — I'd moved it several times during the interval but never really looked at it — it was growing white fuzz.

You can see some of that in these pictures. I kinda wish I'd photographed it before the rot set in. Before it started stinking. By the time I did photograph it, it stunk, and I didn't want any of its feathers or to have anything to do with it. The right thing to do with it when I first saw it was to burry it. Or throw it in the trash, which is what I did right after I made these photographs.

I might have harvested some of its beautiful feathers. I might have had a sudden attack of intelligence. But I didn't.

The bit of rough feathers around its neck was where I washed off some white fuzz before I photographed it. It had been a beautiful bird. Wish I'd taken the time to document it before it fuzzed over and stunk.

 

White Rock Lake in Dallas, Texas, USA

January 12 2012

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

Pelican Splash Bath

Today's entry is about American White Pelican splash-baths. Yep, I went back to Sunset Bay and stayed about an hour, talked with a fellow photographer a little, but mostly I watched and waited and looked and photographed. These are among my favorites, but there'll be more of other species' baths in near-future journal entries.

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

Wings-up Pelican Splash

When pelicans bathe, they move a lot of water with those big, powerful wings. Those are what move the most and move the most water.

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

Pelican Bath Feather Splay

More mild a bathing technique, but ain't those feathers gorgeous.

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

Flat-out Pelican Bath

Lots of water splashing and wing and other feathers in exquisite disarray. Sometimes it's just water splashing.

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

Pelican Bath and a Half

The American White Pelican in the back with its flexible lower mandible stretched down somewhat is engaged in a splash bath. The one in the front with the contracted lower mandible has its wings up and slightly out in drying mode.

Elegant Wings-up Drying Technique - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Delicate Wings-up Drying Pose

I've photographed pelicans splash-bathing before lots of times, but except for the one of one holding its wings straight-out horizontally, these are all new shots for me, and I think that's special enough to show you these shots today.

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

Feathers Awry, Still Driving

Wings still up, the air still wet, and that lower mandible is still somewhat stretched. Wonder why.
 

January 10

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

Bleak Color Cormorants behind the Bath House

Gray, gray day. Much darker than it appears here. Hadn't wanted to go out before, besides I was busy writing about art after a long lapse. Still need catching up on my sleep. Maybe by next week I'll be as normal as I get.

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

Ready to Fly Signal

Took a while to figure out they do this neck and wing and tail stretch right before they take off.  By "take off," I mean they swoop down to the water surface, bounce or hop up, and again, and again, until they reach air speed. Sometimes in thick or thin or whatever the air was today, that can take a little while of hopping.

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

Hop to Fly

Almost missed this one. I wasn't ready, but it sure was. Splasha-splasha, splasha …

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

Double-crested Cormorant Aloft

Four days from my last bird photography and such a nasty cold and too-gray day, took me awhile to remember about sharp focus. Glad the camera was up to it, when aimed right. Because I was still way out of focus myself.

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

Corm Away

Off into the wild gray yonder.

 

January 6

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

Egret in Weeds on Egret Island in the Spillway

It's egret season again.

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

Three Birds

Little explosion of little birds.

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

Tree Fulla Birds

Buncha birds packing a tree on the other side of Garland Road from the Spillway.

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

Bird-splosion

Something happens and they explode.

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

Sploosh Left

Exit stage right!

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

Great Egret with Furry Topknot

I haven't caught a big crowd of them yet, but I've been looking.

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

Egret on Dark Water

So, for now, I'm happy enough just finding them in picturesque settings.

 

January 5

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

Startled Female Mallard

I clicked five times during its sudden startlement — I don't like to flush them, but I didn't even see her or her friends as I snuck along the trees out on the southwest edge of Parrot Bay carefully avoiding mud holes, hoping for something new. Female Mallards aren't exactly new but the experience of tracking it and hoping one (only one) would be in focus, was. They're a little less colorful than males, but I still think female mallards are the more beautiful.

Anna's Female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Photograph Copyright 2012 by Anna Palmer. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Anna's shot of a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Anna's nice shot here continues my notion that this, early winter time must be Woodpecker Season. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a woodpecker that, according to my treasured Lone Pine edition of The Birds of Texas, this species "hammers trees for insects; drills "wells" in live trees to collect sap and trap insects; also flycatches for insects." More woodpeckers just below.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Photograph Copyright 2012 by Anna Palmer. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Another of Anna's shots of a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

According to Peterson's Field Guide to Birds, they're "fairly common," whatever that might mean. 8.5 inches long. My Lone Pine Birds of Texas says, "Sapsuckers do not actually "suck" sap — they lap it up with a tongue that resembles a paintbrush." I didn't see this one, but I photographed an obliging male hanging from a twig and other poses in February 2008.

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

Coot Eats Bowl of Something Grackles Don't Like

Hard to imagine something that comes in a styrofoam bowl that grackles don't like, but there it is.

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

Starling in the Weeds

I was hoping for a little more detail. Heck, I was hoping it was something besides a starling. But I like the abstraction anyway.

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

Red-winged Blackbird in the Reeds

Of course, I wanted some far more interesting bird, a lot closer up, but I'll settle for a Red-winged Blackbird any time.

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

White Dots on the Far Side of the Lake — in Sunset Bay

The dots are, in order from left to right, pelicans, pelicans, gooses, ducks and coots, one guy standing on the pier, ducks and more gooses. I haven't stood on the pier in that bay anytime this year, so far. But I don't know how much longer I can avoid it.

 

January 4

Oh, and I found some pix I shot New Year's Day, below.

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

Killdeer - Front Quarter View

Tough day. Not a lot of time outside. Needed laxing, so I drove the loop down Arboretum Drive, up Winfrey Hill, down the other side past the parking lot that used to be the road down to Sunset Bay, then up to Barbec's. It always calms me. I wasn't so much looking for birds as for a gentle breath of fresh air. It always works.

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

Killdeer - Side View

I saw grackles, of course, and I heard the screams of Red-winged Blackbirds, though I didn't see any. I watched a mockingbird fly across the road and up into a tree. And there were plenty Mallards, coots and Ruddy Ducks far enough out in the water that I needn't bother capturing their images.

But these were the only birds I felt like photographing. They were wondering in the green grass strip between the road and the walking path, and because they're wary of people but not at all of cars, I just leaned the blunderbuss out the window and clicked.

Soon there'll be hidden nests, and all that subterfuge of parents peeping wildly and acting wounded to lead us away from those nests, then we'll be seeing fuzzy young who grow up in a matter of minutes. Quick get a shot.

 

January 2

Male Golden-fronted Woodpecker - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Male Red-bellied Woodpecker

Found these two black and white and red in some places woodpeckers in two trees next to each other along the Winfrey edge of Sunset Bay, about as far toward that place that I walked to around Winfrey today. I am trying to avoid Sunset Bay, because I go there too often, then I complain too much that I'm photographing the same birds over and over again. In the above shot I am aiming my blunderbuss of a telephoto zoom almost straight up into the tree, through branches at this small bird.

Female Downy Woodpecker - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female Downy Woodpecker

And right next tree was another species of little (6-7 inches long) woodpecker, known to appreciate peanut butter in bird feeders, again according to that Birds of Texas volume that I have cherished since I bought it in the Birding Center in south McAllen, Texas about four years ago. The trick to adequately photograph these woodpeckers today was to avoid them being lost in dark shadows and keeping up with their sometimes frantic pace.

Today, I'm either photographing new birds or photographing the same old birds a little differently. It feels good.

Male Bufflehead - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Male Bufflehead

All I could see from the shore along Arboretum Dive was black & white in this odd, big buffalo-headed shape, but this photo clearly shows all the iridescent colors of his head. I shot at least thirty shots of him while he was above-water …

Tomorrow, I could well be back at Sunset Bay photographing pelicans coming in fast and low.

Bufflehead Dive! - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Male Bufflehead Diving

… But most of the time he was underwater searching for aquatic crustaceans, insects, invertebrates, seeds, mollusks, snails and plants. And they stay down for more than minutes., all according to my treasured Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas by Keith A. Arnold and Gregory Kennedy, who also list White Rock Lake first of the best places in Texas to find them.  
 

January 1

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

Leftover Christmas Ornaments

This was the most egrets I've seen in one place yet this winger. Here they are occupying the copse of tall trees on the old Railroad Tracks side of The Old Boathouse Lagoon. It was bitter cold the day I shot these, and I only got out of the car a few minutes to photograph these guys, then back in The Slider for warmth.

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

More Egret Ornaments

I still hope to find them gathered on the ground somewhere close, perhaps in the park area across Williamson Road from the main entrance to the park, where I caught their reindeer games last year.

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

Mockingbird in Bare Tree

Always plenty of mockingbirds in the trees on both slopes up to Winfrey Point Hill Top.

 

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

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

Thanks always to Anna.

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