DO NOT USE photos without permissionBird Rescue Advice:D7000 G2
Read these first 2 before you ask me to I.D birds: Herons Egrets Herons v Egrets Feedback Rouses Bald Eagle
White Rock Lake
January 30 2013
I'm sure there's a correct scientific name for when a duck rises off the surface and does this, whatever this is, but I'm just calling it a leap. I used to call rouses, "ruffles," thinking that I must have been the first one to notice such things — ha! Now I have a growing page of different species rousing. Someday I'll learn what this duck is doing. Right now, it's a leap, although mini-leap might be more accurate. Plunge, thrust?
I also saw one of the female Buffleheads doing it today. I've seen gooses do it, too, but they'll do almost anything.
Pretty sure I've seen this many Buffleheads before, but always from a significantly greater distance, and even then, when they saw me, seeing them, they skee-daddled. These probably didn't appreciate my presence any more than those others, but they swam stately by, from right to left, then slowly paddled away. Which is to say I got to spend more time watching Bufflehead.
No, me neither. I have no idea where head and whatever else is involved in this odd configuration are. Today was the first time I've ever seen Buffles do a lot of things, including this. I'm pretty sure that pink wiggle near the bottom of his body is where his feet are. But I'm no expert.
According to my treasured Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, White Rock Lake is the best place in Texas to watch them. Which seems an odd assertions, because I've only ever seen them at great distance on the West side of the lake, and only as many as two males and three females on the east side, today.
Next time I see them, which could be tomorrow, I'll keep the camera handy but pay more attention to what they're doing than taking their photographs, since I got pretty good focus today — because they were closer to shore than I've ever seen them at White Rock. And unless they do something amazing — and I capture them doing that — there's not much sense keeping photographing them doing the same things as before.
Supposedly, their heads look like buffaloes (their name in English) or oxen (their name in Latin), but surely the names could have come up with something a little more prosaic than comparing them to buffaloes and oxen. Names aside, I've always thought they were both elegant and sleek. And when his usually too subtle colors shine through, the males are especially attractive.
Where I'd seen them gathering a big fishing party as I drove and stopped and drove and stopped to take more pic of the Buffleheads, just below. Usually, I shoot up or out at pelicans flying. This look-down view should give away the fact that I'm sitting in my car on the parking lot behind the Winfrey Building (which I kept thinking was exactly where I was when I captured 14 seconds of that Bald Eagle those several years ago.)
He was closer than than these birds were, and I was not at all sure I could get this clear enough, but I guess it almost is.
It wasn't a big fishing party when I saw it at The Slider and I slid past the arboretum on our way up to Winfrey Point and eventually to Sunset Bay, where I just sat and ate my piece of cheesecake, as a bunch more pelicans took to the air from there, to where these guys are going. I still wonder how they all know what's going on, but I guess a hungry bird knows what a hungry bird needs to know.
The two lower pelicans are still fully intent upon flying as fast as they can out to the middle of the lake over near the dam where the fishing party must, by now, have had some success at finding, catching and eating a large supply of delicious fish. But the one above is looping a big loop up, over and back, where it will continue the loop, back down to let another pelican catch up with it, so the two could be together on the way out to the big fishing party.
I keep noticing new instances of human-like motives in birds. I've seen pelicans playing, even playing catch around a circle. Of course, I've seen them fighting over where they want to perch/sit. For so many centuries, people have assumed that we are the dominant creatures here, and only we: fill in the blank, thinks, plan, use tools, play, know or do this or that or the other. The more I watch birds, the more I wonder whether they are the real dominant creatures here.
The army of Ruddy Ducks that's been parked off the shore along Arboretum Drive got close to shore today, along with the Buffleheads. Which makes them ripe for J R to photograph them and maybe get more detail than usual. We can't see their faces and bills, but we can see a lot more detail in everything else. There were also brownish Male Ruddy Ducks aplenty out there today, but I was especially interested in the ruddy ones, because they're who will be fathering the future generations soon.
I'm very carefully avoiding saying these ducks have their bills in the feathers to keep them warm, because I read something about them doing this this week, and the author made fun of people who assume they're sleeping when they do this, which is how I would have described it if I hadn't read that. Now I have to go back and reread what I read, to figure out what I should be saying about these ducks and what they're doing.
When I first saw this kestrel this afternoon he was flying among the trees along the big meadow up hill toward the Winfrey Building. From the back, I noticed it was quick and reddish with wide, thin wings like a gull. Gulls are amazing flyers, but this was more amazing. Took it alighting on this wire at some distance from the road up to Winfrey for me to figure out what it was and how powerful was my need to photograph him well.
Green Heron using
bread as bait to catch a fish.
and another bird somewhere else and another.
Once again, I don't know the technical term here, but from my viewpoint, standing on the pier at Sunset Bay with two other photographers, this looked like a splatter of gulls and cormorants. They usually only get this excited when humans are feeding them (which wasn't happening) or they're feeding themselves (which i don't see happening), so maybe they're just getting excited. I've seen gulls do that before.
Mostly the gull splatter pic is here to introduce today's variety of birds I, at least momentarily, deemed valuable enough to photograph.
I started today's lake tour by driving down what I think I may need a better name for now that the once-wonderful, green, lovely, joyously flowerful Arboretum is turning itself into an immense parking lot and amusement park. What do you call something like that?
Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" comes rushing to mind. Especially the part where "The took all the trees. Put 'em in a tree museum. And they charged the people. A dollar and a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go. That you don't know what you've got. Till it's gone. They paved paradise. And put up a parking lot."
I was attempting to photograph them together and even hoping to catch them both in focus, when of course, the usual happened. They weren't out there trying to look pretty. They were, like almost ever bird you ever see, engaged in finding food. That's what they do. Sleep. Preen. Fly. Play briefly. Forage for food.
In which image, we can actually see the many colors of the male, and the darned few of the female.
The road past what once was The Arboretum seemed busy with birds who weren't terribly far off shore — and a lot of others that were. Three worth me stopping The Slider, getting out and walking to close where they were, even though I was weary from just having worked out at the Y.
The gooses were honking loudly when I arrived in Sunset Bay, and they were even louder by the time I walked out onto the pier. Seemed like lots of activity there. Avian and human.
I watched it for awhile, so I know it had long ago determined that this was not something worth eating. But it did seem like something worth playing with, and the pelican did just that for several minutes before joining its flock mates back closer to shore.
Most of today I had on the doubler, doubling my 300mm lens to 600mm and making it often a too-long nuisance, but sometimes it was just the perfect tool. After awhile where I was only sometimes successful using it as the latter, and too often it becoming the former, I took it off and shot with the plain old 300mm. This is the too-long tele version, just about perfect for making abstracts out of real objects and birds.
Don't get me wrong. Sometimes 600mm is just perfect for what I want to shoot. But sometimes it isn't, also.
It's very probably either a Common or a Forster's Tern. That's what I saw a lot of today. There were, of course, a lot more Ring-billed Gulls than either variety of tern, but I was really hoping to get more pix of terns today, although I'd photograph just about anything I could focus.
This is the sort of photo I was hoping for. Catch them being who they are, up close and birdonal. With lots of detail or something special or a new angle.
Or something like this, where this lovely bird is just flying by. Nice to have the line-up of corms down there, even if the world is a little at an angle.
Or something like that. I got a book about how to become a better birder for Christmas, but I'm starting with another one. The book I'm slowly reading Tim Birkhead's Bird Sense, "What It's Like to Be a Bird, and right now I'm reading about their vision. The one that's next of the stack is Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding. The first one (that I am reading) has nearly no pictures inside but a drawing of a mean-looking flamingo on the cover. The other one has lots and lots and lots of little color pictures.
Usually when an army of Great-tailed
Grackles I just watch carefully and wonder what that would photograph like. I
surprised myself by clickety-clicking as about fifty of them flew over. And even
more so when I saw there was this much detail in a black blackbird.
Sunset Bay in the Early Morning Fog
I knew I had to be at the lake. And soon, I was. Most of the time, I shoot one day and post the next, but today, Thursday January 25 is when I shot these and when I'm posting them, too, but I'm going to call today's journal entry January 25, the rest a day or so, before I feel obligated to come back and do this again. Enjoy!
Soon as I saw these guys swimming in a line like that, I knew what they were up to.
Not exactly the everything in unison way American White Pelicans often cooperatively fish together, but close enough.
It's fog. They're pelicans, ergo hungry. So they've gone fishing. Much more than that I hardly need to keep typing captions about. It wasn't cold, and it wasn't warm. It was just right. Not a lot of people at the lake, so that part was perfect.
What's it carrying? A fishing line? Or is it attached?
Could ever be fascinated by something like this.
White Rock Lake
January 24 2013
We're going to get a little obsessive today. I love these beautiful birds, and while I'd rather present a pair of Pintails, I'll take what I can get. I tried other birds all around the lake today, and just never connected. I'd get close, about to focus, and it would fly away.
Till I found this (these) beautiful specimen(s) usually about twenty feet out into the inner Sunset Bay area very near where Charles pours grin corn every evening to feed the gooses — and anybody else who flies in. I was interested to notice today, that the idiot City Parks & Recreation Department has moved their "Thanks, We've Already Eaten" sign from the area west of the pier at Sunset Bay, where Charles fed the geese several years ago, they told us when we asked why on earth park that stupid sign there.
This sign is confusing. Like it's afraid to come right out and say, "Don't Feed the Birds." Nope. That's be too easy to understand. In California, we encountered signs that promised we'd be arrested if we fed the birds. We rarely feed birds, so it wasn't a problem, but a note of interest. There, they say it right out. Don't do that. Here in Dallas, they allude to the possibility that birds have already eaten, so feeding them is sorta, kinda, unnecessary — or something.
People feed the birds anyway. Like they never even see the silly sign. Like they didn't understand if they saw it. So the birds get fed. It's not really against the law. Just some people with time on their hands who work at City Parks somewhere think it'd be better if other people didn't feed the birds. Right?
Fascinating juxtaposition of large stripes of wing feathers contrasting the fine herringbone texture along their body. Nearly perfect light, culminating in a white over black tail. Nice pinstripe along the side of its head, too.
It is against the law to interfere with shorebirds. A federal law that nobody around here ever pays any attention to, let alone enforces. But it's perfectly okay — not morally, of course, just legally — to bring a dog up to the edge where ducks and coots gather, although every day of the year, and especially on warmish winter days like today, erstwhile duck feeders bring their pooches to the edge of the lake, so the whole family can enjoy feeding the ducks together.
And they wonder why the coots and ducks and everybody else gathered to get fed the good stuff runs, flies or otherwise flees into the safety of the lake, whenever one of those persons brings their dog. Good thing I don't have any more bird photos today, or I'd go on raving about this stuff all night.
I guess you wouldn't have to read this, if I knew more about
Sometimes my bird photo luck is amazingly good. Other times it's just ordinary. Then there are those balancing moments when it all goes south. Mostly my fault for not paying attention. That I got this much detail on a dark and stormy day is pretty much in the good lucky end of things. It's not perfect, but at least the colors are right, and we can see who he is.
Everything's tranquil and real and copacetic. Who could ask for more?
I was just about to click the scene again, when along comes a dog, pulling some humans along, and all the littler birds flew away. Lucky for me, this one of that sequence was in a semblance of focus. One in three's not bad. Good luck, again.
So I drove around to Tee Pee Hill overlooking the remarkably unBird busy Old Boat House lagoon, and I saw a big bunch of what looked like black birds in a big crowd down low on the ground. I circled the wagon to get the right angle without scaring them all away, forgot entirely to adjust the exposure, shot and seriously underexposed.
Both of these shots are seriously underexposed at very low ISO. The difference is the one above is "corrected," rendering the tones pretty close to right, but the colors all awry. Pretty, but wrong. All the blue we see here are on the upper portions of these birds, which leads me to believe those blue spots are reflections in shiny feathers of the overt blue sky above. And maybe some of the rest of these birds is rendered about right. Maybe.
Very pretty fall colors. Too bad it's winter. And the bird colors are mostly wrong. There is a lot of brown. But the brilliant blue and reds are not there. I saw only black, until I looked into my camera. I think these are Cowbirds. I was guessing Brown-headed Cowbirds, but that doesn't look right, even if everything else about these shots is wrong.
It was, apparently, a Red-winged Blackbird leading the pack. And the others do look like they have brown heads.
Looks like a brown-headed cowbird. My first of the season, I think. Except Brown-headed Cowbirds' tails don't split.
Duh.... When in doubt, call a brown bird that looks about like this are female grackles. How could I go wrong?
Trinity River Audubon Center
We drove south on I-45 to The Trinity River Audubon Center — You know, the big bird sanctuary next to where the big golf course is going to be, where helicopters will float in the air during tournaments and traffic noise will attempt to scare every bird in the county to fly off somewhere else. That tranquil soon no longer place where we have always seen birds before.
Except today, we mostly didn't. We needed to walk, though, and walk we did, all over the grounds, following two trails down to the Trinity River, where there also were few, no or only invisible birds on our nearly noonish visit.
We also saw two magnificent Texas Eagles, which is what I've taken to call the Jonathan Livingston Seagull of the Southwestern Plains, the Turkey Vulture. But they were too far away.
White Rock Lake
Yeah, I photographed a very similar bird at a slightly more photogenic angle a couple days ago [below], but this is from a very different camera. One often thought incapable of capturing this sort of action and quick focus. In fact, this is the best of several sharp shots. No Nikon this time, this was by my aging (two years old) and ailing Panasonic G2, which is reputed to not be worth trying to capture fast action with. But we know better than that.
The gulls and pigeons were already on the pier at Sunset Bay when I arrived. I was very careful, walking ever so slowly out to near the end of the pier. I did that slow enough, none of them flew away. Then I finally sat down on one of the pier's new posts — like what this gull is doing. Nice thing about birds who stay close, they're easier to photograph in detail.
The Crossley ID Guide has large-enough color photographs of the usual variety of genders, ages and breeding statuses. Including one with a pink bill labeled "juv." and another, with a yellow bill, labeled "2nd.-w" as in winter.
I almost got this Full Ringbill Left Wing Stretch, but the G2 is a camera slow on the uptake (as I am often a human slow on the uptake). Together we missed the action. I am not as quick as I used to be, and the camera has never been fast. High-grade, professional and semi-professional Single Lens Reflexes (including the digital ones I usually use for birds) fire within a few miliseconds of pushing the shutter button.
My Lumix G2 fires a lot slower — both getting it to click the first time and to click again once it's started. So it's several kinds of miracle that I got any of these shots. And it'd probably be another miracle if I could identify it. In online forums about Micro FourThirds cameras (which this is an old one of), people who own and presumably use these often talk about how unlikely these cameras will be used to photograph BIF (Birds In Flight). Which I'd say from ocassional evidence just is not true. Although it often is. These are not the only shots I made today, just the best of the bunch. As usual.
Always easier to photograph a bird who's not flying, taking off, stretching or moving any muscles ...
Or stretching its lower mandible so next time it needs something to dredge the lake water some fresh fish are swimming in, drain the water out and swallow the fish, it will be ready.
It should be easier to photograph a ruddy (reddish) Ruddy Duck floating and/or swimming out from the shore the photographer is standing on. But it has not been with semi-professional cameras with fifty percent larger sensors than the G2, which also has considerably more depth of field at any aperture. So I finally got a pretty sharp photo of a Ruddy. Too bad it was sleeping/resting, but we can see its left eye.
Pigeons are used to being around humans, so it's no big deal for them to be happy enough to have me hanging around going click. I don't photograph pigeons much unless they're doing something really interesting like courting, but this one was right there, and pretty, and not flying off.
And I tried photographing various cormorants taking off, flying by and landing on the water, but this is the one shot I got that's sharp.
Mixed Bag today: I went to the lake as usual, but I've also been gathering up shots from the last week or so and back to our trip to the Gulf Coast. When ya gotta itch, ya reach up and scratch it. I'm pretty sure this was in Sunset Bay.
We saw this bird — it was the only one there — among dozens of Laughing Gulls where cars gather to go across the bay to Galveston Island. I thought I didn't get any of it in focus, till I found this one that used to be too dark. Aha! Found it in Crossley's. This is an adult nonbreeding Ruddy Turnstone, my first maybe. In what I think is the only focused photo of that one while we waited for the ferry.
The far side of the New Wooden Bridge by The Old Boathouse is teeming with Night Herons these cold winter days and probably nights — including this one, who was the closest BCNH I could find. It's waiting for food to show.
I like this picture. I've never been much a fan of cormorants, so I sometimes have to go out of my way to represent those birds in this journal, also. Same deal with pigeons and doves, which I tend to call "dubs." But I saw this pup and I photographed it, and I think it's kinda beautiful.
Lakeside, that's for certain, but I'm not sure where, although it looks suspiciously like that place along the Arbor-Amusement Park toward Winfrey Point. I'm just not sure, but it sure looks like a screen of trees overlayed over a burgeoning musement park with out its own plan for parking. I don't think there's a place where I was standing across from this where I could see that place. But where else could it be?
I have a whole page of pix of our Winter Visitors doing weird things with their beaks.
Oh, thank goodness for the the color photographs of all the Eastern United Statesian birds in all their various ages, genders and whaterver else in the Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds. Now I know this is a nonbreeding adult Laughing Gull, the most populous gull species — to my limited knowledge but some experience — along the Gulf Coast.
I think this is really a nice photo. Good thing somebody does, huh?
I've never noticed that little area surrounded by little black feathers before. Maybe I shouldn't have.
The difference this time a pair of Bufflehead ducks hove into my view is not so much the distance, although hat helped, but the fact I was shooting with what is probably the sharpest as well as the longest telephoto lens I have. In my experience, their tails are usually not extended.
With that much sharpness available, even enlarging a small portion of the full frame still looks pretty good. I could ask for more detail, but I probably won't get it till I learn to hold the cam and Lens combo together more securely when I'm shivering all over from the intense winter cold.
I like the concept that I may be getting better at this — and still have plenty of room for improvement. The him is on the left, and the her on the right.
A little faster shutter-speed would have helped, I guess. But she is cute.
They dove often and stayed down long. I spent a lot of time shivering with my head and camera out The Slider's window, waiting for one or both to come back up. Then some quick shooting till they both pitched forward and dove. This is my most usual view of them diving.
The female Bufflehead shows off the top of her arc to roll in and dive down.
Every year about this time I get to see single juvenile Pied-billed Grebes, and I wonder where their parents are.
This was shot a couple days ago during the grayer wets. Took about a dozen attempts before I got one of then-half dozen or so of these terns. And that was using my 300mm lens alone, no doubler. The doubler doubles the focal length to 600mm (true, not equivalent; the equivalence is supposedly 900mm, but I usually don't believe that happy horse pucky.)
Lest you think I saw this, raised my blunderbuss and clicked it first time off, this is what was going on before me, besides pelicans and cormorants and coots and gulls, not to even mention ducks and gooses: The six or so terns were flying great loops over central Sunset Bay, inevitably ending up significantly off from the pier there where I stood. They'd weave a little in the air, then stall and fall to the surface, where they did something I couldn't quite figure out, but I assume it had to do with food accession, then fly up and out again on the big loop that took them well out over the bay where I could not follow with my lens.
Most of the dozen or so shots showed the tern in approximately this pose, looking down — though usually not so elegantly. On every attempt I could barely follow this far, but the drop was impossible. I suppose if I watched them do it another dozen dozen times, I could learn the subtle visual clues. But where they landed (watered?) was always close to where they had done that previously.
Someday when I master some lens and acquire a much faster focusing camera, I can catch the whole ballet.
According to my Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, a Common Tern "hovers over water and plunges headfirst for small fish and aquatic invertebrates." What he said.
A Sunny Day at White Rock Lake
Saturday January 11
The big sport today was watching pelicans takeoff. We'd seen them and gulls and cormorants out in the middle of the lake as we drove down toward Winfrey from Garland Road, so when we got to Sunset Bay, we knew where they were headed, but it still took me awhile to realize that almost every single one of them would, sooner or later, as we watched and talked with friends, take off down the wet runway and fly off toward the big fishing party.
I followed as many as I could out as far as my doubled tele could keep them in focus. I only saw the birds. If I tilted the camera, as often I do, I never knew it till late tonight when I put the images in good order. An orangish-brown bonus to help the background set off the bird. These are a lot of different birds, taking off into differing directions, at differing angles. Once in awhile, I didn't have much between me and them to go all out of focus somewhere unmanageable in the frame.
Rarely was I aware of anything else but pelicans, but then that's often true.. Nice if I could get it, but that gull was mostly an accident.
Coots run on the water, left-right, left-right. Pelicans hop to get up to airspeed. The splash is half the fun.
Not the same bird in this bunch that's not really a sequence.
Just a bunch of big white birds taking off into the west.
Note, once again, the big difference between the outside tip of the right and left wings. I'm sure there's purpose in it. I just have no idea what.
I wondered if it was the one pelican left over from more than a year ago when Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation released, what was it? Five? rehabilitated pelicans, of which, we gradually learned, one simply could not fly. I'd lost track of that one once all those others came down from the upper left side of the United States this last September. Could be that this one had joined the fishing party hours before. And it didn't need any more fish in its belly this time.
But at least this time, we can see the less reddish of the two's right eye shining in the sun. Both are males.
Anna spied it soon as we got out of Slider upon our upper Sunset Bay arrival. Took awhile to wait it out till it turned its head around. I got several fairly focused shots of a batch of fluffy feathers without a face. I'm guessing, because of its reddish tail, it's a Red-tail Hawk, but its breast and belly patterns don't match any but the comparatively rare juvenile Krider's or Light Adult Harlan's variations, although its tail is not quite red or even reddish, so it might be a juvenile.
I was aware of the intervening branches, but too happy to get its head sharp to worry about such things. It was my first hawk in a long time. Would have like to have seen and photographed it flying — to check out its wings, but with a supposed equivalence (I don't fully subscribe to the notion that shining a lens on a smaller sensor makes the focal length of the lens longer. A 600mm lens is a 600mm lens, although it can be useful in comparing sensor sizes.) of 900mm lens, that didn't seem likely. Shorter teles are much easier to aim at moving birds.
I kept moving around trying to get a better angle on it. The hawk probably saw us, but it never once seemed the least bit bothered by our attention.
Eventually, I just stopped photographing it. Didn't seem to be that much more I was going to learn from this one. Once we were out on the edge of the lake, I'd look back, and it would alternate still being up there, completely out of sight, back again or gone. At first I really didn't like this view, but it shows quite a bit of detail. I love its wing feathers bunched up.
Back to White Rock Lake in the Rain
January 9 2013
Except for this one, which I really wanted on top, so it'd be the first one you saw, all these are in chronological order. I couldn't think of any other way to present them, there's so many. These are a small portion of the many birds involved in one of those fishing parties that wanders all over the lake chasing, catching, then chasing more fish. This time, they're a little closer to me than usual, so there's more detail. The pelicans look busy, but the only fish I see are in the beaks of cormorants, who may have dived for them. Our white pelicans don't dive.
Another cold, wet and rainy winter day. I got bored doing whatever else I was supposed to do, and needed to drive along my favorite lake, past my least favorite part lately, the amusement park formerly known as The Arboretum, when I saw these guys not so terribly far out on the lake. So, no, for a big change, this is not Sunset Bay, though I ended up there later.
Oddly enough, a couple weeks ago, I got what I now believe was a completely spurious offer from said arbor rectum to buy a photograph of mine of the Bath House Cultural Center for placement in their Children's Playground.
That reminded me to say what I've been saying here for awhile about saving the lake and paving the arboretum, which I did rather unsubtly. After that I did not hear from them again. It didn't make any sense to me that they'd want to attach one of my favorite-ever photos of the Bath House onto some structure for kids to play on. But it was a photograph dear to me, and I wasn't about to give or sell it to those dorks.
I do sell bird and other pictures sometimes, but it's not really why I do this. I do this, because I am compelled to get better at knowing about and photographing birds, and I think I am.
Today's fishing party was all over the lake, mostly out in its middle, but sometimes they'd wander closer and sometimes farther. This appears to be one of their more far-flung reaches after fishes. Surely, if it were closer, I would have got something in focus. They'll looking for, and apparently not finding, fish.
I really enjoy today's shots of them flying furiously toward whatever they're flying furiously to. It was exciting, and once a few birds were excited, soon all of them were. And that got me excited.
Once they seemed — through my 600mm (the doubler started working again today; I try it out every once in a while; had even thought about getting it fixed, which usually means taking it to my one trusted Nikon repair guy, who usually recommends I send it off to Nikon, who keeps it a month and charges me nearly $300, so I was hoping to avoid all that; checked it, and it worked — like they were coming right up close to where I stood on the sidewalk along the edge of the lake. And yes, it was still cold and it was still raining.
Luckily, this camera and lens and doubler are all weather-sealed. Not immersible, but rain proofish. I, unfortunately, am not.
I liked the unison of these two pelicans as they began their paired take-off. Nice that they were comparatively closer than in most of these shots.
But the fish petered out in this direction, so they did not keep coming closer and closer. For awhile it seemed nobody quite knew where to go next. I know that feeling well.
I stared at this adequately composed and remarkably focused image for awhile before I realized the one in front middle has had an opportunity very recently to stretch its lower mandible, which usually means it caught something in it probably along with some water, filtered out the water, tilted it back and swallowed, leaving the lower mandible thoroughly stretched, although as you will shortly see here again, they do that a lot when they have nothing else to do but preen. But these guys have been busy.
Sometimes busier than other times.
Normally, I wouldn't bother with this image. But when I did, I kept liking it more. Maybe because its two stars are in sharp focus, and even if by then, the fishing party was half way across the lake, several birds in several differing layers are sharp. But I also liked the spaced-out-edness of this one.
What those guys were doing is what these guys are doing all the more so. Turning around to head off in another direction for their fair share of fish to quell their need for today. Pelicans eat about four pounds each worth of fish a day. I suspect cormorants require less than that, but they can dive up to thirty feet for it.
Okay, now I've finally got good pix of one of these fishing party, I'll try to find something else to photograph for awhile. Well, I'll always photograph pelicans whenever I can, but I'll work harder on doing something original...
Because they use it for such an important part of their lives — eating — they like to keep those ballooning parts eminently stretchable. As usual, I ended up in Sunset Bay, where I shot these and some others that really don't relate to the others of today's shots.
So they stretch them nine ways from Sunday as often as the need arises. See my page of The Peculiar Things Pelicans Do With Their Beaks for more.
More tomorrow. Or the next day. Soon.
in a field south of Galveston, Texas
We were hoping to get a little birding in on Galveston, since our visit to High Island on the mainland just north of there earlier that morning seemed (even though we probably each got some pretty decent pix in the near-freezing rain) such a failure — none of the places we knew about there was open. And our attempt at birding near Port Arthur the day before, got mostly rained and colded out.
We were both hungry, but I was desperate to get some serious birding in. I had just been thinking that if I could just get one species I'd never adequately photographed before, I'd turn around, go back to Galveston, and we would eat lunch, then drive back to Dallas.
But I didn't say anything, because the likelihood of that whole series of events transpiring seemed highly unlikely, when I happened to notice two tall gray birds I didn't know what were well up into the grassy area to our right as we headed toward the southwest end of the island. I backed up in the tiny paved area at the edge of the road, got out and started photographing.
Since this is the first I've ever even seen a Sandhill Crane up close, I don't know enough about them (by watching, my usual, favorite research method), to know if the extra little flourishes of feathers along their necks and tails are normal, every-day occurrences, or whether they might have something to do with some sort of mating ritual, but I know enough not to entirely discount such possibilities when I see strange goings on in those places. Their loud chatter alone led me to at least consider the potential. I'll be checking on the chances.
I should mention that they weren't just standing out there quietly, they kept up a loud chatter of what the authors of my favorite book of Texas birds, the Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas call "loud, resonant, rattling gu-rrroo gu-rrroo gurrroo" and "deep, resonant, rattling calls," which they say results from "the coiling of the trachea," which may have to do with the feathers rustling along the bottom of their long necks in my photo above.
At no time while the two cranes were singing to each other or with each other, did we see them tilt their heads back like the books insist it the only way they can sing. They didn't do that in any of the forty or so other pictures we made — out of focus, badly composed or whatever — either. Next time we happen on a pair of cranes singing, I'll pay more attention.
More about Sandhill Cranes, "the oldest known bird species still surviving," includes some of the sounds we heard in that field — especially the Unison Sounds, the middle sounds on this linked page. Thanks to Anna.
I am very proud of these shots, especially the ones of them flying off I don't know where. I've been practicing with one camera lately, and it seems to help when I don't switch back and forth. These were all taken with my Nikon D7000 camera and my unaided (I often shoot with a 2X lens doubler, but that has been malfunctioning lately, so I didn't even bring it on our trip south to check up on my parents.
I never know whether birds fly away because they're tired of some silly human pointing large black things at them; because we were standing in their field watching; or just because they need to fly off somewhere. As you can see from these last two shots, I am unknowingly tilting my camera as if to help them on their flight. Their apparently extendible wings remind me a lot of our American White Pelicans' wings.
From the Ferry to Galveston
On the road to Galveston Island
I forget why we stopped, but when we did we found this black bird nonplussed by humans, Black Vulture. A favorite bird of both of ours. They're smart, and rarely very worried about human interruptions.
Visible from miles away, we saw bump bridges close to the ocean/gulf.
Maybe a Red-tailed Hawk. Most of them are.
I think it's a Willit. But if you know better, please let me know.
If that's what that really was, then these are Willits, too.
We drove on a road that went right by these guys. They seemed trepidations, but in the end, they came back while we were still there, and posed elegantly for us.
If it weren't for the distinctive wing-pattern, I'd still be looking at books to determine what the Willet was. On the Courtship Displays & Behaviors page, I have a series of photos showing part of their courtship flying display. I assume this one was mixed in with the stilts when we came upon them, and they all took to the air, circled around up there awhile, then came back..
It was way too far away, so it's small here, but thanks to my telephoto lens, it's rendered amazing sharp, albeit small.
I call them Bump Bridges, because we could see them from far away, where they look like bumps on the horizon. Usually they go over a creek or waterway from the ocean.
I always feel the deep need to photograph the ocean just about as soon as I can see it when I come this close. No birds, just water and air.
I've seen lots of them, but not for a long time, so I don't know these guys on a first-name basis. In all, on the rain-pocked beach, I saw two of these, and no other birds. Those two were very busy looking for food. I believe this is a Sanderling, but I'm often wrong about my educated guesses about shore birds, especially when they're on the shore. This one was obviously used to people and gave me little attention as it kept coming closer. It was much hungrier than afraid.
High Island, Texas
the boonies Far Outside Port Arthur, Texas
We found these elusive geese in a fenced-in but not fenced-over area next to a largish house on the roadside on our way to somewhere [I'll have to get info from Anna, who usually knows where we are and where we're going; I either just drive or just sleep and am generally navigationaly challenged]. At the time, I was driving when Anna saw our old friends, the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks in a fenced pool area, where a bunch of ducks, geese, swans and other strange birds were being social. They're skittish, and as we got out our cameras, the whistlers, especially, got nervous and whistled out of there, returned, then whistled out again and came back.
In his comprehensive Guide to Birds, David Allen Sibley says of the Barnacle Goose that it is "closely related [to the Canada Goose] but rare visitor, many records refer to escapes." National Geographic's Third Edition of their Field Guide to the Birds of North America says it "breeds in northeastern Greenland;" "is an accidental vagrant in Maritime Provinces;" and is "fairly common in captivity." It is not even listed in my Lone Pine Birds of Texas' Occasional Bird Species Appendix. ISBNs of all these references are listed in my list of bird I.D books.
Focusing through the fence was challenging, not the least because of the cold rain and cloudy darkness. There's plenty more shots from our southern experiment in winter birding, including some fairly decent and a few really good shots, that I'll be working up and posting when I wake up sometime tomorrow or the next day...
There had been another swan back there, but that white with black bird doesn't look swanish. Not sure who it is. Looking at the Geese page of the Birds of The World site, it looks most like a Snow or Ross Goose, though perhaps its beak has been broken. It is banded, but way too far to see what's on the band. The one other goose reference I found was the much neater site with much smaller pictures at the Birds of North America Geese page, which was not helpful.
Took awhile, but I finally figured out how to manually focus through the gridded fence. During which procedure the camera and lens need to be held firmly by a tripod or, in this case, a firm car window sill. I thought that unfocused patterning at the top might have been rain, but what it is, is the mesh of wire around the outside of the fence, almost completely out of focus.
We encountered these immense shapes on the ocean/Gulf side of the state park memorializing The Battle of Sabine Pass. I really don't know what they are or why they were there, but there they were. This may signal even more photographs of objects we encountered while looking for birds, if only because they were right there, and I don't know what else to do with these photographs.
Only seems fair. They were very wet, and we were, too.
These two shots could be the same bird. My auto-type program doesn't work anymore, so I can't change the Copyright 2012 to 2013 unless I catch it in the middle of a long and mostly semi-automatic process of labeling these pictures. Soon enough I'll phase into the new year. If I wrote checks, I'd still be stumbling.
Our Lady of the Lake College Rookery
in Urban San Antonio, Texas
When we're in San Antonio, I always want to go visit the rookery in the creek behind Our Lady of the Lake College (or University, we saw signs for both there.), even though I had almost no expectations. We brought my mother along, because she was already in the car, and we didn't want to go home first, and because it was cold and raining, we did not want to make the trek around the fence to get closer to the small island rookery, so I shot a few pix through the fence, then just drove Mom and Anna around the parking lots along the fence just to see what we could see. We saw this guy and one small Mockingbird.
I had called this a , but a good friend who is usually right about these things, emailed me with the correct identification. I am always open to better info. I know I am weak on bird identifications.
Shooting through the fence I saw cormorants.
Then I noticed two egrets in there. This is one of them.
The church and the entire campus of the college/university were scattered around the area, which itself was in a rather squalid neighborhood in San Antonio. I suspect when it was first located there, it was out in the boones, but over the intervening years, that lower-class neighborhood grew up around it. We didn't go into the church.
The usual suspects.
Pretty birds I usually blithely overlook.
text and photographs Copyright 2013 by J
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My favorite answer is, "I don't
am, after all, an amateur.
I'm not kidding. I've only been birding for six years,
although I've been photographing professionally since 1964.
Thanks always to Anna.
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