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196 photos this month
More Egrets Chasing
& One Scratching
January 30, 2016
I was trying to avoid getting into the position where I was posting twenty or more photos in one day, but I've gone and done it again. I paid attention to my mistakes the last couple days, and managed to come up with some winners today, which I suspect will be my last day of Great Egret Dancing till next year.
Yep, I'm obsessed with them, but every end of January for some years now, I have been, and I probably will be again next year, if I'm still here. I might even get an even longer telephoto lens, so I can stand farther but 'get' closer and line up with the creek, so I can see and photograph most of the action without scaring the birds.
I'm sure there are birders who can tell one Great Egret from another …
… but, despite my obsession this week …
they all look pretty much the same to me.
So I'm never sure which pair of chasers this or the next pair or the one after that is/are.
I'm sure I could check for the exact second I shot each of these, and pair them up that way, but I don't really care. If I can get them in focus and don't blur the action, and get nearly everybody's heads in the picture, I'm pretty happy. Here, I just cropped off a couple of legs and feet, so I'm getting better at this, but I'm really looking forward to photographing some other kinds of birds — soon..
I might have to take the weekend off. I've got a bunch of pix of art, and I've been wanting to write about local artists (on DallasArtsRevue.com), but then I got all obsessed with this year's annual Great Egret Dances and Chases.
But I'm very pleased with these shots.
And look forward to the time when I see some bird else up in a tree.
And they don't chase each other 'round the park.
Then I looked down this page and suddenly realized I got ten more chase scenes more before I can sleep.
I know I needed the practice.
And the doing of it was exciting and fun.
But I might have to wait awhile months before I feel the need to do this again.
And by then, these birds will have built nests, and I'll get all obsessed again with photographing babies. Oh, and if you want to see baby herons (of which Great Egrets are just one kind), turn to my very popular Herons, Egrets and Herons or Egrets pages to see all sorts of ages of these and others of their cousins who live in Texas. Before the idiot web host deleted all my hit counters, those pages had got into the hundreds of thousands of hits, so I know they're popular. and at least somewhat useful.
I'm less sure about yet another photo of Great Egrets chasing each other.
But they did a lot of that today (Thursday January 28, regardless of what it says at the top of today's pictures), and I had a gas doing it.
And I kept thinking that when I finally started putting these on this page, I'd probably delete a lot of them, but now I've put way too much effort into getting them as good as they are.
And I didn't realize just how many chase pix there are.
So we're pretty much stuck with all this lot. Next time, different birds, I promise. These are in my usual chronological order, but when I have time this weekend or next week, I'll find the couple pix I like the best out of these last three journal entries, and post those on the top of this page, where they'll stay for years and years, since this is, at long last, the end of this month.
On Wednesday, I explored other approaches and drive-bys at the same park I photographed yesterday, where all the egrets had gathered. I'm pretty sure which vantage point I shot this from, but I don't know quite what I am seeing in this image. Curious, but confused, as often I am, about directions.
I had hoped I'd photograph more aerial quasi-combat, but I wasn't quick enough to figure out who was going to jump up next and get the focus to follow them, so with one mediocre exception, which you will see shortly, I pretty much missed that action today. I think it may have something to do with my angles of approaches.
And if I really wanted to get the same sorts of photos as I got yester, I could go back to where I shot yester's images, but where's the fun in that? This Great Egret is in the process of swallowing what is probably a fish, whole. They eat everything, bones and all, then later scat bright white, because of all the calcium
So I got these instead.
Egret in Challenge pose is at the far right. Just standing there is at far left and second from the right. The Charger is on the lower right, with head down and wings at various angles out. And the escapee is second from the left with wing up.
This is the end of the creek that has the hole where the chosen few (or the orneriest of them) dunk their head in a wet hole full of fish, which I believe is near the bottom right portion of this photo.
The creek from this view is the dark place behind the grass line at the bottom of this shot. What it's just swallowed and made room for down to its gullet is a medium-sized fish it's just caught.
For whatever comes next.
The elaborate and wispy in the wind plumage is all about letting the others of its clan know it is ready for breeding. And I tend to assume that these gatherings have a lot to do with breeding and the season for that which is now or soon. I guess it could all be about catching fish, but I suspect — though do not know for sure — that's just prospective mates' way of showing how good a provider they would be.
I had several opportunities to photograph that aerial mock battling that goes on at these what I call "Egret Dances," but at none of the four or five close-enough ones, did I actually manage to capture the whole birds attacking one another. Usually they were out-of-focus blurs. This is the closest I got. Today. It must have something to do with angle of approach. I did so much better yesterday. Maybe tomorrow I will try the bridge I saw somewhere near there.
It might have just caught it in the creek just behind and under it, or it might have been beaking it for awhile, then decided to go to the other side.
There might still be more viewpoints I have not yet fully explored or attempted.
Flinging water in the air, so its feet were still wet from the creek. I assume.
It used to be that the date on each of these journal entries was the day I posted them, but sometimes I get ahead of myself, while keeping to my promise to my readers/viewers to show new bird photos at least three times a week, so ignore — if you can — the dates at the top of these entries. The one below was shot on January 26, 2016, and today's was shot on January 27. And yeah, it confuses me, too.
The Annual Egret Dance
January 29, 2016
I got lots more pretty good pix than these, and I'll probably go out there again tomorrow and maybe the day after, because I learned a couple things I need to pay better attention to next time, but I'm amazed at these.
Mainly, what they were up to was feeding themselves. They've gathered along a stream with a hole at the upper end, where most of them had gathered. And they appeared to be taking turns dunking head-first down into that hole to pick up fish. Good-sized fish, not minnows or little things. Real mouthfulls.
The subtext, however, seemed to be challenging and fighting bloodlessly with each other. I assume someone — or maybe everyone there — was keeping track of who was winning and who was losing.
So there was a lot chasing going on. And sometimes for a few seconds each time, a couple of Great Egrets would fight for — well, your guess is as good as mine. I assume for rights to mate, but I've never seen any mating going on, although I assume (that word again) it's the females who lie on their fronts sometimes in the grass.
Or maybe the winner gets to dunk in the fish hole next. I don't know exactly what this is all about, but I've been watching it near the end of Januaries for the last half dozen years. I wasn't really looking for the Egret Dance this time, I was just wandering around to see what I could see, but I was happy to come upon this familiar scene today, and I'll be back tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
Not only do I get amazing photographs that simply are not available at any other time. Plus, I get to watch their adrenaline pump into overdrive. It's downright exciting. All these shots are tripod shots, by the way. My best work usually is these days.
I especially love it when they jump/fly into the air to show off and/or fight their mock battles. Really, no blood ever!
Sometimes it's as elegant as Classical Ballet.
Sometimes it's much more like a bar brawl.
The pink-orange feathers and soon, the same colored wispy tail-feathers are indications of an adult Great Egret in Breeding mode.
These images are my favorites from about 406 images total. I probably trashed a couple of them that were neither in focus nor recognizable, but I tend to keep images way too long, and now that my hard drive is melting toward way-too-full, I'm going to have to spend some time weening all the one and two star (* and **) images and probably a big bunch of *** images, too. **** and ***** images re the few that I keep. These area all — or almost all — at least **** images.
Then, the next day (Wednesday), when I came back.:
January 27, 2016
All these were shot from the Pier at Sunset Bay, although that's probably not the best place to shoot anything in the western portion of that body of water.
It was also shot early in the morning. There are generally a couple all the way up to maybe a few Buffles in other parts of The Bay in the later afternoons, and I suspect, in between times. But nothing like this dozen or more.
The wigeon is sixth from the right, the big brown duck in the back row. On January 19, we drove all the way to Richardson to photograph a lot more than just one in Cottonwood Park, and they were a lot closer, too.
There were a lot more Northern Shovelers there then, too. But no Buffleheads.
Three Female and Three Male Bufflehead Ducks
Supposedly, Buffleheads are called Buffleheads, because their heads look like buffalo heads to someone. I can't even imagine that. But then bird-namers have/had all kinds of cockamamie ideas.
'Tis the Season for
January 26, 2016
Nothing really going on here. I just like the picture. Evil-looking Grack on the left holding his Great Tail up high.
Female on the far left. Not exactly the object of their attentions, more like they're concentrating on each other. Another odd thing is the American Coot in the middle, while some Grackles are assuming the beak-up position that indicates a challenge. Spring is soon.
I would have liked this shot better if the flying grack were in focus, but ya can't have everything.
I was sitting in The Slider trying to keep the focus spot on the birds, as I was looking down on this gathering.
Ah the head-up gritty-nitty of this little action. Doesn't always happen, but often when this sort of challenge is on offer, they fight.
But I didn't see anybody fighting today. Maybe they're just practicing. Soon we'll be seeing grackles spiraling up in the air in what I've always assumed were 'mock' battles. No blood, just a lot of action. A real challenge to photograph, but exciting. I look forward to it.
Pelk Mandible Stretch, Some
Ducks, A Pair of Cardinals
& Six GBHs in one shot
January 24, 2016
Erin, who keeps better track of individual pelicans than anyone I know, has been talking about this American White Pelican for weeks, but this is the first time I've noticed its large wing tag — S21. I was still hoping she would have its story, so I could 'splain it at you all. But Kala sent a link to the illustrated discussion of S21 on Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat.
S21 is still behind this one who seemed to be getting up for something.
Then after I'd shot preliminary photos, it went into a familiar routine, except for a couple new additions.
Like a bunch of others you will find all over this website and especially on the Pelican Beak Weirdness page.
Usually, then just go from the lower-mandible-stretch-over-the-chest to poking it high and stretching it up there, as we shall shortly see. But this one is including this intermediary step, involving apparently flattening upper and lower beak parts. It may not be new, but I've never noticed it before, and I've photographed a lot of pelicans stretching their mandibles — although it may be a trick of photography that makes stills of everything it sees, including fluid motions.
Then it raises its neck and head,
Opens the lower mandible to resemble a bucket.
And stretches it out, so it will be of even more use woggling it and wrapping it around fish underwater. A lot about bird beaks on Wikipedia.
I never even saw the coot till I got the pic home. My camera's review shots button is being peculiar lately. See many more rouses by many more species.
Behind "The Spit" across the lagoon from Sunset Beach.
I think this was the third or fourth Great Blue Heron I saw within a few minutes. They must have come in from the west.
I cranked my f-stop all the way up to f/32, at which point the fine detail goes out the window thanks to diffraction — all that image light bouncing through that tiny aperture, but it greatly increases the depth of field, so all the Great Blue Herons are still in focus, whereas usually only one or two were with my usual f/8. I probably could have done better with f22 or f16, because I really didn't need the houses and trees on the other side of the lake to be in this good focus.
I assume 4 – 6 of them are juveniles, because they seemed smaller than the two – four who were larger., but they were way too far away to see any details.
Then they kept coming, but my attention was grabbed meanwhile by little, bird-like movements in the trees on the far side of the lagoon:
His bright blazing red body is at lower left. Her yellowish with red beak and feet is upper right. I don't think there's anything in the middle, although at upper left there might be a couple of doves. All I could see from my Sunset Beach stand with tripod was the red. His vivid color was hard to miss. I'd earlier attempted to photograph the doves, but I could barely see them, and I never once knew I was seeing a female Cardinal, till I picked through the overbrush in Photoshop.
My shoot today was done in the mid to late afternoon, in bright sunshine but cold winds.
Black Vultures Over
I was driving northeast on Garland Road, expecting to turn northwest on Buckner Drive (Loop 12), then to Poppy, which is Athlone on the other side, past the hospitals, around and down into Sunset Bay. So I was driving along Garland, when I saw elegant dark shapes swooping in and out of the lamp posts. I turned into the first off-road entrance, did a quick 180 in that tiny lot and pointed my camera out the window and up.
The flight shots below were, but these are not hand-held. They are tried and true tripod shots, which I got out after a few minutes of not holding it still enough even balanced on my bean bag with the lens clamped between my hands, likewise clamped by my nearly-closed driver's window. That wasn't working so I got out the tripod.
Eventually, I parked tripod, camera and lens on the narrow concrete island down the middle of Garland Road, being very careful walking out, across and/or in the big middle of.
It was colder than I expected but the temperature left my mind while I focused on focusing and some semblance of composition. These are all cropped. Some a great deal more than others. Nice thing about a truly sharp lens is that one can significantly enlarge the image and have cropped photos still look this good. Good focus and low internet resolution also helps.
Sometimes as many as five or six vultures landed on this upper corner of the church, but individuals usually settled into the taller trees. I know this street, shop with the merchants, used to get my car fixed a few blocks south, still buy Zip Code Honey from the big monthly sale in the church's north lot, and long enjoyed seeing the Tick-Tock Clock Shop sign — but it's moved, and I know better than to stop at Cheesecake Royale anymore. Most of my Vulture Time was spent waiting for something to happen.
I should probably point out that far from being vermin, vultures — Black and Turkey — do great service to humans by cleaning up carrion messes that none of us want to touch. A few years ago, Texas' capitol city changed their ordinances, so vultures could do their clean-up business without official permits or harassment anywhere in The City. Dallas, of course, is not that enlightened, but the carrion-cleaners are usually left to their business, and they do a very good job.
The whole bunch of them — maybe eight Black Vultures total — flew around from time to time. I usually managed to miss them when they actually flew, but they actually flew quite a bit.
So it was just a matter of time until our interests coincided.
Although I was usually too far away to get both sense of place and details of birds flying in one shot.
I like Black Vultures. At Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation, I've often chatted with them at the fronts of their large cages. They're much friendlier than Turkey Vultures, though they don't have the olfactory prowess that the rockers (Turkey Vultures Rock in the sky, which makes them easy to identify even at great distances.) So Black Vultures often watch where the TVs are going, to share in their bounty. Vultures are by no means rare, just most people rarely see them. I have often seen them on roofs and in yards of residences along Buckner Boulevard opposite the Big Thicket.
Where we kept hearing, were a lot of birds, so we visited it again, and sure enough.
Each species gets a little space around them, sometimes not much. Sometimes it was a bird mob.
Then after a little while, it got not quite as compressed. Although the much larger Canada Gooses command the most space around, at least partially because of their longer necks that give them much greater reach.
I believe this is another one of those cases of the telephoto effect. Northern Shovelers are 18-20 inches long with wingspans of 30 inches. Ring-billed Gulls are 18-20 inches long with wingspans of 48 inches. Since all wings in this photograph are in the folded-down position, it's optics that make the gulls seem larger, even if the two species are positioned differently.
Wigeons are only slightly larger at 18-22.5 inches long with wingspans of 32 inches. But they sure do look different in most other categories.
Note the similarities between this female Mallard and the female shoveler [a couple clicks up]. Until I remember to look for the shoveling beak, I sometimes confuse them.
This foreshortened view confuses many of the distinguishing characterizations of this species, but not much can hide the length and size of that schnoz.
There's nearly always a cormorant in one of the trees at Cottonwood Park, at least in my limited experience …
I'm guessing that the guy who approached me asking if I'd noticed "the single American Wigeon" is part of a tradition. That or another guy asked me a similarly baffling question on a previous visit to Cottonwood, although I can't find mention of it in my archives (All the Amateur Birder's Journal Pages are still online.) now. When I said "there's several wigeons out there," the guy moved on to the next photographer, and while I continued to photograph birds, they talked and talked. I love to talk with people who know about as much about birds as I do or more.
I guess I always go for the strange avian shapes, even if they started out as elegant flight pix.
Mostly vastly different and not likely to be confused, both species have distinctive beaks with black & white tails, primary wing feathers and rear ends. This photo seems to be showing us that wigeons have black forehead patches, but in bright sunshine they usually show vivid green, as shown in the next shot down.
And remarkably different everything else except their black & white butts.
Some unlucky photographs taken in open shade, exposed only by the blue sky above but not much by the sun, change our usual expectations of a bird's colors. I attempted to correct these colors, but may not have got close enough to real colors, but this was the only Northern Shoveler Flap I saw. Luckily, most of today's images were shot in bright sun, my favorite light source.
Often — if not usually — it is the females of duck species who make vocal noises. Quoting from my precious Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, "Although wigeons frequently dabble for food, they favor the succulent stems and leaves of pond-bottom plants. These plants grow far too deep for dabbling ducks, so wigeons often pirate from accomplished divers such as American Coots, Canvasbacks, Redheads and scaup." According to my iMac's dictionary, dabbling (of a duck or other waterbird) means "move the bill around in shallow water while feeding."
As a source for which is correct, the Internet is, as often, confusing about the differences between the words gooses and geese. One page indicates gooses is only about gooses that are not birds — as in punches or tweaks.
But I have read in bird books that gooses is plural for gooses of the same species, and geese is plural for gooses of several species. I remain confused and would prefer to play with the semantic possibilities than nail them down. Kinda reminded me of birders who insist on calling sex "gender," so I asked the Internet the difference, and it replied: "Sex refers to the biological and physiological characteristics, while gender refers to behaviors, roles, expectations and activities in society. Sex refers to male or female, while gender refers to masculine or feminine. The differences in the sexes do not vary throughout the world, but differences in gender do." from Medical News Today, which I admit was talking about humans, not birds, but I digress…
I don't know if it were the same exact bird I photographed repeatedly or a general attitude of most male American Wigeons, but it was great fun capturing it/them complaining out loud, even though I could barely hear it/them in the general bird din at Cottonwood Park. I did not notice any other birds engaged similarly.
Both sexes have those very large snorking beaks, although there are other, more subtle differences among male and female Northern Shovelers. For awhile at Cottonwood, I was convinced there were lighter and darker males Shovelers, but my photos do not show the variation that I called "dark Shovelers."
I've almost always called Northern Shovelers "Snorkers," because that seemed to be what I thought they were doing. Snorkers snork. Like this or head-all-the-way-under deeper. According to my Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, Anas clypeata: "Using its extra-large, spoon-like bill, the Northern Shoveler strains small invertebrates from the water and from the bottoms of ponds. This strangely handsome duck eats much smaller organisms than do most other waterfowl, and its intestines are elongated to prolong the digestion of these hard-bodied invertebrates…" But dictionaries don't seem to have caught up yet.
I have previously mentioned on these page that I believe Keith A. Arnold and Gregory Kennedy's Birds of Texas is out of print. I'm not so sure anymore, but the book is now available new, and I recently bought a replacement for my original that was seriously deteriorating. My first one that I bought in the Lower Rio Grande Valley cost $21.95, and that price seemed to be printed on the bottom of the back cover.
My newish replacement was $26.95, and that price was likewise printed on the paperback's back bottom, too. Although there's just one ISBN number above the digital scan thingy. But neither version is differentiated on the copyright page or lists swallows on page 478 of the Common Index, as they always should have been, although I've long since scrawled that on my old one. I am pleased to have a clean new version of my favorite bird guide.
Not for the pictures, although they're nice, though inconsistent, but for the stories about each bird, which are nearly priceless. Kaptured by Kala says it is "in the middle of transitioning from eclipse plumage to breeding plumage."
Having their beaks open in full yapity-yap position was neither the usual nor normal state for Wigeons. Instead, I went out of my way to capture them doing this, because I had already photographed them from almost every conceivable (horizontal) angle (though today, I nearly always photographed them from above). After the second time I picked up my tripod in full-open position, and doing so scared away all the birds in the vicinity, I picked a spot and stayed for all subsequent exposures.
I used to be able to hand-hold my camera and lens combination, but now my hands shake too much, so I need the tripod, which significantly improves the quality of images, though it slightly narrows my mobility. The sunnier it is, the more still I can hold it.
This perch is a stone dam near the north end of what I want to call Cottonwood Creek, but is labeled on Google's Map as Hunt Branch, which ends about four blocks north, just south of West Arapaho Road. . The full address for the 25-acre park, which is the site for the free, semi-annual Cottonwood Arts Festival, is 1301 W Belt Line Rd, Richardson, TX 75080.
Our Previous Photo Visits to Cottonwood Park:
Night-Herons, Cormorants, Egrets,
Gulls, Pelicans & Ducks
With sunlight "falling" on birds just a little into the branches of trees, the shadows can sometime confuse human eyes, so I've adjusted the tones here — mayhaps a tad too much.
Getting them to turn their heads around to face into the sunlight proved beyond my capabilities. Like me, they insisted upon keeping their eyes protected by shade.
Because its body is in deep shadow while its wing tops, which receive and reflect much more light, seemed a little too bright, I futzed with this image for a long time. I assumed I could not render it, then I rendered it, but I'm still not sure this is right, but it's close enough.
Now that its body matches the reflectance of it upper wing, while its lower under-wing (left) seems too dark, the blue sky and trees in the background is just about right, although there's nothing I can do about its left wing's shadow on its right.
Now we're back to dark parts under the wings, and the whole right wing is dark, yet it's close to the correct exposure.
This is adequately — but not quite correctly exposed in shadow. It's overly bluish, because it is the blue sky overhead that illuminates it, instead of the sun. Sky is blue. Sunlight is white, at least to our usually human eyes. We don't really know what birds see — but it's probably a lot more than we do.
The right time to photograph herons in the trees around where the T&P tracks used to be (on the far side of The Old Boathouse Lagoon), is when the sun shines on it, which is early in the morning, when the sun rises over the hill between The Old Boathouse Lagoon and the lake.
Not only is there a lot of light then, it is more or less evenly distributed against the face of that line of trees this side of where the tracks once were. I and other bird photographers have attempted, therefore, to go up the path back there and photograph them much closer. That however, scares them all away.
But even the most common birds sometimes escape easily identification. This and the few following birds are photographed from The Old Boathouse Lagoon Bridge, where a variety of birds gather on the fat wires overhead.
Standing on the bridge and looking up is often the most likely place at White Rock Lake to find a Neotropic Cormorant. Those birds sometimes appear elsewhere at the lake, including Sunset Bay. But at the bay, they are usually at quite some distance, so little identification marks that distinguish our two usual cormorant species often go unnoticed.
There and here, they are a little more obvious.
Later, on the west side of the lake, where Lawther more or less hugs the shoreline without a lot of going back to the main road through there, I guess because the west side homeowners just aren't that organized. I found these.
And I flat don't remember where these ducks are. He (right) is back to his brilliant coloration, and she's as beautiful as she gets. Together, for awhile at least, they will be a very handsome couple.
Bot their colors appear to be at their most vivid — at least in sunlight.
RWBBs, PELKS & GOOSES
Last time I visited there weren't any male Red-winged Blackbirds. This time, there were scads, but that was a sun-sniny day. On dull days, till it gets a little warmer, there won't be any again, then a lottle. Then they'll take over again.
When the sun is shining or has shone, there'll be a lot of rowers rowing.
I was using my Olympus OM-1 again, and I should know better by now, because I don't know how to operate it. But sometimes the planets line up, and focus is achieved and action stopped and the whites aren't entirely too white.
Miracles, utter miracles.
Many Texas waterways with an accumulation of domestic gooses find ways to get rid of them. Here, Charles gathers them, and buys more when the flock gets thinned out by natural and unnatural forces.
Charles feeding his gooses and everybody's ducks and coots and whomever else shows up for corn grain that evening. The standoffish American White Pelican out a ways from Sunset Beach here doesn't deal well with grain. But bring it some live fish, and it would probably still stay very far away. I think they much prefer to catch them themselves.
The Lesser Scaup population in Sunset Bay doubled overnight a couple days ago, going from one to two. No females sighted yet.
Part of the red here is the setting sun, but most of it is Lesser Scaup.
Charles' gooses gathering for their nightly feeding on upper Sunset Beach.
A long telephoto shot from the entrance to the pier at Sunset Bay to Sunset Beach, the lagoon there, this end of 'The Spit' with head-ducked American White Pelicans on it and The Dixon Creek reeds beyond, and the far side of the lagoon beyond that.
I stood on Lawther overlooking Cormorant Bay (on my own map; it's not called that anywhere else, yet) for about thirty minutes attempting to photograph every single cormorant who flew into the tall trees on the edge of Cormorant Bay, to a total of ••• shots, but this is the only one worth its weight in pixels. Patience is not my virtue.
You'd think after nine years of not being able to identify these females even when they're much closer than these, I'd just know who they were. I eventually managed to readily identify several seasonal versions of Great-tailed Grackles and all those big and little herons — even including the sometimes impossible to distinguish juveniles. Yet, every year, I seriously misidentify or balk entirely to correctly caption female Red-winged Blackbirds. But I did it again couple days ago. But this time I knew them soon as I saw them, and they were smaller
Finger-Freezing Cold Morning At
The Boathouse & Sunset Lagoons
This was the first bird I noticed this colder than freezing early (for me, that was about 8:30 AM, Sunday) morning. I loved the light, crisp and sterling, but the under freezing wind hurt my fingers enough to go buy a cheap pair of gloves soon as I got away from the lake. Good thing I had the Nikon. My little Panasonic freezes up and goes blank in temperatures this down.
Didn't take me long to figure out where at the lake to go. I'd been waiting to coincide with light this bright in the mornings to see the dozens of Black-crowned Night-Herons right there — although one woman stopped to ask if I was getting good pix of "the Kingfishers," and I took care to explain that these were Black-crowned Night-Herons, who are about twice the size of Kingfishers, and that seemed odd to me, because the only other time I'd heard that specific misdiagnosis was right there five or six years before.
Always nice to see parental units so close to their young. A little later in the season — around early-early spring, which this is almost-almost, we'll even see these guys and maybe a young Yellow-crown Night Heron family in Sunset Bay.
And more actively than I had fingers to donate to the freezing wind.
Usually, the little herons I see, wait for their prey to come to them. Here was an adult (right) showing a juvenile how to track it down.
Even if one or the other of them always seemed to be in deep shadow.
It seems to be carrying something, but I can't tell what. What they're usually carrying about now in winter, is sticks for a nest, that just fits.
I love this shot. The BCNH (Black-crowned Night-Heron) has been sleeping, but has an eye out just in case. What else it has out this early cold morning, is its occipital plumes (2) extend down from its crown, making it look dashing.
And, of course, Mallards every where I looked this cold morning. Here, two males.
There, a pair — one male in back, one female in front.
And I always perk up for a Great Blue Heron.
More male Mallards. Lots more. Actually, this is just a part of the flock I could get into one view.
And the ever-present winter visitor.
I've seen dozens of pelicans spending the night in that lagoon.
And assume this is a wild cousin to a proper Mallard.
Very pretty bird.
Puffed-out Kestrel, Mallards,
Cormorants & Pelicans
Way too wet for my tastes, but I'd been struggling all week to bend my sleep-wake cycle back to up in the morning and sleep at night. I blame it on Daylight Slavings Time, but it's probably all my own fault for staying up well past midnight watching Netflix and Amazonia.
Most of the moisture was in the air, so I kept having to clean off the business end of the lens, which fairly dripped with moisture. Wet lenses don't focus on anything, even if it kinda, sorta looks like it might have.
I was perfectly willing to stand out in the mist, but no way doing that helped my wet lens situation, so I got in The Slider and kept driving around until I found some birds. I found lots more birds than show in these photographs, but most of today's shots were wet, wet, wet.
There were a half dozen cormorants hanging with this pelican, but every one of those shots were blurred wet out, so I'll have to try for dry Sunday mornin', too/instead.
I kept passing this sign, driving in big circles around that parking lot where the boat rental hangs out when the sun shines. Not much business there today/this morning. But I liked the message.
And I don't go over there, because I don't have a dog, and Meep flat-out does not like them, but if this is a doggy pool, it must be what The City is using to teach dog-owners that it's okay to set them loose off slants into the water all around the lake. Where dog-owners and dogs-owned get to experience the joy of chasing shorebirds that are supposedly protected by the Federal Law, but of course, nothing really is protected, And once they learn how to let dogs loose here, they fill that need all over the lake.
Coots Scootin', Gulls Passin' & A Raccoon Stumbles
Fear drives them. When they set off in this precarious escape, I wondered if I'd made some sudden movement.
Did I move my tripod without thinking ahead and doing it slowly? Sometimes one never knows what set them off. Nobody looked at me suspiciously, so maybe I didn't do it. I'm glad they did it, though. It gave me a marvelous opportunity to photograph them doing it — always a delicious treat.
Two Ring-billed Gulls passing in the day.
Milliseconds later: two Ring-billed Gulls having passed each other wonder what they can do for their next trick.
Even Ring-billed Gulls — not my favorite birds — can be beautiful and fly like the wind, even if I usually associate the words Jonathan Livingston with Turkey Vultures who rock and fly eloquently.
I'm sure about the rouse. What I'm not certain about is that it's a Gull. Too many feathers, but I think it's a gull, and if it is a gull it's probably a Ring-billed Gull.
Love those pretty emerald eyes. Sometimes, they do, but usually Double-crested Cormorants don't let us get this close, and the view is interesting, because we're seeing all those colors that collaborate to create the vision of a bird who's all black, which this bird distinctly is not.
Closer = more detail, even if one is using a telephoto lens. I doubt my recalcitrant little Olympus OM1 would render details this well, so I'm glad I brought my Nikon kit instead.
Another bird species who avoids us if they can, and usually they can. If you hear a receding sound like a donkey, don't be so sure it's a cormorant. If you are unlucky enough to have frightened a Great Blue Heron into flight away from you, you'll hear a rhythmic, hoarse braying as if it were angry with you for unsettling it from such a good hiding place you never saw it. This one didn't say anything. Eventually, it even turned to this profile, so I could photograph it in greater detail than when its head was in deep shadow. I thanked it profusely.
And I've still only seen the one. One at a time. There could be more, but they're even more gregarious than pelicans, so likely if more were around, they'd be around closer.
Kala told me about a raccoon who was behaving precariously, barely able to walk, stumbling, showing no sign of their usual fear of people. She said it was right where I found this one the next day. She had called Animal Control and told them rather precisely where it was. So I was surprised to see it right there the next day. Animal Control told her they couldn't find it. I'm guessing they weren't looking. I saw a pair of elder humans walk right behind it on that trail it seemed stuck to. It would move its feet, but no locomotion occurred, although it was later seen at some distance from there. It was tripping on itself, seemed dazed and confused.
eHow's Difference Between Distemper & Rabies and Pet Poison Helpline's Distemper and Rabies. Every time I tried to simplify the differences and sames, I got more confused, so now you can read what the experts say.This raccoon has/had distemper, not rabbles. I found two sites that probably describe the sames and differences better than I could:
When I saw this smallish bird alight on the pier and walk toward and near and almost around me on it with it, then return back to the other end of the pier I wondered whether she were the same bird species Eric had mentioned before he left (apparently not), but I couldn't remember what he said it was, and I couldn't find it in my books. This was the most unusual position she posed in for me.
in Sunset Bay
Yeah, it's a duck. It is not, as some have been calling it, a Merganser, who are related, and in flight, Merganser males look a little like female Buffleheads. But this is a Bufflehead. 13 - 15 inches long with wingspan of 21 inches. Wood Ducks are 15 – 20 inches long with 30-inch wingspans, and Mallards are 20 – 27 inches long with 35-inch wingspans.
Buffleheads are small, and they are easy to miss until you see some. But watch quick, because they tend to spend a lot of time underwater, and their descent is quick and often appears sudden. Handsome critters, though. Here, this one is beginning to show its green and reddish iridescence that's often lost in that dark area around the front and sides of its head.
I really surprised myself to see I'd shot 444 images today, but I haven't seen Buffleheads yet this winter, though I've been looking carefully for them on the far, west side of the lake, every time I drive up there lately. I'd heard fellow birders speak of seeing and photographing them, but this was my first attempt this new year, and I was careful to shoot too many rather than too few shots of them. There were at least two males and a bunch of females. So I just kept shooting, when they swam west toward Winfrey and back into the more-or-less center of inner Sunset Bay, also.
The upper end of a Bufflehead diving down. As my treasured Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas states, a Bufflehead "dives for aquatic crustaceans, insects and other invertebrates; also eats seeds of glasswort and other aquatic plants."
Sometimes I paid attention to other birds doing other actions, too.
Anytime they are compared with anything else, they seem awfully small.
But on their own, they seem plenty large enough.
Adult, I assume, and juvenile.
Or a family.
Not a lot going on with the Buffleheads from time to time, so I busied myself with capturing who is still my favorite bird, who was flying west over outer Sunset Bay.
Pretty sure it's not looking at the photographer, since it and I were pretty far apart. Nice thing about my telephoto lens is that, even telextended by 1.7 times to 500mm, smallish details more or less lost in a blue sky area can be greatly enlarged.
Nice thing today was often getting the opportunity to photograph six and even sometimes, more Buffleheads at a time. Pleasant to get to see them from a variety of angles of view.
Lest we believe they're mostly white with just that one stripe up through the forehead and along the top of the wings.
I put this one in, because of the green and red showing on the male — and the other — either a female or juvenile — looking downright cute. So often, in photographs, their eyes seem lost in those dark areas. Nice to see them for a change.
These escaping Buffleheads were only a small minority of the Buffles in Sunset Bay at the time. When faced with a choice of whom to photograph, I usually chose the nearest ones or two or more.
I know this is a little confusing at this scale, but I wanted to show where they were, when several of them left Sunset Bay at once, even if they did not all leave.
Here, I've cropped the full image somewhat more, so we can see them in much more detail.
I so rarely get to see — and photograph so many Buffleheads so apparently close and in such great detail, I had to include these images.
After I told the photographers on the pier today that I'd seen several subtle and overt courtship activities, I noticed a woman hand-holding a video camera in their direction. All the cameras I actually still use are video capable, and even though I long ago took video classes from some excellent teachers at Richland College, I still far prefer still photographs. But some video sure would show off those sorts of courtship and other behaviors that still photos just can't translate. …
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2016 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission from and payment to Writer and Photographer J R Compton. I am an amateur. I've only been birding since June 2006, and most of that is documented in this Journal, all the pages of which continue online. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964.