213 photos in January 2018 Cameras Used Ethics Feedback My Special Bird Pages — many include eggs, just-hatched, fledgling and/or other juveniles: Herons Egrets Telling Herons from Egrets Links & Bird Books Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch Birds Rousing Courtship Behaviors Banding Birding Galveston 2015 & 2013 The 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds page & the 1st Bald Eagles at White Rock Coyotes JR's resumé Dallas Bird Resources: Dallas Audubon Bird Chat online Bird Rescue Info So you want to use my photos? How to Photograph Birds Bird Places: Bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake & Village Creek Drying Beds Please do not share these fully copyrighted images on Pinterest, Tumblr or other image-sharing sites. NO ADs & NOTHING FOR SALE!
Audubon's Expert Tips to Find & Photo Owls
w/lotsa links & Other Photo Tips from Audubon.
More Birds & Some Moon @ The End of January
I've been doing this journal nearly every day of January, but I'm going to take a little time off. And sleep. And walk. And eat Thai food with ma' honey. Not giving up. Can't imagine me going long without photographing birds. But I gotta lax out a bit.
Anna and I photographed the phases from the back porch of The Winfrey Building and many other places around there. There were maybe thirty other people around the building and the loop out front. These two and all my other shots were taken with my big, heavy Nikon hand-held. A tripod would have made more sense, because the moon didn't appear to move that much, but what the heck.
While photographing this, I never noticed that the moon was red, but I didn't mess with the color.
But I can imagine me resting a bit, and finally getting around to doing the exercising I keep promising myself I will do. But don't. And posting a pic or two every two or three or four days …
The view from about midway down DeGoyler Drive, my all-time favorite run, with The Slider in full electric mode, getting around 75mpg and just taking in all that nature and water and stuff. Be nice if I can roll down the windows like I did today whenever it was I was right here photographing cross the lake to that town over there.
'Course I kept slowing down for birds in view.
And stopped sometimes when I thought I could sneak up on something birdly special.
Or a pair of them.
Maybe even see him hop down the runway and eventually take off, off, off.
Watching the water curl and splash behind him. I got better water curl this time, but better focus and action-stopping on the image just above.
Nail the focus for a change — and watch the colorful ducks out beyond.
Rounding Out the Month of January (31)
2018 with Ends & Odds @ Sunset Bay
Sunset Bay used to be the place where the Sunset Inn fed people who also enjoyed watching sunsets. More recently, it housed running-water bathrooms. Now what's left of those are locked away. There may still be a working water fountain outside, and several or many porta-potties (depending on current activities) along the parking lot in the back.
Where Sunset Bay is remains something of a mystery, unless you already know. There's only one sign that says "Sunset Bay," and it is in front of this building, facing the body of water of that title. Dreyfuss and Winfrey points have signs to and there, but Sunset Bay is known only to those who attend it or happen through. Which is fine with me, but I do enjoy pointing out that no signs at the lake or its environs actually point to it.
It's our own, big, private joy. And officially, the most bird-diverse place at White Rock Lake.
SPECIAL THANKS to Kala King for identifying as European Starlings what I initially called the "Little Gray Birds" flying in the photograph above with the Great-tailed Grackles. I always think of European Starlings as colorful, although here, they were not. But I was amazed how well I managed to focus them.
Visit Kala's Kaptured By Kala site for many natural delights.
Photographed January 27; posted early January 30.
Mostly Just Birds — and the Gray of Winter
I kept being intrigued by the gray of sky and patterns of multiple birds.
I believe they are really black, just if there's even a hint of blue in the sky, they somehow acquire that color, too.
I might have thought that — or it might actually have been — injured, but I'm not sure. I found no mention of yellow on their foreheads. But I did find an explanatory image, then I found a whole page of Coot info.
I may finally be getting better at RWBB (Red-winged Blackbird) identification. I usually misidentify the first female RWBB I see, even if I have to step back on the pier, so I don't step on her. RWBBs sometimes travel together, but many RWBB flocks are females-only. This ongoing, eleven year-old (so far) journal is littered with winter pix of those flocks.
Many Red-winged Blackbirds' wings have more yellow than red.
I know it's not a bird or an animal. I assume it is some piece of kit — toy or tool or the top of something. I don't think it was floating. More like sticking up. Sometimes it stuck up even more. Those times, I waited till it was under more water. I like the color and abstraction of it.
In the water: "Black" Mallard hybrid, Mallard, White domestic Duck, another Mallard and another "Black" duck. Then back from those, they look like a bunch of out of focus mallards and coots. And the water looks chocolate, but I'm sure it wasn't.
Photographed A Couple Days Ago,
then Posted Late January 28.
Every time someone throws white or wheat bread on the water, coots get excited till a gull takes it away from them.
The Rolls is buried under all that silt.
I can't tell if there are people on my favorite pier in all of existence, or my mind is playing tricks. But it's still my favorite place.
Ducks with the sun somewhere behind them.
Otherwise, it's just a hill with some trees.
Sometimes The Skyline is just a skyline.
Probably photographed from Dreyfuss.
It stood there on that one foot for long minutes until I finally got the exposure right and composition near perfect.
The water used to be orange, but I thought that beak was enough.
The dark brown ones appeared many years ago. There were six of them to start. People think it is a kindness to leave Easter and Christmas duckies off at Sunset Bay in White Rock Lake. And it may well be. There were six black ducks to start with. In this picture, we can see several of the similarities between black or dark brown ducks and Mallards (far right). When we first saw them, we called them ”Black Ducks,” which at some times and in some lighting, appears nearly jet black. The female American Black duck [below on this page] who is still sometimes seen off Sunset Beach, is also brown. But her head is lighter, and her tail feathers don't curl.
It really was blue. But it seemed more fierce than happy.
Photographed January 25
& Posted January 26.
This is just the shot I was after when I began photographing gooses bathing and wing-flapping today. Took awhile to get it right, and they didn't squirm down into the water with their feet up very often, so I watched, waited, and wasted a bunch of silicon almost capturing this moment. It was an extra added surprise to have captured the loop-de-loop of water cascading off the ends of its feet.
Ring-billed Gulls, Double-crested Cormorants, a Juvenile
Nutria, Great Egrets, a Pied-billed Grebe, Ruddy Ducks
— all photographed & posted January 23, 2018
Saw this while I was driving slowly down DeGoyler Drive. Seemed amazing then. Still does. That's Grand Avenue up the hill past the building on the left with a paw print on it. Gaston Ave. up to the right can't be seen. The Walking & Biking bridge at bottom center is over the unnamed extension of Garland Road / East Grand Avenue / Gaston Avenue, according to Google Maps.
I was attempting to get this juvenile Nutria to look coy and cute, which I'd just seen it doing. Instead I got its hands (fore paws) coming out of its eyes, which I had been focusing on. Surprise, surprise, J R. Note the differences between right and left paws — especially the lower ones. I didn't see the transition, and I'm still startled at the difference between what I was trying to photograph and this. But I'd rather have this. This image was not doctored.
Nutria are also called Coypu.
This has got to be the most interesting photograph I made today, even if Nutria are major pests and destroyers of bird — and everybody else's — habitat.
I know exactly where this nest is, because I have photographed it many, many times over the years. It's not a new nest. Those sticks have, I believe, been there for years, and I haven't seen the the couple who sometimes lives there gussying it up lately, but they will soon.
I don't know what the toy is, but gulls like to drop things from flying high, then either catch them before they hit the water or pull it out when it either float or sink.
No idea what this Corm is up to, but for a change, I got it exposed just right — and in sharp focus, too. Almost looks like it is flying.
This is flying, but soon to touch down. Partially translucent wings emphasize the body and feathers of this common but beautiful bird that sometimes just looks strange.
And at other times, just so elegant. It's always a challenge to get two birds flying together in mutual focus. This one was completely by accident.
No idea if this is the same bird as one or other of the egrets before.
I think. It doesn't look much like any of the other Grebes in any of my I.D books, but whom I usually see along DeGoyler Drive when I can identify them, are Pied-billeds. Lately, there have been Buffleheads, but not today.
I keep photographing Ruddys along that Degoyler, and this is the sharpest image I've captured out that far. I tried to figure whether one was a male or female, or if they just come in differing colors. But the one on the right has a bigger tail, and that ought to count for something.
The Architecture of Places & Objects
Photographed & Posted January 22
I have and others have spoken with police persons about the signage around White Rock Lake. Nearly all of them say that there's already too many signs, even if nobody can find them or pay attention to them. There are actually one way streets around White Rock Lake Park that have yellow lines running down the middle. No wonder people drive the wrong way. In the middle right of this image there is, a little up the hill, the only bird I've found in any of today's shots. Looks like a crow.
Already a tad confusing on the right. Love the 10 MPH Speed Limit Sign with right curve symbol.
I have often photographed birds of a remarkable variety in these trees. They're worth paying attention to, unless you're driving faster than ten miles per hour. Then there's a wide expanse of parking lot on the right and a dirt lot on the left. Both offer very good overlooks on the lake and the city beyond.
I'm not at all sure where this was, and I was only there an hour ago as I work up these images. But I sure do like this photograph.
I remember shooting this one — I was already in the mood to shoot odd landscapes, and I shot it shortly after the last shot and before the next one, but I have no idea where I was when I did those. Oh, it's on Garland Road, more or less directly east of Sunset Bay, if you are not impeded by none of the roads actually going straight there. Gonna have to try it out. What caught my eye, of course, were the flags and color, since I was in full color mode and mood today.
Tree in Greater Sunset Bay that may be tired of growing up, so it's putting great effort into growing out. But it's done that before, and it didn't work that time, either.
Yeah, you're right. Just that one bird today.
And, I've emploryed the same chrono- logic as usual.
All Around the Lake with my
Newly-Repaired Best Camera
Taken & Posted January 20
I don't remember where I started, but the deal today was to drive all the way around the lake taking pictures with the camera that'd been being repaired at Garland Camera for the last month or so. As always, all the pictures didn't turn out great, so only some locales are here, and I don't really know where they all were photographed. And a couple times, I did circle back.
The nearly same shot of this scene shows the cormorant out of focus, so I chose this instead. I'd prefer if birds would show their beaks when I photograph them …
I think this one was taken in Cormorant Bay. I took a bunch of other shots there, but none of them turned out well enough.
Gear down, wings a little relaxed, landing place selected.
These two images and all the rest down to the American White Pelican bending over backwards were photographed from the Pier at Sunset Bay, where, among many other topics, we discussed the unlikely possibilities of photographing Bufflehead Ducks up close and personal, but I did find some when I almost drove home without driving down DeGoyler Drive. Then, in the last few seconds, I turned there and found some Buffles. If I had a longer telephoto, I might have even got better shots of them. But, well, you know …
I'd really hoped to find something more interesting in Cormorant Bay than more cormorants, but they were standing there so sharply, I couldn't help myself.
It's looking for something it dropped, so it could fly down and pick it up, then take it up into the air and drop it again. It's the Ring-billed Gull game, although I've seen other species do it, too. Even Terns.
The usual scene in Sunset Bay.
There was talk about an eagle in the vicinity, and I have seen and photographed such a scene there, but I didn't see any eagle before, during or after this general escape, that, as you can see, only affected the birds farther out. It seemed a strange escape, but we saw no reason for it. Something spooked them, that's for sure.
I made this one smaller, because I missed good focus on the one bending over backwards and instead wasted detail on the pelican behind.
As previously mentioned, I photographed both male and female Bufflehead Ducks shortly after talking about them with Anna C and Bird Journal Contributing Photographer Bill Boyd on the Pier at Sunset Bay. I wish the white parts here were more subdued, instead of mostly bright, blazing white. But ya can't always get what cha want.
I don't know if the male actually took off, because by that time it was behind those reeds you see above right. That would have been pretty amazing. But oh, well…
My only excuse for all this overexposure is that I hadn't shot this cameras in three or four months since I got tripped by the gnomes around those trees just up from Sunset Beach. Garland camera turned it around rather quickly compared to Nikon doing it, but I dallied way too long even attempting to get it fixed, because I didn't think it could be. Glad I finally tried it. It's a much better camera than the one I've been using. Quieter and more megapixels, which really help when one takes photographs of small birds far away.
And when I nail (or nearly almost nail) the focus, it works out pretty well. I should note that the Buffles spent most of their time underwater, where it was rather difficult to photograph them, so I didn't.
Fast, Colorful Little Sparrows & an Unidentified
Object in the Ice — posted January 20, 2018
A little brown bird, hanging with a couple other little brown birds, who, when they saw me trying to photograph them sped quicker than I could follow with my Panasonic Lumix GX8, off into the vegetation, secure in the certainty that I did not get a good enough photo of any of them to post here.
When I created this image, I made it somewhat larger, but that made it look as if I had exploded it, so I've settled it back into maybe about life size. Which also explains — sorta, kinda, a little — why my copyright notice is so terribly small.
Kala King says: "What you have there is one of our winter visitors, the White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis). They do have a habit of darting in and out of the grasses, I have seen them a lot around the Sunset Bay pier."
I think this bird may be the same bird as above but from a different angle. There were at least two, maybe three or more of them.
I was using my Panasonic Lumix GX8 with the 100-300mm lens (that supposedly, by the mere virtue of it shining images on the much-smaller, MFT (Micro Four Thirds) sensor makes it equivalent to a 200-600mm lens on a full-frame 35mm lens 24 x 36mm (like my Nikon's), which is a lot of hooey. Anyway, because it acts like a really big zoom lens, when it is in all actuality pretty small, means I can never find the subject when I'm looking through it.
So when I think I'm pointing it at the subject, I'm actually angled significantly up and to the right of the actual subject. I don't have that issue with my Nikon, and I can't explain why. But when I want to see a little gray bird in the bushes off to the left (facing out) from The Pier at Sunset Bay, for example, I just semi-automatically point it, and it's almost always right on target. But not so with the Pany.
Anyway, turns out that what I initially thought I saw as a little gray bird, turned out to be this colorful little wonder, whom I can not yet identify.
It's not just water it is settled down into, it's ice, and I really don't know what it is. At first — and sometimes still — I think it might be a dog, but I usually don't think it is. The feathers stuck to the chunk of tree on the left and floating in the water on the right, may be clues to something. Or maybe not. A lot of birds hang out there and preen, preen, preen.
Parakeets, Grackles, Pelicans, Cormorants, one Great Egret,
Mallard Ducks, Ring-bill Gulls & Two Varieties of Domestic Geese
Two keets standing in a field and employing mental telepathy to explain to each other what's going on with them.
I would much rather show you a photograph of a Monk Parakeet flying, but I wasn't fast enough — or at least the parakeets were faster than I.
Left to right: That's a commorant's tail — its owner has already dived down to try to get to the fish before the long neck of the pelican propels its big beak around it. Third from the left is another cormorant, who has not yet seen the fish. Then is another American White Pelican, who has either seen the fish, or it has seen the action, and has already assumed the fish is down there, and wishes it could instantaneously transfer to where it is and swallow it whole before those other two birds who are creating all the splashing can.
The City doesn't call it Green Heron Park. Maybe I'm the only one. Before they rebuilt it, I had several longish-term relationships with Green Herons there — and photographing them throughout the little park on the edge of the lake.
The other kind of ducks are divers. They dive under water and snag their food. Dabblers lean down into the water or tip down. Like this. See Dabbling Ducks.
I like this continuously self-contradictory paragraph on the Dabblers Vs. Divers page.:
“Diving ducks, or "divers," are ducks that propel themselves underwater with large feet attached to short legs situated far back on the body. "Dabblers," in contrast, have smaller feet and their legs are situated farther forward. While a few dabblers may occasionally dive to feed or to escape predators, typically they skim food from the surface or feed in the shallows by tipping forward to submerge their heads and necks. The table below lists the North American ducks generally included in the groups dabblers and divers. We have also listed a substantial group of species that dive after their food, but often are not meant when one refers to divers. Note that many of the ducks that dive also dabble. Although the Wood Duck (not listed) dabbles and shares with the dabblers the ability to take-off vertically, it is not ordinarily included in the dabblers.”
Most — perhaps even all — of these gulls are Ring-billed Gulls, our usual and predominant variety. If you want to get a much closer view, hang out on The Pier at Sunset Bay with hand fulls of wheat bread and throw it indiscriminately into the water or specifically to the coots, and watch the gulls chase the coots across the water, then take it from the clueless coots, then gather a bunch of other greedy gulls, who all want a piece of the action. It's fun and exciting to watch the first couple of times. Some people just love the action and bring their kids, never quite realizing that white bread isn't any better for birds than it is for people.
They also do other things.
The Afternoon After The Coldest Night in 22 Years…
Fem RWBB, Ice, Pelks, Bird Lines, Feathers & Muscovies
Photographed January 17 & Posted the 18th
It's there on the reeds, hanging on like they tend to. It's appeared here lately — they arrive in winter. And the female of the species is the one bird I have the worst track record for identifying. It must be one, it just doesn't look like one, all puffed-out and looking so stylish. Birds puff out when they're cold (or hot). But this one's probably cold.
Winter and down to well below freezing last night. Guy on the radio last night said it was "pie-busting cold."
And well out of my precious chronological order.
I'm probably sitting in The Slider photographing the other (East) side of the lake, because that's where the boat clubs are (left).
I watched them swim a long time, then they began to go airborne.
It must have been a great day for birds to arrange themselves in horizontal single files. I think this and the next pic down were both shot from Upper Winfrey Point.
This is what I would, standing on the Pier at Sunset Bay, normally call Outer Sunset Bay, The Wet Part. The dry Outer Sunset Bay is up the hill toward Garland Road. Because Sunset Bay is a both a body of land and a body of water.
Back when there were dozens and dozens of Muscovies at White Rock Lake each color combination of them settled in a different place around the edge of the lake itself. Then they mostly got stolen and probably eaten. Then, I didn't mind saying where I saw to photograph them. Now, I just won't. They were put together like a jigsaw puzzle, which may be what happens sometimes when farmers raise a particular strain of bird just for eating.
Like almost all of our gooses (Which they are definitely not), they are farm animals, not in the classic sense of the word, wild, not tame. But not dangerously wild; in fact, altogether too friendly to humans. A guy Kelly and I saw on the pier today told us — whether we wanted to hear it or not, that gooses carry E. coli and spread it everywhere, so gooses just being in Sunset Bay — mostly the land mass parts, although they swim off in the evenings and return in the mornings — are dangerous, because their poop is especially dangerous.
I tried to be in the conversation with that guy who was testing the water, and slowly absorbing the fact that most of the water he was trying to test was in its deep winter solid form, not the liquid he brought tools for testing. But he just kept pontificating. I learned some from him, but still have mixed feelings about the encounter.
I took a couple pictures of the instant icicles the water he threw out of his bucket onto the lake, but they look neither solid nor liquid.
I did not notice, the first forty or so times I saw this photograph, that this Muscovy has its arms/wings flapped up over its head, but I do wish to impart the facts that Muscovies, though not from Moscow, despite their name, are, like gooses, overlarge and fat-filled, so they taste delicious, I am told. Until I started photographing birds at White Rock Lake more than 11 years ago, I quit eating dusks, although I do still eat chickens …
I often see feathers in clumps or spread widely over the ground at Sunset Bay. Today, there were just these two. I assume sweet baby chicks, when they grow a little, tend to grow out of their feathers. A large area of many feathers, large and small, usually causes me to worry that a bird met its untimely end there. There are too many forms of things that would murder ducks for me to contemplate.
Very close. I may not have made this image large enough to see one set of wings and feet and tail overlaying another set of all those things. I don't think I remember knowing that when I took their picture. But since then, it's become obvious. If I had noticed then, I probably would have followed them to see how they'd separate. Now, I'll just always wonder.
Yeah, the pelican is the same one as one of the pelicans in the previous picture.
Remember Me Saying I'd Been 'All Around the Lake Earlier'
Taking Pictures I'd Eventually Show? Well here they be.
All taken on January 14th, then Posted January 17.
Except for these first images, which would actually be right before the last image in today's journal entry (also a bird up a tree), this day's worth of pictures are in the usual chronological order. This hawk was likely born right here at White Rock Lake, although I photographed it (I really hate saying that I shot it, although I shoot a lot of pictures. I just don't even like saying shoot in reference to birds, any birds, but especially beautiful home-town birds like this one.
It was a booger to photograph. I photographed and photographed and photographed, getting lots of pix of it from wrong angles, in bad exposures. with it just a little too blurred (as here) and every other kind of mistake a photographer can make. I took 46 pix of it. Today's first shot, was by far, my favorite, but I still spent more than an hour correcting amateur mistakes.
I've been thinking a lot about either a new camera or a new lens — or maybe even both, but this is a wonderful lens most of the time, and if I ever get my usual cam back from the supposed fix-its … well, I just don't know. Might be handy sometimes to have a longer lens. Or even a zoom. But when I have more than one primary lens, I always take the wrong one.
It's rare that I can get even one Ruddy Duck in pretty close to actual focus, but I keep at it every time I see them out there.
It's intriguing that here I am photographing interesting birds and the ones I really wanted sharp all have their their backs to me, and I actually wanted to render the one American White Pelican in the picture, out of focus. Go figure.
Same bizarre focusing regimen again. And, at last, an in-focus Ruddy Duck with its tail at the prescribed 45-degree angle, and even its this-side eye sharp.
So, of course, I just had to have one photo where the pelican is in focus. Not that it looks happy about it.
Then I drove The Slider up Winfrey Hill to see what I could find up there.
And what I found was not much up there, but a little wet action down at lake level. I don't mind the office building on the horizon, but I'm really tired of showing off big rich houses in my pix. Nice boats, though.
So I drove down Yacht Club Row, called that even thought he vast majority of boats along the Big Thicket are distinctly not yachts. But at least, there were birds worth photographing. Ring-bills aren't my favorite birds, but at least here, this time, they were doing something almost elegant.
Including this. I'd sure hate to get back to my humble boat and find gull scat all over the motor and probably everywhere else we can't see from here.
Oh, I see four or five dogs. After photographing this, I drove around to The Old Boat House area.
Tried dozens more photos, but this was the one I liked best. I was either too far away, too slow, too picky or some other failing.
New Birds, Old Birds & Some I Can't Name —
An Informal Gathering of Bird & Photo Clans
Photographed & Posted Sunday, January 14
My Best Pic Yet of our American Black Duck 1/2,000th @ f/8 iso 640 300mm w/1.7X extender
(or so the camera reports. Mathematically it's 510 mm) tree-filtered daylight, no flash.
Tripod lowered uncomfortably, so I could see under the long diagonal reed.
I was concentrating so much on her, and having to photograph over, under and through so many intervening natural objects, that I have no idea why she was barking or at whom — but it's usually the female ducks who do the quacking. Once I got the camera on a tripod, so I could easily photograph the bird no matter how well she's hidden herself (short twigs on the left and a dark tree behind those heavy yellowish stalks on the right), all I had to do was remain alert and wait uncomfortably for her to do something interesting. Which is to say, it's been a hassle, but this shot was finally worth it.
Actually, I was just trying for focus. She did the sudden quacking and got herself framed low with her beak open and eyes sparkling — with those wiggly plant shadows on her cheek — all by herself. No flash involved; I checked. I remember seeing and clicking, and wondering whether I'd actually caught the action, but I was too busy with the next several shots, none of which turned out well.
I've done that whole routine twice before without the bonus of having a Black Duck in a photogenic mood.
Behind her on the left are a visually (slightly and partially burned-in) pair of Mallards in the lagoon beyond "The Spit," where she quacks. And on the right is that dark, shadowy tree that disappears her tail.
Mallards, we got lots of. Pintail are unusual. Pintail crosses are rare. We've had a pair of Northern Pintails visiting lately, [See images below], as they have for several years — although the male, solo, was sighted previously. As usual, Mallards are the likely cross-breeders, but tonight was the first I'd heard or seen of Ben Sandifer's discovery of this Pintail Relative.
Now that I know what it looks like, maybe I can coax it into doing something more interesting — or be there waiting and in focus, when he or she does. The American Black Duck took five, maybe six, different serious attempts. At least 20 minutes per. Sometimes it takes entirely too long to capture action.
Friends who photograph birds at White Rock Lake. This evening was great, because quite a few Sunset Bay photo regulars showed up, and it was a merry little band.
Never know when he's going to show up with his distinctive North German accent, but it's always a happy occasion. Many smiles. Someday I'd like to see all the best of his pictures. Mine go here. I avoid marqueed camera straps, and sometimes cut black tape as shiny as the camera over the brand name, but I have no problems with The Michein Man.
Sometimes I can get the red out, but I tried tonight, and I got nowhere at all. Besides they look just fine here in the setting sunlight.
This is probably be a female Red-winged Blackbird, probably my most misidentified winter visitors. I've been noticing ones and two of them around the lake lately.
But earlier. For a change, today's shots are in no particular chronological or any other, order. I also took a bunch of other birds all around White Rock Lake today, but I'll save them. I feel better, but I've been at the lake almost every day this year, and I only promise at least thrice a week.
Focus, Composition, Exposure & Intent. More Thoughts
During & About the Pics from the Last Couple Days
My fave bird in this shot is the one at top left. Everybody else is just there, and all but maybe the one in the lowest center, lack focus. That brown one is sharp, but it doesn't help it gain attention, although it's off by itself in an in-focus, pebbled area. Perhaps a not entirely random composition, I clicked it when I clicked it, but I have no notion why. It felt right. I was trying to be spontaneous, which, of course, never really is.
I'm hoping I can let go of control more when photographing birds. But like everything else, practice helps. And it's probably better if I don't over-think or over-explain it, although it may already be too late for that.
This series of photographs of Great-tailed Grackles on the beach are beginning to mean more to me. Perhaps they are a taking-off point or a load of exploration. The germ of an idea I'm not sure I grasp yet, but I like where it seems to be heading.
I didn't plan each shot. I just kept shooting. Out of today's fifty or so photos of grackles (which, like the pictures that usually don't make it to this page, you will never have to look at, these are my favorites.
I remember when Ben Sandifer gave his Birds of White Rock Lake talk the first time at the Bath House last year using Robert Bunch's photographs, and Robert was standing up there with Ben, when Robert mentioned that he really liked one of his pix, and some guy in the audience complained that of course he liked his own photographs.
But we have a much more complex relationship with and reaction to our own photographs. The few shots we show are carefully selected from dozens, if not hundreds, of others.
We've taken enough to know that just because we took them, doesn't mean we're in love with them. We might shoot a thousand photographs and only appreciate a few — if that. But that's what we do. Shoot and shoot and shoot, and hope a couple are worth it. We don't automatically love every shot just because we clicked it.
In fact, lots of times, we get mad at the shot — or ourselves — if that photo doesn't do what we wanted it to, we try it again — and again and again. We try variations, angles, exposures, focus, something, whatever. We also reshoot. We might have some notion of what we think we want, or we might just be shooting semi-automatically.
I was engaged in the semi-automatic, when I attempted these. Sometimes, if I know what I'm doing — and after more than 50 years of doing it, I might, or I set myself on the right path, I might learn something.
I chose these seven shots, because they're different from the others in this journal and still seem strange to me. They are my faves of this shoot. I felt free when I clicked them. I didn't worry about most of the birds in these shots being in or out of focus, or whether they showed the right or wrong details or composition. I got some great shots earlier in this shoot, and suddenly realized a lot of those shots were out of focus, something that's been a JR bugaboo for a long time.
There's reasons to like some photographs. They're not perfect, or ideal or the best I ever shot. They're still peculiar to me, but interesting and odd. And I have had to struggle to get a grip on them. Figure them out.
Do they please me or piss me off? Sometimes both, and sometimes neither.
These make a short set. There's no sequence I can recognize, although there's a place and lighting and a certain flurry of some action and movement. Some birds end up in focus, and most do not.
Another thing is that bland environment, where there's just vaguely blue horizontal expanses of sky above and wide expanses of sand-colored earth below. Wherein focus takes on new meanings that did not matter a whit while I was taking them, but now a whole set of parameters have set themselves up in my photographs and my — and maybe your — mind.
I didn't care at the time. I was going for shapes, not perfect bird pix, like I normally prefer. I especially appreciate the first female Great-tailed Grackle on the far left of the pic below. She might be the same bird as above with the corn in her beak — or somebody else entirely.
What they're doing creates another combination of possibilities. I don't think of these as a set, although they may be of a setting. These pix just happen to include only Great-tailed Grackles. Which might almost be a cohesion, a recognizable set. The star birds here are who may well be a Great-tailed Grackle pair. One of our most common, and often most deeply despised birds.
I love them dearly, but I understand why some people don't. But for my purposes here then, they were plentiful.
These two grackles are in focus, and everybody else Grackle in are not. I and maybe we assume they are a pair, because they're standing near each other. But mostly because of the maybe 15 grackles in this and however many of them in these other shots that I mostly just kept pushing my finger down on the button for. The criteria I had for shooting them was out of focus and random. How do you program randomness?.
Of these grackles, two are in relatively sharp focus, and soon as I, you, we start recognizing that, we make of them — one female and one male — a pair. A matched set. Then those become the prime movers scenario, whatever they might know or imagine is really going on. Usually, that's looking for food.
But now, I'm appreciating the randomness. Especially the half bird near the bottom and the sharp distinction between the two fairly well-focused Grackles, female and male. And everything else.
After your eyes tour all the out of focus areas here, they may or maybe not settle on the male Great-tailed Grackle behind the female with what looks like a orange nose but is actually a kernel of corn grain carried in front of its beak.
I wish a lot of things about this picture. But what really intrigues me is that the female in front and center is out of focus, and the male behind her is sharp and better defined, without going all the way to sharp. Maybe my little camera was already focusing on him, when he came down to the sand, or earth, then ended up behind her. Sometimes, focus is some sort of voodoo magic.
Egrets, Grackles & Other Birds:
January 11 & Posted January 12, 2018
Okay, we're starting out today's Bird Journal entry with rather ordinary spectacles, although at a different place from normal, so it's a slight departure already. But today I'm hoping it will either gradually get more different and, I hope, a little stranger. Then it will probably go back to pretty much normal.
Egrets gather at this time of the year around water sources with fish in them. These are the egrets, but I didn't see any fish, so my premise may be flawed. But I don't think so.
One could hardly call this unusual, but we'll get there.
It looks sharp enough, but it just isn't. My Panasonic mirrorless cam just isn't always professional. But it's so light and easy to operate that I know exactly how the light will be rendered and how to get it to do that. I guess it's too much to want it to always be in focus, too. The trees look pretty good. I should have used a tiny-spot focus. That cam is not weather-proof, either, and on several occasions it quit working altogether, because it was too cold. Full-frame Nikons don't do that, although they do mis- or un- focus. As, unfortunately, do I.
And the focus point keeps moving around. I think my nose against the LCD in back is the usual culprit. And I've not become familiar enough to know where to point it when birds are moving. I intuitively or by-practice know where to point the Nikon, which is about 8 pounds, which is no big deal unless you try to aim it for a couple hours. Etc. etc.
Who really doesn't have that "great" a tail yet, although most of that is behind him.
What I saw and basically what I photographed was a black tree with black bird shapes on a white sky. As I sucked the darkness out to see the tree, bark and birds, the blue sky snuck in.
This is in the residential area near the Bath House Cultural Center portion of our lake. If I hadn't got so enchanted with the shapes and steps you see here, I probably could have framed some pieces in the lake with something. I used to take a lot of photos like this. Looking back at it now feels nostalgic.
I didn't walk up there in today's cold wind to discover what the red thingies were about, but I liked them from as far away as I was. I'm thinking I'd like them better as an abstract than knowing what is going on. It often works out that way.
Not far from there was this scene, which I have had a bit of fun with. I mean, what my pictures need most, is more birds … The darker ones blurring through the sky or on the ground are real. But that white van's may not be quite.
Sunset Bay has a lot of birds, and at any particular time, most of them are probably Mallards and coots and cormorants and probably some pelicans, too.
When it got cold yesterday, the pelicans hunkered into the side of the lake that is sheltered from the cold, cold wind.
Birds' feet are usually not endowed with the nerve endings we and other mammals have in profusion, so they don't feel the cold down there like we sure would.
Trees, Traffic, a Circle, Grackles,
Herons & Cormorants January 10
Not often I can get The Pier at Sunset Bay, Sunset Bay and the setting sun all in one photo.
Then we drove somewhere else. Musta been a we about it, 'cuz I can't focus this well if I'm driving, too. And after a couple of incidents decades ago in Tennessee, I stop the car first now.
One of those serene places where I can almost always find a bird. Even if it's way, way far away.
Roof of what, I'm not sure. Sometimes the heads-up is a challenge to fight. This time, I think this grackle is just looking up. There had been another male Grackle messing with him shortly before.
Probably the park somewhere. Seems to have a food-like substance on her beak.
Looking over the Old Boathouse Lagoon — on the other side of where they danced last month.
Couple of egrets and this beautiful specimen looking for fishes in the creek — oh, I believe it's Williamson Branch — that soon thereafter empties into the lake.
Between the reeds just north of Green Heron Park. Where there only used to be a few Green Herons from time to time, but I haven't seen one since for a long, long time.
Of Muscovies & Pintails —
Shot & Posted Monday January 8, 2018
I keep expecting to stop this daily joy, but it makes me so happy, why not. When it flew out of that tree, it made that heavy, choo-choo-chooing locomotive sound I hadn't heard in at least a year. Nostalgic music to my brain.
Those dark shadows on the water kept looking like abstract shadow puppets, but they're just other birds in the shade — mostly Mallards.
Humans may not, but most birds I've watched feel need to stretch arms and legs from time to time.
Just not sure about that red head, but it must be she. Saw her a couple days later, and in some lighting, she's still got a red head.
If I'd planned to only photography Muscovies and Northern Shovelers today, I could not have done better — besides, if I'd really planned to just do them, they would not have shown up. Oddly enough, every image today is in strict chronological order.
I saw it flash its wings, and miraculously caught it mid first flash. I've photographed a lot of Muscovies — I'm partial to them, so I do pay attention — but I don't remember ever getting these details so lushly before. But then I forget a lot of things.
Pretty much most of them do.
Black & White in Living Color.
She went with him, of course. They were always leading each other around. Mostly her leading him, but when need arose, he led her. Then we came back Tuesday, and they're both still thee — as is the American Black Duck — either back in the trees along The Spit or out swimming around. Maybe she's waiting for a male. I'd love to see them courting.
I shot just under two hundred pix today. Some were almost as good as these. Saw the American Black Duck again, but she was behind too many things to show more pix of her here.
All of today's photographs were taken with a Panasonic Lumix GX8 Mirrorless camera with a 100-300mm lens.
Then the Next Day I Just Took Random Bird & Other Pictures
Wanderin' 'Round the Lake Taken & Posted Sunday January 7, 2018
Along DeGoyler Drive off of Garland Road past The Spillway and Dam area. That neighborhood back there probably has a name, but I don't know what it is — Anna tells me it's Lakewood, but it's really the posher portion. I seem to be in an every-day shoot at the lake, so far this year, but I don't know how much longer I can stick with it. Maybe some…
Today's shots were taken on my trusty little (!) Panasonic Lumix GX8.
I think that if you push the right edge of this photo off to the right, you'll be able to see The Old Pumphouse and Garland Road. But then, this might be earlier than that.
Both species looking — but not finding — fish.
I assume there's food in the vicinity, and that both the lone Cormorant and the three American White Pelicans would like to eat it. I assume the Pelicans won. Here, they sure look meaner and bigger. But pelicans can only go as deep as their beaks are long, and Cormorants can dive much deeper, and catch fish pelicans cannot reach.
Its wings are not fully extended, and it's not running over the surface of the water, so I doubt it is fully engaged in getting up over the water. Note how short and thin its wings are.
I keep wanting to call that grass deep with starlings winter wheat.
Pelicans heading northward.
It looks familiar, but I sure don't know where, exactly, this is. But it's still northerly.
It looks like a capital N or backwards SI.
Looking north, I think, to those houses that wind around the bend (off to the left) to over look the bath house. I just wanted another view of the American White Pelicans in Sunset Bay.
Although it's probably more on this side than that other, farther, side, because that side is getting into out of focus, and this log (snag, whatever) is pretty sharp.
Buncha white birds demanding attention in this dark world, while the black birds are just there.
Looks tres Mondrian. I have seen persons — usually guys — hanging from various horizontal bars.
All of today's photographs were taken with a Panasonic Lumix GX8 Mirrorless camera with a 100-300mm lens.
At one time this afternoon, I counted 40+ photographers I didn't know at Sunset Bay photographing anything that moved, but looking for an American Black Duck, although I found out where she was quickly, and I kept going back till she swam out. The only person I know here is Master Birder Ben Sandifer, who is just right of the sign that nobody ever sees or heeds that says, "No Thanks, We Just Ate." Which is one of the City's lamest attempts at communications, because nobody reads the fool sign, and dozens of people every day continue to "feed the ducks" white bread right there — and on the Pier at Sunset Bay, which is in the middle of the trees off to the left from here..
Most ducks come from Mallards, which are known to have sex with just about anything, to the point when saying, "Mallard Hybrid" is just about absurd. Most ducks are. But even I can tell this differences between these two species.
Much lakeside conversation today circled around the idea that this species really needs to have the blue ribbon on its wings showing, or the photograph cannot be claimed as genuine. But then there was a lot of hooey being traded. Wing feathers are best seen when the bird flies, and I did not see this one do that in the several hours I watched her.
I didn't photograph all of the visitors at Sunset Bay today, but I tried for a representative selection. Most of them had real cameras. Some even had tripods. Not many had this many wires to and from their cameras.
I don't Want to have to reorganize today's pictures, so I'm going with my standard format of all of them in chronological order. First time I counted these pelks, I got four. Somewhat late in my birding history, I learned to count feet and divide by two.
Gradually, I got more and more bored with all the -ographers getting in each other's ways trying to photograph that one, as the other Anna best described it, "Dark Chocolate duck." None of the birds in this photograph are that duck.
Then, of course, I got tired of that, and came back and photographed the photographers photographing the American Black Duck …
… Or just talking.
I hope the event today brings more serious photographers to the lake, but I also hope they don't all come back at the same time again. Anna and Phyllis are WRL regulars.
Last couple weeks, I've kept hearing about the elusive Black Duck who visits Sunset Bay from time to time, but it usually leaves the area before many of us photographers get more than word of it. This time the word got out to a big bunch of photogs, many of whom have no serious or amateur interest in ducks or birds. I was told many of them were on a call list for when something interesting happens, and I'd like to get on that list, too. I'm all for more people getting interested in ducks and birds — and White Rock Lake. In order to keep birds on this planet, many more people need to get interested in them.
I'm fairly confident this object is in the circular garden island in front of the Bath House Cultural Center. I've always thought the sculpture as a whole was ugly, but I do like these parts. And the Mocker.
All of today's photographs were taken with a Panasonic Lumix GX8 Mirrorless camera with a 100-300mm lens.
Birds Photographed from the Pier @ Sunset Bay January 5
& Posted Early Saturday Ayem January 6
I love the Shadow Car on top, and could have done without a lot else here — except the hill, the water and the two gulls.
I watched it flying high across the inner bay, then start banking, "go, go," I was silently hoping almost out loud, and it did. Woulda been a tad nicer to have its eye open, but it's in focus and fills an odd frame. L-gunt form.
I'd seen many of them fishing in the lower portion of the lake (visible from Garland Road, over the tree-lined edge), and I was hoping to see them, in ones, twos and threes, fly back into Sunset Bay later. Watching on the pier with me were about a half-dozen women photographers — more like trading information than male braggadocio.
In lots of detail.
I took many pix of this guy or his buddies. This was the best.
I forget what caused their alarm. Note the cormorants behind them in the same state. Ready to split in a couple seconds, if needed.
With that itty-bitty sticky-outty beard, it might be a flycatcher. The one species I always fail miserably to recognize at this time of the year (and others) is the female Red-winged Blackbird, but I don't think this is one of those. When I saw it, as when I photographed it, it appeared much darker, but here I have sucked the darkness away, to leave the common bird, whose species I do not know.
Kala King to the rescue. Again: "That little bird at the end is our winter visitor and they are all over the place. Yellow-rumped warbler, also called Myrtle warbler, also fondly called little butter butt because they have yellow on their rump." If I'd seen its butt, I might have known. But thank you, Kala.
All of today's photographs were taken with a Nikon D88E camera with a 300mm lens and 1.7X Telextender.
Birds Photographed & Posted Thursday January 4, 2018
Yet another episode of me shooting whatever I could find to photograph:
I'd just photographed it on a post, neither of which I managed to get in focus, then it jumped off, and flew down after some insect on the ground, which I never saw, let alone photographed. Then it flew back up onto the post, where I misfocused it again. Even this shot — my best today — is a little low on focus.
Turn down audio before viewing vid of ingenious Loggerhead Shrike employing a common shrike food capture method. All About Birds' page. Big, beautiful, much better focused photo. Wiki pedia. What Bird.
This bird is why I stopped in Sunset Bay today. It stayed in exactly that position for so long I thought it might be injured or worse. Then it opened its eyes, moved around a little, then sifted back into exactly this same position and stayed long enough for me to get out the tripod, get close enough and set the exposure just right.
I never know what I'm going to photograph that day. Well, rarely. But this is one, handsome goose, whose picture just begged to be taken.
And little droplets of water flying all around.
But they pretty much landed just after I saw and focused on them, and they didn't really come much closer.
I almost always enjoy it when big birds with big feathers stretch them out for all to see and a few to photograph.
The better of two shots I got of him flying from this side of the lagoon.
I want this to be the same bird, but I just don't know. It sure doesn't look like the same colors, but it was taken quickly enough after the shot above, that it almost has to be the same.
When I see a bird flapping its wings like this, I often attempt to capture it doing that. And yes, that's the same "Lone Pelican Resting" as above there in the lower right corner.
Grackles in the bright sunlight are just so iridescently beautiful.
Today, I kept encountering guys who were looking for specific species, then, when I couldn't tell them where one was, they left. One guy wanted me to point him to a Red-throated Loon [which Kala King photographed in last month's Bird Journal], so he was only about a month late. When I was setting up the tripod for this shot, another guy walked by and asked, "Duck?" I said, "it's a Great Blue Heron." He replied, "Duck." and kept walking.
With the incorrect feeling that I hadn't captured much enough today, I drove north on the West side and whiled away a few minutes photographing gulls.
The Last Four Shots from New Year's Day
Posted the Evening of January 3, 2018
It's been awhile since I've parsed up a pelican's landing in the water style and form. Pretty much everything is in sharp focus and bright color.
From passive drop-feet position to active feet cupped and out front to apply to water.
Water applied to, skid splash showing bright. Bird very secure and rapidly slowing.
This one is finally getting a little out of focus, which the next two shots did all the way to blurry, so I've left them out. At this point the pelican is seriously losing speed and is about to rejoin the other pelicans off to the right. Not sure why I didn't use these yesterday, but probably so I could put them here.
New Year's Day Was Bright & Sunny
So I went to The Lake instead of Parties.
I don't know where this is; I don't really care — somewhere on the lake I haven't already photographed near to death. The birds are overexposed, because my formerly trusted Nikon D810 (that I've been using since my slightly newer cam is in the shop) could not deal with the below-freezing temperature and would not allow me to lower the exposure to my usual minus EV 1 or 2 or 3 or so.
So I tried making them comparatively small in the frame and ever-so-slightly fuzzing them down, but that also didn't seem to help.
I think that's who it is. I've been seeing Pied-billed Grebes there for several weeks. This dark-faced look doesn't entirely jibe with my understandings of what a Pied-billed Grebe looks like, but it might be alright.
They're actually flying somewhat over what I thought I wanted to photograph, but they were so much more interesting than that mediocre scene, I went with them instead.
I try to put pertinent words under every photograph, but the caption above says it all, but even that's redundant. I love the slowly disintegrating shopping cart.
I like the Ring-billed Gull (our usual variety) Mirroring the American White Pelican, then the near corm, but not really anything that used to be behind them. For awhile, I wished I'd just enlarged the front-most gull and pelican, and left in the extra gull and the a-little-blurry cormorant, then I tried it, and it crashed.
Then the next morning, I tried again, and got this..
I wish it looked happier, but I so rarely get this close to a Ring-bill and still manage to keep focus, I hardly care about its evil look, but I'm kinda fascinated by the curl at the end of each wing, that shows a single white spot.
There were two birds in the background of a much less interesting shot. I was going after the gull going away, and probably didn't even notice the mostly out-of-focus gull coming this way, which used to be above this one. I kept wishing I could just blow up this one bigger and exclude the blur above it, but I thought that sometimes ya' just gotta take what you can get. Then I started messing with this detail of that wider scene staring a Ring-bill, who, from this point-of-view, at least, somewhat resembles an angel.
I'm just not sure what the deal was here. They appear to be overly sharp, wiry, but I don't think they were in reality. Just in this picture. As I said my big, expensive, but elderly Nikon was suffering from brain freeze. And maybe the photog was, too. It was cold. But I hadn't seen so much sunlight in awhile.
I had to get out there and use it. My other, newer camera should be back from the shop soon. It's the one who popped off its lens, which bounced a couple times, pulling off its lens mount and pieces of its front. Then again, maybe this shot is just an optical delusion.
I haven't heard anybody else refer to that thin bit of island as a spit in awhile, so I wondered it it really were such a thing, and I looked it up: "a narrow point of land projecting into the sea: a narrow spit of land shelters the bay." And I think it's dead on.
Erin Smith started calling it that, and she was right — even if I haven't seen her at the lake in quite a while. American White Pelicans are probably more used to cold weather than we are, but it doesn't seem (here, at least) that they like it much more than we do.
I tried too hard to lighten the Cormorants and de-shag the pelicans, but …
American White Pelicans who might have come from British Columbia, Canada; Southeastern Idaho; somewhere in Utah or Minnesota — or even Upper Padre Island, Texas. I'm sure somebody knows even more places "our" pelicans come from, but these will do, for now.
Long, pink beak with an orange tip; a fuzzy, brownish neck-front, and big, white, fluffy feathers, all around, all around. Someone — I think it might have been Erin — told me pink-beaked pelicans are younger.
Over the Winfrey Building Parking Lot. I didn't know what it was till I saw the image on the LCD. I wanted it to be a different-colored parakeet.
I want to go somewhere and see some birds I haven't seen a zillion times already. But where?
Didn't see any snow, although it was cold enough, but bright.
But I'm not used to red ones.
The best thing about the Year Ago link is clicking it early in the month to see what birds last year's this month brought us and where to look for them this year. Contact J R.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2018 & before 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 the best of that is documented in this Journal, all the pages of which continue online — see the links at top and bottom of every Bird Journal page. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964. 54 years.