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White Rock Lake
Wire Birds 1
I am often intrigued by the way birds just fly in and squish themselves into a line — often a very tight line — of other birds, in trees, on rocks, stumps and wires. This is a visual story of just such an event. I don't think words will be necessary to tell what happened. And I just like the way it looks like the birds are progressively falling over in the enlargement of the last full image at the bottom of today's journal entry.
Wire Birds 3
Wire Birds 4
Wire Birds 5
Wire Birds 6
Wire Birds 7
Wire Birds 7 b – Bored to Death
These must be Purple Martins. They
are once again — some keep going and going and going back to Capstan — these
just keep on coming back to White Rock Lake. Like Carrier Pigeons, they keep
coming back. Well, oh, you know what I mean.
The Fort Worth Drying Beds in Arlington, Texas
Black-necked Stilt and Lesser Yellowlegs
Tiring of seeing the exact same birds over and over at White Rock Lake, we visited the Fort Worth Drying Beds in Arlington's Legacy Park early this morning.
Two Black-necked Stilts
For some odd reason, I want to call these two birds a pair, but I have no idea whether they are even related, except that they are both out standing in the pond together. I know that Wood Duck and Mallard and Red-winged Blackbird males tend to hang out together, so there's really no way I'd know whether these two were a pair or just two Black-necked Stilts feeding themselves. I could at least guess that if I knew a male from a female, which The Crossley ID Guide says males have black upper parts, and female have brown. These look black.
Smiles of Swallows
This is what we saw first, looking up into the peak overlooking all the pans, shot from The Swamp area along the entry road. Looks like hundreds of Barn Swallows on wires curved by their collective weight — Anna called them smiles full of swallows.
Barn Swallows in Detail
On my Nikons I always had to guess, but looking through the Electronic ViewFinder (EVF) of my Lumix G2, I could see when these birds turned from dark silhouettes to light, vibrant colors against of much lighter sky.
Juvenile European Starling
Earlier this spring I added these dark-eyed, little, juvenile starlings to my known repertoire. A couple dozen of them were playing on the steel girders over one of the pumps at the corners of adjoining pans.
Hawk with Swallow
The hawk, which I will eventually identify, is not looking at the swallow zooming by. It is, instead, staring at some likely food source in one of the pans of water below. This is as much of its face as it showed the several minutes I waited for it to turn a nice profile. Instead, it stared and stared some more. Eventually, when I backed down the hill enough to get a sliver of its front and then when it turned ever so slightly our way, I got this. Swallows seemed to be buzzing it over and over and over, but they were probably just flying by. Because they seemed to be everywhere.
Here, too. There weren't as many ducks as we've seen ducks at the beds, but there were still more of ducks than of anybody else out there. Not that a duck flapping its wings is enough to write home about, but it was worth clicking. With wings that scraggly, you'd think they couldn't fly, but fly they can.
Nonbreeding Adult White-faced Ibis, Killdeer and adult White Ibis
I still get inordinately excited about seeing Ibis, which I still think of as some sort of mystical creature. I saw my first Ibis in New Orleans quite a few years back, and I associate them with the Bible and the Egyptians. Here, they just seem like another species of big birds. Wish I'd waited for the White-face to move out from behind the stick, but I probably never even saw the stick till I got the pic up on my monitor. This is a small crop from a large photo.
White Ibis Picking Something Out of the Mud
Still mystical, still exciting to see them. I love me some Ibi.
Adult Nonbreeding White-faced Ibis with another Killdeer
I heard later that someone had seen White-faced Ibis this morning. At first I thought this was a juvenile White Ibis, but upon my friend, X's, more careful observation, I'll now call this one a Nonbreeding Adult White-faced Ibis. Gotta get my Ibis straight.
Two Black-bellied Whistling Ducks
Actually, there were three of them standing, staring out from those downed branches. The one in the middle, right, here, turned from looking right to looking left at one point while I photographed them at differing exposures — again, these were silhouetted in the bright sun from behind — then post-production in Photoshop brought the rest of their color into view. Crossley says the sexes are alike.
Mixed Broods of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and the inevitable Barn Swallow
Again this morning, we saw mixed broods of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks being shepherded by two adults. I say mixed broods, because they appear to be of at least two distinct, young ages and sizes. Baby ducks grow fast and begin feeding themselves early. Most of them have their heads underwater eating, as always, to stay alive. I think ducklings in the same brood would be about the same size, and here we see two distinct ages. Quite small, and somewhat larger. The larger ducklings either have face stripes, or they are nearly gone.
Three ducklings with black on white stripes showing.
I think this is a Red-winged Blackbird …
But it doesn't look like any Red-winged Blackbird in any of my ten ID books or field guides. None of those show the cheek orange or the double spot of orange-red with tiny white feathers.
More Odd Red-winged Blackbirds
Killdeer and Reflection
Now Come the Unsubs
By now we recognize the interloping Barn Swallow swooping through the picture as they swooped through everything else. The bird at the bottom presents so little information, I won't bother trying to identify it, although it could be the bird at the top's friend or mate. Or somebody else entirely. I've looked through my Crossley ID Guide, which may be the best I.D. guide I have, showing a wide variety of forms and plumage of each species. I assume, it's an easy I.D, but I just can't.
Unsub Little Brown and Black and Tan and White Bird
Best thing about unsubs is that I don't have
to say much about them, because I don't know much.
First, There Were Two Egrets Flying Together
Saw them before I got near the water. My first thought when I see birds flying like that, so obviously having fun, I thought that word I use to often to describe such behavior. Frolicking. Not sure what they were doing.
Looked Like They Were Having Fun
But even getting both big white birds in the same shot was a challenge. Not much chance of showing them actually frolicking, because by the time I got shooting, they were busy escaping my end of the lake.
Three Birds Flying
Hardly matters which birds, since there's just the essence of them and of them flying here.
When I first posted these pictures, I thought they were all pigeons, but I'm not so sure anymore. These may be those, but the ones above look more like ducks, a flock of which I may also have photographed as they flew over.
Blurred Birds — Vertical
If they are pigeons, pigeons fly a lot, because they're always wondering where they are. So they jump out out their trees, then go round and round up there, establishing where they are, then they settle down, then after awhile they again feel the need to know where they are, so they jump out of their trees.
And they're back in the air again.
Got to be Pigeons
If these are pigeons, this is the Sunset Bay flock. I suspect there are others. Probably many. This is the only flock I've watched for hours while I've been standing on the pier in the bay hoping something birdly will happen and that I'd get a shot at it, but I've seen them circle so many times. And I usually just watch them. I wasn't thinking of blurring them, just wouldn't it be fun to fly along with them.
Or Just Pigeons
When I was shooting them round and round in their great, crooked pigeon circles I had no idea I was blurring them. I saw details and feet and beaks and feathers, now all I see are blurs, and I like it.
If those three birds — oh, from this distance, they sure look like pigeons — in the vertical image above somewhere really were ducks, then these are ducks, too, since this is the same image, only those three birds were cropped from it out of, about in the middle above.
Maybe they're still out there, flying round and round and round …
Great Egret Over Water
Nice weather this early morning. An almost-cooling breeze. I've been so beat lately, I needed the air, before it got all fouled up, nice being at the lake. I went for pelicans, and I got some really nice shots of the Rogers Rehab Eight, but I'll have to save those for a day or two.
Gooses Being Gooses
Most of the year, the gooses hang out in Sunset Bay. Sometime earlier this week or late last week, they moved over to Sunset Bay. I say "the gooses," as if all gooses at White Rock Lake were of this particular bunch. They're not. Nor are most of these gooses wild. They were bought at a feed store that sells ducks and chickens (I assume) and, of course, gooses.
Often visiting actual wild gooses join this clan, for awhile. Sometimes the interlopers get involved in Goose Clan activities, including being fed by Charles and other people who feed them things good for them, and others who feed them white bread or try to feed them crackers, or just throw completely inappropriately food-like substances at them. If you are a regular visitor to Sunset Bay, you have seen whole piles of completely inappropriate substances rotting in the sun.
Gooses Hanging Out
There are times when The Gooses are organized. They have a goosely elected leader, who has the biggest wattle of the bunch. The whole bunch of them line up behind the one with the biggest wattle and go off to wherever they go at night to be safe. They also line up to go to wherever Charles has poured out the corn for the evening meal.
Kinda Lined Up
So, sometimes they line up and sometimes the live in periodic chaos. Just like us. I was sitting in The Slider with the window down (and the AC going full blast) up the hill just to the right of the Bath House on the street that circles and arcs around that building that used to actually be a bath house with a public pool area in the lake. The poles in the water in many of today's photographs are part of Frances Bagley & Tom Orr's White Rock Lake Theater, an art project that sticks up out of the concrete (yep, it's still down there.) floor of the "pool" area.
I figured I needed a closer-up shot here.
Humans have a lot of theories about why the gooses move. The first time it happened, it was assumed that it was a permanent move. Then they moved back to Sunset Bay. And last week or so, they've moved back. Also interesting is the migration pattern of the humans, known as "The Bird Squad" — I named them that — who follow the gooses.
I often join them in their quiet talk about gooses and Muscovies and other birds and animals who live there — and everything else in life. Last week, I went to Sunset Bay. This week, I suspect I'll have to go to the Bath House to find them. Depending upon which story you believe, swimming has been prohibited at that old swimming hole since Integration came to Dallas or since the Polio scare. I'd bet on Integration, but I've seen a lot of humans swim there under one guise or another, and none of them seemed any worse for the experience. Then there's all these birds swimming there.
Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron
Even when there's no birds in sight elsewhere at the lake, there's something going on on and around the Lower Steps at the bottom of the now fully concretized slough that is the Spillway and Lower Steps. Not always a lot of action, though. Often, hungry birds are just standing around down there, looking and hoping for food. Flying use to happen in the evening.
Another or the Same Juvie Black-crown Stretched Out
They look so different and so alike, it's hard to tell who's who exactly. Compressed down, this could be the shorter, stouter juvenile at the top of today's journal entry. Or not.
Great Egret on the Top Step
There's no mistaking our Patron Saint of the lake, though. Great Egret are seen all around the lake. Except, of course, when I need to find one to photograph for this journal.
Adult Black-crowned Night Heron
Black-crowned Night Herons are somewhat more shy. They're in numbers along the lagoon up from the new wood bridge by the Old Boathouse, but it doesn't mean they'll be obvious. The narrow woods on the other side of the lagoon may be teeming with them and their progeny, but unless you look carefully, you may miss them every time.
American White Pelican Settling Down to Sleep
It looks cool, but it was another hot day in Dallas, Texas. Yesterday or the day before as I write this on the 20th. I've been shooting too many images, then doling them out over the next few days, because it's Air Pollution Level Orange out there most of these days, and I have several respiratory issues — and heat patoree issues, too. I don't mind temperatures in the 80s, but the 90s and 100s defeat me.
Summer Eclipse Female Mallard with Her Head in Mud
I've seen this behavior thousands of times, but am only now showing it in a photograph. Not exactly sure why I waited. They look pretty goofy with their beaks, faces, etc. buried in wet mud, but that's where they're finding food.
Yellow-crowned Night Heron Flying Over the Inner Sunset Bay
I was busy photographing ducks when I felt the shadow of this bird pass over me. Looked up, aimed and shot several images in quick succession. It happened too fast to prepare the camera to shoot with a higher shutter speed or whatever. There it was, go click. I knew it was a heron, but not till it landed did I know which one. Trailing it, probably attached to its wing, is some kind of line. Probably fishing line, since the bozo fisher persons leave that stuff all over the lake, and birds of all sizes manage to snare themselves in it.
Zoomed In Shot Shows Unique Yellow-crown Wing Patterns
And that line wafting in the wind as the heron heads for the Hidden Creek side of Sunset Bay. I knew I was getting blurs, but it was better than nothing, and now I like these shots. Though at first, I was only very disappointed.
Black-cronwed Night Heron on the Other Side
It stayed there a long time. Was still there when I left, though it had turned to the right and may have planned to try hunting in the weeds along the edge of the water. That fishing line, if that's what it was, would have hampered any hunting through weeds, however. This may be one of the two Yellow-crowns I called The Twins all through last July, who were young juveniles last summer — oops! Nope. Those were Black-crowned Night-Herons. Oh, well, I hope it finds a way to rid itself of that line. Catching it to cut it off seems highly unlikely.
Two Pelicans and a Snowy Egret
There seems to almost always be at least a couple of the eight emancipated pelicans out on the logs. Often there are also a variety of egrets and usually some ducks.
Pelican Before It Settled In
After it settled in, it looked a lot like the pelican pictures at the top of today's entry [above].
Gray Goose Preening
All birds preen. Keeping their feathers cleaned, trim and in good condition, helps even if the bird does not actually fly. I forget now whether it was gray gooses that sometimes actually fly or the white ones. I suspect the former, but I'm certain that this is not the bird in question over the next couple of shots.
Goose Flying Toward Dreyfuss
Looks like a pelican, with black wing-tips, heading for Dreyfuss Point where the Dreyfuss Building once stood before the fire that deleted it, because the Fire Department couldn't figure out which road led to it. Now they've got signs ever so-many hundred feet all around the lake, pointing out where you are.
Goose Headed Up Hidden Creek
I kept shooting, because I didn't know what it was, and thought maybe I could identify it, if I got a clear shot. Well, this doesn't hardly qualify as a clear anything, but I think I can just make out a goose face, although it could almost as easily be a Muscovy duck. They usually do not fly so lithely, however. If it was a goose, I've never seen a domestic goose fly that far. If it was a Muscovy, I'm amazed how slender it seemed.
I've heard Muscovies fly, and it usually sounds like a huffing and puffing freight train, every wing flap a major chore, they're so large.
This particular Great Egret assumed more poses than the much-smaller and feistier Snowy Egret. Here, it's rousing (raising feathers on its head and neck — I have no idea why. Probably because it felt like it needed to. A rouse is a little like one of our stretches, except birds can move every feather on their bodies.) More birds rousing are shown on my Rouse page.
I was drawn to this egret, because it kept adopting peculiar poses. I assumed they had to do with fishing tricks — more about later in today's entry, but I really don't know why egrets do things, and I wonder if anybody does. But I've only been at this five years …
It may have helped it catch fish. Or maybe it was just feeling a little out of sorts that early in the morning. I know the feeling.
When it waded into some fairly calm waters, I set about getting it and its reflection all in one shot, although I hadn't counted on that one wavelet that bent its mostly straight neck all zig-zaggy.
Maybe it is attempting to simulate nearby posts or sticks in the water. Seems to be doing a pretty good job of that. It must have taken a course in Extended Camouflage Techniques.
You're probably tired of me telling you that we don't see that many Yellow-crowned Night-Herons at the lake since some guy who lives in upper Lakewood decided he didn't want his grounds stinking like Yellow-crowned Night-Heron scat all the time. It is a nasty-nasty stink. It's illegal to interfere with their nesting, but I wouldn't want my yard smelling like that either. Although it might be worth it to get to watch YCNHs up that close and personal. It would get old year after year.
Anyway, the deed was done, and now, since they're not raised near here anymore, they're here in thinner numbers, and always welcomed by this photographer, at least. This one just stood there for the about an hour that I hung around the Old Boathouse's New Wood Bridge and lagoon this early morning. And this silent yapping was as animated as I saw it get in all that time.
When I first got there this early morning, just before six ayem, it was too dark for even my trusty see-in-the-dark Panasonic G2 to see, so I took a walk down and up to the dam and back. I needed the walk, but it was brighter (and seemed to be a lot hotter) when I got back to the Old Boathouse Wood Bridge Lagoon. I'd seen gray night-shapes earlier, that I knew to be BCNHs, but only a few of them moved much when I got back in more light.
This, shot at 1/50th at f/6.3 is pretty blurry, but it shows one flying, and I really wanted to do that.
I was able to coax a little bit of detail out of this shot that I didn't have time to open up the shutter or aperture for, but mostly they were white blurs on dark green trees, and hardly worth posting here (as if the short flight above was.). I'll wait for a bright morning, with plenty of sunlight for serious coverage of the Night Herons. I was surprised how dark overhead clouds made this morning. I expected the heat, but was startled by the clouds. Rain? Perish the thought.
When I first posted today's shots, I didn't include any of these flight blurs. I thought they were mistakes. Then I posted one, then I went back for another, and finally I found this, which cleaned up very nicely. There may be more, but I think this is the best of the bunch, and now we'll go back to our regularly-scheduled programming.
Of course, it's not really a briar patch, it just looks like one. It's a little island, probably where the food-finding may be easier. .
I remember it swinging its foot in the water, which is probably where all those bubbles came from. It's one of the Snowy's fishing tricks, to scatter the surface of the water, in hopes fish will come up and get pierced by their long, sharp beaks. I've seen it happen many times. And this one has probably done it successfully often right here. I often see it there fishing. It wouldn't come back, if its fishing tricks didn't often work.
Gooses and Muscovy Ducks tend to get into other ducks' business. This Muscovy has caught up with rapid racing Mallard and here is attempting to mount the female the male Mallard has pushed slightly under the water for himself. I've often wondered how it is there keep appearing new strains of Muscovy-Mallards at the lake.
But as hard as the Muscovy tried, I don't think this particular attempt worked. And in a scatter and splash of water …
The duck pair escaped in separate directions, leaving the Muscovy in their wakes.
Trinity River Audubon Center
Two Great Egrets, a Wood Stork and a juvenile Great Blue Heron
We went to TRAC hoping to see Wood Storks. We saw one on the top of a tree — this one, at the upper left here, just under where the egret flying over will be in a second — and later I saw a flock fly over TRAC's ponds. This is the first stork I've seen in the wild.
Great Egret, Wood Stork, Great Blue Heron
The one I did see previously was in the zoo called "The World of Birds" at the State Fair every autumn. It was in a fenced yard and seemed very frightened by all the people. This was better, but I'd like to have had an opportunity to see more than one and some interaction. Still, to have captured this many different birds at one time, and some of them in action, was pretty spectacular.
Great Blue Heron with Nest Stick
I'm not sure whether only males go fetch nest sticks or if both sexes pitch in, but around the Medical Center Rookery, there's always lots of egret carrying big and little sticks to make and repair nests. This may be the first time I've photographed a GBH bringing one.
Little Brown Unsub
I'm not familiar with this species. Or I just don't recognize it. Carries itself different from what I expect in a Little Brown Bird (LBB). Kinda regal. More detail would have been nice. I used two cameras this morning, my Nikon D200 and my Panasonic Lumix G2. I usually get better focus with the Nikon, but this is from it.
Great Egret Flyover
I think I used to be better at photographing egrets and herons flying over. I must need more practice to keep up. This is a Nikon shot. The Pany might never have let me focus something moving, even this slow and elegant.
Texas Indigo Snake
This guy must have been at least four feet long stretched mid-wiggle out across the path not far from the center's center building. At first we assumed it was dead, although we didn't see any bashes or breaks. Handsome critter, Texas Indigos grow to as much as eight feet long. How I learned this one was not dead was by stepping over it, during which time it "came back to life." It didn't seem interested in attacking me.
According to Wikipedia, Crymarchon melanurus erebennus "prefer lightly vegetated areas not far from permanent water sources," which is right where we found this one. They "will eat anything they can overpower and swallow, including mammals, birds, lizards, frogs, turtles, eggs and even other snakes, including rattlesnakes.… Like many colubrid snakes, it will often shake its tail as a warning — even though it does not possess a rattle."
Stork Flock Flyover
As usual, I got a little lost on the trail around the close-in ponds. I could almost always see the building, so I wasn't forlorn lost, just misplaced for awhile. If I had known where I was all the time, I would have missed this flock flyover, because I would have been back in the building's cool airconditioning by then.
Stork Flock Flyover (detail)
A little bit more detail from that same shot.
I know a lot less about insects than I do about birds, but I looked in my bug book and didn't find a match for this, although we saw several White Tails.
White Rock Lake
On Its Last Hop Before Flight
Hope you're not getting bored with my fascination for the Rogers Rehab Eight flying. I think this is the same one who flew yesterday, but today it wasn't the only one. I counted four pelicans flying. This one went the farthest, and several only went a few dozen feet, but that's a whole lot longer than they did the first time I watched them try.
Not High Altitude But Definitely Flying
So either they've been practicing a lot when I wasn't looking or they're remembering how better. Or something else, I know. Maybe I should have given them names, then I'd could figure out who to tell you all this one is. Four flyers may have been about the same number who flew that first time I caught them flying.
Power Slide Landing
I didn't get there till about 7:30 ayem. It was past cool already, but there was lots of bright sunlight. Only reason I was up already was that I'd walked at 6:30 in my neighborhood. But there was a better breeze off the lake than on my streets, so it was just at the eclipse of pleasant, about to turn hot. I guess it could be that when they see me photographing them, they get the notion to do some flying, hoping someday I'll manage to get them in focus. Or something.
Great Blue Heron Swallowing Something, and Bottle
These are shots I almost threw away after using the best of the bunch yesterday. I shot this same GBH from the other side, then I shot it from this side, and at first I didn't care for this shot, then after looking at it for awhile, and especially after I saw the bottle and those tin cans floating there, I began to think it was a little bit special, so I worked it up, and here it is.
A year ago, my mother asked me to give her a photograph of a bird that meant something to me. I chose a Great Blue Heron, and she asked me why. Had to think about that. Because they're independent. The only time I've ever seen more than one together was during early spring. Because they're gorgeous in the air. Grumpy when disturbed — often croaking loudly at me when I startle us both by coming upon one when I hadn't expected to, and because they are handsome handsome birds.
Maybe ants don't. I'm not sure. But I've seen a lot of birds scratching themselves. Almost always when they've only got one leg to stand on, since their wings don't have fingers or claws. Usually, my photos of pelicans doing this make them look goofy. This one looks rather dignified, considering the matters of balance and reach.
The Right Bird Fishing
Yesterday, I used a photograph of one of the pelicans that had swum over to join the one bird that flew over near the pier at Sunset Bay instead of a photo of the flyer. This is the flyer.
The Right Bird Goes Deeper
And so is this. Note the patch of dark on its head. I don't know why some of them have patches on their head. When I first saw this bird, shortly after it had been released by volunteers (everybody who works there is a volunteer) at Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation, it looked like it was wearing a yamika, now it doesn't.
Ducks Chasing Each Other
Ducks chase each other often. Sometimes it's because one is feeling aggressive. Often it's about sex. I don't know what this splash chase is all about, since I saw it from some distance away. But I liked all the splashing.
Female Red-winged Blackbird in Summer Colors
Fooled me at first — not that I'm great at identifying birds anyway. I thought it must be a new species. (We birders always want it to be something exotic. I guess for bragging rights. Like I'm such a great birder, because exotic species visit in my vision, but not in everybody else's), then I see it's the same old bird in a new outfit.
After swimming in a cool pool instead of one out under the sun for a change — the pelicans must really be missing that cold Idaho water — I stopped off at the lake, looked at Sunset Bay from Dreyfuss and photographed a Great Blue Heron who was way too far away. Then I drove around to stand on the pier and see if anything happened.
Rehabilitated Pelican Flying
I'd just been writing that we hadn't seen much evidence lately that the Rogers Rehab Eight could fly if they wanted. So, naturally, not long after I arrived, this lone pelican took off from the logs, headed out past the point of Winfrey Point [above left] …
Low and Far
… then went long out over the lake proper, and …
Swung Out and Around
Well, you can see. I thought it might fly away — or over to the dam, where it sometimes fishes without any of its other pelican friends. We're not sure they can even fly more than a dozen yards.
Down the East Edge of Winfrey
It continued flying low and inside, along this edge of Winfrey.
Along the Coast
Then it turned toward inner Sunset Bay — and me.
I hoped and hoped again my exposure would at least be close. I didn't have time to change anything. I only had time to keep clicking, being careful not to hold the trigger down, because it would max out in a few seconds, then have to wait a minute or two. So it was click … pause … click … etc.
I didn't notice this while I was shooting — way too busy then — but if you'll peruse its wings in these last two shots, you'll see they are considerably extended. When they need more or exceptional control, pelicans — at least our American White Pelican variety — can actually extend their wings.
Around the Corner
Then it turned, and briefly I thought it might fly right over me, but it continued turning …
Flying by the Grandstand
… And flew right by me. Notice how short its wings are now …
I'm adding this shot a couple days later, because it worked out so much better than I thought it would originally. A little wing-tip crop going on, but I was able to bring back some of the deeper shadows under its beak, neck and breast, and it had much more detail in its wings that I originally thought. In fact, so much better than the next one, it needs to be here to complete this bird's long, roundabout flight from the logs to the inner bay.
… And landed very near the sandbar-like dirt peninsula off to the right from the pier that comes and goes with the rains. Many species use that sandbar, including ducks, dogs, small humans who won't sink through the mushy surface, coyotes, pelicans, our farmyard gooses and others.
Fishing Off the Pier
Apparently to do this, although what it's got in its beak doesn't look much like a fish. Probably something one of those landscape-trashing fisher-persons threw in the water. Hope it doesn't hurt it.
Later, I realized this is not our flying bird, but one of the others that swam from the logs, into the water around the pier. Now, the shots of the real flyer are one day above.
Female Mallard in Wing & Leg Stretch
Even at four o'clock on a hot Monday afternoon, there were plenty of birds doing bird things all around the pier.
Female Red-winged Blackbird in her Summer Eclipse
Doesn't look like the RwBBs I thought I knew, so she must be in summer molt. Kinda a rad do.
Eastern Kingbird on the top of a Tree
And, not far away, another flycatcher with lots of flies to catch.
Cattle Egret and Partly-cloudy Blue Sky
We thought we'd beat the heat by getting to the Rookery early, but the humidity got us pouring sweat in seconds flat. Plenty of birds, even some exotics, and we hadn't been for awhile, so we spent some time picking them out of the dense trees.
Feeding Big Baby Great Egrets
Plenty of chicks of various species. Easiest were the big Baby-Huey Great Egrets desperate for feeding and unconcerned about photographers well below. In another world. Every other bird and species of birds would scatter soon as I even looked at them.
A few hours later, we'd have got plenty light, but heat stroke might be our best buddy by then. Always lots of birds flying over at the Rookery.
Adult Breeding Black-crowned Night Heron
Anna said this one had just let loose of a long white squirt of heron scat, and it wasn't — as you can plainly see — the first one to do so.
Adult Breeding Cattle Egret on Nest
Only get to see the orange and orange-browns of Cattle Egrets in mating and roosting season.
Cattle Egret on Guard
More Cattle Egrets there than any other species, I suspect.
And I didn't even see this one, but Anna picked it right out of the forest. I did post-production it for presentation here, however.
Great Egret in Earlier Gray Skies
I got plenty of BiF (birds in flight) practice today. A tad underexposed here, but action caught, despite gray early light, high iso and fast-moving birds, so much quicker than slow-moving photographers.
Didn't see the adult involved in this nest, but here's the tiny chicks with big fur. "Downy" something, I think I remember the field books calling them. Very downy and very small, barely able to stretch their little heads up into the nest.
Not sure who, exactly, these are. They grow and change rapidly. Probably Great Egret chicks, but I'm never sure at this still-fluffy age.
More Heron Chicks
These chicks have splotchy dark markings on their bright white bodies, so they're either Great Egrets, the Little Blue Herons I always want them to be, or something else.
Now Only Feathers
Among all the teeming life at the rookery today, there was also plenty of death. Even if it weren't sweltering hot, not every chick would be expected to survive the challenge of finding water and food and appreciation.
More Birdless Feathers
But in these hotter summers, more birds seem to fall victim of the unrelenting heat.
Death in a Tree
We poured fresh water in many of the pans scattered around the rookery. I cleaned out a particularly grisly pan with the rotting corpse of a small bird. There were a few large, heavy-duty plastic containers of more or less fresh water, but many of the pans were murk and mud-filled or empty. A lot of workers there have been laid off, and some of those were volunteering to help the young birds. I'm hoping anyone who carries a camera out there also carries a few gallons of tap water, to give these parched birds a chance at life.
Cattle Egret Splendor
Life everywhere, except where there's death, and there was plenty of that at the rookery today, also.
View from the top of one of the parking garages, where there was, at last, some semblance of a breeze creeping over the landscape, and this in the view towards downtown Dallas.
White Rock Lake
Pelk, Grets, Ducks
One rehabilitated pelican, two varieties of egrets, some ducks, a swallow and at least five ducklings. I got to Sunset Bay late, after swimming, it was hot, I stayed maybe 20 minutes, shot this and some worse shots, then I went home.
It's always a treat to see Little Blue Herons. Stopping their near-constant action is one trick, and focusing them in another. Heck, just seeing them is always a challenge. An ongoing challenge.
I kept losing this one into its background, a shadow, the water, wherever it was, it tended to disappear entirely for seconds to minutes, then its dark shape would show itself again.
I'd follow it in camera awhile, then look out to see what else was going on in front of me, as I stood on the walking bridge over the lower steps at the low end of The Spillway.
Watching as carefully as I could, I'd lose it, find it, lose it again and find it again for the twenty or so minutes I concentrated on it. In these shots, it looks like it'd be easy to track, but the front edge of each step is darker than it appears here, and the bird tended to blend into it and disappear entirely.
It's a gorgeous little bird. And fast. In near constant motion, catching fish amazing fast. I've seen Snowy Egrets pick fights with them often in the past.
Today, there was an aggressive little Snowy on the steps, too. But the Little Blue was so busy and so fast, I don't think the Snowy ever had a chance to annoy it, though it attempted to cut off the Little Blue several times. Mostly the Little Blue didn't have the time to pay it any attention.
Meanwhile, nobody was messing with this bird, who was also busy catching fish. It was a good day for it. The water was flowing fast, and fast water is why all the herons were there.
Took a little while of shooting anyway to get this bird in focus, but it didn't stop me from firing away at a familiar scene. A heron catching a fish.
Then straightening throat and expanding volume, so it could swallow its catch quickly and easily. No chewing involved. The fish goes down the hatch, and the stomach handles the rest, bones and all. The bones, I suspect, is why heron — including egrets — scat is bright white. A very efficient eating machine.
Beak open panting, because it is so very hot, it can hardly stand it. Probably also too hot to pay much attention to a photographer coming close enough to nearly fill the frame with its image. Four o'clock in Dallas, Texas, USA, hot. 95 or 6 or 8 degrees, no wind, no relief. Hot.
Mockingbird with Tail Straight Down
Also panting. Standing on a chain-link fence. So hot it's all but oblivious of a white car snuck up behind it. Actually, I wasn't sneaking, I was eating No Sugar Added Chocolate Chocolate frozen yogurt when it landing on the fence.
Fierce-looking Female Great-tailed Grackle
Another shot from The Slider, dipped slightly forward down the boat ramp across from the Old Boat House very near the new one. Where I often sit and photograph whoever's down there. Up close and personal, if you've got a telephoto lens, and this supposedly a 600mm 35mm-equivalent. Lots of detail. Sharp.
Photographing birds from my Air-Conditioned car on a blistering hot day has its advantages. I don't mind walking, but it's nice to pull into the boat dock, and know that if I go slow enough, the birds at the low end will hardly notice me, and they will not flee or hide. Just do their business out in front of God and everybody.
Juvenile Belted Kingfisher
I've never been treated so nonchalantly by a Kingfisher. Had to be because it was a juvenile. No adult would show itself off like this so close to a human with a camera. We can even see its eyes, usually lost in shadows.
Not all that blasé, but I was careful. Shot from the walking bridge on the other side of the lagoon from the boat ramp. I was the only human in sight. First time I can remember there being no cars in upper or lower parking lot, no people walking, not even any people fishing on the inner-lake-side peninsula facing across the lake. It was almost unbearably hot, but I wasn't moving fast, and I didn't spend a lot of time out of my car. No hurry. Too hot.
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Escape
Still, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons are shyer than Black-crowned Night-Herons, who are more shy than any but very rare herons at White Rock Lake. I always feel lucky to even see one there, when there used to be dozens to hundreds.
Black-crowned Night-Herons are much more populous around the Old Boathouse Lagoon. Luckily, this one waited for me to stand firm in the bog across the lagoon, take its pic several times — this one is finally in focus, then it flew off toward the trees on the other side, too.
Seeing a female Wood Duck always seems lucky.
I love showing the building blocks of a digital image almost as much as I loved showing the clumped silver halides that comprised film grain. Shot at ISO 4,000 very early this morning, this was a happenstance shot. I was there to document our emancipated pelicans. I'd hoped to capture them flying or attempting to fly, but they made no move whatsoever toward that goal of mine, not theirs. I was disappointed, but they were just happy to be fishing and moving freely, having long ago acclimated themselves — though forcibly — to Texas summers.
Grain, or more properly, digital visual noise, is all the more likely at ISO 4,000, at which all these early morning photographs were taken. I wanted images in the dark, so I chose the G2's highest ISO rating.
Trouble with shooting that early in the ayem is that there is little light. It looked dark out there, though I could see birds in every direction, and I could recognize a great many of them, almost as if I knew lots of them personally. I don't know their names, and I've been careful to avoid naming most of them, but picking out the pelicans was easy. They were the lumpy white shapes swimming back and forth, up and down the bay, more or less engaged in synchronized swimming, dipping their big beaks into the water, then tilting them back and swallowing fish. Over and over again.
I call this position "Stealth Mode," because it looks like it's trying to go low, to reduce its profile. I've called it that for a long time now, but I'm nearly certain it has nothing whatsoever to do with hiding. It is the pelican retracting its head and neck, so it can strike out and down into the water to catch a fish, and this position usually leads to just such a fish-catching attempt. Over and over this early morning, I watched as the eight pelicans who are summering here after being released from Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation in Hutchins, Texas, just south of Dallas.
I've never understood why they were released here, except that we get an annual visitation of up to 70 American White Pelicans from Southern Idaho, usually from mid-October through mid-April, although sometimes they come sooner and may stay later. But "our" pelicans had gone back to Idaho more than a month before Rogers released the eight current pelican residents of White Rock Lake here. They generally base themselves in Sunset Bay, and fly out to other parts of the lake and other places beyond White Rock for food and entertainment. Maybe the place smells like pelicans to other pelicans. Maybe Rogers knew some of us people would be watching and reporting on their progress.
This is a female Mallard.
This duck, one of the pair I've been scritinizing in Sunset Bay these last few days, is obviously related to Mallards, but it one? I thought this multi-picture comparison would prove otherwise, but it sure seems to be another mallard in summer molt. Guess I'll quit calling them "rainbow ducks" then. All birds preen too clean and keep their feathers — so necessary for flying — clean and protected with lanolin, which they spread over their feathers with their beak.
Here, eclipse means, according to my Macintosh Dictionary, "Ornithology: a phase during which the distinctive markings of a bird (especially a male duck) are obscured by molting of the breeding plumage; eclipse plumage." This shot was taken much later today, and in full, hot, sun, so you won't see much "grain." This is full color — thanks to full sun — and shows that the Rainbow Ducks are not exactly Mallards, but certainly, related.
Back now to early morning grain: Here's one of 'our' domestic gooses pathetically flapping its wings. Something like swinging or stretching our arms, I would think. Like the fabled bumble bee, whose body weight in relation to its wing surface area, is too great to fly, these gooses don't. But they seem to enjoy flapping the paltry wings they have.
Snow Gooses are wild critters, though this one has chosen to stay in Sunset Bay for many months now. It's applied for citizenship, and too like the furloughed pelicans, may become a certifiable Texan. Or it could fly off north at any moment. Way far north, as far as the upper edges of Canada, well within the Arctic Circle, where they supposedly summer.
I'll post more of the afternoon images this Fourth of July Weekend. They'll prove a remarkable difference from these low-contrast and noisy images from the dark side.
text and photographs copyright 2011 by J
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My favorite answer is, "I don't
am, after all, an amateur.
I'm not kidding. I've only been birding for three years,
although I've been photographing professionally since 1964.
Thanks always to Anna.