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NOTE: I'm on a project till the end of the month and won't be able to add to this page.
A guy came up to us as we were photographing Great Blue Herons through the screen of green hiding the swamp from the entrance road into The Beds, and asked what bird this was. Anna went back with him, and I drove The Slider (my portable tripod) back there and began photographing it. It's a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and our first-ever, so we shot way too many photos of it, especially considering that it just perched there all the time all three of us were clicking away at it. When we came back much later, it was gone.
It pulled and pulled, but it seemed to be more in a hurry to get out of there than to finish pulling on the snake, so, in the end, the snake lived another day, and the heron had to find something a little less difficult to eat.
See also pix of an adult Great Blue Heron catches an eel.
If I had a snake book, I'd look this stretched-out winner up. But I don't. So maby some intrepid Amateur Birders Journal reader can tell me. I know you're out there.
The Beds were rife with lift this lovely cool morning. Several species we hadn't seen in awhile, and a wide variety of species. A photographer's dream, with lots of bright daylight.
Because of its pale legs and beak and that little hint of blue-black peeking out the edges of its wings (folded back, they look like its tail) at the back, I assumed this was an early, white-stage Little Blue Heron, and it is. At this tender age, they are often confused with our several local varieties of white egrets — Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and Cattle Egrets. Because I'd made that mistake before, I was on the watch.
Plus I've been adding "baby pictures" to my Herons and Egrets pages, because sometimes — like this instance — they are difficult to tell apart. This pic will go on one of those pages soon.
At this phase, obviously, Little Blue Herons are much more easily identified. I don't know of any other bird (Please note the word, "amateur" in the title of this journal.)
And here, directly and visually compared with its cousin, the Snowy Egret, is an adult Little Blue Heron looking its usual — in sunlight — black and purple.
The most obvious difference between white-phase juvenile Little Blue Herons and these guys are the colors of their legs, feet and beaks.
My Nikon D7000 camera defies me every time I attempt to photograph a flying bird (It can be done, but it's a challenge.), but my elderly Nikon D300 makes it almost easy. I've been wanting to photograph a flying Black-belly for a long time. Those amazing colors and the flash of distinctive white against the black make it all the more alluring. Pink feet and orange beak add to the color joy.
Besides being a sort of ugly elegant, I like photographing the area marked by this striped standpipe because interesting birds gathered there — and, of course, because I think that pipe is how the solid wastes get floated into these beds to dry up and becaome more earth.
My guess is Snowy Egret, but many are the possibilities. I'd really have to see its feet to make an educated guess.
Nature made this little bird look fierce to humans. I wonder what it looks like to other species?
We saw more stilts in one place in one time than we've ever seen before.
I almost didn't identify the stilt with something it its beak, lower left, because it isn't standing up. But it's got those cute thin pink legs, so it must be. Last time I saw stilts I was surprised to see one sitting down. Maybe as I see more and pause to think about them more, I'll learn lots more about these tiny, delicate-appearing creatures.
There were, of course, plenty more birds that did not come close, but thankfully that day, enough did to show actual detail.
First, we saw a few White Ibises busy eating whatever they were finding in the mud.
Then, at other pans in the Drying Beds, we found more of the same species Ibis and more of others, too.
And again, they were brave enough to be closer to drive-by humans.
I watched this one struggle with the wind that kept uplifting its cupped wings, blowing it off course, righting its way, then being swept off again.
When I see a red and green Ibis like especially like the one at 5 o'clock above, but also the one at 8 here, I always want them to be Glossy Ibises, because we don't see much of those up here. But most probably they are adult breeding (right) and adult nonbreeding (left) White-faced Ibises. I love the scalloped feather look on the Juvenile White Ibis, top left.
I'm sure I could figure out who the one above that's in focus is by simply slowly perusing my many bird I.D books, but I don't have the time nor inclination. I'm just glad it did its quick-walk dance close enough to focus in on.
This one looks so familiar, I should probably know it by its first name, which is probably in Latin. Yes, it has yellow legs, but it doesn't look like either of the species I know by that name in Sibley's, so I guess the answer is, "I don't know." There, that wasn't so hard, was it, J R?
This is the Great Blue Heron I was watching and focusing in on when the guy came up to us asking if we were experienced birders. We're never quite sure how to answer that one, so we hemmed and hawed. And the GBH suddenly took flight. Luckily, I was focused in on it, so it looks kinda sharp here.
And the farther it flew, the more out of focus it became. I was really lucky to get it this good this time. Great wing reach.
Last time we were at the beds a couple Great Blue Herons flew low and inside right over us, so this time I brought a shorter telephoto zoom that would be perfect for such an overflight, and of course, no such thing happened. But this did, and as I followed it across the heath, one would be sharp in focus, the next badly out of.
Not that I got up early, just I never went to sleep this ayem, so I was still up for checking out a pleasantly cool Sunset Bay with a lot of birds, but one particularly interesting one — and no, for a change, it wasn't our lone pelican who cannot fly. It's our oft-visiting Tricolored Heron.
Female Mallard in the middle, and a female Wood Duck to the right of the heron.
Why it was visiting was the fish the bay contains — enough for a wide variety of herons and egrets most days.
Shaking it up.
The three colors are white, red gray and blue, but there's also some lovely browns and a little purple.
Beautiful lighting in the Bay this lovely morning.
Difficult still for me to wield that hulking telephoto lens fast enough to catch much action as the Tricolored either defending its fishing territory or offending an egret in its fishing territory. By the time I noticed what was going on, it wasn't anymore.
And, oh, why not, here's a photo I found while cutting down on the number of images I had to back up as my hard drive dies slowly into the west. It's a downy young Killdeer. Ain't it cute? From a couple months ago.
They're both hot. Everybody was hot. It was hot. When it's really hot, Great Blue Herons fan their wings out like you see here and pant. See the third pic down on my The Herons page for a more detailed, front view of this behavior.
Oddly, the pelican wasn't panting or fanning its wings. It spent all of last summer here, too, so maybe it's getting used to our summers. I thought it was nice someone was hanging out with it. A juvenile Great Blue Heron was standing in the shallows another fifty or seventy feet off from Sunset Shore.
I was melting. Grackles and dogs and many others can't sweat, they pant. It was hot.
And she seems to be engaged in her summer molt. Quite a distinct color and tone change from last time I paid attention to grackles. They ubiquitous. Always everywhere. Some places more than others. I haven't seen a shopping center Grackle mob in awhile.
The photographer pretty much stays hot. He sweats a lot. Usually works out before photographing hot birds, takes a while to cool down. I suspect this female Great-tailed Grackle had a recent bath, but there's always the chance that she just fritzed up her feathers like this to cool down a bit.
That's what I'm calling it. We've been talking about having missed the Egret Dances this year. They must have held it somewhere less public than usual this Solstice season. Usually, I drive my car around wherever they hold their big social event of the season and take gobs of pictures. We didn't even see such a gathering this year. But today, I saw this. Just a few dozen grackles, not hundreds, and nowhere near as spectacular. But I kept wondering what was up.
Sometimes when birds point their beaks up, it's an invitation to fight. Sometimes it's an invitation to mate. I think this was just a social event, because though there was plenty of flapping about, I saw no aggressive aggression. And usually, only the males fight. Here we have females in the mix, too.
Dictionary dot com defines that term as "a figure in square-dancing, in which two persons advance, pass around each other back to back, and return to their places." Kinda why I was calling this episode on the grass in Sunset Bay, a Grackle Dance. No mayhem, just a lot of action with optional posing.
When I got in The Slider and tried to get even closer, the dance broke up.
Female Brown-headed Cowbird? Must be. Some people, especially of the Audubon persuation, have thanked me for photographing 'common' birds. I photograph what I can find, and these guys are all just a skp, hop and a jump from my house. Down and up some hills. Over some dales, etc. I like the exotics, but they're so much more difficult to find — or identify.
I'm too angry with the Arboretum to pay to see their Big Time Art Guy from Out of Town, Dale Chihuly show — that orange tree is all delicate, blown glass. This was as close as I got. I did notice the car parked right on the grounds. I've been wanting to have a T-shirt that said, "SAVE Winfrey Point — PAVE The Arboretum!" But I've learned way too much about T-shirts lately, and one of those items is that you can't ever have just one. Apparently, some people already get to park on the arboretum grounds.
Most pigeons in Sunset Bay are not white. This one is. I thought it was handsome.
The Bird Squad names every goose and duck they see. This one's blonde, so its name is Marilyn. Right?
More info from Annette: "I had to laugh when I read your comment about naming the birds. We only name the ones that are unique in some way...whether personality, marking, or whatever. For instance, the new little Chinese goose has been named Spunky Little Annie.....after Ann Carlson. This little goose loves Ann and acts just like Ann. The newest gander was named Andy by Charles. Right now we call him Raggedy Andy because his feathers are so bedraggled. The other new gander is Droid because Charles says he walks just like the character Droid in the movie. I know, I know. Strange name for a goose!
We have to be around a bird quite a bit to decide on a name.
The blonde mallard was named Blondie by Charles but others call her Goldie or Marilyn.
I think many of those birds have multiple names. No wonder they are confused at times!
Honestly, I am trying not to name many of them because then you get too close and personal with them and it really hurts when something happens to them. Call it self-preservation!"
It's white. I'm happy to report that I don't know its name. I prefer animals and birds without cutre first names. But many of the ducks and gooses in Sunset Bay are farm animals. Farm animals live under different rules.
Female Great-tailed Grackle
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.