Early Morning Walk at the Lake
July 30 2013
And a Great Egret at that. These are all in strict chronological order, so you'll be able to walk along with us, and they are in the exact order we experienced them in, from nearly dark, to bright red day on Sunday July 28. So thanks for suffering through moths and other places, but today and yesterday's shots are all White Rock Lake early Sunday morning. Anna and I met there at 6:30 ayem, which is late for me and right on time for her.
I'm pretty sure we are just past the new wood bridge by The Old Boathouse here, just beginning our walking journey this (last Sunday) morning.
The sunrise glow reflected in that one house — I want to call it a mansion, but I haven't been inside, and there is a wall and a bit of fence around it, but it doesn't really look entirely like a mansion — on the hill's windows.
This might be an early instance of the wake-breaker below or a the circle left by a fish jumping.
Because I don't take this route every day, I don't recognize some of these two days worth of journal entries' exact locations, but this is just left of the boat ramp askance from opposite the Old Boat House, facing it.
If you haven't already got used to it, you probably should. I often do not hand-hold my behemoth lens exactly parallel to the water surface, so a lot of my pix look and are crooked. My new Nikon has an image it obliterates the screen that indicates the horizon, but I like it a lot less than I care about getting things like the horizon exactly at zero degrees. The earth wobbles, so why not the horizons?
It took a long time to get from being a inconsistent blip obviously not part of the reflections going on this morning just as the sun began to rise to here, still significantly out into the lake but slowly, steadily, swimming toward us and leaving a big wake behind. But what it is?
It seemed so much slower than sun setting, and this morning, at least, many times more spectacular.
It's a nutria. A big rat, is how many describe it. Up to 22 pounds worth of habitat destruction. Others call it a Coypus — Science Daily and National Geographic show two sides of nutria — evil and benign. They reproduce quickly and have as few as one or as many as thirteen young up to three times a year.
I knew the sun came up every morning, but I did not expect it to be this spectacular. I approve.
Some people call them Green Monk Parakeets, because they are green, but that's not part of their species name. For that matter, some people call them parrots, which they are also not. There's a place I call Parrot Bay that's named after these same birds on my map of White Rock Lake, but that's because people continue to call them parrots long after they've been told repeatedly they are, in fact, parakeets. People are like that sometimes.
One of my favorite episodes of Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know at noon on Fridays on KERA 90.1 FM, repeatedly assured us that they are indeed parrots and not parakeets, but "Dallas' smartest audience" is wrong about that.
They're wild. A few of them may have escaped their owners, etc. But they're wild here, and many of them live in what I call "The Big Hum," the electrical station up the hill from The New Boathouse. You'll hear them if you even get close.
Bucolic. Isn't White RockLake gorgeous in the early morning?
Yes, it's the same guy, canoeing across the lake from The Old Boathouse, out across the lake, to the right. The one detail I actually was paying rapt attention to was the light coming through his glasses. When he turned so I could see that tiny sparkle, I clicked.
Then, when he crosses the brilliant glare of the just-rising sun, I photograph him a third and final time. I like the radical change of scenery from lush green to dull bright to brilliant, glowing red and yellow. Wish I could pretend I planned all that. But I just watched and reveled and clicked at the more or less right moments.
Around North Central Texas, at least, every day is a Grackle Day. They are probably our most common bird (OMCB). You'd think OMCB would be white, since it's hot here a lot, and it would seem that white birds would stay cooler — but nope. Nature instead made OMCBs black. Go figure. It doesn't seem to bother them. And I doubt that egrets envy grackles, either.
The Old Boathouse is brilliant white, but it is not in the sun, so it doesn't glow here. In fact, it looks dull. The posts of the pier look brilliant, although I usually think of them as dar, because here they are illuminated on the right side by the just-rising sun. The bird is black and gets plenty of light — there's the barest edge of bright along its back, but it's black, and not much more than that shows.
Yes, it's really too much telephoto to photograph this guy carting stuff out where he'll get in the boat and row away. But I was there, and he was over there, and I had to try. I had considered bringing my little m43 camera, but it's difficult enough to photograph with one camera. Two is too confusing. For me, although when I shot for the Times Herald forty years ago, I used to do that all the time. Not no more.
Mockingbirds aren't really red, but then neither are most trees. This is clearly a less-than photograph. Except that it is a photo a a Mockingbird flying. I have been trying to get one of those for at least six years. Watching them fly is easy. Capturing them flying and "flashing" those wings with that one white stripe shouldn't be as difficult as it is.
When we watch Mockingbirds fly, it looks like that stripe is flashing, but of course, it's only the wing flapping. The stripe makes the wing flap look a lot more interesting than just another wing flapping. I still want to capture that feeling of a Mock wing flashing, but I never have and only video may hold any possibility that I ever will. May.
All of today's shots, which will continue from tomorrow's, because seventeen pictures in one day is already enough, and thirty-eight would be way too much to work up and write under.
This is the longest, best series of photos since I've begun experimenting with High D lighting, whose results are often delighting. I've now got two ebooks about mastering or learning my new camera, and I've got to this chapter in one, and can't wait to get there in the other. One author ((Digital Darryl) just says it can be done. I'm hoping the the other (Thom Hogan) will give me some whys.
People, walking, biking, strolling their dogs, running — all in the gorgeous early morning light and cool and green.
Haloed by early morning sunlight.
Might have been better if we could see her face, but all those lovely tones of lake are something else.
Seems precarious to stand on that slant and keep balance while one's head goes almost entirely into the drink.
I live in a neighborhood surrounded by old, tall trees and houses and things like that, so actually seeing the sky in the early morning is not a just-go-out-and-stand-on-the-porch kind of things. I had to choose one puff, because I couldn't see the whole, vast, amazing morning sky with my telephoto.
The variety I'm usually referring around White Rock Lake is the Great-tailed Grackles, but that's about the males.
I don't see enough juvie Mocks to know them on sight for sure, so I had to look this one up in my Sibley Guide to Birds, which doesn't have the most colorful or largest pictures (That's nice sometimes.), and they're drawings not photographs, but Sibley always has the most varieties.
A great egret and another one that flew out across the lagoon turned back to land under the pier across from the Old Boathouse. When we last saw it, it was crouched all down, staring into the water, and we knew it was just about ready to strike.
Angling down to the lake portion of The Old Boathouse Lagoon.
We heard them most of the morning, but actually seeing one is a better trick than that. They usually perch off somewhere making a lot of screeching noises, but with my weak far sight I never see, only hear them. Nice thing about 600mm of telephoto and a camera with high resolution.
This is at the long end of a wide scene. Anna kept pointing me at birds in that bush, and I kept not seeing much with my own eyes, but flash the big tele on it, and I suddenly see lots going on, like this little vignette.
Like most of ours, it's a Great Egret, but it's in a swamp.
Always a treat to see a female Wood Duck with what looks like her big eyes. I'm not absolutely certain that juvenile is a Wood Duck juvie, but who else would be hanging that close?
At least I think it is a Barn Swallow, the most populous swallow around here.
We'd walked our mile and a quarter in the early cool, got back to the car, and found all these biklers just getting ready. That word's a combination of bikers, which they clearly are not — no beards and loud mufflers and big hogs — and bicyclers, which they are, but I like my term better. I don't know if these good people do, but many biklers want their bikes to be classified as legal vehicles, even though they are not licensed and sometimes get their very own lanes on streets. However unlike licensed automotive vehicles, many of them do not stop for stop signs or stoplights, or yield for right-of-way signs or go the right way on One-Way streets, etc. etc. etc.
Someday when I finally get a bike again, I will do all those things just like most of the biklers I've known. With impunity.
Moth Night at Cedar Ridge
This was the first and maybe the only moth we caught. I say "caught" like we went running through the woods with a moth net. We didn't. We stood and sat around talking and waiting and hoping that moths would choose our UV lighted sheets to land and enjoy the light.
At home, I just leave the porch light on for a few hours, which I guess I'm going to have to try again since this is or was National Moth Week. This was the only moth I photographed on Moth Night. I found one that looked a lot like this on the internet, but it didn't include any naming data, so I should probably go back to misidentifying birds.
We caught this on one of the moth traps and for awhile till an expert showed up to identify it, we assumed it was a moth, because it was brownish, and we don't know that much about it. I've turned this picture sideways, so it looks right. Looks like microfiber cloth that is probably easier for moths and butterflies to cling to. I'm assuming this must be a night butterfly.
None of these are moths, but all the bugs are interesting, and if I blew this pic way up, you'd be fascinated, too. But when I look at it up close, I start itching all over. So this size will do. The J R's Amateur Birder's Journal tie-in here is that some birds eat these things. Otherwise, it's just more nature and wildlife.
From early teen children to us elderly adults, there were plenty of people to help, hold flashlights, use nets, whatever was called for. We were, for awhile there, willing to wait for something to happen in the dark.
In every situation, anybody who wanted to, got a turn to photograph whatever alighted on our moth trap. I figured there were about forty of us, Anna said thirty. The night before, somebody in the dark said, there were 150 at Fair Park's Discovery Gardens. I liked fewer people better, but I didn't hear how many moths the 150 people saw.
I brought my birding camera instead of my smaller, lighter one, and I'm glad I got the opportunity to photograph something besides birds all the time. Besides, I've been experimenting with what Nikon calls "Active D Lighting," here set at high. I should be able to, but except to say it lowers the contrast and lets me include a longer tonal range, I can't easily explain it.
Makes for better pictures, so in bright daylight, I get more tones in the bright (like Great and Snowy egrets) and shadow areas. Instead of the bright sky blotting out the pic, I'd get tone back there. I'm not at all sure, however, what it does to night pix like these that were shot at very high ISOs — from 1600 to 6400. I guess that's the experimental part.
Most of the time we waited, watched and talked. I met several nice people. It was an Audubon event, so that was almost guaranteed.
Yeah, we were hoping for moths, which come in a huge variety, but we were happy to find anything interesting, and this find was fascinating.
I don't really have a close-up lens — usually called "micro" or "macro" — except one that's so old it doesn't even automatically focus — or automatically adjust exposure, so I brought instead, the 50mm "normal" lens Anna gave me for Christmas a few years ago. It was great, even if it doesn't focus super up close.
I remember someone who knew, telling us the name of this particular beetle, and I wondered if I would remember it. I did not, and it does not appear to be in my Audubon Field Guide to Insects & Spiders, which I've gone through so often, that it doesn't make me itch anymore to look at them. I remember it was an interesting name, and Anna will probably remember it.
Predators for the Hercules Beetles include Barred Owls, Crows, Blue Jays and Pileated Woodpeckers.
Anna sent me the names of the beetle, the butterfly and the moth and links to those insects Saturday morning.
See also Butterflies at Discovery Gardens below on this page.
A juvenile Great-tailed Grackle demands food in the usual baby-bird way, from a slightly reluctant adult female GTG, who's got a big mouthful of grasshopper in its beak.
They're just so subtle at that age.— Here the contrast is down but the tonal range is somewhat extended. I may be learning some things new.
Well, I don't know if she was reluctant, maybe she was enjoying the taste of it, as she turned it in her beak so she could quickly cram it down baby's throat. Whatever reason, she was taking her time.
Human mothers may remember and sympathize.
First she led it off into the dense green brambles on the west side of the pier, then, finally, she stuffed its big mouth full of partially masticated grasshopper, doing her dada duty, but not quickly.
Often I have not been able to focus with this camera on those fast-moving birds, but sometimes I surprise myself with little bits of success in the silliest of places. I don't quite think of them as flying rats, but their habit of flocking around the bay every time they forget where they are can be a little startling and surprising.
On this end of the pier in Sunset Bay. Of course.
A little dark, because I'd messed with some of the controls I thought I was learning, but one of them's for sure in focus, and who cares about the other one. They're pigeons.
That Jimi Hendrix song title keeps coming back to me. I don't know if it's post-traumatic stress disorder or my love of purple, but of all the Viet Nam vets I know, my case is the easiest to deal with, at least for me.
Hagerman Wildlife Refuge
Such a joy to see Tricolored Herons nearly wherever we go these hot days of summer, even if there's rarely more than one, or two, maybe if we've been good, three [below].
Lotsa variety at a place called Hagerman. Sometimes a lot of them just standing out in the shallow over there.
Or walking across the road to somewhere else.
I figured the little lumps on the left were ducks or something, but it took me a long time to recognize that long-beaked one on the right out way so far away was a Great Egret, because I was unwilling to allow them to have black feathers I didn't think I'd seen before, and I've seen me some egrets. I wanted it to be a pelican, even if it's still a little early by about two months at the earliest up here for them. But who else would have all those dark under-feathers?
Of course, compared with those girth-masters, anything short would be almost invisible, and I never saw it till after this image was here on this page. We saw lots of Canadas today (and yes, they are Canada geese, not Canadian, although some of them may well be Canadian, too.) Most of the time, they just weren't being very photogenic. This time I even got one of them to smile.
That's how — even at great, far distance — we can always tell it's a Turkey Vulture, not an eagle or hawk that might be worth stopping the car, getting out with the big gun and photograph it when we're driving cross country or state-wide. Turkey Vultures rock. They flap from time to time when absolutely necessary, but they don't make a big deal of it. Most of them time, once up, they loll across the sky, gently rocking back and forth sidewise.
Just had to park that guinea thing between
the eloquent flyers. Sorry. I think Turkey Vultures are wonderful. Jonathan Livingston
Turkey Vulture, although maybe Black Vultures are smarter. I've never had a conversation
with a TV, though I've watched them work, up close and birdonal. But Black Vultures
make good talking.
Wowzer, nearly frame-filling Great Blue Heron flying artfully, awfully close and just a hair or feather out of focus, but a little time left to fix that, then …
Something comes up that's a tad distracting on an otherwise great shot — great focus, great detail, great gosh, wuh hoppin? I wonder if I have the skill to pull it out of the red sign. Everything else is just so nice about it. Focus sharp, attitude near perfect, all kinds of detail and near perfect pull-out of a not quite perfect exposure. Hmm… That'n'd look pretty good on my next business card. No idea what the sign says, though I got more than this one of it.
Everywhere we looked out there, it was beautiful, rich, green, green, green, with yellow highlights and a blue, blue sky. Luscious place to look for and find birds.
When it jumped, I lost focus completely as it flew elegantly away.
We saw several Little Blue Herons — well, at least three — at Hagerman that gorgeous summer day. They kept showing up in the oddest places. Imagine: A bird in a tree.
I actually thought this might be a Reddish Egret when I first saw the shadows of this smallish bird through a veil of weeds and treelets and other obstructions down along the side of one of the many roads in, out and around the oil wells on islands whose main purpose was to raise Black Gold and now is to attract gorgeous birds.
This is the twelfth of seventeen harried, compulsive attempts to shoot through a quiet but jangly forest of intermittent vertical obstructions between me and it. Half those blurred it out so far nobody'd recognize it. No wonder I was thinking it might be a Reddish or maybe a Condor or Eagle, when it was so unclearly blue and maroonish. In one shot — this shot — of all those, this bird is scintillating sharp.
Not sure why. I'm sure I've seen them doing this in those great, huge fishing fleets they sometimes join with gulls and pelicans at White Rock in autumn and winter, but this just looked odd. So naturally, I clicked it, even if it was way too far away.
I never really trust me identifying Neotropic Cormorants — or much of anybody else.
She was there first, when I sidled The Slider right beside her. She'd look this way and that, but she didn't seem to mind us there.
Then he landed up above, saw her getting all the attention, then he swooped down, perched beside her for a couple nanoseconds, then loop-de-looped her, and they both flew off in wild gyrations.
Or something like that. Can you believe people keep sending me pictures and vague descriptions expecting that, since I publish a birder journal, I must know how to identify anything in the world that flies. Ha!
That post was a booger to focus, and the bird blurred with it till I about gave up, then they came in sharp and handsome.
I got lots of detail in this one the next pix down, so eventually, when I've caught up on my sleep, we'll have it identified.
I should know this one. Heck, after seven years of this, you'd think I'd know most of them, but we'd both be wrong.
We had an opportunity to photograph some Cattle Egrets with big Black & White Cows along the side of a road somewhere in there or coming out of there, but by that time, my head hurt and I was so sleepy after not getting more than about three hours sleep all night on the Motel Six hard rock bed in Sherman, that I couldn't see straight or imagine any reason for focus.
Although, with great effort, I was finally able to photograph one cow, then I accidentally deleted her.
Still More Comin'.
Eventually, I saw three armadillos either dead in the middle like this one or dead by the side of the road, which, of course, is their natural habitat. I was driving The Slider through the verdant area near Hagerman, when I saw this, passed it, still going whatever the speed limit was or less, since I was running it at about 55 mpg, checked it in the mirror, then backed up the road to well this side of this recently-deceased male 9-banded Armadillo (dasypus novemcinctus), which I know, because in the early 1970s I wrote a book about armadillos.), so I could photograph it with my long telephoto lens.
So this is the first bird actually in Hagerman that I noticed well enough to grab my big, old heavy camera kit and photograph.
I'm not blind, but sometimes that day I could barely see, so of course, we had to visit the blind. This looks like one of those plants that propagate by having attachable leaves. Again, I back up somewhat to get enough of it in, so we could all see its amazing variegations.
When I was photographing this guy, I assumed it was a Red-winged Blackbird, which is what species we began to assume any dark bird at Hagerman must surely be, since there were so many of them, but now, upon second, third and fourth looks, it most assuredly is not.
Not that I had much choice, but I carefully composed this shot with the most TVs — rocking Turkey Vultures — in one shot.
When I shot these, I assumed it was just more vultures, but turns out it's a flock of Killdeer instead of vultures.
Turkey Vultures have smooth featherless faces, so they can dig into carrion and not have it dripping all over their feathers, which need to be clean and dry to fly. We found this Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris) and its flock wandering along the side of a street in a Denison neighborhood.
It looks like they're raised for meat, not
beauty or racing, but Raising
Guinea Fowl 101 says "They are kept frequently for a source,
of income, meat, watchdogs and entertainment. They are extremely hardy
birds and forage very well." Which is what they were busy doing when we
found them just at dark.
How to Help Birds Beat the Heat — Anna posted this on Facebook, where I almost never go, but it's good advice.
White Rock Lake
Usually, Great Egrets are the epitome of grace and elegance. But not always.
As this quick series shows.
Here, this bird looks fabulous.
Factions of a second later, however, we got near-total disarray. That happens sometimes. I don't know what happened next.
I see a beautiful female Wood Duck, and I just gotta go click.
I'm always amazed, especially this late in the season (summer), to see what we like to call "teenaged" ducks, even though they're probably only a few weeks only. They look and act like teenagers.
I remember when that log was a little out from shore and it was usually covered with pelicans. A couple more months — last year they arrived mid-September — and they'll be back.
Were the black ones ten? I forget. I know there were six white ducks a little after Easter. Then one somewhat larger, and perhaps older joined their exclusive society recently, although they all look the same now. Is the big one the third from the right?
This particular bit of Red-winged Blackbird action occurred in front of the bushes along the lake near the boat ramp opposite the Old Boat House.
These shots are in the usual strict chronological order, so I can pretend they make some sort of sense.
I perceive this bit of action as Red-winged Blackbirds having some sort of fun, but it just as easily could be a little bit of slightly innovative feeding. Often when they figure out I'm photographing them, they fly away.
This same RWBB that was wondering what to do with it awhile ago has grabbed hold of it.
An the tensioned spring shot up.
Sometimes with a RWBB on it.
And all this seems about as strange to them and it seems strange to me.
Either when I'm paying full attention or there's only ducks and gooses or I'm bored, I pay a lot of attention to the sky. Because that's where birds come from. I've especially been looking and hoping for a Green Heron lately. I happened to be looking up, and I saw a very familiar shape and color. Pull up the tele, click at it twice to get the out-of-focuses out of the way, click this once, sharp and follow where it goes.
I was hoping it'd come in close, then I'd get to photograph it hunting. But nope, it was heading for the tallest tree around — the better to see all its options, no doubt.
It keeps amazing me how good tiny portions of a full frame turn out with a mere 36megapixel sensor.
Enlarged somewhat from the previous full-frame
view, as it completely alters its position from fly-fast to brake and slow to
Or, if it's that far up, should I instead say, "Touch Up?"
Unless there's something whose size we are very familiar with, Green Herons always seem so much larger than they really are. That they can stretch those necks higher than their bodies — and the custom feather job on their chins that makes them look like they have a grimacing, almost evil smile — makes them look remarkably intimidating for such a small — only 15-22 inches long.
Trouble coming right at it. Notice how the Green Heron has changed its attitude to face the threat.
It looked like the Great-tailed Grackle was aiming right at the Green Heron. Then the grackle seemed to bounce off then fly upward, and the Green Heron ducked down. I had the camera clicking, hoping for a full series, but I missed the actual hit, if there was one. Was it a fein attack or real? I don't know.
It didn't seem injured, and spent about three more minutes posing either looking left or looking right, and sometimes I got it sharp and most of the time I didn't, till it eventually got bored and few off towards Winfrey Point.
About two minutes later, after I'd followed it off into the far distance, it came back, and apparently I missed a direct overhead flyover, after which it headed for another tree already full of birds.
Once I was pretty sure it'd stay there awhile, I left the pier and walked over much closer to its new tree.
Then I moved this way and that, till I got the best close shot I could get. A few seconds after that, it flew off again, and I did not see it come back, though I waited and watched for at least twenty more minutes. It was getting awfully hot and sweaty by then, and I'd got some, I knew, decent shots, so I finally got in The Slider, turned the AC on full-blast and drove off with a fairly intense bit FOS (first of season) sighting of one of my favorite herons. Nice.
Surprisingly cool today. Surprising wet, too. I'd been toying with the idea of testing my forty-something-year-old 20mm manual focus lens, so today I brought it along with my super telephoto. At first I only shot telephoto landscapes. But birds kept flying or landing into or hopping through my landscapes.
I liked the repetition of vertical posts and tree trunks and being able to look off into a limited infinitude toward the far side of the lake. I had already set the composition when the bird flew in, but eventually I figured why not let them. This is supposed to be a bird journal, after all.
I should know this bird. By now, I should know practically all the ones around here. But I'm clueless and might remain there for awhile more yet.
I struggled several minutes with the notion of walking out to my favorite place in the rain. My big tele and camera both are "weather sealed," but I am not, so I stayed in The Slider's warmth and listened to my latest audio novel while I turned the car around to aim at specific landscape views.
There's probably a bird in there somewhere. There usually is, but it's mostly a landscape, made somewhat successful, because I didn't have to tilt the lens up, since looking down helped fill the frame without distorting everything in sight. This may be my most successful non-bird landscape of the day.
I've enjoyed the cool shade and warm unwetness provided by this tree for far longer than the seven few years I've been doing this journal. We're old friends.
When I can't find birds during rain, I wonder where they are. When I can find them just standing there, I wonder why.
This lens "sees" an angle of 90 degrees, thus proving itself to be a "wide angle" lens. My usual telephoto's focal length is 15 times this one's.
Wet bird standing on the pebbles on top of Dreyfus in the rain staring at the photographer staying dry in his car with that big honking lens hanging out the window.
White Rock Lake bird diversity is amazing. I went early today. It was already sweaty sweltering hot, but there was an occasional breeze that felt early summerish, if not really entirely cool. I'd been looking for a Green Heron the last few hot hot days, thinking they probably would like this heat. They never show up until it really gets going. And I keep hoping I'll see more than one Tricolored Heron and wondering when the egrets take over again.
First I saw ducks and geese and cormorants and the usual selection of grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds. It took awhile to acclimate my eyes to see in the dark far well enough to notice the subtle movements of a darkish bird against the dark background of green trees reflected in the surface.
But rather pile all of today's bird riches into one calendar day, I'm going to spread them out, and try to get my sleep cycle back in order this weekend, so there won't be any more birds till Monday. That's my usual schedule here, and I'd like to get back to that business of not adding more birds every weekend, too.
Although this bird did come much closer to shore later, in these shots it was way out into the lake. Way too far for even a 600mm reach, but the cam is so amazing good and has such high resolution, it brings thing in apparently close.
But I didn't just photograph the Tri all morning. I shot lots of other birds out there.
But much slower and more deliberate than that one yesterday.
And there were plenty of Wood Ducks to go around.
Then it'd be back to the Tricolored Heron for a little while.
I saw this and photographed it a little too quickly but I was in a hurry — not knowing I'd get more interesting shots in a few seconds,, leaving my thinking about it in a lurch for awhile. Turned out it wasn't the Tri I'd been photographing closer to shore.
I'm sure there are places — the Texas Gulf Coast, for instance — where photographing two Tricolored Herons in one shot is no big deal. But for me, it is, was and will be, even if they're separated significantly.
I know it's not as sharp as the other one, but it's nonetheless gorgeous. At first I thought I must have stumbled into some alternate universe where Tricolored Herons were all in focus. Then gradually, I figured out it was the same old universe, and only some of what I shot was really in any kind of focus.
So I had to go back and pull this one from that first shot. Then I thought I saw a familiar shape above the two I'd been following, and behold, a third Tricolored Heron:
Of course I don't stop to think between shots once I'm pretty sure I'm getting focus and exposure right. Click, click and click. For awhile there, I though I was photographing three Tricolored Herons in one place, but upon closer scrutiny I realized the third one was a Mallard, so it's still just two TRIs in this shot, but I kept clicking. Unlike those Great Egrets I photographed mostly out of focus last week, these guys never flew close.
I'm still amazed. I'd got used to what I'd assumed were their solitary ways. But still I was joyed to get two TRIs in one shot after seeing none for so many years, and three in a matter of a few minutes — I've been doing this journal for seven years now. I kept clicking while they flew and flew and flew, and some of those shots are in sharp, but the birds got smaller and smaller until they disappeared.
So instead of just two, I saw three Tricolored Herons in very close to one extended place/space this early morning. Wow! I knew they were proliferating around here, but three in one place knocks me out. The other two had headed west where the sunset would eventually be, but there was still this one to photograph, and it was somewhat closer.
But only one Tricolored Heron in a shot and doing the same old thing I'd been photographing for long minutes already, got me bored, so I wandered off to find some things else to photograph. Like this bunny with big ears. Big as this one's ears are, they're not jackrabbit ears, so this is probably an Eastern Cottontail, who are purportedly very elusive and difficult to find or keep in view.
Not this one. Like several birds and animals lately, this bunny kept getting closer to me, instead of staying as far as possible away. I do my best to remain subtle in my motions. No sudden raising of the monster lens, no quick turns or sudden bolting. What this bunny was up to was a bath. It stays near the water, where it's been every time I've seen it in the last few weeks, but apparently it is not adept at wet baths, this one was rolling in the dirt to get clean.
So when it kept getting closer to me, I turned and walked slowly around it and a squirrel and several ducks and an errant goose. Away. Then I saw this over-large turtle cross the road in front of my over by the Park-o-retum, pulled over, and while a woman and her dog also photographed it, I shot a series of better-exposed shots until I got this best of the bunch.
More intriguing birds — oh, I don't know if I can wait all weekend. Soon. I keep trying to limit myself to eight or ten shots a day, so it doesn't take all night, but today I nearly doubled that, and only got a couple of the birds I photographed extensively.
The Old Boat House Lagoon
Drove down the west side of the lake today thinking maybe I'd find something interesting on this side for a change, but everywhere I went there were either no birds worth my attention or there were no birds. It was already well after five, so I did see more and more people. Near the end of the road's this little side road over to the Old Boathouse, and I decided, Oh, Why Not?
I saw new baby ducks, middle-teen baby ducks and ducks and more ducks and dozens of turtles floating with their noses just above the surface, then they'd drift back down and disappear. Back down the lagoon I saw a Great Blue Heron one one side of a small island with a Black-crowned Night-Heron on the other, but they were mostly just standing there preening.
Then I saw this and eventually one other, then at the end, after I'd photographed the foo out of this one, yet a third Snowy Egrets, none of which were aggressing on each other. Most were slow and just looking for food. One, however, was doing the Snowy Egret Hunting Dance with amazing grace, energy, style, skill and enthusiasm.
Incredible action easily within reach of my 600mm worth of lens. It would flap and fly and tippy its toes over the surface while it changed directions forth and back and back again, flying and running and reminding me of the most flamboyant dancers I've ever watched or photographed.
I used to photograph a lot of dance. I didn't care much about sports, but dance, to me was exciting and surprising, a real challenge to keep up with or focus. Perfect training for photographing Snowy Egrets dancing.
Amazing to watch. Incredible to photograph. Not all my shots were in focus or sharp, but enough were — even though the sun was waning and my camera's ISO auto-ranged from 1,000 to 2,000 but mostly in the range of 1,600, while the shutter stayed at at least 1/500 but usually 1/1000.
I continually attempted to apply strong focus while I panned back and forth following its every turn, flutter, short flight or ramble, and most of the time I got it. That's astonishing enough, really.
Did I mention how utterly and fantastically fun it was to photograph this Snowy? It were fab fun.
Yon and thither around the north side of the lagoon. After awhile, I figured I had more than enough shots, and with the Snowy Still tripping the light fantastic, I walked off toward The Slider with a grande gangbusters worth of fun photographing.
For awhile it just stood out there in the lagoon with its neck extended and at an angle like this or leaning even more as it watched for whatever it was watching for. I couldn't get shots of that, because its head was behind its neck, thus invisible to me. But I kept shooting, eventually netting this, the sharpest shot in the series.
I found this when I sidled up to the left-most portion of the road that half-circles the upper shore of Parrot Bay (See map.) on my long, slow, very pleasant journey from Mockingbird Lane down to the boathouse. They were swarming is a strong slant of bright sunlight like they do when we have to just walk through them over a bridge or walkway. I've attempted such a photo before, but this time I switched focus to manual and clicked away.
Down Along the Trinity
Probably why they call it a Tri-colored Heron. Very unusual around here till the last few years. Now, they have been nesting in the Southwestern Medical School Rookery, and the new Tricolors have been seen in several places around Dallas.
Many herons, when they're fishing, lift or cup their wings to create a place where the sun doesn't blot out the view with reflections of sky or the sun itself for one of at least two reasons: so birds can find the fish and spear them with their sharp beaks before the fish can figure out what's going on — or make the fish think they're somewhere else safe. It's really difficult to know what the heron thinks it's doing or what the fish are thinking about what it's doing. We just guess.
Same heron. Same place. In a pond just the civilization side of a high levee along a road with the river on the other side. This dark, because I'm shooting into its shadow, since the sun is behind it, but I'm up high, looking down into the pond, so there's not much sun in the lens.
Several of today's shots are almost successful. The light would have been perfect if I'd been behind me, on the other side of the pond. But shot from this side, when the tricolor was on the lake, zipping around like a Snowy Egret on speed, it was somewhere between challenging and impossible to get the exposure right. With it against that grass, even though some blades reflect the bright sky, the bird is rendered almost correctly.
Here, parts of it are rendered near perfectly — like the tones and colors on its back that's illuminated by the sun, while others — like this side of this one's neck and head, which are on its shadow side — seem too dark. Photography is all about compromises.
Actually Tricolored Herons are about as dark as Great Blue Herons (GBH), which seem dark only when the light is weird. That blue that looks so dark here, is usually rendered kind of a grayish that makes some of us confused enough to think we are watching GBHs instead of TCHs.
I quickly learned that without so much bright water around it, my pictures turned out better, so sometimes I'd wait till it raced over there.
I like the way this bird is running and crouching, it almost seems distorted, but it's not.
There is that about it raising its wings to obliterate the sun, but sometimes a bird raises its wings to achieve balance.
At least it looked to us like some beavers had been busy building an island that itself is busy growing its own plants and trees.
As I got out of The Slider to photograph this GBH in the green, I pointed out that what I really needed just then was yet another GBH shot.
Southwestern Medical School Rookery
When I saw the egret, I didn't even notice the Anhinga with its head down among its feathers preening. We'd wondered whether there were any Anhingas around, and now I know there was at least one, probably dozens.
Of course I would not have photographed the trees — one in shadows, the other in bright light — if the egret hadn't been there walking …
… then raising its wings for balance.
I'd worried it would fly away if we walked too close, but it just sat there, hardly moving, hardly noticing us humans walking by. I figured I'd look it up when I got back home. I'm still looking after clicking Google Images for Pigeons and Doves until no more buttons came up for more images, then Pigeons and Doves of the world. None of those are even similar to this one.
In fact, the closest one I saw was a black
and white image of a Passenger Pigeon somewhere
on Wikipedia, but I don't think this is one of those.
This bird was just standing there looking forlorn when we drove by to see if there were any birds in the rookery this late in the season. There were plenty, though not lots. I was going to park along the side of the rookery since there was hardly anyone around and all those parking places were empty, but we didn't want to scare it off.
It's not rare to be focusing in on a bird, when it suddenly takes to the air and flies away, but I think this one was already in flight when I started clicking at it.
If I'd rendered it in grays, I'd think I was sure to call it a Black-crowned Night Heron, but it doesn't have much of a chin, so it might just be a Yellow-crowned, but I'm not so sure. As often …
I've been told that Great Blue Herons don't mix with the other herons (including egrets) in a rookery, but this is at least the second time I've seen a GBH at the rookery. Last time I said it was just visiting, but I'm not so sure anymore.
In trees caught on a limb or scattered around the edge of the rookery almost all the way around, we found dead egret carcases in various stages of rotting, and yes, they stank. It hasn't been ornery hot, but we don't know about their water supply. I know their parents push them out of the nest, when there's only enough food for fewer. Maybe this always happens. We've taken abandoned babies to Rogers Wildlife Recovery before, but we didn't see any today who were still alive.
I like this one's flyaway forelocks.
Always lots of action at the rookery. The issue is capturing some of it.
Sometimes it's just a matter of aiming, focusing and holding down the shutter button.
Which is what I did here. That focus part is very important. That's the hard part. Clickity-clicking is simple.
Just a little glimpse into what egrets do all day.
White Rock Lake
From Mothra to Purple Martins. What I wanted to show was this flock swirling over the landscape. In motion that swirl is easy to see. Captured at a thousandth of a second, it just looks like a bunch of birds flying around at random. I promise I'll do something different next time.
So after a while of that swirling silliness — "swirly birds" is what Anna called them, I settled into photographing this colorful (different from that last one below) martin house holding still while most of the martins swooped and swirled by.
Over and over again.
The Discovery Gardens at Fair Park
Mostly I do birds for this journal. It's very unusual I do anything else. Oh, there's the odd human or cute kid, sometimes some really odd amphibian or a mammal. I do remember ones and twos of previous butterflies, but today we got lots.
I shot these on The Fourth of July, so maybe that nets me a little leeway. I hope so. Sometimes it's nice to get away from birds.
Listed as a "fun fact" on the most informative site I found for what I knew was a Paper Kite — because a child at the gardens told me that was its name, was "Also known as the rice paper butterfly, this species has a slow gentle flight like paper floating in the air."
I photographed these with my usual birder camera with a 50mm f1.8 lens that Anna gave me several Christmases ago. She's also who invited me to have dinner — a nice sandwich (we each got a different one, and we shared halves of both) and light entertainment at The Discovery Gardens at Fair Park. I had to be particularly patient with these flappers. I followed them thither and yon and back again. Actually, three were together, but I wanted too much sharp focus and close-up size to include that third, still-fluttering one.
When I didn't know proper names, which was usual, I went with descriptions. The butterfly at the top of today's journal is like that, too. There is a variety called Small Postman that is similar. Before John Watts responded with correct captions for many of these guys, I called that one "The Postman Rings Twice," because it had two spots on each wing. Referring to the movie was my attempt at butterfly humor.
I have the butterfly chart with color pictures right before me. Usually it hangs on the wall over my left shoulder, where I can easily see and enjoy the colors any time. It has several of today's flutterbys, but not all of them. So I'm winging it with butterfly names like I often wing it with bird identifications, but thank goodness for etomologists.
I really didn't have high expectations about these photographs. I used my D800 camera, which is remarkably amenable to making big enlargements from tiny portions of the photographic frame. But the ratio of butterfly to these frames was absurd, and I had no right to expect any success at all. The 50mm lens is superbly sharp. One of Nikon's best, but it does not focus close. For that, Nikon makes micro and macro lenses. I want one, but I can't figure out which.
I often had to back off when I got it just like I wanted it, because the lens just wouldn't focus at that nearness. Not that the butterflies were particularly cooperative in posing for me. This one was pointed out to me by several children. Either they saw my attention to detail or they just noticed I had a camera. But often, various aged children would help me out, even when I tracking some other butterfly.
See a similar or same Hyalophora cecropia Moth Lifecycle or a close-up view of a Giant Cecropia Moth moving around on YouTube.
Please notice that I got most of these guys in focus. I hope the exposures are about right, too. Which means I hope the tones and colors I've rendered them in are pretty close to what they really look like. Of course, I'm taking into account that they usually don't look this close, and they they're more often fluttering about than holding still, wings down, for J R to photograph.
Often, once I photographed them, I was as intrigued by the plants they alighted on as I was their own configurations.
I'm pretty sure these last two images are of the same bug. I've searched through all of the images on each of 14 butterfly and 33 moth pages on Butterflies and Moths of North America twice and the one long page of eye-blindingly tiny images on Texas Bugs, [Of course, all these guys may not be from around here.] and I only found one variety I hadn't already identified — although I may now be able to identify a swallowtail. I also slowly paged through my Natuional Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects & Spiders, which the same, zero results.
I tried and tried and tried — and failed utterly every time I tried — to capture a butterfly in flight. Too many variables against me in that endeavor. So I waited for these to alight, often following them around and through the butterfly house. In previous visits, especially when there were many more butterflies and far fewer humans than on the Fourth of July, one or two or even three of them have landed on me. That's probably akin to a porpoise touching me. Or a bird allowing me to touch it. But that didn't happen today, and it would not have made it easier to photograph, although it would have been a day-brightener.
Many butterflies in The Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House & Insectarium that replicates a tropical rainforest, the natural habitat for these butterflies. But this one, and probably some others, were not free to fly around. To photograph this one without getting my own reflection in the glass in front or behind it, I had to move around.
That dark space it seems to be attached to is my shadow/reflection. The brighter purple area is the brightness beyond my dark shadow. Again I hope I have rendered this butterfly or moth correctly. I got it how I could get it, which was hanging off the glass, and glass is often problematic to photograph.
The sing said what variety of snake this is an albino version of, but I didn't photograph the sign. Or remember it. There was also a Texas Tarantula in a dark and shadowy place that I was unable to photograph, although I shot its sloughed off outers — and got them out of focus. So my next return to the Texas Discovery Gardens may be quicker than over the last dozen or so years.
I also photographed some attractive plants. Which I know the names of even less than I do butterflies — or birds. But it was grande fun.
Well, you can see them as well as I can.
I think I actually know the name of these ones. I often photograph flowers. Have always since I began toting cameras at the University of Dallas oh, so many years, decades, centuries ago. That's where I started photographing as a serious endeavor. I like this shot.
Is this a Passion Flower? Anna says yes! Passion Flower White Lightning climber.
And tomorrow, we go back to birds. But my, oh, my, this was fun. It's always especially fun when I get decent shots.
White Rock Lake
July 4 2013
Read somewhere they don't go back to Capistrano anymore, but that was years ago. I don't know about that, but they sure mob here about this time every year. It was pretty darking by the time I shot these
They were also mobbing the martin houses overlooking the lake.
Martins coming home.
I love photographing birds in flight. Next time I'll try to arrange it so either the light' on them is brighter, so more of them are in focus at a time or there's a better sunset going on behind them.
Kinda like these.
We see lots of American Coots in winter, but darned few these days. Eventually, this evening I saw three.
I love the purple.
Although most of them still have green heads.
Anywhere I go, when I see a Wood Duck, I'll probably try to photograph them.
Love that lilting background. Nice duck, too.
Both have been hanging out at Sunset Bay lately. They're pretty much a matched set, with lots of big, fluffy feathers, and I need to either photograph them at some distance instead of right off the pier, or … shudder … use another lens. Cute couple. I'm thinking geese instead of ducks. They're big. I don't know my domestic gooses, although I know a lot of Charles'.
Not its fault this flap is ugly. Mine. I was slow
When I photographed one of these in Montana a few summers ago, it was a wild bird. Down here in the southern United States, they're considered to be escapees, not wild. More info with my October 2010 photographs of one at Hagerman Wildlife Refuge north of there.
This probably should be the last pic down today's entry.
I remember straining to tippy-toe my face, hands and camera with bulky lens up to the top shelf of the walking bridge over the Lower Steps last Thursday when I shot 543 frames on a particularly good day for photographing birds, the day after a particularly bad one when I didn't get any. I also remember photographing what I thought was that same juvenile Great Blue Heron I keep photographing there — that I'll probably keep thinking of as White Rock's only tri until I manage to see a bunch of them together, which would be a more hopeful situation than just having one that keeps coming back.
Then Sunday (yesterday) when I was having another bad bird day, this time at Trinity River Audubon Center (TRAC) to maybe photograph some Wood Storks there (Not!), I was sorting through the few frames I'd shot and backed up too far to discover images of a Tricolored Heron I didn't remember photographing, but obviously I had. Surprise. surprise. So when I got home I quickly worked up today's top pic and one other, before heading off for dinner with Anna.
I guess if I hadn't looked back, I might not have realized I had photographed the very Tri that I'd been lately wondering where might be. Glad it's safe, healthy and still finding food. I know some of the places it hunts, so I'll keep eyes and lens out for it.
I mentioned the other day that most of the time I photograph birds down from the walking bridge over the lower steps, that they look like I'd shot them from their level. Certainly not this one, which looks pretzeled and oddly distorted, but we can see some of that third color.
I've heard otherwise, but we still believe there are new Tricolored Herons being hatched at the Medical Center Rookery, but we understand why they — like the Anhingas and White Ibis — might be doing their new generation-raising deeper into the woods than the last few years, when so many photographers mobbed the scene to get more and more photographs of them sitting the nest, then raising their young.
I believe I shot the first-known image of a Tricolored Heron at the rookery, on May 3, 2008, when I also mistook it for a Great Blue Heron, which is easy to do. Both species are about the same colors, except the Tri's are dark above and bright white below and often include the color red (the third of tri).
The pics I'm looking at in my Lone Pine Birds of Texas show the nonbreeding adult having orange legs and feet and the much more vivid, breeding adult with what must be brown legs, but my Crossley I.D Guide clearly shows tan to nearly white, yellowish legs and feet on breeding and nonbreeding adults. Probably the most obvious difference between breeding and non is that breeders have that dashing white occipital plume.
So this bird is an adult breeding Tricolored Heron. I hope it lives out its destiny and brings even more Tricolored Herons to this part of the state. Most of the congregate along the coast from Mexico to about Virginia.
Ideally, this image would precede today's banner shot at the top of today's entry, but since that one looks so much better, it's up there, and this one's down here. I'm eager to find it fishing again, and hope that time I won't lose sight of it as it continues its sport behind the weeds like last time.
This shot is here, even though its head doesn't show, because I like looking at all those fine reddish feathers.
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text and photographs Copyright 2013 by J
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without
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the writer or photographer.
My favorite answer is, "I don't
am, after all, an amateur.
I'm not kidding. I've only been birding for seven years as of last month,
although I've been photographing professionally since 1964.
Thanks always to Anna.
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