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The Amateur Birder's Journal - Stories & Photographs by J R Compton
All Contents © 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. DO NOT USE images without permission & payment.
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July 31 2006

Little Blue Heron in Amber Morning
Light = Little Brown Heron

Plenty biodiversity at the Bath House early in the day. I arrived at 7, should have earlier. Almost bright enough for photographs, but in shade, cool — in a clammy North Texas summertime way.

Left Behind in a Pan of a Mockingbird with
Food Flying Across the Parking Lot

I counted three Little Blue Herons — never seen more than one anywhere before. Two Great Blue Herons and two egrets — a Snowy and a Great, all along the coast behind the Bath House Cultural Center, where I'll do a freebie photo walk later in August to help celebrate their Anniversary.

Nest-Building Bird Pair with
Grackle Beaks on a Picnic Table

Lots of Great-tailed Grackles, of course, Mockingbirds, Ducks, squirrels and other critters. Tom Orr & Frances Bagley's White Rock Water Theatre of glow-in-the-dark white poles is not popular with birds in summer, but one of the Little Blues perched there while I snapped away.

Little Blue Heron on a Glow Pole

My own focus comes slowly that early but my lens only sporadically caught up, and I had to throw away a disproportionate number (75%) of fuzzies today. That and battling quickly-alternating shades and darks, especially when panning flying birds, proved another challenge I wasn't up to.

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July 30

Mud-baked Turtle
Kind of An Afternoon

It's cooler early, but I wondered whether there'd be birds out in the heat of the day, and at 2 on a blazing Sunny aft there were plenty. I'm to lead a birding party as part of the Bath House Cultural Center's 25th Anniversary, and I needed to know when to suggest. I'd still go with early, but later's okay except for the noxious heat.

Little Blue in the Afternoon

The Little Blue Heron we're getting used to seeing early is still in the Boat House creek fishing. So's the Great and the Snowy Egrets we usually see there around 7. Lots of ducks, of course and Mockingbirds and the easily activated Grackle Early Warning System.

The sun's actually better in the morning, since then it's direct, rising over TeePee Hill at our backs as we watch across the creek. After noon it depends which way the bird faces, and still it's light and dark iffy.

Great Blue Heron Juvenile

More egrets spotted the shore along Lawther as a flock of sailboats ran maneuvers near Tilly's Point, and one, long, tall, very erect, Great Blue Heron juvenile waded out near Pelican Island between the new Singing Bridge and the old Mockingbird car bridge.

Overall Gray, the book says,
and it would appear so, unless
you looked more carefully above.

With multi-colored patches of whites and mottled grays, spotted and striped neck and under parts, mottled thighs and bright rust epaulets, it was a sight to see.

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July 20

Long and anything but green but
this is a juvenile Green Heron.

Major interactions this morning included the only Green Heron we've ever seen and a Little Blue Heron catching a fish almost bigger than it was. Both in the creek at the Boat House, where every parking space was filled, and the area clogged with people. We walked with friend Dianne and were there an hour later than usual — 7:30.

First-summer Green Heron

At first we thought the Green a juvenile Black- or Yellow-crowned heron, which we've seen there often. Then I thought maybe a Bittern. After consulting my books I believe it is the Green Heron I'd hoped to see in the Valley mid this month — a juvenile in its first summer.

Squash Flower

Bitterns' necks are thicker with more distinctive stripes. Black- and Yellow-crowneds Night-herons have smaller, blurrier stripes. But Green Heron juveniles are more slender than any of the similar herons, and now I'm wondering if there are Green Heron parents around yet to be discovered.

Little Blue Wiggle-beaking a big fish

Then we showed Dianne, who told us what the wrinkly yellow flower was, the parakeets' home on the humming electrical towers. On the bridge coming back, I noticed a Little Blue fishing in the creek. Apparently tracking a fish, he was wiggle-beaking intently. While we watched in fascination, he darted in and pulled out a fish that was almost bigger than he was.

Amazed and delighted, we watched it fly its catch over to the mud in the middle, alternately beat it on the ground and clean it off in the creek, then slam it some more. We had to leave before it got that big fish down its little throat, but we bet that was one amazing sight.

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July 27

Goose Stealth Mode - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Goose Stealth Mode - Going In Low

Raucous geese met us at what I've been calling Tilly's Point, a name I prefer to Jackson Point, that the City's White Rock projection map calls it, and a plaque there insists is Miji's. It's directly across the lake from the Bath House Cultural Center.

The gooses in question were complaining loudly and quick to go into full attack mode. Assumed that condition half dozen times at both of us. They like to bite exposed lower appendages, go for skin, but squatting stymied them. They don't just dislike cameras, they'll go for anyone who engages them in conversation.

Honk!

Heads Up Duo - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Heads Up! — a handsome pair

We've encountered the noisy gray (called African Brown) at the Boat House last spring, when a matched set of them often complained loudly. They'd try to attack us then, too.

I'd photographed the white (or one like it) sitting in the snow several years ago. The online I.Ders call it a China White Goose. The pair's bodies are similar but differently colored. Their face masks are structured the same (think Klingon swans) but one is orange, the other black. They may be the same species. I guess.

Neither is in any of my bird books, Texas or America.

Brown Baby Ducks - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Brown Baby Ducks

Also intrigued to note yet another batch of ducklings floating about Tilly's Point. Very late in the season, I thought, but lovely in early morning light. Cool but clammy, but that light was gorgeous.

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July 26

Circling Pigeons - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Circling Pigeons

Today's first birds were a frightened flock of pigeons. I saw them take off in a unified direction, then circle around over the shore on Sunset Bay five, six times before I tired of their idiocy. By the fourth go-round I got decent shots, should have backed off the zoom and gone for pattern duplication instead of individuals, but hindsight is ever clear. Pretty noble for flying rats.

Great Blue with Long Reflection - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Young Great Blue Heron
with Long Reflection

Three, I believe, Great Blue Herons were catching fish in the immediate vicinity. And two egrets — a subdued Snowy and that Great we keep seeing with the black spot on its neck.

Duck Scratch - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Duck Scratch

Oh, and ducks, of course. Always there are ducks doing duck things. Strange but cute. They often make us laugh.

Bobtail Grackle - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Bobtailed Grackle Dance

A bob-tailed Grackle doing a skip-hop prance across the grass. Two steps forward and an errant one stiff-legged back step every once in a while. Too cool. Weather pleasant, gray clouds overhead blocking the sun. No rain, but temporary relief. Only up to the mid 90s these days.

The Pattern of Little Feet - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

The Pattern of Little Feet

I wrenched my ankle yesterday, so I didn't walk at the lake. Could barely walk around the house. I was ginger with it today, so we didn't go far. Tomorrow maybe.

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July 24

Great Blue Heron on the Far Side - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Great Blue Heron Flying
Halfway to the Yacht Club

We count herons when we walk. This morning, we counted a new record of 9 herons in 1 place at 1 time. Nine. Including Black-crowned adults and juveniles, Great Blues and Little Blues, too — all while carefully excluding Egrets, which we also saw. We couldn't see all the herons at once. Several flew into the trees. But we counted nine.

Ducks Landing - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rgihts Reserved.

Ducks Landing

Only 216 shots. With a higher % of keepers (90) but those include long series of various birds flapping at slow shutter speeds, because I kept leaving the shutter where I had it steadied on a bridge rail, then picking it up at the last second and clicking away at another fleeting bird.

Never would have happened with my tiny (comparatively) Sony F707 or one of those Prosumer point-and-shoots with a 12:1 zoom that I still lust after, because I'd see each shot as it happened on the EVF.

LIttle Blue at Bent Bridge - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Little Blue Heron
Flying Near Bent Bridge

Single Lens Reflexes, however, don't give visual hints. I could bang away without a clue it's too slow, too dark, too bright, whatever. Had a lot of those today. Guess I got used to plenty sunlight in the Valley. Yada yada.

It's been cool these mornings back in El Norte. Still nice on my front porch near noon. I run the AC the rest of the day, but early ayem's have been lovely lately.

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July 23

Egret Wet Take-off - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Egret Wet Take-off

Welcoming myself back to White Rock Lake I shot 364 photographs. Most of which were out of focus. Pretty much like I was, I suppose, still snag-lagged from the drive north. Still, I managed a few sharp shots worth keeping — 17, to be exact.

Love Bird Fest - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Love (bird) Fest

Along the way, I saw a remarkable spectrum of birds — Little Blue, Black-crowned and juvenile Black-crowned herons, strange egrets, one Killdeer, a jillion European Starlings and a mess of Green Monk Parakeets in the tower where they live.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

It was nice being back, and though I thought I might be a little bored with the same old birds, I keep discovering more birds, new birds and new understandings of the same old birds.

Left Leaning Egret - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Like, just for an instance, this very left leaning bird of the Great Egret persuasion. What is it down to? Why the lean? More mysteries to discover, but slowly.
 

See The Birds (and more) of the Rio Grande Valley July 13 - 21.

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Keet Nests - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

keet nests deep
in dangerous hum

Parakeets again, this time we visited their lair in the electric substation. I'd heard and read about special platforms the electric company (back when we only had one) put in place, so the 'keets wouldn't nest on the dangerous devices themselves, but they're right there now. The whole area hums loudly. Comforting, I suppose, for some species.

The keets trek across the pump house area, over to the boat house, TP Hill and beyond is a morning ritual, between 6 and 7 ayem.

Angle Iron Keets - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Angle Iron Keets

Noticed the work of sign-pullers this ayem. Too many people think it's okay to plant commercial signs in this City Park. Exploding them may be extreme, but pulling them down is acceptable behavior in this noncommercial expanse.

Also saw — briefly — the invisibuh wabbit, and photographed one bright red cardinal in a tree near the silly Solar Plaza that does look like the people in the big house across the road must have built it, as a fellow hiker noted.

The big binocs there for a couple months are long gone, so not that much observing goes on. The City plans more of these architecturally wacky intrusions, including one, apparently, in the middle of Sunset Bay where there's no human access. I assume those will be likewise dealt with, till all that's left is an ugly splat of concrete and more million$ of waste.

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July 11

Eeg Nose Splash - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Eeg Fish Splash

One wily Great Egret fishing among the ducks at Sunset Bay was my big photo op today. At first it seemed every couple steps netted it another fish.

Eeg Fish Pull - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Eeg Fish Pull

After watching closely, I knew any change of direction led directly to a head uncoiling, beak into the water splash. And out came another glistening fish. Most consistently successful egret fishing I've seen.

Sexy Steppin' Egret - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.
Fat Neck Eeg - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Egret with neck scar

A half dozen more, and I learned it wasn't till the food was in their beak that egrets puff out throat and neck to swallow it. The difference from slender to stovepipe is amazing.

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July 10

Today's flyover was Green Monk Parakeets. I'd seen glimpses of their green before. Especially around what used to be called Parrot Bay, now more or less officially titled Lilly Pad Bay. But this was our best view ever.

Green Keets - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

We first heard their noisy clatter along the north side of TP Hill. Squawking and screaming in shrill tree to tree call and response. When we looked into it, they landed en masse on the ground, where I got the only good photos, although I kept shooting as they gathered in tree after tree,  hop-scotching over to the boat house and the Pump House Square beyond.

In the trees over the Boat House, they paired close. Not for nothing are they called Love Birds.

Barn Swallows? - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Barn Swallows? - We couldn't get close enough
to i.d them but flocks of them filled the sky.

Can you tell I found an extremely detailed map of the lake (tree by tree, yet). It's future plans, not a current map, but it's beautiful — and big (1.1 megabyte download) from The City.

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July 9

40 or more egrets gathered on and under the dam in the White Rock Lake Spillway early this morning during the run of yet another race that blocked off access to Lawther to the Boat House, where I really wanted to go this early Sunday Morning.

18 Eegrets & 1 heron - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

18 Egrets and 1 Heron on
the Dam — Lots more below

I quickly settled for the Spillway when I saw all those white birds in a row and again felt sad that the City is taking its own sweet time repairing the portion of the spillway overlook that went downstream with spring's biggest flood.

Egret Flying By - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Egret Flying Out to Look for Fish

Now, that whole area, including the parking lot and along-the-edge sidewalk is fenced off with big Keep Out signs and major gaps in the wall and fence along the edge of the best bird photographing perch on the lake.

Black-crown Alighting - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Black-crowned Night Heron
Alighting on the Dam

Not much action under the walking bridge at the bottom of the spillway, so I stood along the fence at the top of the hill near the water fountain and shot nearly three hundred frames of egrets, catching fish, flying around and fighting among themselves for fishing territory; one Black-crowned Night Heron and a female flycatcher in the tree just north of there.

I didn't really want to walk, I just wanted to see what was happening at the lake, and the answer was egrets.

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July 3

Invisible Yellow-crown - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

nearly invisible Yellow-crowned
Night Heron among the reeds

Raining, so instead of driving north in it to continue the White Rock Creek Trail, I settled for a walk from the Boat House around Parrot Bay to Tilly's Point (directly across the lake from the Bath House; I think it's Tilly. They name things without telling anybody, no real procedure, no standards.) and back. I saw several egrets, a couple in trees (new phenomena to me; maybe they do that in hot summer too cool off) and one leap-frogged me around the bend.

Broken Redwing - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

broken Red-winged Blackbird

Managed to pull one Yellow-crowned Night Heron from invisibility among the reeds at Parrot; watched a Red-wing Blackbird with a broken wing; a lone Cattle Egret fly across the lake, a Great Egret swallow a fish it'd flown to shore; pass a guy with a caged dog barking while his pickup blasted noxious rock; seemed to take forever to escape the audio wash.

Cattle Egret Flying - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Cattle Egret flying

Nice to be back at the lake. A real breeze, only splatters of rain. A plastic grocery bag kept the Nikon dry. Cool. The sun dramatically parting the clouds. And more people than most Monday ayems but nothing like a Satty or Sunny.

See Walking the White Rock Creek Trail

<< More birds & bird stories on the June, August, September, October and whatever this month is
Birder's Journals — and our walking journey north along The White Rock Trail.
 >>

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All text and photographs
copyright 2006 by J R Compton.
All Rights Reserved.

No reproduction without
specific written permission.