June 30 2008
Don't have all the kinks worked out yet, but I've begun experimentation with my newish duper super Nikon Flash unit today after work (Sometime today, they announced an even newer flash...). As we will see shortly, I had nearly no notion of what I was doing. These are my first-ever shots of birds using any flash but the one built into my camera. Not bad for starts. I usually eschew flash, rarely even remember I have the built-in, bought this to photograph night herons in the night, but have not yet.
Same bird, an adult Killdeer. One of maybe a half dozen running and flying around the Boat House and adjacent lagoon peeping loudly as if looking for something. Seeking something or some one. A needfull cry. Loud and of a single plaintive note. Peep.
Nice to be able to capture them more or less irregardless of the light and shade they were in and out of. It seemed to help immensely that they were fairly close. Maybe 25 feet. Maybe more. I'd hoped my camera would remember that data. It doesn't. EXIF (might stand for exposure Information File) did note: "Return light detected," meaning I think that the flash exposure was measured and somewhat successful. I don't know how far out that occurs.
Return light detected again. Either the overall exposure or the flash considerably overexposed the grass and the dirt in the background. But the bird is beautiful, with all the feather and claw details sparkling. Only the tail blurs into darkness. All those luscious details were a tad soft to start with my camera sharpness set at normal or zero, whichever obtains. Then it sharpened up nicely when I Smart Sharpened this JPEG image.
Hard to say if this image is the better for having been shot with a flash, but the Return light [was] detected. The glint in the Killdeer's eye shows it found my subject. I think it helped fill in the shadows, but I don't think there's any visual proof.
In every case today, I set the flash to undexpose by at least 2/3 to a full stop. I didn't want the exposures to be flash exposure. I wanted the flash to fill in, not take over. Seems to do that superbly, although it's difficult to tell the exact effect when the subject was running as fast as it was. If it would have held still and posed, I might have made comparison shots.
I wasn't chasing it when this killdeer started running away, and it was too bright out to see whether my exposures were anywhere near right in the big LCD on the camera back. It's nearly useless in sunlight this bright. Exposure was close to perfect, however, and EXIF reports that it perceive a bounce back of flash, so there's some flash exposure here.
I'd hoped EXIF would remember the rest of my settings, but I started with an ISO of 400, which, if anything, is a bit high. It is not the ideal normal "film" speed I read early in my ownership of the D200 that it was. This shot is f/22, which is more closed down that I would have set if I'd known what I was doing. I still don't know what I was or should be doing. Guess I gotta read the manual. Us Macintosh users get out of that habit early and often.
This one was definitely overexposed. Took Photoshop magic to bring it back this far and darken it up. But there's no bringing back detail not present at exposure. It's not an awful shot. In fact, I like it. It has nice feeling of motion, both in background, which swirls by, and in the bird's fluffy luxury of feathers. I suspect I might have done better with a shutter speed higher than 1/125th, now think that may be the upper level of synchronized shutter speed for flash (Nope. 1/250th is). Manual hunting may reveal answers, but I tend to believe working with the darned thing helps more.
All the time I was flashing along with this GBH, I was wishing I could just shoot it with normal everything. So comparatively close here. Egrets don't seem to care, but Great Blues are shyer.
Last shot. Almost sharp. Almost well exposed. Almost ready to try again. Later
Played a hunch this afternoon. Had never seen a Green Heron where I saw this one, but I knew they'd like the area, because they like a lot of similar places with a lot of reeds. When I first walked around it, I saw what I perceived to be a middle-sized gray wing flap in the green, perhaps turning over to hide in the reeds from the marauding stranger with not nearly long enough a zoom, yet.
I'm assuming it had eaten something that left white smirtch on the pointy end of its beak. Turtles are green, right? Almost as green as Green Herons if we can believe our eyes. Sometimes we can. Often not.
Eventually, it disappeared into the dense reeds although I could a bit of moving red-brown a couple more times before it was all the way gone.
I had not seen this fishing (I assume) technique before. Two smallish egrets — I saw orange feet only when I got it this big — whipping around out there like barnswallows chasing bugs. This shot is as close as I got today to figure out what they were doing out there.
No more clues here, but at least the bird is closer.
Little while later I saw this egret hiding in the reeds along the edge of the lae. It stayed and posed awhile. Then ...
It jumped into the air — though not very far up into it — and flapped right by where I stood. First time in awhile I've got an egret flyby in focus.
Nice wih the sun behind it.
I guess I haven't spent nearly enough time in the last couple months learning birds that might perch on a wire over my head, huh? And people keep sending me descriptions of birds they haven't identified, expecting me to, I suppose. That's funny.
When I saw this fly over, I knew it was almost big enough to focus on and that it was probably a heron of some sort, Great Blue, Black- or Yellow-crowned Night-Heron maybe even Little Blue Heron, I did not know. I just thought — hoped — it was a heron. I like herons to fly me over. Coulda been one of the smaller egrets silhouetted against the gray sky, rendered almost black.
Both these photographs are enhanced. I added a vaguely lilac sky to this one and not nearly enough of any color to the first one that started out charcoal on dark gray, which was more subtly "adjusted." I lightened both bodies — of the same bird — to make markings lighter — unnaturally so. Only then did I realize this might be my first Green Heron of the summer.
Less sure of tse horizontal stripes at the upper and middle breast, but that uppermost one right about where a chin would be if herons had chins — that looks like a big leering grin — looks unlike any other heron I know except the exotic Green Herons I love both stupidly and ignorantly and love to photograph. They're elusive enough I don't often get the chance, but I'm eager to learn more about them, which I can only do by watching them. When I watch, I photograph. So I'll remember, and show you.
Some of my previous Green Heron sightings include June 2007 (Scroll down to June 10 pm.) and my most extended sighting of one Green Heron on September 7 2007 (Scroll about 3/4 down that page.) There's also some outtakes from some shoot at the lake on the Feedback page.
I've panned along with perhaps hundreds of keets in my short exciting life as a birder. This is one of the fewest of the few times when I almost got them in focus and sorta kinda closish. I did not get them in bright daylight but instead in setting sun light — photographers call it "available darkness," in which they appear redder than blue or yellow or green, their usual colors, and the rest almost rendered black black and black, but they are almost in focus.
Must probably be one of the shorter varieties. Legs don't hang back as long and necks seem to be shorter. These are almost in focus but in earlier light, so they're almost the right colorlessness (white).
Didn't get to the lake till late — well past 8. What I found were few wild birds, a lot of gorgeous clouds coming in with the front, and a delicious wind that blew cool. Always nice in what most North Americans call mid-summer, even if it's only officially into this new season less than a week now. When it's 97 and 98 degrees F out, it's summer.
Gooses in Sunset Bay are generally easy to find, so I found some. They were doing the usual goosish things, pretending they're swans and
flapping their little wings.
If they have any. Some don't have much. Yet.
Ducks swim in open formation, dunking under for sustenance, then tipping back to swallow.
But the most interesting thing in the air tonight was clouds. Big juicy, rain-bearing clouds shaped like anything your imagination could dream up.
Which may have been a later manifestation of the same object.
Small but also fascinating.
I've been doing important, involving and even fun stuff in the daylights, and only getting to the lake late lately, so there's not much light. After July 7, that situation should improve significantly. If no little dark clouds bump into view over the horizon.
Don't think I've ever gone all arty in this journal before. But I got this image that intrigued me that was just not gonna make it as a normal photograph — way too dark in the interior of it. Had some shadows, some highlights, and nothing in the background but a few horizontal lines. I had to doctor it, but I was fascinated with the feathers being like they are. Once I lightened the middle, Eventually, brightening this or that, I realized it was a bird head in there, probably with its beak messing with feathers, what they always do.
I'm pretty sure it was a grackle.
I gave me permission to do the artsy dance, because today was Summer Solstice. I celebrated it at White Rock with a bunch of other nature-loving pagans — and resting. A Few sweaty hours dancing on the grass and many more than that staying in bed listening to CDs I'd never heard all the way through before. Lotta Townes Van Zandt and Beethoven. This is the only art-related event I engaged in today. The rest of the last month I've thought of not much else. Vacations in this new age of zigged-out expensive gas may be heading inward. I just stayed in there rattling around most of today, then went out and rattled around to drums, then ran to AC comfort..
Happy summer, ya'all.
The rest of today's journal entry are more reality-based photographs. Like this one. Another lucky shot with no notion that I could ever get it, nor that I really did. I figured I'd go back later and delete an empty blur. Not necessary, for a change
A little less sharp this time. If I could have got it any more times, they would each successively been in worse focus.
I've wasted a lot of hard drive space on flimsy attempts to photograph Killdeer. Nice for a big change to get one in focus and not have to pop it forty times to get one. Must be the fact that the sun appears to stand still on solstice (which literally means sol stands still) today. Right?
This one wasn't quite as sharp, but closer. Not this close, of course, but some closer. A little over-exposed. Sun needs to move off a little. Maybe tomorrow.
A lovely quality to these guys' summer garb, eh? Mallards' summer molt, I guess. Or a shade of it. Very classy. I'm thinking Cary Grant in white shoes.
Woodward J Wood Duck.
This is the first of what I hope will be a summer full of Black-cronwed and Yellow Night-herons. Greens, too. I keep thinking Green Heron thoughts. Haven't seen one yet, but they're due.
At least I think it's a grackle. That bird confuses me more often than any other bird. You'd think I'd a caught on by now. But nope.
Speaking of which, this is a grackle. Those green balls on that tree above are new this week.
Could well be that same GBH again. I suspect there's maybe five in all of White Rock Lake. I've seen as many as three romping together. But not for long. Mostly I just see one alone. This one flew away croaking gripes when I got just a little closer, hoping for more detail and maybe a little fuzz. No such luck.
Barn Swallows resting — mouth open in this case means they're literally panting — cooling off — after a zillion sorties over the water to catch bugs. Check out the second one from the left.
In that photo, I like this guy the best. Shows a spark of life, looking almost back over its shoulder. Panting like the rest of them, but a bit of light detail in the darkness of back and wing. Nice light white legging in the dark shadow, also.
Birders don't have to get anything in focus except thoughts, so they don't have to get any closer than they were when they first spied the bird. Ernest, bird-loving photogs need closeness — or a big, expensive lens — to get the detail. It's not fair to the birds. The world should provide me with a fat expensive lens. A local museum wants me to donate my pictures for their honor and glory, and I want to be able to afford a thousand-dollar 150-500mm Sigma zoom lens with image stabilization and a 1.4 X optional extra cost telextender.
It was mostly engaged in preening, which is probably the why of the beak pointing directly down. I waited till it turned its head to the side — usually with beak horizontal — before I shot photos, so it looked more or less normal and realistic. Even in this arty ripple.
One of the more disturbing things I've learned about art photos as a fine art photographer, is that jurors (We don't usually call them judges, unless we're not serious about art.) prefer photographs that look like paintings. The more they look like paintings, the more likely jurors jurr our work into exhibitions. This one might have half a chance. It's purrrrtteee.
More feather display getting ole J R excited again. My best guess is an Eastern Kingbird flying that-away.
Took awhile just to figure out which way this was flying. I guess it could be a Barn Swallow. That may be the most likely critter. But I'm just not sure. Color me Amateur.
And no, there isn't any such bird as a Blue-mouthed Cormorant. I don't know where the blue comes from. Maybe they all have blue oral interiors. I hate to repeat the line, but I don't see it in any of my books. More I don't know about birds. Brandt's Cormorants who hang out on the Coast of California have blue-ish beaks, but that's not what this is. This corm's eyes are blue and inside its mouth is, with a little more blue at the other end, just under its blue eyes.
I do, however, have some notion of why it looks displeased. If I had a tangle of thick string dangling fishing line weights around with me everywhere I went that was always getting jumbled in my wings and was stuck in the corner of my beak, I'd do just about anything to get free of it.
While I watched, it shook its wings, flapped them, twisted around, ducked down, turned around. Looked like it was dancing at first. I didn't catch on to the muddle of string till I got the pictures, all together now, up on my monitor.
Catching one little duck was a booger. I can't even imagine catching a cormorant. Only thing I can see that could be done is for folks in canoes and kayaks to cut lines off trees and out from under water when they see them tangled there. I've only done a little paddling at this lake, and I remember seeing several. Wish I knew then what I think I know now.
The cormorant photos are crooked, because that's the only way I could get them to hold still propped on top of one of the rounded-top piers on the Sunset Bay pier. I kinda like the jaunty angle, though you can easily see how crooked these shots really are. I straightened the GBH below, so the house wouldn't fall into the lake.
One good description of cormorants online were the Animal Diversity Web's Double-crested Cormorant page(s), where I learned corm's eyes are usually blue. But I couldn't find info about the oral blue.
I don't even know if it's a him or a her. Whether it is the same or progeny or a sib. But I keep seeing just one GBH out on the logs — this time with a very large turtle on the parallel log to the right. Have been seeing it or another very like it for several years now. So I asked the internet. Never knew before that GeoCities did anything useful.
GBHs have been known to live up to 23 years, so this one could very well be the same one I've been watching in years past, that I once photographed flying directly over (third photo down) me while I stood in the thick meadow between Sunset and those apartments. But it doesn't look all that old, huh?
I also learned from that same site that they eat: "fish, frogs, salamanders, snakes, small mammals, land insects, birds, and some plants. One study showed their diet consisted of 71.55% fish, 8.15% insects, 8.91% crustaceans, 4.25% amphibians and reptiles, 4.66% mice and shrews, and 2.48% miscellaneous animal and plant matter. Another study found 75.83% fish, 1.67% aquatic beetles, and 22.50% aquatic plants (Palmer 1962)."
After the end of this month, the longer telephoto I and millions of birders like me will finally find out whether the Sigma 150-500mm telephoto zoom with Image Stabilization, though they probably call it something else, will finally materialize. Rich idiots who have to have the very latest thing will snap them up. Then they'll discover some serious flaws — and if the IQ (image quality) is worth all the trouble and if it's really hand-holdable. Sigma will fix those. Then the price will come down a little, and some online places I trust to test lenses will do that to this one, and then they'll run out of them, then they'll make a bunch more, and I'll get one.
All that waiting could fetch me a wondrous new lens with amazing IQ that everybody loves. Or it could bring another bomb. I'm hoping. Sigma's not a rip-off brand. It's possible. We'll see. Said lens will also come with some dedicated tele-extenders to make it even more telephoto. It's important to have dreams. I've bought lenses that cost more.
The tyke on the right has very different markings from the duckling on the left. Male and female beginning to show their growing months' markings?
Most of the coots have flown off somewhere norther and wester. But there's a spare few wandering around doing coot things. I hadn't bothered to photograph one in a long time. So here it is.
Some days aren't diamonds, and they're not rust either. Sometimes it's just cool out, been raining and seems like a great time to visit the lake, even if I'm really too busy to do as much walking as I'd like, or it's strangely unlikely I'll find anything exotic to photograph. This guy could be exotic. Could be utterly ordinary.
Guess I'll have to refer readers to the big A-word at the top of this page again. Color me Mr. Amateur. Looks like a gawky teenager who hasn't quite grown into its beak or its stripes yet. Sparrow, Bunting or Gros beak. It looks like something not fully formed. Out in the weeds neer Winfrey. Not close enough and too skittish for me to get close enough with my telephoto for more details. I like its short tail, big eyes, brown cheeks, big blunt bill and jaunty attitude. Looks a lot like a dinosaur, which they all are, of course.
I looked through my bird books for the first time in awhile. Felt comfortable, in not successful. Especially Sibley's Guide to Birds and the Lone Pine Birds of Texas. The former because he shows juveniles and everybody else, and the latter because the illustrations are big. Like any birder, especially us amateurs, I always want it to be something rare and wonderful. Like real life, it's probably not.
I found this happy couple — I know I shouldn't project human emotions on birds. The scientists frown on that peculiarly human behavior, as do I. But I was up near that apartment building that overlooks Winfrey hoping to find the slightly less shy House Sparrows that I saw last week taking dust baths. Today was probably too wet for that, but these guys didn't fly off as soon as I turned in to that circle by the rows of trees higher on the road up to Barbec's and Garland Road. I'm fond of sparrows now, especially dust bathing ones, though I used to dismiss them as LBBs. Little brown birds beneath my dignity. As if I ever had any of that.
I use that "teen" word advisedly. I know neither these nor the gawky young bird at the top of today's entry have been around for more than the twelve years it takes humans to attain teen-agedness. But they're gawky like teenaged humans. There I go anthropomorphizing again. I could barely see them from the pier where I stood to take this photo. Their spectacles marked them as intellectuals, but that brush on the back of their heads gave them an akward look. I wasn't sure what I was seeing. My telephoto can see farther than I can, and sharper.
This is what their Daddy probably looked like. Maybe without the mottled front underside, but that's what that flaring on the back of their heads may be trying to become. If they're male. I'm just not sure. Looks like, though. Wood Ducks are common enough here, but they're so handsome and/or beautiful it's difficult to call them ordinary.
Again, too far and either it was or I was moving too much when I shot this, but another stripey-fronted LBB, this time with a long, thin, dark brown beak and a bit of a white circle around the back of its eye. Should be distinctive enough if this birder was worth my salt as an identifyer. Always seems so strange to know with certainty how bad I am identifying birds I actually get in focus, when people send me descriptions expecting me to know who they are.
You know I'm pulling out straws when I photograph doves. They're attractive in their own distinctive ways. I love that they squeak every time they flap their wings. Red eyes, striped folded wings. What's not to like? Not even as common nor as disliked by most humans as grackles.
Which inevitably brings us back to pigeons. I like pigeons. I like chickens and all sorts of birds. I held a chicken in my arms for about thirty minutes at a friend's birthday party recently, though I've never held a live pigeon. Would worry about that, though I didn't worry about that with the chicken, who was very well behaved. Her name was Teeny Weenie.
Pigeons fly in big circles every time they take off, because they never know where they are untill they fly in a big circle. Then sometimes they do it again and again, for the same reason. This is a bunch of them doing that.
Been being way too busy tracking down artists and writing about my visits with them for a show that starts July 5 to stay caught up with birds lately. Wish I could, but I find I'm either crashing or burning with the spirit of writing most of the time. I long to do that with birds again. Will get that major chance next month, when the art show's finally up.
Today's entry is post-dated from my last visit to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation. This specific bunch were all taken with my little camera. Not the Nikon but a Canon S5 IS, whose tiny lens is easier to stick between the wires of cages, although the caged birds here are soft with me shooting right into grids of greenish metal.
Their color is probably somewhere between the brownish purple of the 7 owls and the gray of the 1, which is one of the 7. But when I adjust the purple it goes green, and I know they weren't green, though the cage might have been.
Anna says Rogers said they were Screech Owls. But they don't look like the pictures in Sibley's, National Geo or Birds of Texas.
It's late, and I'm having more trouble than usual getting my brain to work at identifying birds. This guy looks like a Red-tailed Hawk, but I want every hawk to be a Red-tailed. Its feathers seem awry, and it looked decidedly wan. Sad.
I carefully scanned all the hawks in three books for that big hooked beak, but none of the pictures I saw seemed to match. Feather colors and formats seem to be of the Red-tailed variety. What do I know. The biggest word on this page is "Amateur." Believe it.
And now a word from our other national bird. Supposedly Ben Franklin wanted them to be that, but he was up to a lot of shenanigans. I still think it must have been a joke. These guys move around like a parade float or a fluffed petticoat grand dame. Reach for one, and it withdraws, like melting away from my hand. Strange, ugly beautiful critters.
Drippy noses and fluffy everything but the wattle. I'd seen pictures, but never before experienced the real thing. Weird creatures. Must be from around here, though being at Rogers doesn't necessarily indicate they're Texas domestics.
When they open the gates, this mostly fluffy parade comes trotting out. Strange beings, birds.
Today's journal entry — it turned out (It almost always turns out. I almost never know from one day to the next what tomorrow's birding brings — turned out to be largely, but not entirely, about birds flying. By now you know I tend to photograph any bird that flies by that I have even the faintest chance to get in focus.
Or almost in focus.
I was thinking about presenting these images without words.
I had no idea the shot I made as this speedy little birdie flew by. I assumed it would never show, because so often the first tries at one flying by, I never even get the bird in the frame. This one was in the frame. Not this frame, but a larger one. But with some detail. Maybe more art than science. But it's recognizable.
At least when I was photographing them — paying more attention to focus and composition than who they were — I assumed they were female grackles. They actually seemed to be playing in the ebb and flow of the water at the edge of the lake. Only when I got the images — remarkably sharp, because they let me get fairly close for a lot of shots before I finally got too close, and they flew off — here on this page, did I realize they have spotty fronts. None of my books show female grackles with striations or spots on their fronts and undersides.
No two- or three-tone feather colors front to back, either. So what are they? Nobody else has those noses and anything like brown bodies. Must be their spotty summer molt.
Speaking of brown birds, how 'bout these Wood Ducks?
Every one of a dozen times I've driven by the Spillway lately, I've sneaked second-or-two looks out there and seen dozens of egrets fishing. Apparently catching, too, since they keep coming back nearly every day.
Today, finally, I stopped and brought my zoom and stuck me between the fences near the water fountain where the bicyclers start their kamikaze dives down the roller coaster walkway to the walking bridge and its subsequent right angle turn.
Fun and games for them. Murder for walkers and slow-witted photographers whose minds are tunneled into their longest lens on birds "out there" not who's hogging the sidewalks.
Thought it was just egrets — the big Great Egrets — and the littler Snowy Egrets. Although, as you can see, there's egrets of several sizes out there in the rip current over the dam with all them little fishies.
Lot more than just the egrets I thought I saw out there, species alone.
Little Blue Herons, Black-capped Night-Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and some errant ducks had all joined the frey. Quite an active and ecumenical little party going on out there in the life of summer..
My favorite character in this mob were the Little Blue Herons, one brave one of which separated from the crowd to go find fishies it wouldn't have to share. Came remarkably close to my high perch. I could not, however, get it to turn all the way around, so its body would be in the sunlight. Instead I got this semi-silhouette and
This nearly full shadow silhouette of my pal, the gallivanting Little Blue.
They had all colors. Absurd colors. Jailed little birds. I wanted to let them out in short bursts of mutated color. I was driving down Arapaho Road and saw a sign, "Exotic Bird Fair." I doubted it, but paid $4 after the guy said I could take photographs. They stamped my hand, I went in, wasn't all that surprised it stunk in there, peeyuuu!
I didn't want to know who these guys were. They'd never get to fly in big circles over the house, over the world. They'd never get to perch in a tree or saw one down to build huge communities in the humming electronics of an electrical substation. These guys were doomed for cage life till they died.
They all looked like they were perfectly ordinary bird birds that'd been dipped in vats of dyes like Easter eggs, hung upside down to dry, then freed into the close comfort of three meals a day and a clean cage every Sunday. I pitied them deeply, even though I know people learn a lot about birds by keeping them jailed in our homes.
What's the rule for how many parakeets can get crammed into one small cage? Are there rules? The only rule I saw at the Exotic (?) Bird Fair was "No Photographs," which I was told was to protect the Fair from the SPCA. Or was it PITA? "In case we need a reason to throw them out," the boss who decided I could go in and photograph, told me.
Need so much larger cages to get the birds inside in focus and the wires of the cages out, but I tried and tried for these colorful little critters. Several varieties, of course. Hardly not any signs telling us curious attenders of the Exotic Bird Fair what we were looking at. But price tags a plenty. I didn't pay any attention to those, would hate keeping a captive dinosaur in my home, especially with my home-bound cat who still thinks of himself as a mighty hunter.
At first, I thought these little blue and greenies were ganging up on the little one in the middle and pecking on it. Picking? Then it looked like they were sharing food or sharing tongues. Or something. It looked like food.
Cute little critters, huh? Love their nearly bald little bodies, huddling together for warmth in that big stinky cold room. But aren't they cute in their patchy stiff little clumps of featherlets.
Sure enough. Much better luck today. So much better, I can't use all of today's shots today. Lights went out in my neighborhood for about three hours tonight. The same three hours I usually devote to this page and the day's photographs. And tomorrow's already shaping up to be a booger.
Lucky for me these shots turned out so darned good. The Great Blue Heron I panned along with as he flew up the creek at Sunset Bay today is the reason I pan along with all those birds I shoot every day. Usually what I get is silly blurs. Once in a Blue Moon, something really startling comes of it. Like this.
All the other forty or so shots of it flying away are more blur than bird. This one is good. So nice, some day someone will write to me and ask if I let people use my photographs for their ventures for free. No, I don't. There's a nice, long, expensive, telephoto lens I've been saving up for and that should start getting reviewed soon. If it's as good as everybody hopes, I'll buy it. And to do that, I'll need money. Seems like the best way is to sell some photographs.
This GBH, BTW, is very likely the same one who's been hanging out in Sunset for the last several years. When I saw it, out across the bay way too far to photograph with my puny 300mm zoom, I thought, "welcome back, old friend and adversary." I think he knew, from way out in the bay, that I was photographing him again, and that's why he winged out. I don't often, but today I got 'im good. He's a wary bird.
Another big, beautiful bird hunting (fishing) in the creek were a bunch of Great Egrets and one Snowy Egret. This is one of the Greats. This close with this good lighting, I had to photograph it, and even managed to get a couple, not-quite-so-clichéd shots, for a change. Much better luck.
While he was out there fishing, and I was clickety-clicking along, suddenly a big gust of wind blew up the creek and actually knocked the egret down. I was amazed, had it on exposure bracket, so 2/3s of the shots were too light, but this one is awful close to the height — er, lowth — of the action. Never saw the wind blow down a bird before. Beautiful. The egret got up immediately, no damage done.
Hiding out in a clump of weeds at the end of a long thin island. Looking for something to eat and hoping what's to eat doesn't see it first.
Okay, one more egret picture, then we'll get down to brash gracks. A fairly unusual flying position for me to catch. Just enough blur in the background to show this bird is moving. Wings sharp, long black legs and feet nearly ablur. Beak open, probably because, despite the wicked winds, it was 90-something degrees hot today in Dallas.
Everybody knows grackles are black. But if you're lucky and get them in just the wrong light, the blue that's there but so dark we normally don't see it, comes out and shines.
Its beauty is just one of the reasons I love grackles. Another is probably that everybody else doesn't.
Really thought I was onto something today when I discovered these speedy little birds flying time and space distorted figure 8s over the grass meadows on the other side of Lawther across from Parrot Bay. Because I got a precious few shots almost in focus, I assumed I'd got a lot more, and kept shooting against nearly impossible odds.
Barn Swallow, I thought Purple Martins, some little brown birds I had no idea what were. All flying by me at high speed.
Following these guys was great fun, although my success rate (if you can call it that) never climbed much over 3%. I shot 291 shots. I threw the vast majority of them out. Most of what I deleted were pans of grass. No birds in sight.
Of all those mostly rapid-fire chuga-chuga firing, not a single shot was sharp. Not one. The Universe teaching me about humility, I suppose. Then, too, I need a low success day every once in a while, to help support the higher averages of much better shots.
Those here that look like they're in focus are tricks. On me.
It was grand fun. It gave me a reason to be out in the sunlight soaking up my daily dose of Vitamin D. And...
And it gives me renewed incentive to cull back through the Rogers Wildlife Rehab shots.
We visited Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation in Hutchins again this morning. Morning, so it wouldn't be as hot as say, afternoon. This photograph first, because it shows a peculiarly caged bird activity that only may possibly be seen in the wild if there's a cage out there. Note the feet up high on its breast, feathers splattered against the cage wire holding the bird up and in place.
All of which made this American Kestrel much easier to focus sharp, because so much of the bird is right up against the grid. I suppose it would be possible for a kestrel to land like hat in brambles, but it seems likely this is a peculiarly caged-bird adaptation.
Red, white & blue — America's colors. No wonder Ben wanted turkeys to be our national bird. One site defines turkeys as "large birds with dark plumage, bare heads and red wattles." Guess this must be one of those. Were lots of varieties of turkeys at Rogers today. Were probably last time we visited there, too, but we didn't get close then. Today, they followed us around like parade floats, shifting down and away every time we reached out to touch.
These shots are the first of the best of the shots I've seen so far. There's two other memory cards of images I haven't even looked at yet, so expect more in the coming days, weeks. Last visit, I missed the pea cock's display. Saw several today, but none in bright sunlight.
Pea cock. No display.
In the heron cage, lots of flapping, strutting,
fighting going on. Here, briefly, these three are standing still and not
messing with each other.
text and photographs copyright 2008 by J R Compton.
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without
specific written permission from the writer or photographer.
Thanks always to Anna.