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White Rock Lake
That's right. Green Herons aren't green. They're more red, but then Great Blue Herons are gray and Little Blue Herons are nearly black, unless either is in the shade, illuminated by the blue sky overhead. I have seen green Green Herons, but usually they're red. Though rarely this red. In fact, this red Green Heron is illuminated by the red red rising sun, so its even more red than most green herons.
Anyway, it flew into Sunset Bay early this morning, and then flew around and over the inner bay three times, with me clicking after it all the way. I was using my last, working Nikon, my elderly D200, not my G2, so I couldn't see the exact exposure (I was seriously underexposing it.) or the focus, which was entirely missing in most of my shots of this heron.
Eventually, it flew off toward the Hidden Creek area. I suspect it didn't want to land in the weeds and reeds on one side or the other of the pier, where I have often seen them looking for food, because there was this photographer down there with a monster big lens pointed at it as it flew all around. I was experimenting with my old camera and the lens I used to call my Rocket Launcher, but now I'm referring to as the Blunderbuss, largely because it's ancient technology and of the nearly three hundred shots I made today, only a very very few of them were sharp. Blunder. Buss.
I don't know whether it was the camera or the lens. I suspect both, working together. Or rather not working together. (I never know whose fault it is. Probably mine.
The other birds of interest this morning were this pair of ducks whose pictures I cannot find in my bird I.D books. Doesn't mean they don't exist, they obviously do exist. I got photographs of them. And they are noticeable. Beautiful, in fact. Just I could not find them.
They may be something specific or something that just happened. A lot of our mixed-species ducks come from Mallards, and these look a little like Mallards.
They might be two females. It could be a pair. I thought they were very pretty, and told them that, and asked where they'd come from, but they pretended they didn't understand my question. They just kept tipping over and finding food down below.
Fort Worth Drying Beds in Arlington
Biodiversity was one of the watchwords for our early morning trip to the Drying Beds. The other might be "Juveniles." We saw lots of both. Here, a White Ibis, Little Blue Heron and an escaping Yellow-crowned Night-Heron all in one frame.
Before it jumped, the yellow-crown looked a lot like this.
White Ibis in the swamp along the entrance road to the drying beds.
Juvenile White Ibis
The first of many many juveniles we saw and photographed today.
Green Heron Hunting
We also saw several Green Herons, although it could have been just one that kept following us all around the pans of water out there.
Morphing Juvenile Little Blue Heron
They hatch white with maybe little bits of dark blue or black at the edges of wings. Then spots appear and grow larger and darker. Eventually, Little Blue Herons become mostly blue all over. This is a transitional stage of its development.
She's the only Wood Duck we saw today, although there were plenty Mallards.
At Least Two Dozen swimming Black-bellied Whistling Ducks being escorted across the water
We first saw the horde being escorted across a body of water by one and two adults. We tried to count. Now I can see at least 25, maybe as many as 29 not-quite-still-downy juveniles in the pack.
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks Walking to Shore
It might be that they were from more than one family. In his Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior, David Allen Sibley says "Cahtartid chicks are altricial" — helpless, naked and blind when hatched. "One parent attends them closely during the fist few weeks."
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, a Killdeer and a Black-necked Stilt
"Black-bellied Whistling Ducklings fledge at eight to 13 weeks …. [and] associate with one or both parents for months after fledgling, flying to and from roost and foraging areas together and being led by adults." See this site's bibliography for more details about that book.
Adult Black-bellied Whistling Ducks in Stealth Mode
Dark, standing very still in the shade of a willow. Waiting, watching. For something.
Like the Little Blue Herons at the bottom of today's journal entry, these birds are just walking in opposite directions. There's no dance or ritual involved.
I think this is the only image of a BIF (bird in flight) I made today that was sharp. Obviously I need more practice. It's a chore to carry the Nikon and the Blunderbuss around — I used to call it the Rocket Launcher, but I'm liking the new name better. An old contraption.
A Retracted Red-eared Slider
I named my white Toyota after this species, examples of which I've often seen sliding near silently into the water at my approach. Only the ker-plunk! of a turtle-sized splash to accent the slide. I wanted to paint The Slider's rear-view mirrors red, so I could easily pick it out from the myriad other white Toyotas in a lot, but I haven't got around to it yet. I also wanted to paint — or have painted — pretty green Red-eared Slider eyes on the front, distinguishing that end from the too-similar others, also. I've been a turtle fan for decades. Always attempt to photograph them, if I have a camera.
More than a Dozen Juvenile Black Vultures
Metal-framed pump rigs dot the landscape at the Fort Worth Drying beds. The roads that perpendicularly frame the beds, crisscross around them. We first thought these black shapes might be crows, but they were not black enough. But what? We drove closer till we could tell who they really were. Anna kept describing them as "cute," and they really were, walking, scrambling, flying short sorties across the frame.
Cute Little Juvenile Black Vultures
For vultures of any kind, they appeared clean — the ones we've seen in action are usually smeared with white scat from their fellows. But I just wasn't sure till Anna sent me this online image who they really were. Now I'm tending to agree with her that they are the Black Vultures I originally identified them as. They sure look like Black Vultures.
Balancing on the Beam with its Wings
They didn't look as if they'd just come from rendering a carcass, however. I think they were out learning how to be Black Vultures like many other newly minted juveniles were learning how to be who they were. They weren't greased over for engagement with something's moist innards. They looked like they were learning to balance and walk and fly. They seemed young and inexperienced.
Cute Little Vultures
Juvenile Black Vultures are dark all over, head and body.
One Adult Turkey Vulture
What confused me was when I saw this adult Turkey Vulture with them. I don't know why an adult Turkey Vulture would be hanging out with juvenile Black Vultures. It seems unlikely, although the TV didn't stay long. Although the distinctions between juvenile Turkey and Black vultures are comparatively subtle. Anna's been for calling them juvie Blacks all along, and now I think she may be right.
Little Blue Heron
We saw at least a dozen Little Blue Herons this morning. More in the swamp along the entrance road than anywhere else, but several were scattered around the pans of water inside the drying beds, too.
Little Blue Heron stretch
I brought both my old Nikon D200 and my much newer Panasonic G2 today, hoping to compare their qualities. But the Nikon usually refused to sharply focus anything, including this bird, stretching wings out, tail up and beak way forward, almost in the water. There may actually be a fish it's just pulled out of the drink, but I like the pose anyway, even if its focus is lost. At least part of my focus problem is that I am no longer familiar with the camera. I'll read my app about it by Ken Rockwell, learn more about D200 focusing issues and practice more.
Three Little Blue Herons and Two White Ibis fishing in the swamp
Two little blues are fairly obvious. The third one is at the transitions between water and plants at the right edge of this image.
Two Little Blue Herons Passing in the Swamp
I was really excited a couple years ago at White Rock Lake when I saw two Little Blue Herons together in one place. Today I saw as many as five fairly close together in the swamp. And to have at least two ibis nearby was even more of a treat. Which way do I point this thing?
White Rock Lake
Pelicans Fishing Closer
Today, I got a lot closer. Or actually, they did. West of the pier in Sunset Bay are some shady trees and benches. Gathered there were some families and screaming children, but the pelicans were after, and finding lots of fish. They were not dissuaded, and they caught a bunch of them as I watched, amazed how close we were.
Close enough for a lot of detail, and overexposed enough — I was playing with full auto mode, and when I tried to go back to my usual full-control, it wouldn't, and I got these amazing shots somewhere in between all that.
Two Beak Views
Different enough from my usual fare, I wish I knew what I did, but that'd be admitting I didn't know what I was doing, which is generally true. Here we see two very different aspects of pelican beaks. One pink and the other translucent golden orange. Wish I knew why either happened, except I know it could easily have been the one on the left with the orange and pink on the one on the right.
Lower Mandible Filled
I think I know about this one, however. This usually happens when a pelican fills up with fish. Or just after, it's hard to tell.
But this is the first time I've ever got a pelican swallowing. I've photographed many different herons swallowing, their throats and necks thickening and held straight..
Strange colors, strangely close, strange
day. Glad I was there, then, in the hot middle of the day, for this.
Seven Pelicans, Framed
Mostly I walked. Shot a few shots of birds, then walked pretty fast till I was winded, by then I'd got back to The Slider and we slid home. Not exciting. Not many interesting birds. Not a lot of sleep last night. So I got more this ayem.
Eight Cormorants and Eight Pelicans
I waited but did not see any of them doing anything more than flapping their wings. Oh, well.
A Western Kingbird almost always greets us at the Fort Worth Drying Beds in Arlington. So I should know these guys on sight. But I looked it up just in case.
That Yellow Bird Flying Away
I think I don't remember if this was the same Kingbird. Not a great shot, I know, vaguely interesting.
Fog Bank with Bird
Cool in the early morning just after 6. Dark with gorgeous wispy banks of fog on unfamiliar landscapes. Hoping, ever hoping, to catch more pelican flying practice, but again, not, this morning.
When they get a mind to cross the road, gooses go, whether there's traffic out there or not. Here, you probably can't hear them, but both all the gooses and the car were honking. But the gooses went right ahead. I think they'd been waiting for somebody to cross in front of. They know better than to mess with bicyclists.
Early Ayem Fishing
I waited and waited for pelicans to fly, but it didn't happen. I shot too many shots of them fishing, but most of those are blurs. I'm thinking I should spend my early time walking, instead of waiting for the emancipated pelicans to do something.
Trees with Fog
I used to specialize in the ephemeral aspects of weather on the lake, but that was before I started with birds a few days more than five years ago. I still like a good fog bank. Here I'm taking The Great Circle Route to Dreyfuss Point.
Where I found two brownish summer Mallards having sex. They were so quiet, I almost tripped over them trying to photograph a noisy woodpecker. Duck sex is peculiar to us humans. I have watch in bemusement as little girls and adults alike were horrified by it. I've seen people throwing rocks and the gooses, protectors of everything holy around Sunset Bay, get so involved in the rough variety of coitus that they break it up completely.
He's had his way with her a couple times already, now he's roughing up her tail. He's already pushed her head down a dozen times with his beak. It looks rough, but I've never seen a female Mallard complain — although I have watched a few of them execute elaborate escape routes, winding around trees, out over the lake, through the reeds, etc. If you see a Mallard male standing on top of a female, he's just had sex and doesn't want to leave.
They're still there. They may just summer over and go back with the big flocks when they leave next April.
The Hammer. Thud-a-thud-thud. And he did not seem to mind me circling the tree below him. Not shy like most woodpeckers, he just kept hammering away.
There are subtle differences between Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers that I cannot discern in these largely unfocused photographs. I'd guess it's a downy, because I've seen more of them than Hairys. But I never know.
Water Over the Dam
Big rain. After none for awhile. We needed it. Etc. Raised the level of the lake, which means hydro power over the dam and down the spillway, and that means major fish spill that same direction.
Two Egrets and a Great Blue Heron
And lots of tall, skinny birds — mostly Great Egrets — lined up along the spillway hoping for fish.
Reef Great Blue Heron
Lots of bird variety, lots of stunning water action. People used to line the rails here before the last 'Hundred Year Flood' took those rails away. Now there's no parking lot for power-hungry people to park at, so there were no crowds today, but plenty water, and lots of birds.
Egret Flies by Great Blue Heron
Plenty of action.
That fabulous sensation — and white noise — of water rushing. And splashing.
I guess they've learned if they space themselves out, they'll waste less time fighting with each other over specific fishing territories.
Spaced Egrets on the Upper Spillway
Just under the dam.
Pelicans at Flood Stage
They stayed out there the longest time — until two dorkish fisher persons in a boat displaced them. Note that with all that water, their log, where they usually perch, was entirely underwater. So was the peninsula.
Just to show that I am not wholly and completely obsessed by those big-beaked white birds in Sunset Bay, here's a gorgeous example of the old wounded Killdeer routine they use to lure unwary photographers and other humans away from nest-full of their babies. I nearly tripped over it trying to get a good perch along the spillway to photograph some … uh … other bird.
Then, just to prove how broken up it was, it flopped over on the other side, and was wounded for again a little white.
I turned right, and the Killdeer headed on down the slope, then jumped into flight, out over the wrought-iron fence, then down into the upper spillway, from whence I heard its — and others' — loud, nearly electronic, peeping for a long, long time.
With the camera still set to stratospheric ISO. Well, at least it's in focus.
Finally figured out where that Eighth American White Pelican goes during the day after flying out of Sunset Bay just after 6 ayem. Driving home on Garland Road I checked out what was on top the dam, and saw this big white bird just standing there, which is why I turned around and parked up in the residential area.. I suspect it's been finding lots of fish near the dam. If I'd tried to catch the Black-crown jump I would have missed it. It was standing on the dam when I started focusing.
Hopping across the water from their downed tree out in the foot-deep or less shallows in the middle of Sunset Bay a couple hours earlier, two pelicans look like they're bound to fly great distances. Hopping two-footed is how pelicans usually take the air, but these pelks really have no idea what they are doing. Or are just plain inept. Or they've been locked in a cage for the past couple years without the ghost of a chance to exorcize or even out into the wind.
Last week I didn't see they even jump puddles. Perhaps thanks to The Eighth Pelican who's flown out of Sunset Bay almost every early morning since the eight pelicans were released a week ago Friday, the other seven pelicans have been inching toward flight. Strengthening winds, even trying them out, more and more every day.
They were hopping, and I was hoping they'd take to their air and gain some real altitude.
But maybe eight inches is as altitudinous as these pelicans managed today. They had a good example, set earlier by Pelican Eight and 3 or 4 others,
But this bird made it about as high as the last one. Maybe ten inches off the surface of the water. Such a Hollywood beginning, and a so-shallow Sunset Bay ending.
Not, I think, The Eighth Pelican, who has only the saw-tooth remnants of a beak fin. So it's one of the other seven, and that's a very hopeful sign. I look forward to photographing the whole flight of them up there swirling around.
Yes, this is one of the eight emancipated pelicans now living in Sunset Bay. I don't know it's other number, however. But I guess it needs one, too.
But this is the one of the Eight pelicans I always consider Number One. Must be the dark head, back of the neck and dappled wings. I've been avoiding naming them, then decided numbers would be more scientific. The Eighth Pelican finally revealed itself today, so here's the first, "Number One." I was a Number One Son. I guess I identify. Something about the Black Sheep, I guess. I've always identified with that identity, too.
The others named so far, are One and Eight, so why not this one be Three? Seems to have a checkerboard-ish set of wing feathers, but I wonder whether it'll look distinctive enough to carry off being Three?
Then again, the one on the right with the boot or is that a sock is Number One. Wonder who it's with? Gives me enough lack of confidence of naming to stop about now.
But it wasn't.
Mallardville. Nice that I got the big (comparatively, nothing like the heft of a pelican) white one in focus. I'm always a little surprised when that happens. Not exactly elegant, and a little scrawny, too.
Eight Pelicans Fishing
As the day wore on, and the light increased, I decreased my ISO, one bump at a time, bringing the visual noise (grain) down, the sharpness up and the colors more "natural." Yesterday's entry included the flying shots. Once this up, up and away sequence is over, the rest of this entry is a little more about better light, with some closer-ups of the pelicans. All eight of them. The back-most pelican with its head down and wings up above, is about to make the jump into the wind and fly off. See image below atop the previous entry to see him sailing over the rest of the troop.
This was the last pelican on the right. The last one to get off the log. Not all of them flew very far, but all of them got off the log.
Here the last one rises into the wind, wings still full of air.
And heads off into the west, but not even the far side of the lake.
More like joining the adventuresome other flyers.
Of course, not all wing-flapping has directly to do with flight. Often that morning I captured images of pelicans flapping their wings to stretch them — or some other reason I don't understand. It does feel good from time to time, to swing one's wings.
Somewhat later and brighter: Hardly parallel or in synch — although maybe some of them are, but they are all out there together, and they caught a lot of fish, after some of them did some flying.
Another shot of all eight of them. I kept documenting all eight in one situation when I could, because we've only counted seven most of the time since the first night we know they were at White Rock Lake. We don't know when, exactly, Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation volunteers released their graduating pelican class of 2011, but we figure it was last Friday night. I like that spiked splash, and that here, at least, three of eight are parallel fishing.
May look a little like they're working against each other here. But it's more like cooperative fishing. The one on the left has chased some fish toward the one on the perch, and they're both pulling them out.
Sharing a Log
There's more space than appears in this long telephoto shot that tends to truncate dimension, but these guys appear to be friends.
One of the Actions Pelican Beaks are Good For
Though not everybody is.
Very short flight. All the way from the peninsula behind it here. But flight. More flight than I've seen since that one pelican flew off the outer log about three days previous. Today, it seemed more normal. Nice skid landing, too bad I was so busy watching, I didn't catch it on silicon.
Or just out swimming around to be together?
When pelicans catch fish, they usually tilt back their heads, so the fish seined into their stretchable lower mandibles when they underwater, will slide back to their throats, and they can swallow them. These pelicans look like they're celebrating, but I'm sure it's just what they were doing at the time. I realize I may be reading too much into these situations. As Anna keeps telling me, "It is what it is" whatever that might be.
These birds look pretty excited, too. Anytime those very pliable lower mandibles are stretched out like this, there's likely to have been fish in them, may still be. I don't know how long it takes to snap them back.
Nine-feet wingspan, and I know I've seen something like an unfold-out extension — usually used in high-banking turns.
Two of Eight Preening and Just Standing There
Wish I could photograph each individual of the eight pelicans, and put them all in one photo. But that would just make each individual smaller in the image, and thus less identifiable. It would also lead to trying to differentiate them by giving them names, almost always a bad idea. Birds are not people, as much as we tend to see humanity in them when we watch carefully. Researchers use numbers. Not many of those here. Just eight.
Nope. It's really flying, and it flew quite a ways. I'd guess a couple hundred feet. Maybe more. And it was not the only one. I apologize for the color, again. Combination of ISO 6,400 and near darkness very near 6 ayem today. Earlier than I usually rise, but I missed them doing much last time I photographed them in the ayem, so I wanted to get there right at six, and did.
When the park officially opens, although there's lots of people there already. Cops only enforce the law with past Midnight lovers and gropers. If they still do that.
And I barely got there in time. Fifteen minutes more, and I'd a missed the spectacle. When I first photographed the group — of eight, count them, eight pelicans — this morning. They were just standing around out there, waking up themselves. Then they took the notion to take a little fly, and many of them did.
Much farther than I'd seen them do before. Today marks their first week since humans in my circles first noticed them. Really exciting to see them flying in a big, strung-out bunch of them. And some distance. Means they know how to do it, will build their stamina, fly farther and farther. Eventually, all the way to Idaho or somewhere 'round there. North and East, probably the U.S.A., possibly all the way to Canada.
If any of them knows the way… So far, off the ground, flapping, taking-off, getting airborne, swooping around out there for a little while. Reminding various body parts what it's like. Some kinds of hallelujah!
This one flew nearly out to Winfrey, circling out back to the logs, past the couple pelicans, black lumps of cormorant there and thin slips of little egrets, then looping in front of the logs. Then back out to join the rest of the tribe and land. Then they began swimming after fish. Flying makes for a big appetite, and they caught many fish, and ate them all.
There's more of today's shots — I made 992 images this ayem. I've already winnowed them down considerably. After I've had some much-needed sleep and done some more stuff about being in a couple exhibitions coming up too soon, I'll work up some more of today's images. All that flying seems to have made them braver — or so I thought, because they came much closer to me than ever before, so I got to watch and photograph them up closer and more personal.
Maybe it's because last time I stood with a tripod, this time I hunched low without one. Might have held the scenery still, but nothing holds the birds.
Signs of Synchronicity. I mentioned earlier that the rehab pelicans hadn't got it together enough to synchronize their swimming and dunking while they fished together. In fact, at first, they didn't even fish together, except in twos, maybe a three. By Monday June 13, however, I noticed them synched up like Esther Williams. I've never known who calls the shots in those fishing armadas, if anybody does. Maybe they have a natural rhythm or just know how to do it, but these guys had to practice. Maybe, after fishing together for awhile, they feel their way into synching their movements.
Out of synch, means nobody gets as many fish as they could. Makes for a haphazard gathering of fish. When they synchronize their actions: Swim forward in a mostly vertical line (as above) with their heads up and beaks out of water. Then all together now, they dip beaks down into the water, open up and seine fish in their large and expandable lower mandibles. After spending time down there, maybe as long as a minute, but usually less, everybody's head comes up, and those who've got fish tilt heads and beaks back, bob food up and around in their mandibles, and the whole routine cycles and recycles as long as they can find fish to herd across the bay into the shallows, where they can scoop them up.
It's a time-honored, pelican thing. I've not seen any other birds do it — but then I'm still an amateur at all this. I love it, but what I don't know about birds fills volumes. For several days, our rehab pelks didn't synchronize anything. They were all individuals on their own trips. Some time along the way, they figured out it'd be more efficient if they did it in discreet steps, and all together.
Not perfectly synched. But close.
All part of being a pelican again, instead of a big white bird with a huge beak stuck in a cage somewhere where all they had for water was a very small kiddie pool they'd usually already stepped on and leaked most of it out.
Even them lined up swimming with parallel poses, everybody facing the same direction, manifests a certain cohesion. A bit of pack mentality. They maybe didn't when they were released, but now they're growing into a family, an organization. They're in this hot house together, a bit more free than two weeks ago, but coming together. They're already teaching each other stuff. They'll need to know a lot more before they fly north.
Six of the seven, at least, have bonded. They're in it together now.
It's a good sign, but hardly a panacea. How will they learn to fly? I haven't seen any of them flap wings and get into the air for more than a dozen feet, if that much. It's a lot longer than that to Idaho.
Most of today's images were shot at ISO 6,400, the highest setting possible on my camera. "Film speeds" that long tend to be grainy and mess with colors. But they allow making images at night in the dark.
The Flight Appears on the Near Horizon
I was photographing and attempting to photograph BiFs (birds in flight) on my little camera — and the pelicans, too, of course, when I saw a mysterious flock of white birds suddenly appearing just on the near side of Dreyfuss Point.
They're Little Egrets!
Took me awhile to figure out who they were. Small, white, and pretty fast. If I'm not sure of a bird's identity, I usually have to wait till I get much larger, more magnified images up on my computer screen. That's when I started noticing the patch of orange on chests, and determined that these were Cattle Egrets. A non-uncommon visitor to the lake, they usually just fly over, as they did this time, but with little stopovers.
I'm just clicking away wondering if anything will be in focus or recognizable. Of course the big bird in the middle, and the ducks around it, are pretty identifiable.
Flight of Cattle Egrets - Image 04
I still wasn't sure who they were. This is a large enlargement of the middle of a wide-ish shot. Obvious in this size; less so when it happened.
Five Pelicans and Two Cattle Egrets
I'm sure I saw the one giving parables to the waiting pelicans. I doubt I even noticed the one on the farther tree.
Pelicans Come, Cattle Egrets Go
Then the parable-giver jumped off and flew away with three friends.
To Fly Free
They continued across the bay, over the trees in Sunset Forest and off into the east somewhere. A gentle breath of fresh air, and of course, the pelicans. I am much less obsessed with them, but I still watch, photograph and/or video (just feeling my way back into that medium — I'm in the full frustration mode that seems to accompany any new endeavor. Nice to have somebody else fly through my obsessions like a flickering dream.
Tuesday June 14
Great Egret Looking Sidewise
I'm still obsessed with the rehabilitated pelicans in Sunset Bay, and I visit and photograph or video them every day now. But when I see something else interesting at the lake, I photograph it. Egrets are hardly unusual, but this stance is. Though I'd seen it before. Maybe even photographed it before. Hard to remember, since I've been doing this journal for five years now. Exactly five years on June 16.
These moves are all about catching fish. Finding food is every bird's first most important job. Every day of its life. Egrets like fish, and they swallow them whole, longwise down those long throats.
I've watched many herons, including many egrets walk in the water with their tails dragging in it and wet, and I still have no idea why they do that. Why they are built to do that. Balance? Lure fishies?
June 11 - Saturday Afternoon
I have become obsessed by the released pelicans now in Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake. I first went out there late Friday night. Too dark to shoot birds, but I did. I didn't want to have missed them. I thought then they might be gone at any minute. But they were still there at 6 early this morning. And at four this afternoon. I watched five of the original eight pelicans sweeping up and down the lagoon for food.
They had not the exquisite timing I'd seen in groups long-used to fishing together. These pelicans' heads darted forward into each other's heads or under for fish without any synchronization with the other swimming birds. But they fed themselves. Looked like well, though it's difficult to tell with their heads underwater.
Scraping the Bottom
This bird did not join them. It seemed lost, wandered too close to humans (Some of us are okay, but it had no discretion.) on the pier. Kept chasing a big, double-hand-sized lure a fisher person was throwing out and winding in. The fisher was careful, but if it had caught it, it would have been the devil to get it out.
Ill - Equipped
I told the guy, this bird had first rights to the fish, but it wasn't finding any, wasn't looking where they might be. May never have known how to. Wandering close toward humans, expecting, I think, we would feed it. Caught in a dilemma, the fisherman eventually walked away. But the pelicans still seemed lost. Not a part of the rest of the freed pelicans. It seemed to identify more with the many gooses there than the six other pelicans. I have not counted all eight since Friday night. I worry to wonder what happened with it.
Desperately Seeking Food
The water around the pier is very shallow. Much less than a foot deep. The pelican kept scraping the wood-strewn bottom with its gaping beak trying to pull up something, anything. All but failing. Certainly not feeding itself.
I have seen groups of pelicans actually appearing to have fun playing with an object (one ball and one plastic bottle), tossing it back and forth, appearing to play 'keep away' with it. But this was not a fun thing. This was desperation at not finding food. This is what this pelican found expecting food.
Shunned Also By Gooses
Gooses eat grass and keep the areas they inhabit well mowed. And bread and grain. Pelicans eat fish and are never tempted by all the white bread brought to the lake "to feed the ducks." This poor pelican appeared to identify more with the gooses than the pelicans, who were never far away, but did not involve it in their fishing parties.
I keep remembering Charles and other Bird
Squad members — us all talking about how it would be better to have one
day, maybe even one hour of freedom than a well-fed lifetime in captivity. I
still believe that, but I worry for this bird — and the one that disappeared
June 11 - Early Morning
Free to be Pelicans in the Wild, at Last!
Yes, these eight pelicans (although I only ever counted 7 at any one time starting at 6 ayem today, are Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation graduates. As I watched they seemed to be feeling their way around being free at last. They swam, they fished (together, of course) they splashed in the water and even flew short distances.
Rogers Pelicans previously visited on these pages: April 2010 and March 2011
Doing the Pelicans with Useful Pounces Line Dance on the Logs
I shot seven hundred and seventy some-odd shots this morning. Most of them too early and mostly without enough light. So when the sun finally peaked out over the trees to begin to illuminate Sunset Bay, I shot some more. By this point, they seemed to be feeling their oats, really getting into being pelicans, free pelicans. It was almost as if they were line-dancing. The joy was apparent in the glimmers of sunlight.
Spreading Its Wings
I've watched these guys in their chain-link cages at Rogers, looking gloomy and forlorn, thinking they might be there forever. I'd spread my wings, too, if I were finally emancipated, well enough to rejoin their old lives, before injury, illness or predation put them away for too long.
The Joy of Being A Pelican
Feel the joy.
Short Hop Flying
I even saw them thrice flapping and hopping across the water, way out there, before there was enough light to capture anything but blurs of them doing it, as if they were practicing to get aloft and fly away. One two birds flew any distance at all, but I could tell they were excited about the possibilities.
Pelican Set Free
I spent way too much time photographing that one, brown-headed pelican. But there were several mostly white ones, too.
Fishing on the Own
After being hand-fed for so long, being out in on the lake, fending for themselves, fishing in peculiarly pelican flotillas, the synchronization may have been off, but they were catching plenty fish this morning. It was coming back to them after their long sojourns in recuperative captivity.
Three Pelicans Fishing
Gather gallons of water and fish and everything else in their huge, ballooning pouches, straining out all but the food, then tilting back to swallow.
Emancipated Pelicans Fishing in the Lagoon
Beaks dripping after dipping into the fish-filled waters of the Sunset Bay Lagoon, dipping for fishes.
Two Pelicans Fishing
They'd swim out, and around in larger arcs, but every time they'd swim in my direction, they'd change directions and swim out and away. I never got any close-ups, but it was fascinating watching them figure out who they could be again.
Three Pelicans Fishing
Maybe to give them less competition, Rogers tends to release their recuperated pelicans late in the season. Usually well after 'our' flock of about 70 pelicans leaves for Southern Idaho, where they'll breed, raise young, then come back from the following autumn.
One of Eight
I usually eschew the tendency of human bird-lovers to name wild animals, but the name "Fuzzy" kept crawling into my vocabulary when this distinctive American White Pelican was anywhere in sight. I wanted it to be friendly and happy. I think it had the happy down, but it was constantly querulous, poking that big, long beak of its into anybody else's business in reach. Trying to steal other pelican's catches, just being ornery. It was great fun watching bird-analities emerge. Don't know how long they'll stay, but I hope to get some daylight shots later today.
Such a joy to again have wild pelicans in my viewfinder …
Eight Pelicans Significantly Out of Season
Anna and I had driven around the lake looking for birds in the heat of the day already, and we'd both photographed baby ducks doing cute baby duck things, and mine of those would have been okay-I-guess for here, but then sometime after sundown, Anna called, because Charles had called her saying there were pelicans in Sunset Bay — about two months past what we thought were the last pelicans out of White Rock Lake.
The small white bird with a comparatively tiny beak above and behind the second pelican from the left — the only one swimming — is probably a Snowy Egret. There appears to be a dark bird behind it and to its left, that there's too little information in to identify. Probably either a duck, a cormorant or a bump on the log.
Eight Pelicans on the Logs in Sunset Bay
American White Pelicans usually stay at White Rock Lake every year between about the middle of October through about the middle of April. Tax Day comes, and they leave. Our bunch winters here, then flies back to southern Idaho for the summer. We know because Charles tracked tags and bands on birds in our annual contingent of pelican visitors.
Six of Eight June Pelicans
Here, the duck looks more like a duck and one of the pelicans is flapping its wings. It also has a very noticeable beak fin that indicates that it is an adult breeding pelican, though it does not indicate whether it is male or female. It is one of three pelicans I wondered most about of the eight.
The Three Interesting Pelicans
I call these "the three interesting pelicans" because they seem to have differing head and facial markings than the other pelicans in the group. These each seem to have a small black cap on the crowns of their heads, with the pelican on the left having a much more extended dark head coloring. The Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America shows immature American Whites as having dark caps that extend back toward their necks, but not anything like the caps on the two birds at right.
The new, Crossley ID Guide — Eastern Birds shows adult post breeding white pelicans with caps more like the above birds. Probably why I haven't seen them before is that by the time they arrive this far south, they are not post breeding but pre-breeding. Can you tell I'm grasping at straws here?
Nobody really yet knows where these pelicans came from, but one much-discussed possibility is that they were released by Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation or some other facility that has healed birds that once were injured or ill. Rogers has told us several times that they'd notify us if they were expecting to release pelicans, so we could photograph the event. But we know they're much to busy to track down errant phone numbers before they release former inmates there. But we're tracking down various leads.
If they're still there tomorrow morning, I might get better shots in much better light. If they're gone, as we hope they will be — with luck, they'll have flown north and west — we'll keep checking.
Little Blue Heron Landing
Driving toward town on Garland Road over the driving bridge over the White Rock Creek that angles off from the spillway and lower steps past the dam on the south end of the lake, I thought I saw a black heron. I can't spend a lot of time looking down there, because I'm usually driving (albeit slowly) and I'm usually the only one in The Slider when I do that, and there's usually other cars in front and behind of me when I do that.
Little Blue Heron Walking the Shallows in front of some idiot's Discarded Plastic Bag
Anyway, I saw something that might have been a little unusual, so I turned on that street whose name I can never remember before the 7-11 and parked in the new parking lot facing the lower steps, got out, locked my car, and walked carefully past the birds on the slant concrete, and I walked up onto the bridge, then carefully shot down, being ever so careful not to touch any body parts to the bridge that was already over a hundred degrees in the hot sun.
Little Blue Heron Being Chased by a Fluffed-up Snowy Egret
When neither of them is all fluffed up trying to be scary, the Little Blue Heron and the Snowy Egret are very nearly the same size, so they are natural enemies for space or fishing rights or whatever else the Snowy (the usual aggressor) wants to fight about. This Little Blue Heron wasn't catching anything, so moving on didn't seem to bother it all that much. I've seen Little Blues turn on them and fight and sometimes even win, momentarily, but this one did not fight, it just flew up the steps.
Which was an opportunity to capture a Little Blue in Short Flight
It almost looks like the Little Blue Heron is camouflaging itself to look like the falls, but I think it's just flying past there and that's what it looks like doing that.
Little Blue Heron Escape
I'm sure the Snowy Egret felt all very successful, but it continued to not catch any fish down there, either, and shortly later it flew off toward egret island, while the Little Blue stayed on and, I hope, eventually caught him some fish. I like Snowy Egrets for their feistiness, but I prefer Little Blue Herons, so my hopes were with it. I doubt I would have bothered photographing yet another Snowy Egret, but they can be fun when they choose other objects of run-off.
Heads-up Challenge Display
When herons and egrets — and a lot of other birds — do this heads-up behavior, it usually constitutes a challenge. Probably to fight. Sometimes, like this time for instance, maybe it's just a mutual warning. Like "if you continue to challenge me for this space, that fish, this opportunity for me to get that fish — or whatever they are thinking, "I'll _ _ _ _ .
Great Egrets — Standing Firm and Flying Away
I thought the Great Egret on the right was bugging out, but it only flew a few feet away, then came back, so it could stand closer to the other one and hold its head up as high as it could.
More Heads Upbirdship
Then Fly A Little Ways Away
I guess, in the end, this one decided it would rather fly up the stairs than face the other, perhaps larger, possibly stronger, faster or fiercer egret.
Upper Step Landing
After awhile, it was just too hot, so I left with plenty good enough shots of birds' life and behavior for the day's journal. Instead of driving all the way around the lake today, I could have just parked around the corner from the dam, and taken these, and gone home.
Juvenile Starling Close Proximity
Thought it might be fun to drive down the Big Thicket area. Very warm, so I stayed in The Slider, only opening the window when I saw something interesting. Like a bunch of little brown birds gathered around a ditch of water close to the road. I sidled close as I could get, and when they all swooped away every time a bicyclist rattled by or a walker ambled, I waited. They came back, in ones and twos, then soon the whole mass of maybe e 30 or so and resumed the bathing part.
Plethora of Activities
I could never zoom or focus in on just one bird among so many — and even if I could, it'd be some other bird doing something visually interesting, so after dealing the best I could for too long, I just held by finger on the trigger and shot and shot and shot, slowly swaying the cam back and forth, up and down.
Sometimes I managed to catch a little specific action, but most of the time, I got a whole lot of it. Zoom in and zoom out.
Occasionally, I got a bit of stirring solo action.
So I just shot and shot and shot till I was fairly sure I'd get something to happen, then I just hoped and clicked.
Plenty of light, I just never knew what was happening or would happen next.
Juvenile Starlings Bathing
Fun to watch all those juveniles staying very close with each other, exploring, flapping, flying singly and en masse, just having a high old wet time together.
Flapping Good Fun
Always something flapping.
Starling Family Scene
Two dark purple-black adults and one constantly screaming juvenile European Starlings getting my attention as I slid The Slider around the upper parking lot just next to the Winfrey Building on the top of Winfrey Point. Took me awhile to pinpoint the source of all the loud, sibilant, cricket-like screaming, but as it hopped around the yard and sidewalk closer, it became apparent who was emitting that not-quite white noise.
Starling Juvenile Pitching a Bitch at Starling Adult Pulling Food from the Ground
They were already well within telephoto view, then the parental unit, closely followed by the noise-emitting juvenile hove amazingly close to me and The Slider. Nice detail. Juvie was too hungry to notice my presence, and breeded adult was too busy to care.
Kid Fed, Adult Goes About its Business
Milliseconds after the latter pulled that whatever it is out of the ground, it beaked (sure didn't hand it) it to the kid quicker than I could capture and said something I couldn't quite hear.
Momentarily Quiet Juvenile with Stringy Lunch
Then there was brief and momentary silence. No high-pitched electronic cricket hissing. Just a happy, fed kid busy eating lunch.
First-year Adult Maile Red-winged Blackbird
I assumed, when I was attempting to track it/him/her around the pier at Sunset Bay, that it was a female, but most females don't have the beginnings of that emblem on their shoulders, that grows into an orange-red-yellow patch. So I wasn't sure, then looked it up. It was speeding everywhere it went very fast, and to have caught it this stopped was pretty amazing. All my shots of her fluttering around the surface of the lake below the pier, were pure blur. I was happy with this.
I'm sure the Bird Squad has named this — and every other tame, wild, permanent resident or just-visiting — goose, but I generally avoid remembering goose names. I'm not that good with human names yet, and to go off on goose names seems a waste of my energies. Nice lookin' goose, though.
Not Still Swallow
They were all holding still when I got out the telephoto. Soon as I raised it, they got moving. This is the closest to stopping any one of them I got.
Juvenile Great Blue Heron with Big Catfish
Anna and I met at the Bent Bridge at 6:30 this ayem — the middle of the night for me, but the birds seemed to be up and at 'em, so it worked out very well for pictures of them. One of the first people to pass us said there were "good birds" just around the corner, so we were wondering what 'good birds' meant and we found them quickly enough. A Great Blue Heron always qualifies as a 'good bird' in our book. And there was a Great Egret hanging close by, too.
Great Blue Heron with Big Fish
We didn't see it catch the big fish, but we watched many long minutes while it attempted, time after time, to get that big fish down its throat. Not an easy job, but with a little perseverance, maybe, just maybe, it could get it down. We watched and photographed. Much later, I decided this very well could have been the same juvie GBH (Great Blue Heron) I've been photographing on the Lower Steps at the Spillway. Maybe.
Big Fish, Big Swallow
The heron tried it several different ways, got it this far this time, but it just would not …
Kept Trying to Swallow that Fish
… Go down the gullet.
Spit It Out and Try, Try Again
It was a long ordeal. Juvenile heron learning how to do it right, so eventually, it could do it right the first time. This time, however, it tried and tried and tried. After about a half dozen major fish-filling-the-beak then back out again. Frustration!
Wranglin' The Big Fish
Chunk It Down Again
Finally, it got everything lined up, slunk it down …
And Finally Down
And swallowed it.
Running Off the Egret
These two big birds kept 'trading' places. One would swoop in, startle the other into flying away. Then the other would do it to the first. Sorry this is the only time I caught any good of the action. I remember once getting the little Great Blue to fill a vertical frame, then suddenly the egret flew in low and supplanted the blue, and all I got was a big, overexposed blur. Smaller blur this shot.
White Glint in the Distance
The first dozen or so times I sighted this shot, I assumed that white glint on the leftish middle was part of the tree below it. As if it were a big white bird in the top of the little green tree. My far distance seeing isn't clear unless I'm looking through a well-focused telephoto lens, and even there, I wasn't sure. The white object stayed right there for several shots, then it was gone. I still think it might have been a big white egret, but I'm just not so sure anymore. It was there, and then it was gone.
Mockingbird on a Stump
Walking down the path I tried my lens on several different little birds. Here's the early morning sun on a Northern Mockingbird.
A Matched Set of Young Mallards
And here are a couple of still fuzzy young Mallards. Gawky teen variety.
Great Blue Heron in the Weeds Along the Edge
The edge of the street on my side and the edge of the lake, just beyond the Heron. By this time I was in The Slider and intent on sliding home, maybe catching a few more Zs before meeting the day. It's particularly sharp, because I rested the lens on the window sill and just waited for the right pose.
Something in the Lagoon
Might as well, I was here … Most times I pass the Old Boat House Area, I drive down, circle around the Old Boat House, then sidle along the lagoon side of the road on my way out. I'd seen what I thought might be one of these on my way in. There was a cop car parked by the port-a-potties, so I obeyed as many rules as I could manage, crisp stops at all the stop signs, steady as she goes, till I got back on the road along the lagoon, signal, move over to the left side, right against the curb, slow up to where I could see the bird under a fir tree along the edge …
Dashing Figure of a Yellow-crowned Night Heron
But that just wasn't close enough. So I got out of The Slider, walked ever so carefully and slowly down the hill to stop right on the edge of the lagoon in the shade of that tree I'd shot through, and started clicking away. By then there was enough sun to have cranked the ISO down to something manageable, and I kept clicking away, hoping some of these would be in focus enough to show you I can do that.
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Standing in the Lagoon
Often, in the last few years, Yellow-crowns are sighted, snuck up upon, then skeedaddle soon as a camera is brought out. This one was looking for food, wasn't letting some goofy photog with a middlin' telephoto going to stop him from catching a fish or two. Stood there batting no eyes but flicking the occipital plume back and forth from time to time. I figured I must have got several shots sharp, so I carefully backed off, then up the hill and back to The Slider, home and some sleep.
June 1 2011
For awhile, I just fired off as many exposures as my pitiful little camera would shoot. When I noticed that none of those shots were worth much, I waited for the inevitable pause that always seemed to come after a quick run. When it stopped, I clicked. More often than from the other attempts, it was in focus and at least this sharp. It helped that, because the very young killdeer didn't know enough to be afraid of me, it would sometimes run fairly close, before meandering off in another new direction.
Even tracking running then waiting for it to stop suddenly to rest or grab some little tidbit to eat did not guarantee that I'd catch it in focus, but it did seem to help.
The usual explanation for this behavior is that it scares bugs. I'd think by now, bugs would know better. Another explanation, is that it is territorial behavior. If I saw another mockingbird close by doing pretty much the same thing, I might believe that one. I did notice that after each quick iteration of the wing flashing behavior, this mockingbird picked something off the ground and ate it.
David Allen Sibley is my best bet for having good information on why birds do what they do, but I suspect that someday someone will come along and tell us what's really happening here. Till then, I'll live with this rather lame explanation.
Doesn't seem like much of a camouflage job, but it didn't move when it saw me seeing it, so maybe the egret believed it better than I did.
The Black-crown was also watching for a Great Egret nearby that had given chase to this much smaller bird several times. The egret kept catching fish after fish, while the heron didn't see or catch anything. Kinda made sense for the egret to chase the heron off. The egret did a much better job with the resources available.
We usually call ducks of this development growth teenagers, because their development is very roughly analogous to teenaged humans. They are remarkably larger than they were just a few short weeks ago. They are about to become independent from their parental units.
Their sizes may vary considerably, but if you look carefully — not so much in this image as the one above it, you can begin to determine which is male (the ones with more yellow on their bills) and which are female (their beaks include more dark/olive colors. With humans, the differences are usually much more obvious.
text and photographs copyright 2011 by J
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My favorite answer is, "I don't
am, after all, an amateur.
I'm not kidding. I've only been birding for three years,
although I've been photographing professionally since 1964.
Thanks always to Anna.