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and because it shows the usually more subtle blues, browns, purples and reds of their wings. White sawtooth shapes too, all on a smorgasbord of brown tones. Gorgeous.
Fewer sunset colors here. Must have been a little earlier. Nice shot of her feet, silken, webbed and flexed. Nice to get that halo of setting sun along her front and lower edges, too.
I've been to the lake three times today, and I didn't feel cooler any of those except early, and i want to go there even earlier tomorrow, then just leave it be the rest of the scorcher. The second time was without a camera, after an appointment nearby. That's when I saw a bright, nearly glowing gray Great Blue Heron up much closer to Bird Squad Beach. I just looked, then watched without the need to pick up a camera, as it gathered air beneath its wide wings and magically took to the sky, flapping those big wings away.
The image atop today's entry was from early this morning, a long way off. Behind it in the pic, is Dreyfus. I was standing in Sunset across the bay.
And these guys, featured below, were out swimming in the bay on my third visit to the lake today, chasing dreams of cool breezes. The closest I got to that was in The Slider, AC on high.
I did not know what it was up to. I'd pulled The Slider close to a gathering of parakeets on a sidewalk near the Winfrey Building, and was — for the first time in a long, long time — able to focus in on the elusive and colorful birds. Clickity-click. I know they don't have teeth, but it seemed to chew it awhile after ingesting this part of this vegetation.
Like any bird who can not yet feed itself, it makes its parental unit aware of its hunger. Almost a universal bird signal. The parent or feeding adult appears to be matching head angle to the already-fledged juvenile so transfer can take place.
It didn't seem like much in there or transferred, but it seemed to hit the spot for the little one. I know it's already fledged, because moments after this simple act was complete, most of the 'keets flew away.
I assume this is an adult. It's got those deep blue feathers, and nobody was feeding it. Within seconds of this shot, they all flew away to some nearby trees, where I could easily hear their chatter, but I couldn't see any of them to photograph them. That's why, when I saw them on the sidewalk, I zoomed in and started photographing soon as I could.
Of course, grackles are everywhere. But I've been testing an old camera after my new one dropped last week, and I've been wondering my old Nikon D300 could render images as sharp as my now-seriously-damaged D7000. The resounding answer is no, but this ain't bad.
I was just getting to the pier at Sunset Bay this early morning when the gooses were wending their way to Sunset Bay. Since former goose leader Wilbur got highjacked awhile ago, I've been wondering who was leading them wherever they go at night and back in the mornings. I was too late to photo the whole line from afar, and with the telephoto set at 600mm, I couldn't get them all in. So these are the front four. The white duck in third place here, went to the front as they got closer to shore. So, basically, I still don't know who's in charge.
I know that Wilbur always led the flock across the water, but I don't know if the second and third, etc. places were always the same ducks. That is, if there's any usual order. But I do note with some humor and pathos, who is the last duck in the longish line.
It's our lost little Blue Goose. Whom Charles freed from a mess of fishing line some time ago. Who apparently cannot fly away from here, and who sometimes seems barely tolerated by the other species of tame gooses in residence at White Rock Lake. And at other times, it seems almost a part of their group.
To which, Annette Abbott adds: "I was just looking at your latest goose pics and thought I could provide you with a little info. The white goose who moved up to the head of the line ... is Dee. He has been asserting his authority and taking on Wilbur characteristics since Wilbur was taken. While he isn't always the leader, he is determined. And he is still goosing women! Much to Charles' delight, Dee got me good tonight! Then, that goose proudly flapped his wings and strutted off!
There is more to the little blue goose than most people know. Little Blue has been encouraging the four new geese to become a part of the group. When two of them stayed at the Bath House, Blue often swam over to be with them. He has been encouraging them and sticking near them. In your picture, I believe he is acting as their escort. We see him hanging out with the new guys a lot.
Speaking of the new ones, they are assimilating into the group and doing much better.
Now, we have a new evening visitor. Every night after sunset, a bunny comes out of the vegetation and checks out all the bird commotion. He gets ever closer to us. Definitely not afraid of the mallards."
I've been afraid to go outside, because I keep getting big, itchy bumps on my exposed and unexposed skin. Today, I wore long pants and nearly went swimming in DEET. It seems to have helped. Soon as I got home, I bathed off the DEET. I'm sure it's not helping me in any other way. But it's lovely not to have another new nest of big nasty bumps today.
I don't know which one is the one that's been here all year and more and which was the new visitor. Annette said they were fishing last night, and I was probably too early for that. But I've been fighting biting bugs, so I doused myself with DEET and made the best of evening cool, shot this and a couple other pictures — I couldn't really get very close, and the pier was packed with people, and the pelicans didn't seem interested in both looking my way at the same time.
If they stay, I'll be back soon and get more shots. Maybe of them synchronized swimming fishing.
I'm way too busy this week on sixteen other projects to go birding every day like I'm used to. Besides, I've been being bitten unmercifully by bump-inducing bugs that make me itch and scratch like a zombie all day every day. Three White Ibis — among dozens others — tromping through this pond snuffling up whatever Ibis eat. They were eating them fast and furious, almost running through the water.
Keeping those long, curved beaks busy busy capturing little bitty bits of food.
Then flying away when I inadvertently scared them off by standing on the far side of the car and aiming my camera at them. They were okay as long as I stayed in the car, even if I couldn't see them through the tall grass. But sneak outside the car, and zap, they're in the air and soon gone.
Here's a little adventure I never expected to see. In fact, we hadn't seen any nutria on our Dry Beds trips all this year. Then these two nutria appeared. Being very malevolent.
Not sure what they planned to do with the duck if they caught it, but they seemed very intent on catching it. These nutria were the most active ones we've ever seen.
I don't know if they ever caught up with the duck. She never flew very far, and they kept getting closer. After awhile, though, I just lost interest.
In photographs, especially those in focus, Green Herons tend to look several times as big as they really are. But they are tiny. I always look for shadows that move. That's Green Herons. Beautiful, stealthy and anything but green.
Chunked the doubler onto the revivified 300 yesterday, and we drove off toward the Fort Worth end of North Arlington for the Solid Waste Drying Beds with the newish sign warning us that's what we were doing, at our own risk, which we all but ignore, except to wonder if it would stink this time, and it didn't, at all. It was a beautiful morning, not terribly hot yet, and lots of interesting birds willing to pose briefly for us, and a few that flew us over or by, taunting us and our cameras.
Including these two stilts, which are tiny little birds about 15 inches long. The other one looks normal. This one looks like it's sitting a nest. Otherwise, it's a pose we haven't ever seen a Stilt hold this long. I don't know where they usually nest.
The Lone Pine edition of Texas Birds says they nest "in a shallow depression on slightly raised ground near water, nest is lined with shells, pebbles or vegetative debris; pair incubates 4 darkly blotched, buff eggs for about 25 days, pair tends the prcocial young."You suppose there's any chance whatsoever they could be doing that here?
Of course, it's not really called a "splotch morph," we just liked saying that. These may be the bluest transitional juvenile Little Blue Herons we've seen, and they were out in numbers today. We saw them in the dozens at a couple pans.
Yup. It's a Greater Yellowlegs, and it was the only one we saw, although who knows where its mate might be hiding.
I saw a little brown and tan blob moving around in the weeds.
We almost extect to see one or two or a dozen of these amiable carcass-cleaners at or on our way to the dyring beds, and if they're comfortable, they won't get up for us, posting pleasantly.
Holds its wings like a swallow. I'm guessing it's a Purple Martin, but by now you know about my guesses, that many of them aren't even particularly educated. More birds from that shoot later. I've got way too much to do to spend much more time tracking it through my sundry bird I.D books. Anybody out there confirm or deny my 'dentification?
Lots more pix to show from that Thursday morning shoot before my Computer died for a day, then came back as if nothing had happened to it, except gnashing teeth and trying every trick in the book to revivify it. For about 11 hours into the night, nothing happened. Then it did.
Today was the first day I'm shooting my 300mm after it dropped on the floor, bounced a couple times, and sheared my camera mount right off. So I'm using my recently factory-refurbished Nikon D300, and I'm learning and re-learning some old lessons with it. First one was that over-exposure is to the left in the viewfinder here, not on the right, as is the D7000.
Another lesson has to do with focus. It doesn't seem to either focus as well or as quickly as the D7000. But that might be my settings. I'm still fooling with those.
Fleeing Egret, that is. Snowy Egret in particular. My d7k would automatically adjust ISO to maintain whatever base shutter speed I set. It would do a lot of my thinking for me. This D300 doesn't, so this shot is a little more blurred than I would like.
There's some cute little berries hanging from the top of where the frame would have been if I'd wanted to include a lot more of the tree and less of this bird. Black birds are often more of a challenge to get the exposure right, and this time was no exception. I'm surprised by the blue below his red and yellow chevrons.
On another stop on my way around the lake today, some women on bikes slowed to tell me there was a Great Blue Heron on the path back always. I laughed and thanked them. Hardly a rare sighting at White Rock, where I suspect a couple dozen Great Blue Herons live. Nice and social of them, they usually don't bother to hide. This one was clearly fishing, staring stoically into space, waiting implacable for something to move, so it could get caught.
I won't go into my usual spiel about where these used to rook and don't anymore because of the stink, but we see them commonly around here these days. I was hoping for a Green Heron, and was happy to accept this one instead. When I first saw it, it was a dark splotch in the weeds. The weeds along the side of the path didn't used to be so high. Now they block a lot of the angles I used to use. Right here, is where I have often found Green Herons right about at the beginning of summer. This was great, though I had to wait for it to raise its head from the incessant preening.
A little brown bird on the new wood bridge behind The Old Boat House.
Birds today must have been startled by the first day of spring. They don't usually but today, they often let me get pretty close. It looks like this one has gloves on. More detail visible up close — and with a sharp lens. All today's shots are without the doubler, so they are all at 300mm. Amazing detail.
Eastern Kingbirds! It must be spring.
If one of these last two shots for today is a juvenile Eastern Kingbird, then both of them are, because it's the only E. Kingbirditus I photographed today.
Saw several species of small heron-egrets playing under the walking bridge over the Lower Steps on the Spillway today driving by, so I turned on Winstead, parked in the new lot, and walked back to the Lower Steps. Hot as it was, I love photographing their sometimes strange ballet, and I had been photographing the usual Snowy Egret (left above) dancing, when I saw and began photographing what I first thought might be a Little Blue or an immature Great Blue Heron as unwilling unwilling participant as chasee.
Once it had turned around, I realized it was the Tricolored Heron who has been seen and photographed in Sunset Bay a lot recently, so I paid special attention. I've never seen but that one at White Rock, although I've seen and photographed others at the Medical Center Rookery, where they nest, and near the Trinity River where both adult Tricolored Herons and juveniles hunt.
The chase was on. In these photographs, the Snowy Egret (Length 22 - 26 inches, Wingspan 3.5 feet) rooks considerably larger than the Tricolored Heron (L 26 inches, W 3 feet), which may well be true. But I've always thought of Snowies as small — considerably smaller than Great Egrets. (L 3 - 3.5 feet, W 4 feet). All sizes from the Lone Pine Birds of Texas book that I cherish.
Snowies are combative, seem to often be picking fights with any bird it seems to think is in its territory or that appears to have better fishing skills than they.
I'll repeat what I said the other day when I was photographing Snowies chasing snowies and other birds in the same place, I've never seen them draw blood, but they put on a great display, feathers all puffed up and occipital plumes bouffanted out.
The slightly larger Snowy is almost always the aggressor. Today, I saw it aggress Little Blue Herons, other Snowies, but never Great Egrets or the Great Blue Heron down there catching fish, too. Usually, it does not attack birds bigger than it is.
Eventually, the Snowy gave up chasing the Tricolored, but both will be back.
Meanwhile, my cat knocked my camera and that lens off my desk mangling the connection between them, and I thought surely it would be out of commission for awhile, so I took it to Robert Ferraro at Archinal Camera Repair at 203 West Main in Richardson (in business since 1954) to see what the damage was.
In a few moments, he diagnosed it. The camera had lost its lens mount, which completely sheared off when the two hit my carpeted floor, but the lens was stronger than that little, amateur Nikon D7000 camera that only lets me shoot a frame every few seconds, so it lost — and I wouldn't have it any other way.
I'll send the d7k back to Nikon's Melville, New York facility (better service than their L.A. facility) for repair, which means I'll have to go back to my recently completely Nikon refurbished D300, which I probably should have been using anyway, although it's at least a semi-pro cam, and I'm not sure which end would have won a drop-down with it, cam or lens. But I'm a much happier and less nervous camper today.
When birds stretch most parts of their body — they can do them all together or each individual feather — it's called a "rouse." I have a growing page of Rouses so you see what all is entailed in a good rouse by various species. And if you enjoy that, you might like my page of The Several Strange Things Pelicans Do With Their Beaks.
This is the one photograph I've been wanting for more than a month to get around to working up for this page. Shot in the rookery island behind the Catholic college whose name escapes me, well more than a month ago. I keep stumbling over this shot and promising myself I'll show it to you guys, then I get lost on some other project — several of which are still ganging up on me as I type this.
And this is the third most worthy shot from that triplet of images from our San Antonio trip that I've been wanting to show you, and now I finally am.
And this is the second most worthy one.
Vivid red and orange beak, big brown spots on the front and pink legs. And that big chunk of wood in its beak is for the nest.
There's several more shots — especially a detailed shot of two of them mating — that I need to clear my vision for, so I can choose the absolute closest one shot of them doing the deed, that I'll show you later this weekend or week, when I can once again see straight. These shots were utterly simple to work up — they call it PP, as in Post Production, although I always thought PP was the production. Taking them is comparatively far easier. It's a little more complex than just "going click," but not that much.
White Rock Lake
I originally posted this image right here. Then I realized it's not the same two breeding (indicated by all the flowing fine feathers and colored feathers in strategic places) Snowy Egrets as in most of the other photographs in this series. In fact, the one on the right appears — from what little we can see — not to be a Snowy (Notice that its legs and feet are both yellow.).
More likely, it's a Great Egret. It's not like this "dance" is one great, flowing moment or series of moments in time. They are arranged strictly chronologically. When I can, I generally do that. So this truly fits between the last shot and the next one. But this image is not the same two as most of the others with just two. But I have no doubt it belongs right here in the progression and abstraction of the dance.
Looks a lot like a duck, but the pattern on the back doesn't seem Mallardish to me. Or its neck, either. Oh, who, who, who be this?
San Antonio, Texas & White Rock Lake in Dallas, Texas, USA
Not as artsy as my San Antonio martins, but lots of detail, and this one was so hot, it had its beak open. Hot. Hot. Hot. Read Birds Don't Sweat to learn the several ways birds cool themselves.
Gathering on the shady side of the house. Dallas female martins a month later seem to have more fine-line stripes in front than splotches.
This youngish Great blue Heron looks like it was, as they say entirely too often already, "rode hard and put away wet." I know the feeling. But, actually, it's just done a rather thorough rouse that I missed photographing and just barely saw.
A friend called saying she knew where was an oriole nest, and would I like to meet and photograph the evening feeding by both parents, and of course I did. Hungry babies want food, and J R always needs more photographs of local birds.
So both parental units took turns, about every five or so minutes while we watched and photographed, delivering food substances to the chicks, who looked very small when just their little triangular beaks and heads were visible above the thick fishing line and other long, thin nest materials.
Each time they brought something, they'd first visit the closest other tree, then come over to the tree with the nest we were watching and deliver their goods. We liked the advanced notice for the unfolding feeding. All the nicer, since I don't often use a tripod — I actually do have one, but it's a clunker and it's not much good for field or any other work (although before the Leitz Brothers sold their company and the new guys made a superb tripod into a clunk, my previous Leitz tripod had lasted forty especially helpful years. Since I had to hoist the bazooka each time one or the other parent would hove into view, the double swooping was a great early warning system.
I know I shot four hundred and thirty-odd frames this evening, because I formatted both cards in the D7000 that morning before I went out, and I didn't take any of anything else till after we documented the nest routine. I mostly just stood there hoping for something of interest to be in good enough focus — and talking about birds and stuff — for a few minutes short of an hour.
So we were waiting for the parents to come back each time and for the chicks to come out between parental visits. Actually, quite a lot to do. Plus the friend and I hadn't got to photograph birds together for awhile, so we caught up a little, but mostly we talked about birds, and there were little yellow ones of those flitting about pretty regularly as we watched that section of tree sometimes waving in the evening breeze. It was a pleasant time on a pleasant day and the hour went quickly. Essentially, a pretty busy shoot, even if we had narrowed our telephoto attentions on just a few cubic feet of treeside action.
These Baltimore Oriole chicks looked so tiny with just their heads stretched up through the leaves, bigger the more of them we could see on top of their nest area, and remarkably big and well-fed when the parents were making another fly to wherever luscious morsels of chick food comes from. I didn't notice the perceptual size variations then, — they all looked pretty tiny except through the viewfinder, but I've been looking pretty carefully through all those shots to pare them down to these few.
We also saw a Western Kingbird nest in the tree the oriole parents visited every time before feeding the chicks in the tree we were so carefully documenting, but there wasn't much action while we waited and watched. I wasn't disappointed. I was plenty busy talking and waiting and photographing.
This guy looks as fascinated with us as we were with them. They had to be interested in what we were up to watching and photographing what they were up to, but I especially liked this shot of that handsome and brilliantly colored little critter.
When the adult orioles weren't actually feeding their two or three chicks — we were never quite sure how many little ones there were among the thick leaves and stringy nest, they watched over them carefully for a few quick seconds before they fed them and again before they flitted off for more food.
Since we were only there about an hour, I don't really know how long the oriole pair kept up the constant feeding routine. It seemed like a forever job.
Okay, a few notes about Icterids, Orioles and especially Baltimore Orioles from The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, which is often helpful about the behavioral aspects even if I am woefully ignorant of much of its vocabulary: "Pairs are seasonally monogamous, and both sexes help raise the young, although the female does most of the work." They build pendant nests up to two feet long. They fly back and forth from the Neotropics — South and Central America, the Mexican lowlands, the Caribbean islands, and southern Florida. Although not officially endangered, they are in significant decline in recent years. [Book published in 2001.]
Then back to my trusty Lone Pine Birds of Texas, which says they nest "high in deciduous trees. The female builds a hanging pouch of grass, bark shreds and grapevines" (or the much more locally plentiful fishing line), "incubates four or five darkly marked, pale gray eggs for twelve to fourteen days ... gleans canopy vegetation and shrubs for caterpillars, wasps and other invertebrates, eats some fruit and nectar, visits hummingbird feeders and takes orange halves."
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.