I am NOT a bird I.D expert. The Current Bird Journal is always here. Cameras Used Ethics Feedback Dallas Audubon Bird Chat forum Bird Rescue Info What to do if you find a baby bird. Links on this site: Herons Egrets Heron or Egret? Links & Bird Books page Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch Bird Rouses Courtship Displays Banding Info Birding Galveston 2015 & 2013 The 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds page & the 1st Bald Eagles at White Rock Coyotes JRCompton.com : resumé Contact DallasArtsRevue So you want to use my photos? How to Photograph Birds Birding Places: Bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake & The Med School Rookery & Village Creek Drying Beds JUNE's Best Pix : White Ibis at The Spillway Saturday Night Skies Monk Parakeets on the Beach Black-crowned Night-Heron with a nearly full Snake Killdeer in the Grass Three Young Red-shouldered Hawks on a Hunt at Sunset Bay reverse shot of Red-winged Blackbird Proclaiming Pigeons Landing & Pigeons Wooing House Sparrow with big bug Black-chinned Hummingbird Feeding a Hummingbird Then same but larger Hummingbirds fed Scissor-tailed Flycatcher taking off Mockingbirds Wrestling Mockingbird flashing Adult Female Wood Duck in rich color
263 photos this month. Does it load too
too slow? Readers, please send feedback.
This Many Egrets in One Place & there's Sure to Be Little Skirmishes,
but it's these ones that are So Pretty to Watch but Quick to Finish.
Photographed June 29 & posted Thursday June 30
This is one of the more exciting things that egrets do that I really, really enjoy photographing. I hope it shows. Egrets of all our local varieties spend a lot of their time skirmishing with other egrets, but when they fly up over the crowd and act like superstar bird ballet dancers and/or aerial Kung Fu Fighters, this is about as close to real as it gets.
You probably get tired of me saying it, but as fierce as this seems, with them flying all up that high and striking toward each other and looking mean and all, this is all for show. Who backs down loses; I have never seen any blood let; and I don't know who's keeping score, because most of the crowd of Great Egrets below them don't seem to be paying much attention to this kind of action.
Which makes it more sport or display than fight. But these two Great Egrets are not just a little miffed at each other. They're willing to play it out in the only battle they know — unless they're fighting some species that really wants to do them in, and I've never seen that, so I just don't really know. But I love photographing these things, and will stand for hours in the hot sizzling summer sun just to see — and photograph — one. But they're usually over pretty quickly.
But while it lasts, it looks pretty fierce. Until they come down and rejoin their compatriots.
And then it's over. Elapsed time? According to my camera, about five or six seconds. Blink and you miss it. I point cam and lens as close as I can get it to the pair and hope it's in focus and the exposure is close enough. This time, both were right on. Often they are not. I don't show those.
Looks real enough. Like they're really going at it. But anybody see any blood? Not that I know what color egret blood is. Took awhile, but I found it here. They say it's red, like ours. Do we see any red here?
Water, mostly. Nothing red.
I mean, I knew they could fly well.
But watching them float is sorta amazing.
Most of the time.
Pointing a camera up and capturing birds flying far overhead is one thing. But looking out even is quite another. Makes standing on top of the Sidewalk on either side of The Spillways make a lot more sense for photographing flying birds.
They're called night-herons, and I've read that they are very strictly nocturnal, but photographing them at night is often a chore, so I just wait for them to break curfew.
A little overexposed, but elegant.
Sometimes simple is just fine.
BIF is photography for Birds In Flight, and it's what we love to capture in all its many variations, colors, tones, shapes and reasons.
Each one who caught some tried and tried to get rid of it, without any noticeable good results. I wonder what it is?
When I say there's lots of egrets along the Spillway, there really is. I didn't count them all, but this is just one little area about midway down it.
The most exotic bird I saw along the Spillway today — and the biggest surprise — was this adult White Ibis. I've seen them often at the SW Med School Rookery, where I once photographed more than a 140 of them flying over the free parking garage, as well as along the Trinity River, at John Bunker Sands Wetland Center, and elsewhere around Dallas and Texas, so I know them on sight.
As you will see scrolling down, I have pix of Little Blue Herons that are not silhouettes, but I really like them all dark, mysterious and at the edge, because they are so darker than the White Ibis this photograph was exposed for. if I could have got the Black-crowned Night-Heron to turn around and face the camera, I would. But since Dallas Audubon has turned me down to learn to become a Master Birder (Say that fast a couple times.), I may never learn the real secrets of birds — unless I keep watching with care.
The bright, shining White Ibis with vivid red beak and legs, behind the upper Little Blue shadow — was the reason for this photograph. But it's nice there's some other bird species besides just more egrets. There's been hundreds of egrets at the Spillway this last week or so since the oxygen got depleted and all those fish died or were stunned into being easily caught.
I thought this version would look better if the falling water was its natural, white self, instead of blue.
They are amazing fisher birds, and I love to watch them ply their craft. They are fast — faster fishers than any body or bird I've seen. With tricks, too. Wiggling a foot to provide a small current worth swimming into, and snatch, they're gone. And easily as feisty as Snowy Egrets, with whom, in a fight, Little Blue Herons generally win.
The "telephoto effect" really gets in our way of comparing bird sizes here, but it really puts the great in Great Egret and juvenile in the young Ibis.
I don't think there's some sort of inter-species communications whereby word of something amazingly fish-providing as this event eventually gets around to all sorts of species who usually don't keep in touch. But I do suspect, they all just flew over at one time or another in the last week or so, saw what was going on, and felt obliged to join in on the fun.
I'm pretty sure I only saw one Juvenile White Ibis …
… but it looks very different from shot to shot. I guess I've never had this much time to catch a juvenile White Ibis in so many poses and positions. Usually, when I find or come upon Ibis, they see me, and flee. This one was busy learning how to be an Ibis, while its parent was catching easy fish.
I guess the only reason this image is here is that it affords us a shot of the juvenile Ibis actually doing something — as well as showing the underside of its beak. And yes, that really is a fish in its beak, and it really did catch it. Okay, that's probably enough pix of the little Ibis, but who is this?
When I was photographing it, I assumed it were a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron, because one adult (above far left) of those was in its vicinity a lot — adult herons don't seem to hover; they take their juveniles out and show them what hunting & fishing is all about, but they let the juvies do their thing and usually only watch out for them from a distance. But this one does not resemble any of the herons in the bird I.D books I consulted. Who dat?
Kala King sent me a closer-up photo of a juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron with a lot more yellow on its lower beak and a lot less red on its shoulders and back, but the same red eyes, and striated neck and face, so it must be a Black-crowned Night-heron.
Skip now a couple of stories not about the Fish Kill Gathering to the next earlier episode of of the Kill [below].
I knew where we were when driving back from looking at art and eating dinner, but I have nearly no idea where we were when the sky began impinging upon our view enough I got the little Pany [Panasonic Lumix GX-8] out and began wide-angling it.
But this is probably the lake, were skies are often, in the evening, sky-ier and more vivid, just begging for clicks. Later, Anna helped me pick these winners from dozens of awed shots up.
Across the lake, a storm of color seemed brewing.
And this side, looking what must have been west it were vivid and vivider.
We began discussing striations and clumps and color oozing.
Every direction held its sway.
Some seemed involved in another sky altogether.
And back where we drove from, up the west side of the lake, darkness chased us.
In some directions, it got darker and darker with little lilts of warm and windy.
And others, here looking up from the egrets still gathering in the pool at the lowest end of The Spillway there were still bits of the leftover bright.
I could go on and on photographing the egrets and everybody air-balleting and flying and landing with the sun in their wings and all those visual clichés — and in fact I did, ever hoping they wouldn't go away for another couple days. Hoping that the Fish Kill would go on and on. But I'm not showing you any more of those photos today.
Today, I'm showing you parakeets way up-closer than I have in a long, long time. They and I pretty much coincided at My Favorite Boat Dock, where I and The Slider settled in while green Monk Parakeets flew in and out of my field of view. Sometimes they just stood around, sometimes they cozied up, sometimes it looked like they might fight.
A few even splash-bathed, which I think is the favorite purpose of small birds I've seen there in the last few years. I've seen House Sparrows and grackles and starlings and even a Male Red-winged Blackbird doing that there.
Nice for various species to come join our little party on the beach.
I've heard and read them called "Green Monk Parakeets," but their proper species title is Monk Parakeet — Myiopsitta monachus, although they are mostly green. They came from South America, but have since spread to temperate regions almost everywhere on this planet.
But I really don't know if they were fighting or just having fun. They like to be noisy, and it's not easy to tell.
It's rare enough I go to see the parakeets anymore. They're usually way far away. So very nice to have me park The Slider up the hill, and have them come in and visit and pose for me for awhile. Thanks, guys.
I have a bunch more Fish Kill Week photos that I can work up for say … Monday or Tuesday, so stay tuned.
Interesting link: How to Photograph Birds in Flight by Thom Hogan
Great Blue Herons, as a rule, don't hang out together much, except twice a year, in my limited experience. One of those must be their mating season, and I don't know what the other time is about. But Little Blue Herons do, and certainly Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets do. Some birds are social. Some not so much. But this apparently was a great excuse for everybody getting together. Ben says he even saw some Tricolored Herons. I'm sorry I missed that.
According to The USGS, "Many, but not all, fish kills in the summer result from low concentrations of dissolved oxygen in the water. Fish, like all other complex life forms, need oxygen to survive. They get theirs in the form of oxygen gas dissolved in the water." I wonder, because I saw fish flapping and trying to get away from some ducks, and the egrets I saw catching fish did that with their usual dart-forward-and-spear fish-bodies techniques. They weren't just picking up dead ones out of the water.
There's more and more specific information from Refidnasb on Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat forum (free to visit, but you have to register — also free — to post or respond).
I visited The Spillway four times yesterday, utterly exhausting myself, but every time I went I found something new to photograph. Most interesting was more bird species. Overall, I shot more than 700 images. So I'll be much more careful with today's selections, and I'll probably go back through yesterday's and delete some of the less-than pix there.
Sometimes putting these images in strict chronological order helps make them make sense. Sometimes there's nothing we can do about that. This time — except two shots — it was just most convenient.
In the next pic in this series but not seen here, the snake crawls over the left edge and down into the foam, and in the one after that, it disappears entirely. So yes, it was definitely a live one — and it looks like it's been eating its fill.
I love photographing birds flying close.
Challenges. And challenges lead to …
Though never any blood, the battles appear fierce — and elegant.
They look a lot like avian ballet.
The few battles I saw were quick to start …
And quick to finish.
If it were a real fight, the Great would win, wings down. But it's all for show, thought some lessons may be learned.
… are at the bottom end of the Upper Spillway. But there's more than one falls. They transition from the flat spillway above, down over lots of rocky places.
Neither Cattle Egrets nor Little Blue Herons were present the first day or evening.
Everybody's gathered to eat the tiny little shad, but Little Blue Herons are not conformists.
I didn't see the transgression which impelled these two into this battle …
… but we can assume it had either to do with a place to stand to fish or a fish.
Although it's always possible that these two birds have seriously disliked each other for a long, long time., and this was just the latest opportunity to express their antipathy.
Sometimes egrets just challenge and thrust and leave the area. Others keep going at it and at it till they're about to drop.
The duck seems surprised, but surely it's been watching what was going on directly in its way.
Water furiously splashing down the rocks, and this Great Egret just calmly standing there staring up into space. I know the feeling.
I did not see any dead fish until late the second day of this "Fish Kill." I did see a lot of very large fish, especially in the shallows at the bottom of the Middle Spillway. Somebody I spoke with briefly asked me if I'd seen the gold ones. I did not see any giant gold fish this trip. But over the years, I have seen many of those giant, glittering fish.
At this point I was near exhaustion, way too hot and had spent enough silicon — and worse yet, shutter executions — I just wanted to go back to The Slider's AC. But first, a couple of fem gracks:
What I saw was dark birds with a flash of white I assumed was a lump of bread. As we can see here — and I couldn't see then, this is a fish. Perhaps one of those notorious deceased shad. I'm very curious how long this fish has been dead. Did it die a couple days ago, but all these birds gathered to eat what was left of it? Or was it alive when this grackle got it? As too often, I just don't know. But they were in a hurry to leave, so I had to click quick.
This bird was standing on the tree that's lately got stuck on top of the Lower Steps as the lake water went over that slight impediment and rushed off through the municipal golf course.
I saw a lot of egrets along the Upper and Middle Spillway as I drove west this blazing hot afternoon. While I was working these images up, I got an email from Kala King explaining, "There has been a fish kill of the Little Silver Shad. Which means that there are lots of egrets and herons and big fish and turtles and other Predators chowing down."
I suspect there were many more fish earlier.
They all seem to be waiting for whatever happens next.
Great opportunity to see big white birds flying thither and yon.
Lots of little and large places for water to fall subtly and spectacularly along The Spillway.
I'm curious what kind of ducks these are. Don't quite look like mallards…
American Crows, Three Great Egrets and one Snowy Egret at the bottom left.
Lots of egret elegance all along the Upper, Middle and Lower Spillway today.
Note the small, stripey bird at the upper right corner. I assumed it were a Killdeer, then I thought maybe not.
Well, like one maybe, but not exactly like one. The placements of the patterns seem wrong.
Why it's called The Spillway, and one of my favorite scenes to photograph over the last ten years of photographing the birds at White Rock Lake. The white things in the lake behind are not birds. They are floats. See below.
The Spillway spills water down a mostly flat but inclined concrete platform. Then the water swirls and spills into a rougher rock course that stays inclined, so the water then spills through an area before Egret Island's trees interfere by splitting the water around that island, then the streams of water again rejoins below Egret Island into the Lower Pond and the Lower Steps, after which it flows under the Walking Bridge, then the garland Road auto bridge, then east toward the Municipal Golf Course and its many little waterfalls and off toward I-30 and beyond.
The bones in its upper wing seem especially dark because this egret is illuminated through its body from the sun.
And I'm headed down the concretized hill toward my air-conditioned car.
I hadn't really noticed the fence in the upper background when I was shooting, although I may have acquired the habit of framing images over the fifty-plus years I've been making photographs, but it was a surprise to see the shadow of it contrasting all the horizontal ripples in this pool.
It kept catching fish. I only watched it maybe five or so minutes, but it caught at least five fish in that time — maybe twice that.
This is me playing with the framing in post-production in an elderly version of Photoshop that I bought outright before they started charging by the minute to use their precious software that this is so much better than, because I can still operate it. All today's shots were with the same cam and lens, just cropped differently.
This time I just wanted to make that splash stand out. It was fine with me if the bird went into near silhouette and if the blue of the sky nearly took over the photograph. I was having fun, and this is what I did.
This is the start of another series, only I didn't know it, and instead of fooling around with the print exposure, I just rendered it as well as I could as I watched and clicked.
Obviously, it's not really inverting. It's just getting into an elaborate rouse I didn't see coming.
Everything is puffing up.
Not hardly no partial about it anymore. This is a full-fledged pigeon rouse.
Comfy in its inflated condition, the pigeon rests. It was blazing hot today, and I bet a puffed-out pigeon is cooler than one who's not.
About all I was really trying to do here was get as many egrets in the same picture and at least apparently in focus as I could. There's a duck and some other birds toward the upper middle of the pic, too. If my telephoto lens were a wide-angle, we could probably see the dam way up from the top of this image and the sky above that, but we got that blue sky here reflected, instead.
Rounding Up Some Previously Shot Bird Pix
posted Monday, June 20, 2016
I think it was pulling the old, I am injured, please follow me away from my nest routine before I got my car in just the right position to photograph this bird barely peeking out from the tall grass along the road leading into the Old Boathouse area. At least it was holding its wing peculiarly. But by the time I got The Slider backed into the right position to photograph it, it was just squatting low in the tall green grass.
Then, gradually, it rose to sitting position.
And finally, stood there, looking all handsome and aloof.
I am often fascinated with the various ways birds hold their feathers, and the boat-tailed look is one of those.
I generally refer to the whole ecological miasmas, including land, trees, animals, birds, buildings, parking lots and even humans as Sunset Bay, but here I am referring to the water mass after which the neighborhood is named. I went to Sunset Bay this morning to photograph birds, but for awhile I didn't think I'd find anything but the usuals [below], which I love — don't get me wrong — but I was longing for something a little different. Just then, in my moment of doubt, in flew two, birds screaming loud and often, one on either side of the road.
All three of the hawks I saw today screeched loudly, high-pitched and near constantly. I don't think they were trying to scare anybody, and Eric and I conjectured aloud that they must have really wanted the parental units to come feed them. I assume this morning's trip was an attempt by the parents to push the kits kicking, biting and, yes, screaming into the notion of catching their own food and eating it.
If so, it did not work. Not this time anyway.
There were at least four, fairly prominent adult American Crows who had appointed themselves the Saviors of Sunset Bay from the scourges of young hawks. It's a role they often adapt against a variety of territory interlopers, and they're used to winning. This morning, mostly, they were just loud, and I never saw even one of them actually engage any hawk or hawklets in any way. Crows are smart, and three hawks at once may be too many to deal with. And I assume there were some parental hawks around, also.
Sometimes, the hawks didn't seem to mind perching close. Other times they seemed determined to park far. I like close better, because then I get to show you details. Since this caption is, so far, rather short, here might be a good place to post that Eric and I both believed that these were the young Red-shouldered Hawks from the nest that was not so far away that I have followed since March of 2016. Here are all the links to these hawks so far:
Often they perched in shade, so them coming out into the sunlight was especially rewarding. Besides having more light than most of today's hawk shots, this has the most real colors.
Caught up with them doing something active, they did something else active and flew away.
I didn't get a photo of it, either because the hawks were moving too fast, or they were never there, really, but I saw all the pigeons down on Sunset Beach first bunch up very close to each other, then suddenly disperse altogether up the creek where I could no longer see them. I wish I were fast enough on the uptake to capture a hawk flying low into that crowd of pigeons and coots. But I never saw them there, so I have no photo proof it even happened.
I've noticed that in today's photographs, they seem to change colors often, but I suspect that has more to do with exposure and lighting that actual bird colors. And there were, according to Eric — I only ever saw two at any one time, but my eyes aren't that good, and he often helped me find them when they were hidden among the shadows. When they appear bright and blondish, I could see them. When they were dark and blending into the trees, it often took awhile before I could see them.
But then humans are generally species-specific about these things, and it might well have been staring down at Eric or a mouse in a field behind us.
Luckily, my camera has a variety of focus shapes and sizes to utilize, and often today, to get past focusing on three parts instead of bird parts, I employed the pinpoint focus. To great success. Sometimes.
Or else calling its parental unit to come feed it. I did not see the hawks all the time, since they were crisscrossing the lakeside areas of Sunset Circle, but they never, in my sight, at least, acted very fierce. I saw pigeons scatter, a couple times, but I never once saw a hawk chase or catch anything, and I really wanted them to. I figure it's all a big lesson, and that eventually, they will catch on.
The Amazing Very Slowly Exploding Milkweed Plant
posted June 16, 2016
I was looking for birds when I saw these along the side of the road. I was amazed at this first one, clicked it a couple times, then drove down the road a little more. Kala says those are Milkweed bugs in the pic above. I saw them — red and black bugs are hard to miss — but only now know who they were.
Apparently, to us who watch closely, are widely distributed at the lake and around Dallas — here in The Tropics. I was mainly attracted, because they looked like they were exploding, but it helped that they were beautiful..
And found this. I'm sure somebody out there knows (Kala King did.) what this is, but I like it. I like it. Ka-blooey in very slo-mo.
The form shown in this Kala King photo probably has more to do with it being called Milkweed.
Cornell Labs' Great Egrets During
Nesting Season vid is informative.
Pigeons Flying & Courting + Flowers and Squiggly Lines
posted late June 15 2016
The day began with a walk, and since I was carrying my big, heavy camera with my big, heavy lens, I took pictures along the way, mostly — but not always — of birds. Up, …
down … or wherever.
Makes my mouth water. Used to borrow these flowers from neighbors' over-the-fence distribution points and suck on them awhile. I remember the flavors, but I no longer partake.
Big guy, big bike, little backpack, little helmet. Keys dangling out of reach.
This is on top of the dam. I quickly tired of being on a so-called path (It was concrete, and worse, it was completely surrounded by thick evergreen trees, so I could see the path and the trees, and all the other people on the path, but nothing beyond that, including darn few birds. So, soon as I could, I departed that 'path' and lit out for places I could see for miles and miles, like the top of the dam. Not exactly sure why a dam top needs a dotted yellow line, but at least it's not straight.
And the bottom of the dam. And around the corner to the right, past those plants, was The Spillway.
Every once in a while, the already rough surface of The Upper Spillway (below the dam) were these outcropping of water splashing.
And These are from Later that Day
I've photographed Red-winged Blackbirds for ten years now, gradually getting better at catching them with beak open and red/yellow epaulets rising off their shoulders, nice to get a rich black reverse shot of one for a change. No eyes to focus on instead of the bird, per universally-accepted insipidity. Gorgeous, rich reds and yellows and blacks. All my dozens and dozens of RWBB pix led up to this — and went nowhere.
Newbie photogs often disclose that they only get a small percentage of good shots. Rest easy, we all have that experience. Every time we photograph. Most of all our shots are duds, but we only show the best, and after about fifty years or so, those sometimes get pretty good.
Or I think it is a Mocker. But Mockingbirds aren't usually yellow, so who knows. The next day, driving down the same path I saw a Northern Mockingbird that looked about as yellow as this one. I think this one has Mockingbird Eyes.
Then this guy just flew right in, and the Yellow Mock flew away as if all in one continuous motion. I've seen Great Egrets and Great Egrets, and Great Blue Herons do the same thing on different perches. Must be a Bird World Law of Physics.
But all I know for pretty much certain is that it catches flies — or it wouldn't have those fine filigrees of feathers out front around its beak, not unlike a cow-catcher on the front of old-fashioned steam engines.
Shooting almost straight up at the high line full of Barn Swallows. This shot, like everything down from "The Proclaimer" [above] was shot on my 300mm lens without my usual 1.7X extender. So it's just 300, not 500 mm, and it's noticeably sharper. Wish I could get all my birds to come a little closer.
Love the fly-away spread of single feathers on the one on the left.
I assumed it were a swallow when I aimed the Blunderbuss nearly straight up at it, and didn't give it another thought till it came up in post-production. Then, I just was not sure, at all. But Kala King says it looks like a female Eastern Bluebird — and I believe it, which is a big surprise.
I've been searching and searching for any bluebirds lately in the places I've seen them often before, and they're just not there. Or I couldn't find them. How delightful a surprise to have this one show up on the cable behind the Winfrey Building I drive up under almost every day of my life. Nice. Thanks, Kala.
I stood there under a tree very near the edge of Sunset Beach watching and attempting to photograph pigeons for more than an hour.
What I hoped to attain was photographs of pigeons flying. What I mostly got was photographs of pigeons landing. There's still an elegance in them, but when they flew from one of three landing areas around Sunset Bay — the beach, the hill in front of what used to be the restaurant and a ways west of the path to the Pier at Sunset Bay — flying to one or the other from one or the others, it was always a puzzle which way they'd fly and what tack they'd take on coming in for final approaches.
Eventually, after watching the whole swirl awhile, I figured out if I just waited, I'd eventually see a lot of pigeons coming in, but I was never sure I'd get to follow them in, so my cam could catch focus up to them, and mostly I did not. But a couple of them worked just right.
This one is almost perfectly exposed. The next two, however, are not. I was experimenting … which is always a tedious and/or fun endeavor. Waiting, waiting, waiting, then hope for a few wildly gyrating seconds, then I could always photograph them on the ground.
And darker, because I thought it needed darker. Unfortunately, where it needed darker the most was in its bright white wings, where it least wanted to go.
Apparently, I was not the only one on Sunset Beach who was especially taken by this mostly white pigeon. I didn't know it was a she, but the guy on the right was certainly aware. The whitish one was not, however, taken with him. So he continued his tail-dragging quest.
Note their comparative ultraviolet colorings here. His is at attention. She, not so much. Yet. But she's looking back at him, and she's not fast-walking away like every other female he's done his dance for.
Tail-dragging is a major sign of interest by male to female. In addition, this and other pigeons on the make, tend to turn in tight circles.
Looking large and strong seems to be a common attractant for various species of birds and animals and people. Not a position pigeons seem to want to hold for long, but for jus this long, it seems to have its allure.
Bodies are separate, but there is that beak in the neck and back-of-head feathers that she doesn't seem to mind.
Bodies are not just aligned, they are in very close contact. Most birds sex quickly. Blink and you missed it. I might have blinked, but I wonder whether I caught it and don't recognize it. There's something pinkish tan in under there that seems to be connected.
And that's it, as far as I could see or photograph.
Oh, and can you tell how much sharper my lens is without that pesky 1.7X teleXtender?
Walking & Photographing through The Big Thicket
posted June 14 2016
We started at Big Thicket Loop then walked up to about where the path crosses the road again, not far from where the boat-rentals are lately gone from, Thank God. And took pix going both ways, but as often here, these images are presented in chronological, but not geographical,l order. It's a pretty place we don't often go to photograph but we like the drive that ends in a loop that, instead of following the path through the barricades, toward the Bath House Cultural Center, loops us back down the road again to the Mockingbird Bridges (Walking and Driving).
Way high, and I was hand-holding The Blunderbuss, because I can deal with the large, sorta complicated tripod, when I'm walking. So the fact that I captured that slight protrusion from its beak above and got the rest of the bird, but not the tree, is pretty amazing, especially tilted back as I was to even see it.
When it finally turned a neat profile, it was no longer framed by the intervening branches that I barely notice when photographing but turn pretty obvious, even when this out of focus, in the resulting photograph.
Sailboat owners must be among the best appreciators of wild color.
Surrounded by vegetation, from this view, at least, this looks like a quiet gentle place, which it mostly is.
I waited and waited for it to turn around and face my way, but it did not. Note the hair-like feathers over its nose that are used to capture flying insects, which is why this bird and many of its cousins are called Flycatchers. These tiny feathers can be seen in the next two images below, if you look carefully.
Of course, that's not the tree's real name. It's all I could think of to call it — with all those big green fruits hanging — and it doesn't look like any of the crab-apple trees I saw online.
It could be any number of other bugs, though, and this angle doesn't clarify anything much. But catching bugs, after all, is what Flycatchers do.
We don't often get to see their gray fuzzies on the side like this.
He's in focus, just his wings are flapping too fast to be rendered sharp.
Or something like that. This is Texas.
Many people despise Grackles, and some shoot to kill them. I like them, because they are amazing in so many ways. I've seen several sets of males fighting lately, but I've not got them at it especially in the air.
The shade that extends up and back above its head is blue because the sun doesn't shine on it, only the blue sky. The sunshine begins near the top of the photo.
The trouble with silhouetting a dragonfly against the bright blue water and sky is that it renders its body much more difficult to identify, although those brown-gold spots on its wings should be the dead giveaway. But I couldn't find it in my National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects & Spiders, which is organized by colors. I'm just amazed that I got this bug this sharp and action-stopped. It was my third try clicking at it with a 500mm lens.
This dragonfly looks a lot like the Skimmer, Celithemis elisa, which has those very brown spots at mid and end of wings, plus more toward its body that are not here, so it could be a female or something entirely different. I didn't choose a specific dragonfly. I took what I could get, which may be my working procedure for birds as well. See Google Images for Celithemis elisa.
What many people do not realize from looking at all my photographs of White Rock Lake is that this body of water is wholly inside the the city of Dallas City Limits. Way inside, in fact. It is often described as the largest Lake & Park inside the city limit of any city in the U.S. People get carried away with their ONLYs sometimes, and I can't prove it, but it's an utterly wonderful place to photograph birds that is within spitting distance of downtown, as well a entirely within the city limits.
This is probably also the Corinthian Sailboat Club. Its my favorite club to photograph.
I'd much rather photograph a Green Heron than a Nutria any day, since I, like many others, consider the Coypu to be big rats — albeit a River Rat, and while I hold not disgust at these amazing animals, I'd still rather have got good pix of the Green Heron that preceded it by only a few seconds but stayed below the line of the reeds. Alas!
We call these kits who are out swimming and finding their own food — under the careful tutelage of the mom. I think I should not be calling adult females with kits "Mom," but I can't remember why not — especially when that description is so apt and communicative.
Just sitting out there well off from shore.
Then I took another click or five at that Red-bellied Woodpecker still up in that same tree, but none of the newer shots were as good as the ones I'd already exposed.
At least it's what seems to this Great Blue Heron — that these uppity pigeons who have invaded its territory to — well, apparently, drink some water — or cool their much smaller feet. But they might be after the fishies that dwell in that precious water this Great Blue Heron is guarding, because …
When he spots their infiltrators, he …
How dare they enter his realm?
I turn and return and re-return to this amazing place so often, just because in this season, at least, there's such wonderful birds gathered up and down its length to photograph in so many positions, poses and contradictions.
Maybe it's too easy.
But it's such an interesting place of odd and repeating abstractions brought to us from the minds and souls of civil engineers and the birds who enter those spaces.
I was just trying to get interesting images under the bridges, and it really wasn't this shot that convinced me it was. I did notice it was a sip.
And this was the subsequent swallow. Perfect in profile. Probably my favorite bird yet, although I still love grackles and mockers and so many others.
No telling what it saw or heard or felt or why it turned that way. If I wait, they often do. Birds on wires, birds on the edges of The Lower Stairs, almost always, if I wait, turn to show me their elegances. Click, because I've been waiting.
Lotta people just can't leave sleeping snakes lie. Even though snakes do more good than we do.
With no Great Blue Heron to scare them away from their moments in the cool water. If you are as curious as I was when I saw this image what exactly pigeons love to eat, check out this forum on Pigeon Talk.
Meanwhile, Great Egrets and …
Snowy Egrets busied themselves catching fresh fish.
I moved around at the fence that parallels Garland Road on the road side of the middle spillway, where there's a gulf of mud between the concretes. I don't know much about fish, but no birds were attempting to catch these guys, who are probably bigger than any throat around.
On the eastern side of The Walking Bridge (that's parallel to the Garland Road vehicle bridge), then down the bit of grassy hill, there's a fence that's easy to lean arms and cameras on, to hold them steady with smaller apertures that give photographers greater depth of field, including most of the birds along the upper step here. There used to be a fraction rule about where in a long line of something, one can focus upon, to get the most birds sharp. I have here attempted a corollary theory to get all my birds in a row sharp. But the farthest Great Egret escaped it.
Big yellow feet, black legs, the remnant of nuptial plumes on its head and tail and water sluicing down the steps.
Looking down at water moving and the spillway wall behind.
I keep being surprised to see Cattle Egrets around the lake or flying over it this season. It never lasts, although they are often in plain sight in fields of cows along our highways.
Until this time I hadn't really noticed many interesting birds on the little rock island that appeared this side of the Lower Steps a few months ago — although my understanding of how time teeters, pitches and yaws, stretches and retracts — gaes aft askew.
I'd just barely got my first shots of them standing, when they began flying away. This first shot has that Great Egret and this Snowy, but the background isn't very exciting.
But let them fly a few seconds farther and the down-shadow of the Walking Bridge over slants and frames and settles them and their reflections down.
I never saw the swallow. It's a happy happenstance to balance out my composition. And in a pretty fair dinkum of focus, too — a minor miracle.
When I first saw this image playing in on my computer screen, I thought those dark lumps were pigeons and imagined such a fortuitous ending for my series.
Here are those same Black-chinned Hummingbirds at two-weeks-old.
Plus, Bill J. Boyd's shot of Nine Black-bellied Whistling Ducklings
Posted June 10 2016
I moved Boyd's original photo of this same female feeding her then, four-day-old hummingbird [below] , so I can keep them together. Difficult to say which pic is more amazing, the younger birds below or these spectacular ones here.
Boyd wrote: I have been watching a hummingbird nest for the last two-weeks at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, where I volunteer.. We watched the nest being built out of lichen and held together with spider webs. Last week I saw one of the baby hummingbirds being fed (there are two in nest) and just wanted to share with you. BTW, a hummingbird egg is the size of a navy bean.
This baby was 4-days old when I took this shot. Shot with a Nikon D750 and 80-400mm lens ISO 1250, f/5.6, 1/500 handheld from about 6-feet on May 24, 2016 at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas, where Bill J Boyd volunteers.
This is another of Bill's photos, this time of young Black-bellied Whistling Ducks with their mother:
See amateur video of these same ducklings at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. Boyd's photo is on but not in the video.
See also my Mother's photograph of an adult Black-bellied Whistling duck with her cute little striped ducklings from west of Mission, Texas in the Lower Rio Grande Valley — on my very first Amateur Birder's Journal page, ten years ago, when I started this bird journal. What goes around, keeps going around.
& Some of my Accumulated Photographs
Posted late June 9 2016
Just barely caught this Mallard Drake stretching while the other two watched me intently.
I kept hoping it jump off that wire, and when it did, I got two shots. This was closer to being in-focus than the other.
I keep looking for Bluebirds. But this is the only one I found.
From where I stood inside the Stone Tables Building on the way to Dreyfuss Point, I could not see the insect. I thought I was just photographed some birds in the darkish rafters.
Walking Fast, Forth & Back 2 Miles
White Rock Lake,
Only Stopping to Take More Bird Photographs
Posted June 8 2016
These flowers are growing along the sidewalk overlooking the Middle Spillway on the Garland Road side, where I often look down from for birds on the Upper and Middle Spillways. My first four or five shots were terribly out of focus, as were all those after this. I have my Nikon set to shoot anything — focus or not — while I keep clicking away trying to find it, so I don't lose panning.
Often the first shot or two are OOF (out of focus) while I follow along — just keep shooting as the camera acquires focus. I've read in books and photo sites [Thom Hogan, The Manusurovs, CameraLabs, Ming Thein, Image Resource are my faves.] this procedure is not what most photogs choose, but it works for me. And this is proof.
If the camera suddenly stops clicking just because it's not in focus, I'm SOL, and it'd be hard to find a bird flying in a straight line, and impossible to find a hummingbird amok. Nice, too, that the flowers and leaves were vivid, and a spider had been busy. I think this is only the first or second hummingbird I've ever photographed at White Rock Lake.
Meanwhile, down in the trough below:
Water over the Lower Steps was frothy white and wild that day after another yet more rain. Nice contrast to the usually gray Great Blue Heron. Stopped a little while to photograph birds down in the splash catching fish. We were going to walk a mile, ended up doing two. Fast and slow. Fast walking. Slow watching birds and taking photographs.
I often crop images to show here, but this, for a change, is the full frame. Either it or I was just too close to the action. Like to have got more of it, but this was enough.
I love to watch the shadows ripple along a Great Egret's bright white wings as it delicately maneuvers. Years ago, I gave a closer-up photo of an egret very like this one to a guy for a book about fluid mechanics. Air being the fluid; wings the mechanicals.
Such beautiful, elegant creatures …
This that looks like candles, but I really don't know what they are, has not much really to do with Nature. I just liked its dotted demarcation of White Rock Lake as shot from the Garland Road side fast-walking somewhat east of the Dam. When I was in school, I was taught that Nature does, but there's lots of straight lines in nature.
Snowies only have about 3.5 feet of wingspan, while Great Egrets have another half foot, and Great Blue Herons have six feet long wingspans. But this bird sure looks like it has a wingspan of miles and miles.
Love those deep rust colors with the contrasting gray blues accented by the white and black ruff down the front of head, neck and wings.
Great Egrets, who are generally larger than Snowy Egrets, have black legs and feet and orange-yellow beaks. Snowies have black beaks with yellow lore and yellow feet. This one seems in a hurry to go catch some more fish.
It looks like a Snowy Egret looking back at its shadow, but I seriously doubt they much care about their shadows. It's probably landing, but it could be anything, really. I was just clicking crazily away. My apologies, Kelly, for scaring the birds, who always came right back, but I was whup from walking two miles fast, and my mind was leaning toward air conditioning.
Really only their crown plumes and a little around the edges of wings are visible here — I love the left one's shadow racing along the slant, but keep reading, and you'll see more feathery Snowy finery.
Snowy Egrets are a feisty bunch, willing to chase or spat at any time for any including the flimsiest of excuses. Note the Snowy on the right flaring its head and body plumes to make itself look even more formidable.
It's mating season — or just past, and Snowy Egrets have some of the more extreme samples of nuptial plumes available, and being the remarkably feisty birds they are, they don't mind letting them show to anyone they might consider a foe — which includes nearly every other bird their size or smaller.
If I can't get into the slow lane coming back west toward Garland Road by The Lower Spillway, I can see the egrets gathered in these tall trees overlooking The Lower Stairs, to know if there's enough worth turning onto Winstead, parking and waking around to the bridge. If I'm in the slow lane coming down the hill going the other way Garland Road, I can see them gathering along the steps, and if there's a Little Blue or something equally or even more interesting — like a Tricolor — I'm in.
White scat dribbling down the slant appear blue here, because they're in the shade, which is illuminated, not by the sun s shining on the egret, but by the blue, blue sky above.
To learn by seeing what rouses are, see my birds rousing page.
No nuptial plumes showing, but they're smiling really big.
More Pix from Last Week's Rookery Visit
Posted in the p.m. of June 6 2016
Not sure how I managed to miss these shots before. I guess it helped that I hadn't worked them up yet. So while I was looking for something else, I came upon these, and I quickly began working these up — a process that involves looking at every single image as large on the screen as I can make it to see which are in sharp focus and have some sort of meaning. This is a close-up of the full image that is next down the page.
It seems likely this chick was the first-hatched, which honor bestows upon it the likelihood that it will grow fastest, get the most food and attention from its parents, which hardly guarantees survival, but it's a giant step forward. Younger, less healthy juveniles often get pushed out of the nest, and the rookery grounds were littered with dead, frail white bodies.
Earlier this summer was comparatively cool. Now it's hot in the sun and sometimes windless trees. Adults may be relatively more able to do something about it.
I'm showing this image, so you'll believe me when I talk about the adult tending the chicks, most of which we cannot see, in the image with the adult's wing up to shade the nest below. Here, we see the top of a fluffy white head, the vague detail of one eye and beak. There may actually be two young in this and the pic below, and I suppose it's possible there could even be three. Either I was too low, shooting upward, or they were too high.
I'm fascinated by the growth of feathers and the structures of birds' wings. The details visible just above this parental egret's neck and head show something I don't know what is, and it looks more like feathers just growing in for the first time in a juvenile [below] that something on an adult. The results of an injury? Some of the smaller branches above the actual nest partially obscure the adult's face and eye.
Here's another of my sequences of a bird standing (perched) transitioning to a bird flying, with a few kinks.
Here, the Cattle Egret has its wings up to push air down and rise off the tree branch.
And here, its feet have let go and are helping it run forward into the wind.
You can always tell when their feet are dragging behind and below them without grabbing onto anything, that they're in the air and flying, even if those feet look like they're fully prepared to grab onto something if they need to. Note its crown stayed up throughout, so intent on the process at uh… foot.
This is one of many warning signs all around the rookery warning humans to stay outside the treeline. But some photographers think they get to go in as far as they like, so I yell at those, "No Trespassing!" It usually works, but perhaps not permanently.
Sneaking Up on the Med School Rookery
Posted the afternoon of June 4 2016
Once again, I took my sweet time entering the grounds of the SW Med School Rookery. I walked in a ways, put down tripod with camera attached and looked around for birds to photograph. When I walk in quickly, they all run or fly away. When I go slowly, the do not sense any sort of danger, and I can photograph to my heart's content. Just to keep it copacetic, I tried to stay in the shadows (mostly because it was much cooler under there), and I took about fifteen minutes to get to the sometimes paved, sometimes mudded-over path around the rookery.
Each of the six or seven, I think, stopping places afforded me a slightly different view and assortment of birds.
The differences between shadows and light were a little more extreme than I or my trusty Nikon was able to cope with, but after blitzing the Cattle Egret on the brick wall just above, I think I got the exposure just about right here. I didn't want to stay there very long, but I wanted to see how the rookery birds were doing.
Of all the egrets in breeding plumage, the lowly Cattle Egrets are the most extreme, although this photo does not show it. I watched as it raised and lowered the feathers on its head, neck ruff and back, but I didn't get decent shots of anything but this one.
I was actively working with (click, then change; click, then change again) ISO and shutter speeds, etc. So those bright white areas of this bird would not be so blown out (solid white without details), but I got its eyes, eyebrows and face, not just sharp, but well exposed. Then I sensed a change about to happen. It was crouching as if to spring into flight, so I paid attention and tried to follow it up.
So when the egret jumped up and grabbed wings full of air, I brought my aim along with it. You have no idea how thrilling it is to have kept it in the frame as it radically changed its vertical position.
A little wing clipping here, but great action, and it's just suspended, feet dangling, with that same tree in the background, but the tree is moving left and behind.
It's still climbing, passing another Great Egret, and we see delineation of specific feathers, as if it truly were capable of moving any one or group of feathers at any time, not that I doubted it. I've been watching birds in general and Great Egrets in specific for ten years now, but still, I can only follow camera with bird sometimes. Like this one.
Another set of cupped wings full of air as it continues to gain altitude.
Till it begins to disappear into the shadows above. I considered and reconsidered including this shot, because the egret is entering an area of the little forest that is the rookery, and we can't see all its connecting parts any more. But I like this shot — and the sequence.
Note the nest that fills the bottom of this photo, often behind the tallest branches of the trees on this side. All four of these shots are from that same framing, though I may enlarge some subsequent ones slightly. We'll be watching the bird standing in the middle as it stretches to show its new wings and feathers, barely visible here at what here looks like its tail, but is really its brand new left wing, which beginning to show as it stretches new muscles.
It may look like damage, but it's new growth of wings and the feathers needed for flight not so long from now. Compare these new wings with the slightly older wings on a slightly older chick flying above.
As it stretches its new wings, we see a more and more of the under structure that comprises its brand new wings it barely knows what to do with, yet.
And the long line of feathers growing into its new wing musculature. Its head is no longer visible behind the branches on the left, but this is what new feathers look like when they are growing into wings. Nice of it to show us.
This is somebody else entirely. And as I relearned recently, birds don't sweat, they pant like many animals do.
Egrets, Ducks & Their Downy Young, Coots, Gooses & a Sparrow
Posted early June 3 2016
Sometimes I amaze myself with near-perfect exposure. Most of the time, I do not.
I'm sure the Bird Squad has a name for it, but I like it for its feather detail, even though we're supposed to make their eyes the sharpest.
I've been watching this coot for a couple weeks. Wondering what the deal was, since most American Coots are all black with that unique white beak (both of which are often very difficult to expose correctly) — and dark, red eyes set into the darkest part of their black feathers. Leucistic (of an animal) means having whitish fur, plumage, or skin due to a lack of pigment.
Nice to see some of them still around — and acting more like regular gooses.
I was sitting on the bench where Ann usually sits, talking with Robert B — about cameras, lenses, Viet Nam and Tuy Hoa (pronounced two-E wah), where we were both stationed. He in the army; me in the air force. The Army base was forward, caught most of the war up close and personal. Air force only got attacked once in the couple months I was there. I assumed due to all those Vietnamese who were let onto the base every morning to do our cooking, cleaning and other 'drity' jobs. While Robert and I talked, I kept photographing birds, including this one and most of those below.
Always nice to get a reflection shot. I got the bird at almost perfect exposure — or I would have been tempted to darken the water and reflection below.
I never tire of photographing Female Wood Ducks, especially with their colors showing. I often tire of photographing male Wood Ducks, though. They're just too garish. The hens are subtle, and they take care of the babies and fight off intruders. Daddies sometimes eat their young. Glad my Daddy didn't.
So, it'a only fitting, I guess that I show some of the drawbacks of trying to be outrageously handsome all the time. Something I never had to struggle much with.
Not exactly showing its greatest beauty, but elegant in a long-winged kind of way.
I followed this one across Sunset Bay. Beauty, pure beauty.
Probably the same bird. We don't have a surfeit of Great Egrets right now, so each individual is worth paying attention to.
She's the protector, and she does that vehemently, whatever she's protecting.
Which often, especially these days, includes little ones.
Such beauty and abundance, except each set of hatchlings, which may number — I checked with my oft-cited Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas: "female incubates 7-10 light green to white eggs for 26-30 days." And they are extremely lucky when they get to keep 10% till the young ones fly away. Doesn't seem fair, does it?
Too Hot, Too Slow, Some Birds Though —
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher & Angry Mockingbirds
Posted June 1 2016
I don't remember making this photograph, but then I don't remember a whole lotta things anymore. I just barely remember that first Birder's Journal page ten years ago, except back then, at first, at least, it was called "The Addlepated Birder's Journal," because I was pretty addlepated as a birder. Which word my Mac dictionary defines as "lacking in common sense; having a muddled mind." I've learned a lot about birds since then, mostly by watching them slowly and photographing them quickly.
I don't think I've ever seen Scissor-tail feathers bounce like that before. The configuration of tail feathers in flight especially intrigues me. I don't think I've ever seen them like this before.
It's always easier when they hold still. The plumbing used to feed the Dreyfuss House, where many community activities were held till there was a small fire there, but the fool Fire Department could not find Dreyfuss, because all the roads around White Rock Lake had the same name (Lawther). Since the Great Dreyfuss Building Fire, the City has changed a lot of street names, making it confusing for everybody else.
I tried and missed. I tried and misfocused. I tried and tried, but I just wasn't quick enough. So glad I at least got this one shot of these two Northern Mockingbirds facing off in the sky. This is the most energetic, out-and-out fight between mockers I've ever seen.
It was hot. And for a long time it seemed birds were slow to show. Then I found these guys fighting on the ground and in the air. Clickety-click. I didn't really get going till later this morning. I've been spending a lot of time cleaning my house, so I may be late for awhile.
Nice of them to stay on the ground for long periods of time now and again. Helps to be able to focus — or almost focus.
Really difficult sometimes to find where their heads are.
Hard to tell where one birds stops and the other starts. Molten lump. Still no blood-letting, of course.
I don't want it to be a Mockingbird, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were. Kala King says it's definitely not a mocker but, instead, it could be an Eastern Phoebe. I like that. Kala suggests we visit this page on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds site, under its field marks section, and we should check out the photo of the second juvenile.
Not sure why I photographed this, either, but it looked a lot like a piece of sculpture.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2016 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission from and payment to Writer and Photographer J R Compton. I am an amateur. I've only been birding since June 2006, and most of that is documented in this Journal, all the pages of which continue online. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964. 30