109 photos in July [+107 in June) all on this page (It's a long story.] Cameras Used Ethics Feedback My Special Bird Pages: Herons Egrets Heron & Egrets Links & Bird Books Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch Bird Rouses Courtship Behaviors Banding Birding Galveston 2015 & 2013 The 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds page & the 1st Bald Eagles at White Rock Coyotes JR's resuméContact Dallas Bird Resources:Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat Bird Rescue Info You want to use my photos? How to Photograph Birds Bird Places: Bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake & The SWMC Rookery & Village Creek Drying Beds Please do not share these images on Pinterest, Tumblr or other image-stealing sites!
BEST SHOTS IN JUNE & JULY: Sunsets & Clouds Egrets Lined-up on the Spillway Bald Eagle photo by Kelley Murphy Black-Cronwned Night-Heron on the Streaming Edge The "Injured Killdeer" show Purple Martins Mobbing Lights Flag, Crew & Mansion Bathing Grackle 4th of July Fireworks Visiting Lake Tawakoni Storm @ WRL Birds at The Spillway & Beyond More White Spillway Action Mandarin Drake A Rabbit on Rabbit Hill Female Grackle in the Weeds
Scissortailed Flycatcher Chasing a Crow & other birds
photographed July 29 and posted July 31
I was walking under a tree branch along Lawther back toward Stone Tables from Dreyfuss when I heard flapping above, looked up, brought the cam up and started photographing a small, yellowish bird chasing a much larger, dark, nearly solid black shadow.
Didn't have time to change the exposure or anything else, and I never thought about it till much later. I just started shooting, and hoping I'd get some of them in focus.
Much later I figured out the little bird was a Scissortailed Flycatcher, and I noticed right away that it wasn't badgering the crow as I'd often seen little birds closely following much bigger birds — often Blue Jays chasing usually crows or hawks — as they flew. If this Scissortail was upset at the crow, it didn't show, but it might have been biding its time after the crow attacked her nest. According to the Internet, that keeps happening.
I followed the pair — with my camera — down Lawther, clicking every time I thought I'd acquired focus.
Near or far, the crow was always underexposed and the Scissortail stayed mostly bright.
After this shot, there was no more focus, so I just let them go. I'd taken my Panasonic and my 100–300 zoom the day before, and I never got anything in any semblance of focus, so this day I was willing to pack the extra added weight, and I'm glad I did.
Online, I learned that Scissortails are very aggressive when defending their nests, and sometimes they are very aggressive even when no nest-molestation has occurred.
I took and double-took, then triple-took this detailed view. I sometimes like to photograph webworms anyway, because they're so strange, but the first and several times after that, I couldn't get over how much like an owl this nest looked. I know they are particularly good at blending into their environment, but …
A Sky Full of Sunsets & Clouds —
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: photographed July 29
I watched and photographed them flock into Sunset Bay from Dreyfuss Point.
Then we drove down DeGoyler Drive, looking and photographing into the setting sunlight. I've struggled with spelling the word, DeGoyler. Just looked it up and realized I've been misspelling DeGoyler for about eleven years now. Both spellings are in my dictionary, and Adobe Help says there's no way to remove the wrong one.
I probably should, by now, know who these weeds are, but they are just another texture.
Sometimes the cloudscapes were sun-setty, sometimes they were just up there floating around.
Most of my attention was on the lines of bumpy clouds I call island in the middle of this sky.
As I sucked the dark out of this photograph, the silhouettes slowly revealed trees and shore on the other side.
It's illegal to post advertising at White Rock Lake Park, but I guess The Arborectum has some sort of dispensation for ugly blots on the landscape. This is the first time I've ever read the stupid thing, but I vote opposed.
I don't really have any one favorite space at White Rock Lake. I change them as often as I change places and things to photograph there.
I thought about blending the wire into the sky, but it's there. It's real. Might as well leave it.
The only manipulation this photograph has endured was making it darker and intensifying the colors. All objects were there already. I didn't add or subtract anything.
Delivering Injured Birds to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation
photographed July 24th & posted July 28
Couple times a week, Anna Palmer, who organized Bird Chauffeurs, volunteers who take injured birds from City Vet on Gaston near Grand Avenue (where it turns into Garland Road) to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation in Hutchins, calls and asks if I want to go with.
I almost always do:
To familiarize myself with the way juvenile birds look so different from when they grow up;
To photograph them on the way, if they're not too busy trying to escape;
To photograph them when they are received at Rogers;
And if there's time, to photograph other birds in the office or in the big cages out back.
So it's really quite a photographic opportunity, and one I cherish.
Looks delicious, huh?
It's always so busy at Roger's when we deliver new birds, I forget to get volunteer's names. My bad.
This shot was taken in the front office at Roger's Wildlife Rehabilitation.
This was taken looking down at this dove in the box in my lap in Anna's car as we carried it to Roger's. So this is sunlight bouncing around inside the car.
Under different light inside Rogers — and somewhat overexposed.
Probably a juvenile Great-tailed Grackle, although we have other Grackle varieties in Dallas, so I'm trying not to guess wrong. Wide-angle lenses too close to the subject tend to make the subject look pudgy.
The people who found this tiny chick had named it Robert, so they were delighted to learn later that it was a Robin.
If "Robert the Robin" would have held still longer, I might have got a better photograph of it, but the car was moving, and I was moving, and …
I had a difficult time holding the camera still and photographing through a grid of bars, so this nervous pic is the best I got of this Mississippi Kite. But I didn't want to not get it.
As usual, I didn't have much time between delivering birds and checking the big cages out back. But I made a quick run of it, and got these few shots — and several more that weren't nearly this good, before we had to drive north to Dallas to avoid evening traffic gridlock.
I keep promising myself I'll go out to Roger's and spend a few hours with the birds in the big cages, but I have not done that in a long time.
Egrets Lined-up on The Dam
Photographed before My Hard Drive Crashed
& Finally Posted July 25
I saw them while driving down Garland Road past the dam, parked and started shooting from various angles and exposures. You know, the usual treatment — hoping some of my shots would turn out good enough. I'd seen fewer egrets line up before, but never more. So I figured it for a stand-out performance.
Then this changed, and that changed, and I moved, and they moved. Etc. Click, click, click.
They never really stayed all lined up for very long. For awhile — since I thought they were making a line so each egret would have an opportunity to catch a fish before it flopped down over the dam and went sliding down The Spillway, but I never looked for that, and I never saw any of the catch a fish or even try to. I was looking for pictures, and having them all lined up seemed classic.
Eventually I wandered my camera eye off to catch whatever I could find along the Upper Spillway. The yellow plumes down its back are left-over from breeding season earlier this spring and summer. It had been reddish, now it's yellowish, and soon it'll be white again.
Or whatever one egret decided it needed to do.
I don't know, and I don't remember what happened next …
This is one of my favorites. It's flying low and fast, dangling its legs and feet, so if it needs to slow down, it can just drag them in the water a bit.
Birds Who Occurred While I Wasn't Photographing Other Birds
@ & around The Spillway the Last Week or So — posted July 23
These are some birds I photographed while I was pursuing what I thought at the time were birds more deserving of being watched and/or photographed. But I've always been interested in all the birds, not just the extraordinary birds I still really like to photograph, also.
This is the full-frame view of the bird and its currently-chosen environment we're about to spend a little time watching…
And closer — and more in motion.
These photographs may have looked a lot like a zoom in on this bird, but my lens is not a zoom — although for the first time in many years of being pretty well satisfied with my current lens and camera body, I have recently become much more interested in the full-frame Mirrorless body and lenses Nikon is working on.
I've known it was the direction the camera business had to move into, so I've been practicing with a series of comparatively smaller and more inexpensive Panasonic Lumix cameras while I waited for Nikon to catch up. I don't know squat about Canon, because nearly all my dSLR lenses are Nikon.
I love the idea of looking through a mirrorless lens to see what the actual exposure, framing, distance compression, colors, contrast, density and everything else visible will be. And I can't wait for Nikon to release it, have it fail in several major ways while all the rich amateurs grab one up to figure out all its design failures and blog endlessly about them till Nikon gets around to fixing them all, and the price falls significantly, so I can buy one that works well and won't cost an arm and a leg.
This process of Nikon customer beta testing always takes its own sweet time, so I'm just hoping my current camera holds up till then. Like me, it's beginning to show signs of age.
I used to could photograph these guys (dragonflies) in even better focus and detail in the air. I tried that again that day, but blurred. Waiting for them to settle seems to make more sense, although I really should have brought my tripod.
Tripod-less, it all seems to depend upon how recently I've had my latest High Stress Vitamin B pill, which calms my often shaking hands.
I was much more interested in this bird than whom or what it was angry with this time.
There's something about the objects that appear over the dam that intrigues me. I've only recently come to understand that that whole area up close to the other side of this dam must be fairly deep itself — and cleaned out every once in awhile. I've been in some boat out there before, and it just felt precarious. I like this side better.
Overlooking The Lowest Spillway, where the water down from the dam makes a sudden left turn, then heads for the Municipal Golf Course, many pigeons gather that I love to watch and photograph, because they're so much less frightened of us humans.
It being flight down to the underside of the walking bridge (for sure) and the auto bridge (too, maybe. I've never spent much time looking at how the pigeons interact with that bridge. It's a lot noisier but pigeons seem to thrive on noise…)
I'm always fascinated by how various birds get into flying. Coots run on the water till they get up to air speed. Pelicans hop on the water. This pigeon is just falling into it.
Someday I'll manage to get good quality photos of pigeons flying up or down to the underside of the bridge.
I didn't know where else in today's stack of birds to put this one, so it's here.
Bald Eagle at Sunset Bay Tuesday, July 18
Photographs by Kelley Murphy
As Kelley said in an email including these two shots, "I walked down to SB around noon today not expecting to see anything special, and I almost didn't walk out onto the dock as it was so hot. But wow! I'm so happy I did, as there was a Bald Eagle!"
Thanks, Kelley. I put these in reverse chronological order, with the flying one first, because it looks so great.
Now, a couple days later, I keep wondering if that is blood trailing back from its beak down almost to its neck. And there seems to be something in its eagle grip. A snack for later?
Ben S saw and photographed probably the same Bald Eagle at The Spillway a few days ago, so the bird is in the neighborhood. No telling how long it will stay, but I bet there will be lots of photographers with big, honking — and littler — lenses looking for it. These logs look close, but they're not.
“Mysterious” GBH & Various BCNHs @ The Spillway
Photographed July 16 + Posted July 18, 2017
Took me about an hour to identify this bird. My favorite bird. Around here, anyway. I might like the California Condor better — I'm already very fond of its cousins, the Turkey and Black Vultures, but I've never seen a Condor except in photos and videos. That's one lifer I really want to see. But seeing GBHs is plenty fine, whatever color they currently are. Note how vividly brown the usually light gray the dam is.
Like all amateurs, I wanted this to be something unusual, maybe even rare. But it's not. It's a Great Blue Heron, which is already plenty great, but we got a lot of them at WRL.
When I was still imbued with the notion that this bird was something I'd never seen before, I posted it on Dallas Audubon's free-to-read — but you need to register (free) to post — Bird Chat. Then when I figured out as I was carefully preparing my post there, it slowly dawned on me — especially when I recognized its rust-orange epaulets, that this was a Great Blue Heron being largely illuminated by the setting sun, which tends to turn [not quite] everything brownish. The dark water here isn't reflecting much; the foam is too bright to and this GBH (Great Blue Heron) was standing near a lot of flying water, so the feathers around its neck and chin were getting soggy.
Today's photographs are presented in exact backwards Chronological Order (because I had the list upside down). These photographs were taken the same day as the photographs in the next section below. Just when I got finished with those, I took a nap, then forgot they were all from the same day.
This nearly perfectly-exposed photo (with details nearly everywhere) almost looks like Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation in Hutchins, Texas — just a few miles south of here on I-45, and turn left at Dowdy Ferry Road just past I-20 — fixed up this bird's face. But they are probably just a few feathers out of place in that wet place. Upon careful scrutiny, this bird looks wet nearly everywhere it could be wet.
Because of the four major areas of very distracting over-exposure on this bird, I normally would not post this photo. But I like it too much to pass on it. Besides, if I'd got the bird exposed with light texture all over, that which it is jumping down past would probably have been way too dark. Bright areas in otherwise dark photographs are believed to attract attention. And why attract attention to mistakes? Photography is full of compromises …
I love the patterns and colors in the water sweeping by, and the rushing wind raising this bird's crown.
I'm always amazed when, while trying to photograph a bird rapidly flying away from me, I actually capture it in focus, albeit headless.
Rock Island is what I've been calling the island made of rocks between the parking lot on Winfrey, just around the corner from Garland Road and across the street from the Sebben-Lebben. I photographed this shot from the fence around the parking lot, where I usually park to do photography up the Garland Road side of The Spillway. The rocks of Rock Island are currently underwater. And I just love that mud gold color.
I doubt it even saw me, or recognized me as a photographer. But whenever I'm in sight of that bat box, I look for birds on top — and photograph them from way far away. This bird had been there, but those pix didn't turn out half this well. So we're starting today's journal from here. It is probably a Mockingbird. The camera sees way better than I do.
Sometimes birds perch on these things that once had a lot more to do with the Dreyfuss Building before it burned down. Its driveway is still over there, but not much else of it remains.
They will, eventually, denude this verdant spot, and the Bluebirds and other species will have to find another place to do their dada duty. I've tried both cameras on it, and finally, this day, I walked back into the shallow, wet marsh of the meadow behind the Stone Tables Building to get enough distance with my 300mm lens without its usual 1.7X eXtender (that lengthens the telephoto to 500mm) to do this. Then I put the eXtender back on to do everything else today, because 300mm just seems so wide-angle.
I'd rather we could both see his right eye better, but at least we can see his brown head. The green all around is perfect.
A woman walking by sometime today said to me something like, "Now, that's a camera." I never know what to say about such comments, so I agreed. Then she asked if I were a photographer, which seemed kinda odd, so I stumbled, "with this camera, I hope so" — even though I knew I meant camera and lens. Both are fairly large.
Seems like they're always mobbing something when they're here, but they are migrants, so they don't stay here all the time. But they often move around en masse, so they just happened to be mobbing the lights over the baseball field down the hill from the Winfrey Building when I was in the vicinity, so I clicked them several times, and these are my faves of the shoot.
After awhile, they all seem to look pretty much the same. So two of today's images will do us.
I thought I knew who this was when I photographed it, but now I haven't the faintest notion. But I'll keep at it; it looks familiar. I've had a pleasant exchange recently with someone who wrote about a photograph of a bird they took. It wasn't a Great Blue Heron, which is by far the most common bird sent to me for identification. It's always nice when I know the bird, but I often do not.
For a long time I posted a warning that I wouldn't identify birds for people, and as I told Rhiannon this week, "I'm not very good at bird ID. I don't know this [one she sent], and it would take hours of looking through bird I.D. books that I don't have. Sorry." I have at least a dozen-and-a-half bird books, but often I haven't the time, and often when I do have time, I still can't find the matching image.
Since then we've carried on a pleasant e-conversation, although I still don't know where she lives or saw that bird — although she says it might be a Brewer's Blackbird, which Sibley's Guide to Birds maps in yellow (summer) mostly north and northeast of here and then east of that — not a lot of states from which to choose.
I suggested she look at bird books. She had an old one, apparently, but thought it was too old. I told her that the birds don't change much, but the newer books usually have better colors [and bigger images]. Some, like The Crossley Guides, are all photographs. Eventually I even remembered she could Google the bird she thought it might be to see if it matched those pages and pages and pages of images. I do that a lot, and it helps. She said that's how she found me.
This one I know pretty well. I love the fact that I've caught two creek bugs flying over the creek in this pic very much in focus, though lacking in detail. There was one other bug off to the right a little, but it needed to be cropped, so this bird could look this large.
Probably human. I'm guessing male, and I don't know about breeding status, although there seems to be two humans in there. I have slowly expanded my coverage of the birds in and around White Rock Lake in Dallas, Texas, USA to include the humans, as well as birds, birding and other bird-related photographs. My first White Rock Lake journal was everything. A tad more than eleven yeas ago, I launched this one as mostly birds.
Photographed from Dreyfuss Point, across Sunset Bay from Sunset Bay.
I must have learned about Killdeer (The correct plural form of Killdeer) playing injured and leading us away from the nest when I was a young teen — about 60 years ago. In school or on TV. I remember being fascinated by animal and bird escape techniques even then. It's really an intriguing game they play whenever humans or other predators get too close to their treasured eggs or the resulting chicks. I wonder how many other species are still not hip to their tricks. I have photographed them many times before, but not, I think as well as I did this day.
It helped immensely that I knew right where the nest was, as I had visited it previously, when it was only marked by a smallish piece of paper, and the mowers had not so obviously ignored the area. It is, as you will see at the bottom of today's journal page, much more obviously marked now, although I kinda liked it before, when the merely curious were not greatly attracted to the place these flailing birds were seriously engaged in drawing us away from.I did attempt to flank the flailing Killdeer, to get to photograph them from the side, but they weren't having any of it. Their sole purpose for all this limping and flapping around was to get me follow them away from their precious next generation. Not at all interested in posing for color photographs.
Some of these shots — from the dozens I shot today — look a lot alike. And I'm sure there are some standard Killdeer moves that I missed, but this is the first time I've ever given this much effort to capturing their game. And they were beautiful at doing it.
Tail-dragging is one of their better moves. A lot of the time, this human didn't think they looked particularly injured. But dragging their beautiful tails almost always made it look like they were truly injured, as they dragged their body through the tall grass.
Note the similarly colored and textured areas in the hatchling photo below.
The next day, Anna called and said she'd photographed two, still-wet, newly-hatched baby Killdeer, so I hied myself over there and took some photos while several sets of parents dragged their 'broken' bodies thither a yon, although by then the chicks had dried off. Near as I can figure, these are two new "babies." The bottom one has its beak stuck between the word Copyright and the year date 2017 at the very bottom of this photograph. Slightly up from there, we can see its white whiskers, very dark brown around its eyes and neck, and its shiny dark beak with a blue stripe and white polka-dot on the end.
Kala King, who originally discovered this nest and told Anna, wrote me the day after I posted these shots. She said, "The white dot on the end of the baby beak is called the egg tooth, they use it to break out of the shell. It will fall off soon. I am who found the nest and told Anna and then also told Dallas Urban Biologist Brett Johnson…. It [was] the 4th nest in that area and this was later in the season than normal. Going forward, now that I know they like to nest there, I will notify him each time I find a nest, and they will protect it from mowing.
I visited it the day before hatching and have checked on it once a week … I knew I would be lucky if they hatched on one of my days but that didn't happen. They usually are out of the nest and gone by one day after hatching. I've seen the chicks in the area, following their parents, just not when newly hatched. So thank you for sharing your photos."
The other Killdeer Hatchling's head is up into the top left corner of the photo, but I can only barely tell where its beak might be. There is a tell-tale beak dot, but I'm not really sure what that is. The upper one's amorphous shape spreads right into — or out of — the egg in the upper right and wraps it around.
I'm really looking forward to watching and photographing the new youngsters when they grow less amorphous, stand up, then start running around on their tall, skinny legs. But I never got a chance. They all skedaddled from that area almost as soon as they got strong enough to walk away. There's a creek nearby and a lot of trees, but I don't know which way they went.
I think the last time I saw a juvenile Killdeer was when it was runnding down the muddy road down from near the electric station uphill from The Old Pump House and The Filter Building. but I think I and my car were interrupting a family gathering there.
Somebody must have told The Parks Department, so now we not only have big neon orange and irridescent white cones at the near and far edges, we have tall grass all around the nest. I'm not convinced it will stop all the people who just walk or walk their dogs without looking, but it has a much better shot at it than the small piece of paper that had previously marked just the nest.
I think most of these are swallows, and most of the swallows are of the Barn persuasion, from the few that I checked out from among those that flew closer.
I'm still photographing birds my promised "at least three times a week," but I'm no longer photographing them every day or every other day, despite my fascination for them, because I still hope to write more about the art I still also watch and find words for.
I've only a few rare times seen what Keith A. Arnold and/or Gregory Kennedy, the author(s) of my favorite, Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, call "The rollercoaster-like courtship ritual [that] often includes dazzling backward somersaults that enhance the beauty of the male's tail," — since they often occur at the top of the nearest really tall tree, but I've often seen the amazing feats of flight whereby they capture smaller, flying things — like what is in this flycatcher's beak.
A Day at White Rock Lake —
posted very early July 12
Sometimes before I even get to the lake I have in mind where I'll go to photograph birds. It has been Sunset Bay most of the time, because its landscapes and populations are so varied. Other times, I avoid it like I was doing today, because I tend to go there already too often.
I'd just turned left off Mockingbird to drive down the west side of the lake and slowed down considerably to see what I could see back over my shoulder through the branches, and I saw this bird, which I did not initially identify, so I turned around and had at it again, slowed down and took three shots back through the trees and snags to get this. I still didn't know what it was till I got it big on the screen.
On first sight, I'd had half a notion it might be an eagle or some dark hawk.
Today's images are in nearly no order whatsoever. When I need to tell a story, I try to present them chronologically. But today, I just want to show you some pictures, not all of which — as often — involve birds. I did strictly birds in this journal for years and years, but lately I've been taking other pictures, too.
Fishing, Hiding, wandering around. Many are the activities on a weekend at White Rock.
I thought it were a bug or a carapace, but now it looks like something hand-made. At least I can identify the bird.
This series is actually presented in chronological order, although I don't think it helps that much.
Flying over My Favorite Boat Ramp, which, co-ink-a-dinkly, is where I photographed the Fem Grak Bathing and A Day at The Park.
Gathered, I think, at one of the Arborectum's music performances on a Thursday evening.
I keep Trying to capture little birds in flight. Capturing big birds in flight is much, much easier. So it's a challenge.
Maybe. I think they might be Cliff Swallows. They also populate this area, and they used to have an amazing warren of nests in the picnic building halfway up Boy Scout Hill — till the picnickers complained and The City sliced them and their babies off the large interior wall.
A couple of times.
When they were still at it, the swallows flitted in, out and sideways all the time. It was fabulous to watch and try to photograph, but probably messy if you were attempting to eat in there.
I don't know where our Cliff Swallows hang out now, and I don't remember where I photographed this.
Visiting Tawakoni is below the Fireworks.
July 4 2017
After driving and driving and driving, we were thrilled to see Cattle Egrets in a field with Cattle. Right where their name pegs them. We see them at the lake often, and in fields on the way to deliver injured birds to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation in Hutchins. But here, it was a surprise. We just laughed and laughed and laughed.
Anna and I have been wanting to check out Tawakoni and the surrounding area. There's been a letter from an area native and birder on Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat form for quite awhile and we used it as a basic introduction — where to go, in what order, etc.
Now, of course, I can't find the letter to link it, but we copied it and followed its bird-specific Tawakoni mapping rather faithfully. It was very helpful, but what we did of it plumb wore us out, because what we knew to look for was hardly ever where we were looking for it. Next time we might stay somewhere nearer there, get some sleep and breakfast and be brighter-eyed and bushier-tailed. But that probably won't be till autumn or spring when there will be many more birds, though the trip worked out pretty well considering. It's beautiful country, and we'd seen some of it before.
We were there pretty early after having driven from Dallas before there was even a hint of sunshine, so we assumed this poor owl was hit by an automobile while headlights were still being used. One wing was bloodied. We didn't see what it might have been eating.
I thought I'd shot it from all angles, but I guess I just shot the same three views over and over. Much as I'd rather not see road kill of any species, this offers an opportunity to see species I rarely get this up-close to. I'm not squeamish about dead things, and this one didn't stink — yet.
Ah. Finally, Lake Tawakoni State Park, and our first extended visit up close and personal with the lake itself.
I almost didn't recognize the breed, I'm so used to seeing them on a post, on a wire, or on the wing. I had to stare at this photo for awhile till it downed on me — oh, I know that bird. It was the red-orange epaulets that finally tipped me off. Its tail was, rather obviously, long and mostly behind it.
I'm not attempting to parse all the ages and stages of Forster's Terns this trip.
But I was delighted to see this many of them fairly close-up compared with where they usually get in my line of sight at White Rock Lake.
Nice to show and see details, for a change.
While these birds were busying themselves flying near us on the beach, we were busy chasing them across the sky, but seeing them here, was a new opportunity to see their details.
The rope delineated the far edge of the swimming area. Unfortunately, said "swimming area" was mostly wet sand, so I suppose this big red floating thing probably sits lower in the water when it's doing its job.
More pix from the Greater Tawakoni experience coming later this week. I think I might be getting my reconstituted iMac back by about then…
Visiting Tawakoni - Part Two, Posted July 10, 2017
See Part I [below].
I keep seeing these. There's a couple (probably many more than I have recently seen) at White Rock Lake and maybe in every open or grassy field in North Texas. Their eggs are whitish with black specks and splotches. I think people like to post off-color (white) or speckled-white eggs illuminated and colored by the pure blue sky, just to throw us off, but here's a page of pix of Killdeer nests.
Where Habitat-Destruction-Machine drivers are more able to discern subtler markers, said markers can be very small and inconspicuous. Here at Lake Tawakoni State Park, however, they want to be sure. So I had to back up considerably to photograph this with The Blunderbuss. Photographing Killdeer nests is a challenge from any distance but hovering right over the nest. But I liked the subtlety of these markers.
I have a close-up of another Killdeer nest somewhere, and if I can locate it (!), I'll put it here.
That's about all I know about this bird, except that it looks like the next one down except for markings, colors and that grasshopper. Kala King says it's one of the notorious adult female Brown-headed Cowbirds.
Took me a long time to name and claim this bird, but when one of my books claimed these facial markings were unique to the Lark Sparrows, I figured that's what it could only be. I am, however, less convinced now.
I not only didn't plan this, I never even saw it till just before I posted it to this page. I usually shoot a couple hundred pix to garner the few I post here, and it'd easy to overlook the also-rans, or ones I think of a that, because I hadn't been drawn to it.
Darned nice of it to fly outstretched so close.
I know it was after water, because when it came back up, it tilted its head back and swallowed. Coulda been lemonade, I suppose, but water was more likely.
Basically, if I saw a bird move toward me, I clicked at it.
I kept clicking at him, and he just stood there posing. He fidgeted a little, but mostly he just stood there looking fine and colorful.
This 'dillo (Dasypus novemcinctus — hairless, nine-banded) was probably broken by an automobile. I still remember the Latin name of the Nine-banded Armadillo, because in 1974 I published a comix-like book called armadilla about nine-banded and all the other genera of armadillos.
I'd been to the dam before when I'd seen dozens of Crested Caracara, whom I then considered rather rare up this far north. Now they live here, and I wonder if I should move to Canada or the hills of New Mexico.
So loud it seemed to be shaking the ground. It certainly shook me. It seemed to be angry, although I don't know what I did to anger it. My gosh, it was loud. But utterly hilarious.
I don't know if the swerve marks had anything to do with the dead armadillo, but there are people who go out of their way to murder armadillos in their natural habitat, which just happens to be "Dead By The Side of the Road." And, the blood from the dillo's tail starts out just about where the swerve starts at the far lower left.
Photographed & Posted June 29, 2017
Anybody who's ever visited my elder home knows I'm very partial to trees, so I generally notice stark, sad shapes like this. Which, in turn, lead to stark, sad shapes like this:
I don't remember where this nest is/was, but it always dismays me. Of course there's been a lot of big winds pushing over and breaking lots of trees lately. But I bet this was a lovely nest when it was up in the relative safety of a tree.
An altogether other nest in a different place, but one we have visited before.
Parents upset at my presence so near their nest. Even though it's a peculiarly public space, where lots of people go and settle in. I promised them I wouldn't go back till they had filled the nest, and then I'd be very circumspect and even quieter and more gentle than I was today.
This is the closest to sharp any image I got of either parent in action.
And this sharp shot might even lead me to identifying the bird family, whom I believe, are still working on that nest. In years past, they've included bright and colorful bits of cloth and other intriguing items threaded into their nest. So far, this one's kinda tame, but it does hide itself very well. Their old nest was just a foot or so more obvious, so maybe they're learning.
This was the peak of its form in this attempt, but it's not even close.
This is much more like what it was trying to do above. I've seen many Mockers practising this skill, but I've never seen any of them scare or bring up any worms or whatever else they are attempting to entice up to the surface. 'That I can remember. I used to could remember pretty good. Being 72 means remembering less and less.
Gradually, I'm managing exposure on these up shots, so we can tell the differences between the dark purple males and the mostly gray/brown females.
Already Too Far Away Egrets
They were plenty close when I first saw them, but the cam was set for point focus (the narrowest it gets — looks like one pixel), which is no good for several individuals getting farther and farther away at every click in a big, mostly empty sky. Then by the time I'd got the focus target set and working, the birds were way much farther away.
I saw dark skies in the direction of the lake and wondered how long it would last. I love that eerie feeling and that there were far fewer cars along DeGolyer Drive from which I shot these pix — often getting very wet with The Slider's driver-side window open.
I always have to at least try to drive around Winfrey Circle, which has several warning signs, but never any enforcement of no parking there. If I ever have a party there, I'd hire somebody to keep the "privileged" circle traffic moving. This day, I liked that the light atop the pole was brighter than any portion of sky. And lots of rain.
The "landscape rocks" were probably placed there, but all that … uh … water and its many nasty elements comes down the hill from The Arborectum, and yes, that's rain falling into the slosh pit I've worried about people who walk in it barefooted, but then I worry about folk who put their bare feet into our lake — and all the idiots who insist on sinking or swimming in it. Notice through the trees in the upper portion of this dark and gray photo, we can barely see the other side of the lake. Storms do that.
That's Buckner Boulevard (Loop 12) in the background, and here the creek is as high as I've ever seen it, but I don't really pay it a lot of attention usually, except to look down it to maybe photograph a big white bird standing in it. Here and then, that poor bird would be in trouble.
I watched it hunt for quite a while after the (well, it seemed) sudden rain storm, but this tiny little catch hardly seemed worth all the fuss. Except it was probably hungry.
I showed a pic of this or another adult Yellow-crown by Anna P awhile back, but this was my first sighting this season of a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in Sunset Bay. I always hope there's a pair, and that they plan to raise a family. I love to watch juveniles romp around the edge of Sunset Bay, but it may be a tad late in the season for that.
Another Great Egret hungry enough to sink to watching grass move.
My first several shots of this bird I'd been following up the creek for several minutes were skinny blurs. Then I got this one pretty sharp flying low.
Its crown doesn't seem as yellow in this shot, but it is a very handsome critter.
I wanted to show details more than I wanted to show high numbers so I closed-up telephoto to these three on the wire over the parking lot behind the Winfrey Building. Too wet to carry or use a tripod today. All of today's shots above were from my car, The Slider.
My iMac crashed, and while it's in the shop,
I'm slowly learning how to do this on my older Mac …
I haven't been on vacation — one of the reasons I sometimes don't update this page, especially in the summer — I've just been inundated with issues. Macintosh issues and plumbing issues. Finally found whom I still believe to be an honest plumber, and I've got a newish bathroom, and the turtle don't leak no more. Hallelujah.
Last month I did a too close-up image of this type of dove, so I'd been watching out for a whole one to show which dove that blue-spectacled eye came from.
That's Buckner Boulevard (Loop 12) behind it. Hence the name. It's just a low spot among some elder trees out between Lawther around the outer regions of Greater Sunset Bay 'round the bend toward Stone Tables, then past the playgrounds and on to Dreyfuss Point. I like it, because it's only got water in it when it's raining or has been raining. And with dark skies, it's especially beautiful.
Then when it dries up, it disappears again.
I kept following it, but it never got anything that I saw.
Three out of probably a dozen or thirteen. They're very lucky if one survives.
Two more were exploring nearby. There may have been others, but I didn't see them.
I have no idea where this is. I saw the kid and whom I assume to be a mom and all that color, and I just had to go click.
I didn't know what it was when I saw it, so I clicked it. Now, I don't know where to start looking for it in any of my books. It's a beauty, though. Originally captioned, "Oh, Gosh! This couldn't be a striped and spotted Grackle, could it? And, of course, it is not. I done it again. It is, of course, a female Red-winged Blackbird, and yes, she is beautiful. Thank you once again, Kala King. If only I'd had a sense of scale, I would have realized how small this bird is.
And friendly. Often, when I'm standing on the Pier at Sunset Bay, one or two female Red-winged Blackbirds wander around the pier, sometimes very close to me, usually a few feet away. Often, they are way too close to even photograph with the blunderbuss.
I don't remember purposely experimenting with various birds today (Monday, June 26, 2017), but I keep finding pix that definitely fit the pattern.
This one's colors are de-emphasized, almost unto abstraction. Not a great photo, but I like it.
The people who'd thrown gobs of bread under the tree near the puddle near the entrance out to the Pier at Sunset Bay were leaving when all the doves discovered all the bread and dog-piled on top of it.
I didn't expect much from this series, but I'm joyed at all the wings visible in these mob scenes.
And for my completely not paying attention to composition, these are rather nice, he says to himself.
Just a few wings flapping now, as it becomes more obvious that there's darned little white bread left. Now, if I can just get so-called Dream host to let my new password work on my elder website, we can all see the pix online.
Way past the Great Blue Heron mating season, but note the remnants of the orange-ish nuptial feathers on the head and back toward the tail of the Snowy Egret. The Great Blue Heron is just plain handsome.
Don't worry, no fightin' and flyin' pix this time.
A bramble of tree limbs has been resting just out of the main stream down The Lower Spillway ever since the recent rains started.
Love that slosh.
Here, the GBH's feathers seem as frothy as the water all around it.
Perhaps I should call it a Partial Rouse.
At Sunset Bay, of course.
It is bowed, but it appears to be concentrating on the toes of its left foot.
My favorite part of this shot is the target-shaped ripple just below the egret.
I don't know who did it, but sometime back, there was a persistent rumor that some lake organization had emphatically requested that CC Young Senior Care on East Mockingbird Road not build tall additions to their current buildings, "so that White Rock Lake would not begin to resemble New York City's Central Park." They were afraid that, if they allowed CC Young to build tall, others would also.
I'd been hoping for a higher place to photograph the whole lake…
It's difficult to name a body of water that changes nearly every time it appears. So I've been calling the temporary bodies of water out, along East Lawther Drive / White Rock Lake Trail around Dixon Branch that sneaks into White Rock Lake Park under North Buckner Boulevard, past The Trickles, which is absurd enough I might remember it next time. I've been watching it for about the last half decade. Looks maybe like someone lifted this big fish out of the Trickle (Stupid name. Surely we can do better.) by its mouth, and the mouth stayed that way after the fisher-person got his hand back.
Yeah, I tilted the fish up so we could see it better…
Anna Palmer Photographs Some Unusual
Birds & One "Rare Sighting for this Area"
These images by Anna Palmer are some of the highlights from their June 6 outing when Anna Palmer drove around White Rock Lake with our friend Annette Abbott, who was one of the first members of whom I still sometimes call "The Bird Squad," who gathered informally up form Sunset Beach in the evenings when Charles F feeds the gooses, ducks and any other avian species who shows up.
Anna called Annette "a very good spotter," and from these birds, I'd have to agree.
Northern Bobwhite in the grass on the southeast side of Emerald Isle Drive, almost past the baseball fields up towards Garland Road. After Anna posted this image on eBird, she said, "The guy who reviews posts there emailed to say it was "a very rare sighting for this area."
Anna and Annette saw the Oriole at the same time as it was flitting back and forth between two trees in front of the car.
More Egrets at the Spillway
Photographed June 7 — Posted June 9
Sorry the rest of this month's don't show.
Guess I gotta fight it out with "Dream" Host now.
The plumber was scheduled for 2:30, and after doing what else I had to do, I took an hour for the lake, stupidly starting at Sunset Bay, where I got nearly nothing, then driving home in the slow as usual far right lane going toward downtown about forty minutes early, I looked down into the Lowest Spillway, saw sluicing water and egrets gathered up down the slant shore, and even a Great Blue Heron.
So I made a quick turn on Winstead, parked in the lot across from the Sebben-Lebben, pulled off the telextender, then carried my cam down to the walking bridge over the lowest spillway.
Along the way, I shot these. I should have, but I did not also bring my little blue plastic fold-up kiddie stool that would have raised me about eight inches higher enough to photograph over the bridge parts I was stuck behind — and I really could have used a long-sleeved shirt, so I could lean on tops without burning arm skin.
It's called heads-up display, and it usually means a challenge. The Great Egret on the right is issuing, and the one in the big middle of this pic is either ignoring it, might be interested in catching a fish or two, or hasn't noticed. Most of the not noticing is between species. On the left here is the beginning of a Snowy Egret chase scene, with a choice of chasees.
I am always always always fascinated by Great Egrets' effortless elegance and sometimes grace.
There was a lot of egret action going on down there. Almost all involving Great Egrets (the big ones with black feet) and Snowy Egrets (the smaller ones with orange feet). The larger, Great Egrets have better moves and are more noticeable, because they're so big, but Snowies get all het up and flash a lot of feathers.
And a lot of chasing. In fact, more chasing than anything else, really — although occasionally two would fly up and shove or bump one another. In the eleven years now I've been doing this journal, I've never once seen any bird bloodied in these mostly ceremonial "battles" that determine who's dominant.
And with all that flurry and elegant flying and thumping and bumping, Great Egrets' rather timid action never seemed to bother the surrounding bird species, who were either hoping to catch food or scheming their own attacks.
Most of the action occurred only inches off what I call "the slant" — the approximately 45 degree concrete mass down the sides of the lowest steps down to and then under the water that today, at least, was moving fast. Only rarely did somebody get chased off enough to go flying around the inner area under and out from the walking and driving bridges parallel to but still near Garland Road.
Meanwhile, down on the surface, Snowies and other Great Egrets were busy catching fish — or trying to. Sometimes a crowd of egrets will gather around a chase/"fight" out in shallow water, but mostly they go about their own business, which usually involves catching and ingesting fish.
And I'm not kidding about swallowing fish whole. Once they get a fish or whatever's caught, then aligned into their beak toward their throat, they swallow it whole, which action usually only takes a few seconds. Often, especially with the larger, Great Egrets, it's possible to watch — though difficult to photograph — the lump go all the way down those long throats.
Because they swallow their prey whole, they swallow all the prey's bones — and everything else, and it's the calcium in those bones that makes their scat white. And why — especially here against a relatively dark surface — it appears so bright.
Maybe next time I'll get my cam & lens kit together while the slant is still relatively un-scatted.
As photographers know, bright white areas in a photograph tend to draw attentions away from their subjects. It is very noticeable and annoying, and I wish I could make it darker.
While I mostly concentrated on the action.
These last several photos were my willful attempt to concentrate on the white birds a ways away from the massive candy stripes of scat.
Which, there for a little while, was near constant.
I love it when Snowies poof their feathers up and out to look more fierce.
They usually kill their pray by stabbing them with that long, sharp bill. Then it's a matter of flipping it around to align with its beak and gullet without dropping it. I saw a couple of too-big fish dropped this day. Must have really been disappointing. Fishing on a slant helps those mortally wounded fish get away quickly, but then they're easier pickings for some other bird down the line.
You might not think this little bird could get that big fish down its throat, but you'd be wrong. Where there's a will or hunger-enough, there's a way or two, too.
The first step is to get the long, comparatively thin fish, aligned with beak and throat. Then it goes down quickly, although a bump shows in the throat as it does.
Long throated birds take food down one few inches at a time, which we can often watch. First the bird widens its throat, so even very large fish have a place to go. Then it waggles its neck and throat this way and that, to be certain it'll go all the way down. It's fun to watch their wiggle-dance as it goes down, but my today photos look like they're just standing there with a thick throat.
Egret Battles at the Lowest Spillway
Photographed June 5 — Posted Later that Same Day
There wasn't enough light — is the photographer's lament. But there just wasn't. Except for no shadows, we'd all think there was a sun up already. Under the walking and driving bridges on Garland Road too early this morning. Before the sun got up into the sky — and could shine down between the clouds, instead of through them. But it didn't. I'm home now after checking while doing errands, and it's even darker with more clouds and booming, wet thunder. Mid-to late afternoon is better, brighter, more action-stopping — sunlight-assuring contrast and apparent sharpness.
Right camera, wrong lens.
Well, the right lens, but I needed to lose the telextender to get back to good old 300mm and its wider window on the world. 500mm is just too-magnified for action this close. It'd be easier to aim and catch up with fast moving birds, like I so spectacularly did not do here. I got a lot of partial shots today, that if I'd got the wholes of them, would have been spectacular.
I'll do better next time — practice helps almost more than anything else, but these ain't bad. And it was the most fun I've had in too long a time. If I weren't waiting for a plumber, I'd be down there now, despite the forecast of rain. There's sunshine now, but it didn't last. This morning it was all filtered through thick clouds.
Great Egrets can be suckered into a fight, but I think they'd just as soon catch and eat more fish than all that silliness. But Snowy Egrets hardly even need an excuse.
I didn't see anybody fall over all the way, but there were some trips and leans involved in this ayem's fish-a-thon.
What looks like one egret charging down the slant with its right wing seriously awry is two Great Egrets battling, probably for space, fishes caught or uncaught or just cussedness. Each so intent, they've almost merged.
Looks like a fall is imminent, but this elegant Great Egret took it all in stride, floating down the Slant — partly dancing and partly flying.
Great Egrets are much taller, have long black legs with black feet and a yellow beak with green lores. Besides their usual feisty attitude and occasionally bouffant crown, Snowy Egrets have black legs with yellow feet, black beaks with yellow lores, and everything else is white.
Kept hearing rumors around Sunset Bay of a Mandarin Duck family being raised at the lake, and some people who had seen all of them promised pictures, but I never saw them. Then, when Anna and I dropped by Sunset Bay for the Evening Feeding Saturday Night, someone pointed us to a Mandarin Duck already there. I spent much time photographing him.
I had thoroughly checked out the rumors, visiting the supposed range at another part of the lake, but never saw the Mandarin family where they were supposedly hanging out, so this opportunity was a gift. I'd still love to see the pix of the Mrs. — and the ducklings, if any. But I have serious doubts.
I had my trusty Nikon and the big tripod, so I set about photographing him — again. And again.
I probably shot forty pix of this guy, but in the end, I settled on these several directional views. I photographed his shy attempts (most successful) at eating corn grain Charles poured out for all the gooses, ducks and other birds gathered up Sunset Beach, but he was moving so fast, he usually blurred into the semi-darkness.
Among various other ducks.
There was plenty of bird action to keep me occupied.
From what I understand, once their breeding is done, and they no longer need to attract a female, their feathers eclipse.
I've been wishing and hoping for some Yellow-crowned Night-Heron action in Sunset Bay for several weeks. I had begun to think they had vanished, till Anna told me about finding and photographing this one at Sunset Bay a couple days ago. I hope that means more Y-c N-H chicks roaming the area later this summer…
I know where I am when I'm over there, and I'm over there nearly every day, but I haven't mapped that side from this side enough to name this place, although it could be Free Advice Point. See my bird-annotated map of White Rock Lake for specific geographical details.
…in the inundated field on the bend around toward Stone Tables and Dreyfuss Point from Sunset Bay. I probably should have waited till he threw that net.
Created by the recent rains.
I call the part of upper Dreyfuss Point that overlooks the lake on toward the Bath House, Rabbit Hill, because we've seen dozens of rabbits there at a time, generally in the evening or after dark, when we can only see them with headlights. They're smart to stay off the concrete, so they don't get run over, but it's always fun to see some out in the weeds and wildflowers. I'd been calling that area different names over the now eleven years of this bird journal, but Rabbit Hill is the best and most appropriate yet.
I wanted to put the Mandarin ducks up front in today's journal, so the rest of it — except these doves on the wire around the parking lot behind The Winfrey Building, appropriately enough on Winfrey Point. So, rather than arranging everything in today's entry chronologically, they are instead arranged geographically.
Photographed June 3 & as far back as May 30
— Posted June 3
This looks more like real colors.
Corrected & Updated: I could only see the bird in the foreground. I didn't notice its odd coloration when I photographed it. The above caption did say "Blue-headed Great-tailed Grackle. Kala King to the rescue once again: It's not a Great-tailed Grackle. It's a Common Grackle, of which we see here much less often. Our more usual Great-tailed Grackles sometimes seem to have blue feathers, but it's usually over less specific areas of their bodies, and I didn't think I'd ever seen a blue-headed one. But I've seen, but not really noticed Common Grackles down along the Gulf Coast.
I still think just as any Dasypus Novemcinctus armadillos' natural habitat is dead by the side of the road, Our State Birds belong on signs.
In general, the more the telephoto, the larger the farthest objects seem. I've probably photographed this setup dozens, if not hundreds, of times. This is darker on the skyline and brighter on the old red buildings.
It's also where the pelicans (here mid-September through mid-April every year) nest n that same area. I've seen Green Herons hunt there, and Snowy Egrets and Little Blue Herons battle over fishing rights, right there. Probably many other birds, too.
I'm assuming it's a wet English Sparrow, but I'm the amateur in the titles on the top.
I'm sure they perch on branches fairly often. They are birds. But I hadn't seen this flock do that before, so I photographed them doing it.
When I sit on one of those piers or their posts, I usually end up with strange bug bites in my butt. So I usually forgo that opportunity.
We keep seeing locks locked into the ironwork on overlooks and bridges. More pop culture we've missed.
Wandering Around the South & East Sides of the Lake
Photographed June 1 Posted June 2
Down into the Trough of the Lower Spillway Steps. I didn't see it catch anything, but I bet it did. I tried not to stay where it could see me very long.
Was a rainy day, but I didn't have anything better to do after being at the VA Horse Pistol already too much of the day, then napping the rest of my nine hours sleep and eating decent food of which the VA had none available, and I didn't want to walk in the rain across the street to the Subway. Most of today's shots were shot from the driver's side of The Slider, whose nose is falling off after I slid it up yet another curb parking. But the Toy shop body repair guy said they could paint it any color I want, and I want yellow — even if green would be more appropriate for a Red-eared Slider.
Layers of rain-diminished scenery across the lake and the land beyond.
I was so much hoping they'd leave that tree standing, so mayhaps some more branches would grow out of it. It was a great tree while it lasted — till that last big wind storm — and many wonderful birds used it to rest, relax and look down from. Sadness is.
in the Rain up Winfrey Hill
on a Bench Around Winfrey Circle
On a White Stripe in Winfrey Parking Lot
I saw it flying low and slow
around those trees twice, landed, then flew some more, but I was staying
dry in The Slider and couldn't get a bead on it till it landed. But it
was lovely to watch.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2017 & before 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 the best of that is documented in this Journal, all the pages of which continue online — see links at top and bottom of every Bird Journal page. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964. A total of 53 years.