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My Front Yard
Some Interesting Bird Links
Fabulous photo of Great Blue Herons [scroll up one message] in nest.
Story & great photos of Killdeer sex by Jason Hogle.
The Owl Show - Molly & McGee (mostly her) live 24/7 .
Starr Ranch Barn Owl - her life live in black & white.
Heard lots of bird noises from my big tree this early ayem, hard to see much out there but the trees now that spring is busting out all over. Finally tracked some of the noises to this hole in the tree.
Here, the parental unit and chick pass in the doorway to their home. I'll be watching.
white rock lake in Dallas, Texas
Driving down Lawther from Garland Road toward Winfrey Point, I noticed some Ruddy Ducks unusually close to shore. Unusually close to where I could stand and photograph some of their details. Anna stopped, and the cripple-footed photographer hopped out and hobbled down the hill past the path to the farthest downslope he was willing to attempt to stand on. And shot these.
I'm especially intrigued by this one, because
we can see his foot in the translucent water (that water is rarely clean).
And look at all those folds and feathers and mottled colors and rich red-oranges.
The big blue beak is still stuck under his wings, but wow. I've been waiting
for a chance like this for a couple years.
His snoot out of his wings, this is almost
what an adult male breeding Ruddy Duck looks like. In real life, we might
be able to discern slightly better where its eyes are — that we can see this
one at all, is another kind of miracle. Nice.
And for our parting shot, here's another male
etc. Ruddy chewing on the feathers of its tail.
Standard classic photograph of a cormorant
perched on a tree branch sticking up from the muck, drying its wings. It's
a diver. It gets them plenty wet down there, then comes up and does this
till they're dry again and it can fly off — or go diving again.
Lots of people trying to fly kites today. Saw at least a half dozen of them in overhead wires. This was the highest one we saw. This is a telephoto shot, so it's a lot higher up than this looks like. This is the only kite we saw today that had achieved any significant altitude. Every other was was being struggled just to get it twenty feet into the air. A windy day makes promises it may not intend to keep.
him when I drove around the circle in front of the Winfrey building to check
things out, and I stretched me out in the car to capture both him in his
tree and the downtown skyline blurred behind him. Then I parked Blue and hobbled
back with the Rocket Launcher at my side.
When I hobbled back, he hadn't gone far but
was still very obvious, floating, slow flapping toward the west, but still
well this side of the lake over the upper part of the hill.
Clickity-click. I shot sixty-some-odd shots
as it hovered ever so slowly down the hill.
I was entranced. He was suspended in animation
almost. Watching for food he could swoop down and take.
Intent on his challenge.
Posing for me out there. Staying sharp.
Until he was almost too far away to focus.
Then he flew out over the trees and disappeared behind them.
Looked at Sunset Bay but only saw maybe two big white hulks out on the logs, so I wondered where they were today an whether I'd see them. Driving out to Dreyfuss, I noticed these guys flying way high toward over the residential area on the edge of the park there. I assumed they were really too far away to photograph, but I hadn't seen them flying in a long time.
So I clicked away at them anyway. Then I realized I was seriously overexposing them and hoped I could get them back. I did, and here they are, almost as if they were flying right over me, not several hundred feet up.
Well, let's see here. The male Ruddy Duck on the left is truly ruddy. Very reddish. The guy on the right is mostly brown. The Sibley Guide to Birds doesn't have the nice, big pictures that Peterson's Field Guide to Birds has, but they often show more varieties. But not Ruddies by tail — spray or pointed. It does note that the red ones are major red with a blue beak, which is safely stuffed under feathers here, but it could be blue.
Lots of these on the passenger side of Lawther from Garland Bridge around the Arboretum and up toward Winfrey and its point.
Lots of robins down there, too. Too a bit of negotiations with the seat-backs and hand-brake, but I skootchied around and up over it without andy sudden movements to scare it away and got a couple shots in good focus for my troubles.
Getting back to the pilot's position was not as easy, but eventually I managed, and got along down Lawther toward Winfrey, Sunset and Drefuss.
Hadn't got one of these in a long while. Nice to get so very up close. My much shorter 70-300 would have been plenty adequate for this shot. Using the Rocket Launcher almost overkill, but nice detail, especially in the reddish-rusty colors of her wing, and two view of her feet. Just wish she would have turned her head toward the photographer just for a second. I only got one click off before she flew away with several robins.
I'd seen a very interesting bird in a tree with the grayed-out downtown skyline behind it when I drove around the loop in front of the Winfrey building — and I shot that then, because I never know how long an interesting bird will stick around, but it was gone by the time I clunked myself back there with my ortho boot. That bird will be featured in the next day's journal.
This bird looks enough like a mockingbird that I knew who it was when I first distinguished it from the leaves as I walked toward all the noisy chatter in the green trees whose leaves was all I could see, even as I got closer and closer to the tree. It had looked even less like a mockingbird a few beats earlier, with its chest feathers blowing almost in its eyes.
But this shot it classic. The mockingbird we know and love. The Texas State Bird.
J R's Back Yard in Dallas, Texas
Possibly even the same Yellow-rumped Warbler as the last time I photographed them in my back yard. That was a lark. Lately, it's a necessity that I stay off my right foot so it heals well and quickly. Without pain. There are worse pains, and I've probably experienced many of them. I used to collect pains and I could list all those I've experienced. Now, I just try to avoid them. Driving seems to make it worse, so I've been clumping into my back yard and watching for the "Butterbutts."
Last week when I sat in my gridded metal chair, I couldn't see anything up there worth eating by a tiny bird. Now there's lots of growth that I just can't see without a super telephoto lens yet. But these guys — there were two of them, I assume one male and one female, but I have no way of proving that — seemed to hone in on the new plant growth.
I like it better when I get something more than just a nice portrait. Like the shot above showing its wings flapping vehemently or this one in the classic kitty-cat pose of hanging on with a determined look on its tiny face.
On those miraculous moments when I catch a tiny bird somewhere high in a tall tree with its eye in focus, I know enough to thank the Universe for small favors.
I'm hoping if I hang out back there enough, they'll recognize me, even expect me to be there, and they'll come closer and closer, until I capture a photograph that shows all their tiny little details in vivid colors.
Anna reported seeing some interesting birds outside her condo, so I finally dared to go out and sit on my front porch and watch for birds. Lotta leaves out there in the way of what few birds there were, so once I shot this little tyke, I moved to my less treed backyard, where I thought I'd have a better chance.
The only bird to show itself long enough for me to hone in back there was this Yellow-rumped Warbler, although it was nice enough to do a stretch and show me both his under and upper parts — and show off his left foot, to boot.
After about a half hour total, and more sunshine than I'd got in awhile, I took my Rocket Launcher back in, vowing once again, to get a softer lawn recliner, so I could point nearly straight up in much more comfort than slumping in a solid metal chair. Nice to be in my own yard, though.
White Rock Lake, Dallas, Texas USA
Not like I haven't been looking for birds lately. But not finding them has been too easy the last couple weeks. Only partly because I walk funny these days, clumpin' on my ortho boot. I looked for several specific birds in several specific places they're known to have been, but they're better at hiding than I have been at finding.
I'll keep at those specific birds, which I am fascinated by. I think one of them's just a matter of being in exactly the right place to stand — or sit — for maybe a couple hours, till I can figure where they stand or sit and photograph them doing that from my standing or sitting position.
Another of those birds is a situation of me being able to hear it, then walk/run through the woods till I'm closer to it, knowing all along it will make every attempt to remain further from it. A race a broke foot does not have a great chance to win, but it's good exercise, and if I do get some decent shots of it, it'll be several kinds of wonderful.
Meanwhile, I find myself photographing mostly small birds. A new trend for me. Broken occasionally when I discover a big bird in an odd place like hiding behind some reeds/weeds at the edge of the lake. It probably looking for something to eat — far as we know, so far, birds don't go people-watching — although that would have been a great place, so very close to the path that brings all sorts of odd people within a few dozen feet of it — or sight-seeing.
Took awhile to outflank this maturing, almost ready to mate — note the growing beak fin on the forward end of that big orange thing — American White Pelican. I clomped to one side, then the other, then walked several dozen feet to the side of the weeds/reeds to capture the bird in full sight. I simply could not pass up an opportunity to photograph a really big bird.
We'd been checking the Martin houses overlooking the Bath House lake edge for months. Today, Anna saw something move over there and parked along side of their house, and I click-click-clickeed away as fast as my camera would let me, because I knew they'd move way to fast for me to ever catch them up. Better I just keep shooting and see what comes up. Like this quick conversation.
Or this bit of flapping. I was using a flash on and off. With the flash on my D300, it's a matter of when it's charged up and ready to fire, not when I'm hot on the shutter button. So I just hold it down and hope. This is one of the better results.
This time looking prim and proper and alert.
Martin A looks on as Martin B spreads wings, tail and we can't see what all else down below.
I kept shooting and shooting and shooting, and mostly I got goofy, what photographers sometimes call between expressions expressions — on humans that'd be something unrecognizable and usually awkward between, say, a smile and a normal blank stare. With birds it's flapping a bit or awkwardly leaning into something. Here we see some wing and body and face details in a dark, black bird.
It kept that tail nearly straight up all while we watched it stand in the nearly colorless — except for one tiny bit or bright red above its head — near that tire. We think it might just be balancing itself in a stiff wind. We'd seen Mockingbird displays before. Those usually involve it keeping its bright, white-striped wings out and looking formidable. This is not formidable, just odd.
Not at all sure how I finally accomplished my long-term goal of photographing many more, smaller birds. Maybe it just happened. Maybe it's got to do with my temporary partial immobility — most of these were shot from a car or from a camera resting on top of it, because I'm so unsteady on my feet lately. Not at all sure. But pleased, finally, with my progress for doing what I so often said I wanted to, even while photographing bigger birds is generally so much easier.
I think this is another Brown-headed Cowbird, a bird, like Grackles, who is often despised by humans for scatting on cars, gathering noisily or, like cowbirds, depositing their eggs in other birds' nests for those other birds to raise. We figure, it's all part of the deal. There are a lot of humans we'd like to vote out of our race, too.
Might likely be a Brown-headed Cowbird. Been seeing lots of them around suddenly lately.
And a hawk. Sure been wanting to photograph a hawk. Next time, I'll ask the Universe to bring it in a little closer.
Grackles are in the big middle of courtship these days, and I seem to be mid-way into an emphasis on smaller birds, although Grackles are at the larger end of the spectrum of small bird sizes. It's really fun watching their courtship procedures and displays, but one must be very quick, because they're not subtle and they are not slow.
Another display form to let any females in the vicinity — and there was one — know that this big, puffied-up male was interested in starting something, now.
She got a lot closer. Close enough to do a little dance. Him looking big and powerful with all those rustled feathers. Her meek and demure and quiet.
Then he chases her off, and I was beginning to think, well, that's the end of that, when here she came back.
Immediately locating herself right next to him.
Don't know 'bout you, but if I was smaller than this bird, I'd be afraid. So I think that's what this is about, being formidable.
I didn't see any sex happening, but there was some major strutting around after she agreed to go along with his little dance for a few seconds.
Then he flew away.
We heard this one who-who-whoing for a long time near where we were looking for another bird we've not yet seen, although we coming back. Anna was in the lead as I and my ortho boot and broken foot clunked through the woods behind her. I saw the owl flying away three or four times, but I never got the Rocket Launcher up and aimed correctly before it flew too far away.
Red-winged Blackbirds are common at White Rock lately. You can hear the males putting every fiber of their being into screaming their pronouncements from on high — This is my territory and I am king of this hill, tree, shrub, weed, whatever. I have shot and shot and shot these bleating males announcing their territory, their readiness for fatherhood, etc. But rarely have I captured so nearly turning himself inside out just to get the word out.
No idea who it was when I photographed it. Booger of a time getting it instead of all those branches in focus. Didn't really recognize it till I saw those yellow spots on its breast. Then I knew. It's so rare I know who a little bird is, I get excited when it happens.
They're called European, so we'll just leave it at that this time. I like that it has that big berry trapped in its beak and that moments later it disappeared down its gullet.
Dudn't look like any of the pictures in my books. Who is this?
I've given up refusing to photograph Mockingbirds just because there's so darned many of them I mean, following that logic very far would mean I'd have to stop photographing grackles for the next hundred or so year. But it's way to easy to photograph mockingbirds on wires. The real challenge would be to finally captured one flying and stop the action of those wings, so we could see those major wing striped in all their glory.
I get a little thrill every time I see one flashing those bright stripes as it wings across my field of vision. Someday. Someday I'll capture that action the way I see it in my head. Someday. I'd got all excited when I saw this one, illuminated bright yellow by the setting sun, wondering who it might be. Then, suddenly, when I sucked the yellow away with Photoshop, I recognized my old buddy, the Mock.
40-degrees Fahrenheit felt cold this morning, but no wind blew. After I clunked down T.P. hill very carefully, ever expecting and hoping I'd roll with it if I fell, I inched down near the waterline. I was after small herons, and I could already see at least two dozen of them in the trees on the other side, and maybe three or four right over the water, but I never saw another or an adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, and I miss them.
When an ersatz Yellow-Crown rookery was stinking up a high class neighborhood in Upper Lakewood, we had many of them here. Since that homeowner got tired of his home and yard stinking every spring, we don't. But we have lots of Black-crowned Night-Herons. Both species have been seen in the Medical Center Rookery off Inwood Road, which is near enough, I suppose.
While I was there, I gradually discovered many other species. I know cardinals are common, but I've rarely photographed them well — this well.
He ate a lot of them while I tried and tried to get him in focus. Sometimes, he'd bend over backwards to maintain a secure perch and still gobble him some berries. Those berries don't look very appetizing to me, but this cardinal was enraptured.
Lots of Mallards in the lagoon today, as usual, and I tried other shots. But this was the only one that looked worth a darn. I guess, this was the only way I could get enough light on one.
Nice thing about White Rock, if there are exotic or semi-exotic species about — not that Shovelers are all that unusual, although a lot of them would be — it's ever so much easier to get close to them. Unless, of course, they are one of the extraordinarily shy creatures like our masses of Ruddy Ducks.
Speaking of common species ...
While I was busy desperately hoping for a nice slow crowned heron to fly up the lagoon past my waiting lens, I kept hearing the deep, hollow knock-knock knocking of a woodpecker. Took four tries before I finally sighted it near the top of one of the great tall trees down near the bridge. Tiny little bird, way high up and far away. Click.
Would have been nice to see her eyes, and I'm not entirely certain where they would be exactly. But I like this shot, all fluffy with pretty feathers and spots and all of it in glorious Black & White.
Always wonder if they're trying to avoid being photographed or just hyper-active birds. I suspect the latter, but when I clicked, he jumped.
There's an ever-so-slender bit of red wing showing in the upper shot and none here, but I've shot those things so often, it only seems fair to show them without it from time to time.
And now for a little comic relief. I saw at least two large Nutria [from Spanish, literally 'otter.'] I know less about Nutria than I know about a lot of birds, but I was startled and surprised when the first one, while apparently swimming serenely up the lagoon, suddenly dived all the way under.
Creating a little swirling water space warp, whose next step was always to ...
Explode in a vertical gush of pyroteched water — that I unfortunately never once managed to capture on silicon, that was immediately followed by a generalized splash. I wondered if it might be some sort of way to attract the opposite sex.
I thought about driving around and finding some more birds, but eventually figured that was enough. Then while clunking across my front porch I heard a clatter and whoosh in my tree. Looked up and there were these magnificent creatures. Going after yet another fresh bunch of berries in yet another of the trees in my yard.
I did think, briefly, that I could have just stayed home and gradually caught waxwings doing something more interesting than just standing there.
I've never seen them in my yard before. I guess I should watch more carefully next winter — and tomorrow.
Village Creek drying beds
This was really the second most interesting bird I photographed at the Drying Beds the other day. The Great Blue Herons up in the trees were by far more interesting that anything else we saw, but they were way far away. This was much closer, and I have no idea what it is. The books blur right now.
Later, I looked up Thrashers, but they're different. With that short beak, good chance it's a sparrow. Lots of those have breast stripes and dark tails, but I'm still looking for a bird with a crown like that, though I suppose it could be an optical dillusion. Mmmmmm. I just don't know. Usually turns out to be something common as dirt, but it's not a grackle or a mockingbird. What is it?
I knew this lady the second I laid eyes on her, swimming with her mate. I suspect this is as close as I've ever got to a female Bufflehead. Maybe the males are more shy.
Shovelers shoveling was a hoot to watch. We both photographed them swirling in tight circles, but my still shots of them just look like a mess. Not an apparent circle in sight. Here they're doing what they do, beaks in the murk eating away.
Handsome brute, eh?
Accidental happenstance pays dividends sometimes. Nice silhouette on the right wing.
text and photographs copyright 2009 by J
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My favorite answer is, "I don't
am, after all, an amateur.
I'm not kidding. I've only been birding for three years,
although I've been photographing professionally since 1964.
Thanks always to Anna.