If you assume I am a bird I.D expert, you will be disappointed Great-tailed Grackle, Rock Pigeons, Ice-cream Vendor & Garland Road at Night Cedar Waxwings, Carolina Chickadee and unsub Woodpecker; Great Egrets & Cooper's Hawk Great Blue Heron The Current Bird Journal is always here Cameras Used Ethics Feedback Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat forum Bird Rescue Info Herons Egrets Herons or Egrets? Books & Links Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelks Playing Catch Rouses Courtship Displays Birding Galveston 2015 & 2013 The 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds & the 1st Bald Eagles here Banding Info Coyotes 800e Journal G5 Journal JRCompton.com: Links resumé Contact DallasArtsRevue So you want to use my photos to make your project look better? Bird-annotated map of the Med School Rookery Google used to provide free site search and promised not to put ads on my site, and I liked that, and it was great. Now that search page doesn't work, so I'm not linking it.
191 of my photographs so far this month
Visiting The Rookery Again
March 31 2016
It probably knew it could and would land just fine, but I was worried there for a few seconds.
Way tall on one of those places I always look for Anhingas or something else really elegant.
I always think of BCNHs as the sneaky birds who eat other birds' eggs, stealing them from nests. Seems like they'd be the most hated birds in the colony, but nobody seemed upset at them today.
One BCNH sitting nest. The other standong on the same bracn. I like that its long, white occipital plume shows.
I love the dark zipper along its jaw line this side — and the frilly stuff, so fine in back.
When I photographed them, I couldn't tell where one started and the other ended. I'm still not convinced sure.
Another elegant Great Egret flying through the air with a stick for the nest — a nuptial gift or a necessary part. Note how long the stick is here.
It may be more symbolic than useful in the nest that's not there yet.
Does it mean that the one below is happy to see the twig-deliverer? Note how short the stick is now. Where'd it go?
I like to photograph birds on the far side of the rookery from the top of the garage, but this one hasn't quite made it to past the building, and when I kept shooting, I lost all sense of focus.
If I told you where all they were, it'd take all the fun out of the hunt. But this babbysitting and being watched over by the Dad and Mom all happened in the canopy of the trees that comprise the Medical School Rookery.
These sensitive scenes of raising Anhinga are from way too far away, so I racked down the ISO and upped the shutter speeds, but what I really needed was a longer lens.
Although this was about the same distance, and here I managed to keep focus and exposure and speed in the picture. Miracles happen.
Owl, Fighting Red-wings, Local Eagle
And One Beautiful Hillside
March 30 2016
Driving back out of Sunset Bay, I passed a photographer at the base of a tree, pointing a camera almost straight up, I assumed at an owl. This owl. The guy kept asking me how to put more light on it. I suggested a flash, but it was in shadow, so really, it didn't need more light; its light was almost perfect, as you can probably see. I wasn't paying enough attention to my own settings, could barely think how to explain to him, because he didn't know photo terminology, and I was just hoping to get a decent rendering — at least better than last time [below] and the one before that [even farther down] — and really hoping if the owl suddenly flew, I'd keep up. Those settings might have been right on for that, but a lower ISO and shutter might have been better for this essentially static setup from tripod.
Poor owl looks tired.
Ben Sandifer got a really good video of a Bald-headed Eagle eating a fish in Sunset Bay on Easter Sunday, with kids walking and talking in the background. That bird must have been hungry.
The aerial part of their battle was much too fast for me to catch up with. But once they were down on the ground, I caught up.
After lying in the grass awhile, they got up enough energy to face off again.
And continue their battle. I was way too far away to see any blood, but these things are usually somewhat symbolic.
But Mock Battle and real battle both will wear ya out.
Parrot Bay and most other major landmarks around White Rock Lake are mapped and explained and bird annotated on my & Google's Annotated Map of White Rock Lake.
I've added a couple shots to the March 25 entry below,
I keep finding more shots I really want to share.
March 26 2016
There's a great, yet deeply ironic, Conservation episode of WNYC's Radio Lab on their Wild Things page that shows (it's a radio show) and tells about the Texan who paid $350,000 to kill a old, male Black Rhino that had been attacking and killing other, younger Black Rhinos — the important part The News, even NPR — didn't tell us) when that was big news in 2009. The Radio Lab story begins with a shorter story about Whooping Cranes, that is similarly ironic (although no birds were killed). The hour-long Radio Lab Conservation Episode is available for direct listening on their Wild Things page, but it will probably end up in their podcasts section (Big orange button on the Home page).
I knew that somewhere among the 506 shots I took Tuesday morning March 22, there were two Great Blue Herons flying over in rapid succession. I didn't think I'd got them together — although that would have been nice, but this was among my massive morning bird extravaganza, and now it and others from that same shoot are here. I know I keep messing with the nominal date for these journal entries, but it's easier for me to post a date I know I have to add another entry by. But I'm still considering the issue.
There were two Great Blue Herons who flew over me on the Pier at Sunset Bay, then out and over and around the greater Sunset Bay, to fly off toward Rheinhart Branch (It's on Google Maps, but then so is a place called "Pelican Point" that float out in the water almost equidistant between the southernmost tip of what it calls Dixon Branch's woods and the uppermost (northermost) corner of what I call the Spice Garden that surrounds the pier at Sunset Bay), but I knew I did not get both in one shot. At 500mm, that'd be unlikely even if they were tagging along up there together.)
I really do not remember repeatedly photographing female Mallards taking off, but I do recall many times when I was looking for something — just about anything would do — that even might be worth clicking at that cold Tuesday morning. I get what I can get when I can get it, but this seems odd that she's out there about to turn her trajectory up instead of farther out, and she's paused there just for a moment.
And this is her jumping, both are among my newly discovered images, although you may recognize the next shot down that I cropped the male out of, to further emphasize the Mallard Hen's takeoff.
While the Male Mallard continued swimming.
New readers may wonder why I spend all this time and space on ordinary birds. Because I like birds, ordinary, extraordinary and otherwise. Just keeping us all up on my proclivities, as if no one had noticed, I suppose, which reminds me I haven't photographed pigeons in a while. I'll have to get on that next opportunity.
Okay, one more Mallard Hen pic, then. Another one that I really like and frankly, do not remember taking. I am, more and more, appreciating how beautiful Mallard hens are. The may not, in my estimation, yet beat Wood Duck hens, but they do have more color.
Today must be a good day to dither. I have been dithering. This time between these two images of cormorants, who usually get short shrift in this journal. I was thinking I must have been more intelligent and intelligible with the next pic down, then I noticed I hadn't said anything in green under it.
This one shows more of its face.
The one at the far left is my best bet for being an adult female Redhead Duck, but its colors don't match my perception of Sibley's Guide to Birds, and it might instead be a Ring-necked Duck. The rest of those ducks are a mystery to me, so far. These were extremely far away, and I had to blow them up way more than any other bird on this page. I've been following three telephoto and telephoto zoom lenses for various of my cameras, but I haven't settled on the one yet. A couple have just recently been released, and it often takes six or so months before they're fully vetted. What I'm most looking forward to is finding these guys a little closer to shore next time. Meanwhile, waiting is.
But I think the larger duck may be the same duck as the leftmost duck in the next image up.
I try to keep up with all the wild ducks wherever I may see them. But ducks designed — usually beginning with Mallards, who have the reputation of being willing to mate with anyone — for sale to farmers or duckers are somewhat less important, but I really like the one flapping above and below. She's pretty and odd and — oh, I guess, photogenic. .
With Black Duck hybrid and Mallard Drake, left to right across this image.
Kala has updated me on this particular Indian Runner-looking duck's probably copyrighted title and breeding name, but I don't remember it. I just like this duck, which I'm beginning to think must be a female. Supposedly, the rule is that male ducks have curly tailfeathers (as in the Mallard drake above).
I'm a big fan of rouses, which is when birds shake their feathers all over their bodies. This one only has its forward parts shaking and twisting in this image, but I have many full rouses on my Rouses page.
Probably because I don't stand or sit around watching trees grow and bend, etc., I don't know trees and cannot easily identify them the way I can some birds. I have no idea what tree has red branches this time of year. But here's yet another Red-winged Blackbird without red on her wings.
In a tree — probably one of the trees in "the spice garden" on either side of the run-up to the pier and Sunset Bay.
A day I knew by these lovely birds gracing my start, would be pleasant — actually, I had a lot of fun standing on the pier at Sunset Bay photographing all manner of birds and landscapes with birds. All I had to do was stand there behind my camera and lens on a tripod and point and click. Well, point at the right birds and click at the right times.
Little acrobats that they are.
And there were many male RWBB proclaiming going on from bushes, shrubs, trees and other natural and unnatural objects extending upwards. But since I've been photographing them early and often, today, I mostly did not.
Today, I did not follow each and every pelican down its long, fast slope to splashdown in the water. Just wanted you to know they were there, and that most of the pelicans I saw in Sunset Bay today arrived this way. There were only four of them out on the logs when I arrived. And about a dozen when I left.
Or should that be five Canada Gooses? The white blurs in the lake are American White Pelicans. The dark brown ones on a log are Double-crested Cormorants.
I think I'd rather show you more pictures when I have more decent shots than try to explain every single one in green type. Okay?
By now I should know better than to even attempt to capture a Barn Swallow in mid-flight, but this was almost successful. At least I'm pretty sure who it is, if I didn't quite stop its action — at least I got the colors right, some details — little forked tail and all. They've come back, and although there's not yet as many as there will be, there are many. And they move very fast and make sharp, sudden turns.
I read somewhere very recently that coots spend most of their time swimming and rarely fly at all. Which is why, when I saw this coot flying, I photographed it. Turns out they fly when they need to, but unlike ducks (which they are — unlike ducks; coots are not ducks.) flight is not necessarily their first thought. They can often run away. It's called skittering when coots run on water. Hunting sites claim they only fly at night, which is hogwash — or Moorhen B.S. — because I have often seen them run out across the water to get speed up to become airborne, then fly away.
For TMI about coots and them flying, check out this Google Book excerpt (i.e., rip-off), which only begins with coots from that bookmark in Wildlife Search and Rescue: A Guide for First Responders, which may have been published some time ago. See also the Audubon Guide to North American Birds' page on American Coots.
I'd heard they'd been visiting Sunset Bay, but this was my first opportunity to photograph them, and I did so copiously. These are only the best of my today's Canada Geese photos.
It's not like I hadn't seen Canada Gooses often. I have seen them often. Usually at urban parks, where they tend to take over. They look like regular water birds. But they are quite large — 21 – 48 inches long, with wingspans of 3.5 to five feet. So it's easy for them to become the dominant species.
Today, however, they were very pleasant, didn't start fights, etc. But then, nobody was feeding the ducks when I was there. Maybe that's what they were milling around waiting for.
But it was not a race, just a gentle, slow visit taking many opportunities to taste the local aquatic fare. According to my Lone Pine Birds of Texas, this species "grazes on new sprouts, aquatic vegetation, grass and roots." And other books say they mate for life and keep their young family with them for at least the first year, which probably accounts for there being five of them this morning.
I hadn't see Shovelers, which I sometimes perversely call "snorkers," — especially when flying — in awhile. Despite their large, snorking beaks, they are rather elegant and beautiful birds. The beaks make them especially easy to sight and identify — and snork food from the water.
Male above and female below — this time.
I keep hoping for more Eared Grebes, but I think I want that to wait till their 'ears' show spectacularly gold, so this little guy will do till then.
A Night Shot of the Lake &
A RWBB over the Full Moon
March 24 2016
Driving down DeGoyler Drive the only way we can on a one-way street. Headlights illuminating the reed on this side. The Winfrey Building at right, with all the lights on — must be a party in there. And on the far side, left, lights of the city. With an unpasteurized green sky overhead.
All I saw when I clicked this one was the bird, and I knew it was impossibly small in this frame, but I did it anyway. Kinda glad now.
Owls, Woodpecker, Mallards & A Mute Swan Flying
March 23 2016
I brought my camera up as I saw it flying to a tree nearer than I expected, and well before I got the tripod up and aimed, then I clicked, but it wasn't set for a fast owl, so I got this instead. The blurry mess at the right was the tree. I panned with the owl, so I blurred the tree nearly beyond recognition. Oh, well. Kinda reminds me of a tiger.
People keep asking which tree, and I can only say, "this tree," because to know which tree and where exactly it is, it really helps to see the owl(s) move, and I've managed that three times, so far. And a whole lot other times I'm missed it moving, so I didn't get this good a shot. This was on a tripod with me being very careful. Not sure what's flaring its side and tail, probably sunlight. Last year, by being persistent, I got pix of both of them flying. This year, not yet.
She moved amazing fast. Every time I got a bead on her, she was off in a flash. Then she'd come back and hold still for a second or two, and I'd try again.
Not to say I finally got her rhythm, but I paid attention, even when the other photographer walked off. These might be some of the best woodie pix I've got. Really comforting to see I'm getting better at some things.
Probably the only birds we got more of than Mallards are coots and pigeons — oh, and grackles And Red-winged Blackbirds. Etc.
Kelly called this one, or I might well have missed it. My far vision sucks. Kelly knew the species title of that woodpecker from a distance where I couldn't even see a bird movie. She said, when this bird was way farther away than here, when I finally caught up with it, that it was either a pelican or Katy.
I was surprised when Kelly called it Katy when it was just barely becoming visible to me. But this point I could tell it wasn't a pelican …
I have several more shots that look pretty much like the last two, only slightly closer.
Rather elegant over all. Brava, Lady Katherine. The tip-off when she's too far to see her black lores, is no black wing tips like American White Pelicans.
Yeah, I spent time with the camera, setting it up correctly for various opportunities, when I got into Sunset Bay proper, where found I woodpecker, Katy and Mallards.
Serene creatures flying into Sunset Bay.
Then out again. Not that sure these are the same Mallards.
But I'm pretty sure this is the same Mute Swan. And she was thorough.
Gulls, Gadwalls, Great Blue Heron
and one Male Mallard Flying
March 22 2016
Hadn't really planned all this in the background. I was just photographing a short flock of Ring-billed Gulls as they swooped around the upper Spillway, then they showed against this mostly dark background and really stood out from it, so click.
I didn't even see the Gadwall. I was taking yet another photo of my favorite species — even if it wasn't doing anything at all. Nice, though, the serendipity of it — and that they're both in focus. Sometimes I get the stupids, and sometimes I'm smarter than I think I am. Sometimes both at once, I suppose.
I've been seeing them there for months, if not all year and some of last. Must be something compelling that draws them to eat.
All I have is about 500mm worth of lens, so this is about as close as I could get to a whole group of them. I love the golden reflections of the far spillway wall reflected in the water.
But I guess I can get in even closer if I hold the camera against the fence along the spillway up toward the dam. Nice of him to bow down (probably to eat whatever's rushing by that they like enough to stay there so much of the time — I've jut grown used to their presence and just don't photograph them very often anymore.) to show off his more beautiful parts.
It's even easier to blow up a single duck.
Usually, I'm looking up at them when they're flying, but at the Spillway, it's often probably they'll be flying under. Pretty and common bird, but nice.
a Swan, a Pigeon, a Grackle
and a Cormorant and a Pelican
March 20 2016
Doesn't look comfortable, but he kept at it for quite a while, while clicked and snapped at it.
Shot from Sunset Bay.
But I'm not so sure now, because the exact configuration is not obvious in Sibley's Guide to Birds. Or maybe the photograph is just too dark.
Roly Poly Coots Balled Up Against the Cold
Looking a lot more like American Coots.
Not sure why, but she kept doing it. Swim, swim, swim, head goes up. Then more.
It just doesn't look right when I make it all brighter.
DALLAS 2015 AS 562 … That's as much of the leg band as I could decipher from three different, mostly much worse, images of this same pigeon.
Tree looks familiar.
Standing there looking at each other.
Took about twenty attempts at this till I finally got my focus zone right.
Some images have been hiding from me lately, including these last two.
It is still very peculiar to see just a few pelicans in Sunset Bay. I wish we could somehow pull the logs that have been stormed into shore, although they'll all be gone by mid-April. But I want them to feel comfortable next year. I'd hate for those several nasty storms to have rid us of American White Pelican presence.
Serious Case of The Stupids Today
March 19 2016
It happens. Sometimes. Not paying enough attention to the basics. Assuming my trouble seeing was my eyes, not my brain. Wrong again. Kept shooting as if it'd all come out in the wash. It didn't. Yesterday I was pulling hawks out of the darkness. Today I was lucky I got any focus at all.
Decidedly out of focus — then over-sharpened to catch back up: notice the faint white outline I've tried to dull back into background color — but close. The focus deal is I had it set on very-small-focus-target, so I had to get it right, exactly on the bird, or everything would look / seem / be out of focus. Beautiful bird. Huge big fin of a tail. Not really too far away, just that the photographer was daft today. We all have our moments.
Very nearly in focus. The tree and its branches is and are, but the bird's a little soft. Or rather the photographer was/is. Almost perfectly underexposed, however, gives it that moody look. I could probably sharpen the print up a bit, but … Oh, and I had left the ISO at 800, so everything's a little grainy. Then halfway through today's shoots, I brought it down to 125 and forgot it.
I liked this duck from the moment I saw it today. Got pix of it running across the yard by the pier entrance. He's not far from there here. Looks dumb as a post, but it was me, not he. I liked it. Did I say that already.
Such beautiful birds, especially right now at the near peak of spring. Really bad reputation for depositing eggs — this is a male, though — in other birds' nests, but in those nests, those intruded-upon birds take care of the Brown-headed Cowbird babies as if they were their own, so like there's some sort of Law of the Jungle obtaining.
These are so close — I'm in The Slider, parked or rolling parked, right next to the patch where dozens of cowbirds, starlings, Red-winged Blackbirds and others are grazing — it'd be difficult not to get that tiny focus target on the bird. Wish I'd got its eye a little sharper, but not bad, considering my stupids on stupids.
The focus target's probably on the right one, because it's a hair sharper, and at that distance and magnification, there's hardly any chance they'd both be sharp — notice the Red-wing just a few inches back that's rendered a total blob here. But What Me Worry?
Could be a snail. Dozens of birds gathered right on the edge of the road up to Barbec's. I'm stopped, sliding forward sometimes, quietly in all-electric mode, trying not o scare them, or they'll all flay away. Tilling frames with beautiful spring-time bird colors.
There's a car coming from the opposite direction, and the driver probably thinks I'm honed in on something really special, and they want to see it, too. They have no idea this idiot with the silly bad stupids is focused in too amazing close to starlings, blackbirds and/or redwings. I'm being careful, but how do I tell the creeping-closer interloper that these are just ordinary birds, and the only reason I'm photographing them instead of hawks and eagles and stuff, is because they're here, and those others aren't. Eventually, he stops right next to me, and I suppose he wants me to stop what I'm doing to discuss whatever it is he wants to talk about, but I don't feel like it. I start talking, and everybody flies away…
And then I loaded the wrong set of pix on the site. Ooof! Gronk.
Of Grackles and Grebes and Hawks
March 18 2016
I'd seen either this Eared Grebe or another one right there a couple times already this week. First time only once, then it was gone and I didn't see it again. But I remembered it. The second time, I had that little Panasonic camera with the mediocre lens and my mediocre ability to deal with it, which I think will work out very well for what I bought it for — family and art. I've already used it on one art show review, so I'm still pleased with it, but not so much for photographing birds. Till I get super lens for it.
This time I brought my big bad Nikon with the gargantua lens that's so big I have to push it along in front of me in a wheelbarrow. But it's sharp. As you can see. The exposure was a challenge this time, but it's always something, and it turned out very well indeed.
My Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, which I haven't quoted much since I learned that it is back in production, so you can go out and buy your own copy. My new one cost a nickle shy of $27, and I treasure it, too. Both say of these birds, "Only ravens are larger" all-black birds in America. "With a tail so long that it acts as a sail on windy days, continually pointing the bird into the wind." It goes on, and it's interesting and odd what it says next, but I'll leave that to you.
I trudged near to a mile today, and eventually figured that I was walking for exercise, because I was not finding much in the way of birds. I was in The Slider when I saw and photographed the top-knot grebe. I was trudging and sweating when a friend showed me where this bird in this nest was. She said Kelly had discovered it, but I'll only tell serious birders I know.
So I photographed it from right where she told me to stand and a couple other places, which eventually included my choice of standing in the middle of the road, with my camera pointed almost straight up. And traffic, as I knew they would and should, either waiting for the madman to get out of the road, or driving around me. My friend was concerned as many other friends have been since always. I really wanted this shot, and it turned out incredibly much better than I ever thought it could be. So I was happy.
Who'd been sitting on or in a nest till a couple curious photographers came on the scene.
Eventually, it tired of all the attention and took wing. We knew what direction it flew into out of where it had been, but we couldn't find it again, and that was probably just fine with the bird and me. This looked amazing blown up on my camera's LCD, but not so much here, although I still like it just fine. More focus might have helped.
It Must Be Spring!
March 16 2016
Easy to find once I heard it hammering that resonant log upended and attached to wires. Looks great at a distance …
But when I zoomed closer with my less-than-spectacular long (200-600mm equivalent) micro fourthirds zoom, he got fuzzier. I bought the Panasonic Lumix GX8 in anticipation of getting much better glass once a spectacular new zoom came out, got tested, passed those tests or got fixed, then maybe even the price would lower. It's supposed to be spectacular, but they they are all supposed to be. Nikon maybe worse at the Quality Control game than Pany.
This is my regular, old, Nikon Blunderbuss lens. Spectacular for many years, just very very heavy, and I seem to be getting weaker, not stronger. Pretty little bird, though, huh?
Not that the Nikkor 300 lens is perfect. It's not, and I'm not, but together we get pretty good sometimes.
N is for Nikon lens and cam; P is for Panasonic, although it usually takes some serious enlarging of the image to really show the differences. So it's kinda sad I can see those differences in images this low-res and small.
Nikon magnificence but probably better light, too.
Busy birds. I looked for but couldn't find a male proclaiming. Found whom I assumed was a male, but he wouldn't proclaim. The males proclaiming where they are and what they are up to — finding a female to mate with and raise more young and propagate the species is what all species are all about.
Handsome bids! But female Red-winged Blackbirds are an independent lot. They usually travel only with other females, and they hang out together much of the time.
My Nikon tele kit weights about 8 pounds. My Panasonic tele kit weighs about four. There is something to heavier cam/lenses are easier to hand-hold, but the new Pany's got two sets of image-stabilization now. One in the lens and another in the cam. But my hands do shake.
The only reason I haven't shown you all a really good shot of an American Coot skittering across the surface of the lake, is because I haven't managed one, and it's already a couple months into the Coot Scooting Season. Got the splash pretty good, though. Eventually, I'll have to do one with the Nikon.
Testing a New Camera
March 14 2016
First I got a new camera, then I got horribly sick, then I came back, have been writing about art, then I tested my new camera before I read the manual, but I've had a cam from the same manufacturer before, so I figured I could figure some stuff out. Then I'll finish the art stories, post those, do some web work for a favorite client, then I'll read the manual, now that I got an idea what I don't know and need to.
I'm usually opposed to people feeding white bread to birds dumb enough to chase after it and steal it from other birds, etc. But I needed some birds to photograph, so I put up with it long enough to use the situation to capture some birds on the wing.
It's on shore, but even when there's zillions of people at the lake on a warm, barely pre-spring day, only the most mean-spirited among them would bother to get through the tall weeds, reeds, shrubs and bushes along this part of the shoreline. Still, they kept a watchful eye out, just in case.
Way too many people on a balmy Sunday afternoon by the time I finally got to the lake, so I took what I could get, and overall, I was very pleased with the selections available.
For the first ten or so minutes I tried capturing images like this, I failed miserably. But try, try again. I never had much luck with my previous Panasonic Lumixes, G2 and G5, but this GX8 is much faster, and I bet once I read the manual, I'll get even quicker.
I was startled when I captured this peak-of-action shot. Nice rendering of the coots, too.
I do try to hide or at least camouflage what I'm up to sometimes, but I figured out many decades ago that being a photographer often takes a willingness to be stared back at. It seems only fair. And since I needed the practice with a new camera, I took the opportunity with lots of strangers today. Few of them were as great a model as this guy in this shot, however.
Great color. Great action with the dress flapping in the breeze. Lovely fabrics. Beautiful day.
From here on down this journal entry, there's only a spare few more birds, but since the lake had way more people than birds today, I took advantage.
I don't usually manage to find this much photogenic action. Good stuff to learn fast shutter speeds, quick focus and how to aim the new cam. They look like they're having wonderful fun and really getting into running over the grass in Greater Sunset Bay somewhere between the road turn up toward the hospital and the lake itself.
When I see light like this I look around for subject matter, even if I'd shot Mom and Child already. This was my only photograph of a Muscovy all day.
Actually, I was kinda amazed how well I could follow fast action with the new very small, micro four-thirds camera and my older lenses that I've used on its two earlier models.
Beautiful back-lighting really makes those guys chasing the ball look good.
That the new cam, a Panasonic Lumix GX8 (there was a 7 but not any numbers before that, which seems kinda silly, but it works well, and if I can follow fast-moving informal soccer, maybe I can chase down some fast-moving birds, too.
One other attribute of the new cam is a double set of image stabilizationing. In the camera as well as in the lens. Seems to help. I did get a few blurs, but usually due to my unfamiliarity with the camera, rather than its fault.
Spatial Compressions, RWBB, Wet Dog in a
Circle, an Owl & Gooses in Lust with A Swan
March 11 2016
For years, I've promised myself I'd stop, get out and photograph the odd compression of spaces down this hill toward the golf course. Today, aided and abetted by the rain and fog, I finally did it. No birds here, but I like the interesting spatial relationships.
I was more interested in the visual expansion, but it was nice of that hungry pelican to be swimming there, fairly close to Garland Road — with the dam just to the right of the far, right, top of the water. The pelican wouldn't be there if it were not hungry. It'd be resting in Sunset Bay or wherever else it hangs out.
Female Red-winged Black-bird lovely in the wet grass. She's probably hungry, also.
I think all dogs should be on leashes at the lake, but then the police or City Gummint thinketh that too, or there wouldn't be so many signs, even if I've never seen anybody but irate citizens pitch a bitch about it. Wonder if we'll be seeing a poster with this poor pooch's picture on it.
Much higher up in a much taller tree this time, with more branches and leaves between us.
In Sunset Bay, Goose Lust had taken over in Farmer Charles' barnyard, and they kept at it, on …
Unlike ducks, gooses can be almost gentle at the act sometimes — with no real need to half drown the female.
Then, when they uncouple, they keep up with the chase.
This was taken at a little longer distance than the ones below, and it ma be a little confusing as to which parts of these two birds is which. The tall, triangular tail foremost in our vision here, and the two wings, one on each side of the tall white tail, belongs to the Must, I believe female, Swan underneath the male domestic goose. Last time I saw this happen, the goose on top's name was Patches, but I don't keep up with human names for domestic gooses — although I have always known who Katy is.
Here, the goose has mounted the swan and is aligning himself.
Here, we see the male goose has arranged himself atop whom I believe is the female swan, Katy, although that sexual assumption is, at least somewhat controversial. Some believe Kathy Rogers of Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation, who seems certain that our Mute Swan is a male. But I don't think so, and it's just these sorts of actions that makes that difficult for me to believe.
This looks a little more complicated than it really is, but they have jut completed 'the act,' and now they are getting ready to do the symbolic 'thank you' pose what's going on in the next pic down. That flesh-colored part protruding from the, we assume male, goose in the above image, should be fairly obvious, and I think it's the first time I've ever seen a goose's. Note again, how much smaller the stern of the goose is compared with the swan's.
When I have seen very stylized versions of this scene — usually cropped to just the necks and heads — on greeting cards over the years, I just assumed someone had made it up. But I've seen gooses and swans do it after having sex fairly often, maybe even usually. I probably should note that gooses and swans are fairly closely related, and there are such things as swooses, which are crosses between swan and goose. And this may be how those are produced.
So when it happens I take their pictures. And I saw at least two other instances of goose lust today, but they were too far away for me to get focus before they broke up.
Owl vs. Crow Standoff
in Owl Country — March 9 2016
Driving toward the lake looking for Yellow-crowns in the early morning rain. Heard a 'who-cooks-for-you' sound that was definitely not doves — guess I can finally tell them apart now — looked up and saw two plump, brown and silent, medium-sized birds flying around this very area, not over, but among the trees. I turned The Slider around, drove back, did a slow, careful 180, waited, watched, till I could pick out this brown and white among the black, brown, grays and greens of the trees. Click.
Then along comes a marauder, alone. Who, once it got established and balanced up there, just stood there staring at the owl. Kinda like this. Eventually, the quite large crow flew off. I was getting rained on, cam / lens and face out The Slider's window. Never saw feather nor down of the Heron, but I still hope to.
And yeah, I'm playing slow and loose with the post dates, instead of pre- or post-dating them. But it's spring, so I might as well be strict about them. Next year, when I click the A Year Ago link at the top of most of these pages, I'll know exactly when I saw my FOS (first of season) Barred Owl today.
Remember If you're going to photograph these timid, gentle birds, get in, take your pictures; then get out. Don't stand around kibitzing till a crowd gathers, scaring the birds or their young. Don't be an idiot about it. Be careful. Be quiet.
Visiting the Drying Beds in Arlington
March 8 2016
"The Swamp" is the wetlands left (west) of the boulevard of trees from the entrance to the Fort Worth Solid Waste Drying Beds northward up the slight hill to the concrete-walled and fenced-in parking lot. I knew it was getting close to Great Blue Heron nesting season, and I wanted to get some photos of that activity, and we planned to take advantage of any other bird opportunities we found.
While I was trekking the outback, Anna photographed a Merlin, and I envy her it. These were just the first birds I could see well enough through the trees.
Great Blue Herons were my focus bird for the day. I hoped to capture them dealing with nests and each other, so I happily photographed the first one I saw, especially since it was somewhat closer than the ones that kept flying back and forth from the swamp to the trees. I'd hoped they were gathering food for young, but they were instead gathering sticks for the nest, and I was a little early.
Turtles are always just so much easier to photograph than birds, who generally move faster.
These were the photos I went there for. I photographed them with my 300mm lens with a 1.7X extender — then hugely enlarged the center of the images — netting these images, but they'd be a lot more remarkable, if there were 'baby' GBHs involved, of which I didn't see any. Yet.
All seven of these shots (the one above and the six that follow it down the page) were taken from places between the trees on the west side of the road in through the front gate and alongside the swamp, which I suspect is the best place to photograph these Great Blue Herons in their tall-tree nests. A decent tripod helps, if for no other reason than because it let me keep the vertical panning in a straight line as this heron flew right to left.
These are the most detailed photos I got of the GBHs in and around the several nests that had already been begun. I learned that by walking all the way back and around the tall trees on the raised road to the north of the far side of the swamp, while trying to see birds through trees. There was a time, a few years ago, before those trees along the north edge of that marsh grew up more, when the raised road was the best viewpoint to see and photograph the nests. But I could only barely see any nests through there Sunday.
It helps to have a camera that keeps focus, even when interleaving objects, like all these trees and branches, try to interfere.
The GBH on the right is easy to see. The one on the left is a little more challenging. Below the one on the left is the beginnings of a nest. GBHs usually build large nests. Next time I visit "the beds," I'll shoot from several more places along the swamp, till I figure where the best spot is, to see through fewer trees and branches. By then, there'll probably be more nests to choose from, too.
It's still too early in the season to see or photograph inside-the-nest activity — at least until there is some.
When the wind blew, this heron wavered and put, first one wing, then the other wing, out or down for balance. I saw the first wing go out, so when this one dropped, I was ready. A sunshiny day with few clouds — especially mid-morning, when the sun more directly illuminates this side of the trees on the other side of the swamp, might be the best bet. Which was right about when we got there, because it seemed it would be the best light on the subjects.
With the 1.7X telextender, my 300mm lens approximates a 510mm lens, which is still short for the distance involved. Luckily both the lens and the camera are very sharp, so even blowing this sized image up to the size of today's files above, those images do not blur. This particular medium is also helpful in this blow-up quest. I don't know whether I could make large prints of these images, because I so rarely make large prints.
While I was plodding along the elevated east-west road just north of the swamp, I saw quite a few birds in flight, so of course I photographed them. These are some of the closer ones.
I was hoping for a back-door view of the area where the GBH nests were, but I never saw through the trees lining the swamp well enough, so I contented myself with the birds that flew close enough, till I got back to the road. It was really lovely out there, though. On the map that soft levee road looks close to the pans of water and birds, but standing up on it, it seemed pretty far.
Usually by the time I managed to get them in good-enough focus, they were really too far away to focus well. Almost every step I took and image I captured, I wished I had a longer telephoto lens. Then I priced them and decided I might well wait.
Until this Turkey Vulture took a special interest in me, and flew me over close enough that many o my shots of it were seriously cropped, I happily clicked away.
Just to show that birds who are less curious can sometimes get too close. There were these also, as there often are.
Since the City of Fort Wroth closed the roads in and among the actual mostly rectangular, water-filled drying beds — thanks to a bunch of teenage drivers rampaging up, down and crosswise through the gravel and/or dirt roads that crisscross the the beds, we haven't attended it much. The drive-through birding available before the area was closed to vehicular traffic (usually very slow with long stops when birds were sighted) was gone, and as we all know by now, birds are afraid of people and (I assume) people walking or on bicycles, but not people in vehicles or vehicles by themselves.
There's a nice photo-map of the Drying Beds that includes indication where the eventual boardwalk across the swamp might be. Much as I like bird-watching boardwalks, I kinda hope it is never installed, because if I were a Great Blue Heron or one of the other species that nest up there, it'd scare me to have human idiots running amok on a boardwalk down there. But nobody has sought my advice.
I remember seeing Black Vultures all along the upper outside horizontal bars on this architectural feature, but I have not succeeded in finding that pic to link here.
If I'd used more of the horizontal space recorded in this image, it'd be more obvious how tilted it was (I suspect everything I do leans left.) but with it this large, we can enjoy more detail in, especially, the male leading the way down. Notice both shovelers have their flaps down.
Everytime I look at this pic, it looks like a big furry dog in a duck suit, complete with legs, feet and feathers, landing in water. If I concentrate, the black dog nose sometimes more approximates some doohicky over its dark beak. And the picture really looks like an especially large duck.
I thought I didn't get any decent shots of Black Vultures, till I finally stumbled on this shot. Wish it'd been flying this way instead of away.
The beds were a fabulous place to do some serious drive-by birding. Then the teenagers ruined it for all of us by driving cars fast out there. We could still walk the grids, and some people always have. Or we could bicycle, and a rare few bicyclists have always done that. But I bet that scares the close birds, like cars and pickup trucks never did.
The sign on the left states, "This area is part of the Village Creek Water Reclamation Facility. In order to protect the existing infrastructure public access is restricted to foot traffic and bicycles. Motorized vehicles, firearms, and alcohol are prohibited. Please report any unauthorized activity by calling *817) 392-4900." The part of the red and white sign on the gate at left visible over the front hill states, "Do not block gate at any time. Both signs are in all capital letters."
This is back by the swamp area. I expect to go back many times in the next few months.
These first two photos were shot on February 11, then I drove down to San Antonio to be with my mother for awhile, then I came back and mostly forgot them for a couple more weeks, then when I remembered I couldn't believe they were taken that long ago, so I couldn't find them, since I store stuff by date.
Saturday night after I photographed the birds in the journal entry below, I tracked these vivid birds down and put then here. Not sure yet when I'll post this motley collection online, but for a change I'll probably wait till I have them all correctly identified.
This particular cognito is where The Spit splits farther east of Sunset Beach, and I shot it February 16. I remember staring at this scene and wondering where the GBH I'd just seen move had gone. Then it moved ever-so-slightly again, and I clicked it before it completely disappeared again. Wish I could do that.
This was from one of those occasions that I photographed pelican fishing parties off from shore. They're rushing off to find some fish, as usual. I also shot this on February 16.
I looked at my two favorite bird I.D books — The Sibley Guide to Birds, 2nd Edition and The Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas.
But I didn't find it till I figured out what it was, and then it was almost too easy. I photographed this tiny — 7 inches long with 13-inch wingspan, weighing 1.1 ounces — bird on February 16, but I didn't notice it till I went back through all those bird folders late, late Saturday March 6. Glad I did.
Great-tailed Grackle momentarily showing its great tail. But only for a few seconds. My other shots of it were much less interesting.
Don't know if they're a pair or just two pigeons standing there together — and no, I didn't notice the front one's silhouette shadowed on the other one' s breast when I was photographing them, but once I saw it, I was joyed.
The lake was mobbed today, which is why I don't usually attend on Saturdays. All these images were shot on Saturday March 5, 2016.
We'd just been talking about the unlikelihood this loud ice-cream seller being stopped by the police, when this policeman stopped him. It took maybe a minute, and this was shot through the windshield of Anna's car, which I normally avoid, because of the distortion, but after their brief discussion — probably of topics like the vendor doesn't have a license to sell at the lake, and that he was creating a lot of noise — the vendor drove off in quiet mode. It is possible to get a special license and probably a discussion of the rules — for selling at the lake.
After that initial shot through the windshield, I began to cotton to the idea, then as we drove down Garland Road, I clicked occasionally. Hand-holding every shot with my trusty 300. My other experiments were much less successful.
Most of today's shots were difficult to make as good as they are, because I was shooting up and at great distances. The tree here is in much better focus than the bird, but the image is focused enough to identify the bird, which is always a minor miracle on this bird journal. There's another, sharper shot at the end of today journal entry.
Carolina Chickadees are about 4.75 inches long, so getting this shot of it way up in a tree was a booger. All my other CC pix today were way worse, some unrecognizably CCs. It's some kind of a miracle this shot was this amazingly sharp.
I don't know my flowers way worse than I don't know my birds.
I didn't know what bird this was, but from early on I worried it might be a Mockingbird — but I thought the eye color was wrong, but Kala says that's what color Mocks' eyes are when they look up. I still don't know what those berries are, but I'm pretty sure they are black. I could not photographically disappear the branches, but I got that left eye in focus, and usually that means everything else it's got will probably be in focus, but it ain't necessarily so. This, for fairly obvious reasons so far, was the total unsub. But hey, it's in focus.
But what Kala says it is, is a Northern Mockingbird, our and a whole lot of other state's state bird, and she's so much better at I. D-ing than I am, I have to go along with her identification.
I'm working this page up later on the day I shot these pictures, and I still don't know which of the intricate series of woodpeckers this one is. But I got it in focus, which was a major deal, and that was nearly enough. It's got red across the bridge over its beak, and none of the woodpecker pix I've seen so far, has that trait, except a juvenile Male Downy Woodpecker, but that's only for July – August, and this is early March.
I asked the birders on Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat, and sure enough, my friend Kala King says this is "a female Downy," and it "probably has a stain above the beak from something she ate. Bars on the underside of her tail makes her a downy rather than a hairy. The one that lives in my yard normally is all white there but now and then she gets something on it that stains it.
Just seeing it was a major miracle. Black and white bird on black and gray and white bark on a tree high over me. I'm much more used to photographing larger birds, because I can see them. My far vision is pretty lousy. I wear glasses that don't really make seeing far much easier. But I kept at it, and got these photographs. And yeah, totally overexposed…
But it's a much more clear shot of it.
I hadn't been up into Sunset Forest since I first started calling it that two, three, maybe more years ago. I enjoyed the challenge, and am so pleased I got even this many (few) shots sharp.
Lots of Great Egrets at the Southwestern Medical School rookery when we visited Thursday.
I did not walk the entire perimeter of the rookery, so I didn't see any other varieties than those shown here, but I have high hopes this year, as I almost always do.
Last year, I was told that the White Ibis came and left early, so I was curious, but I had to leave early, so I didn't discover other species.
Some egrets were sitting nests, and others were looking intent about building a nest.
Here, there's the beginning of a nest, wrapped carefully in and around just the right-sized branches.
We know it's almost spring when the Great Egret population begins to show their 'nuptial plumage."
Gathering sticks for nests.
Green lores and fluffy feathers are the giveaway that this — and many other Great Egrets whose population is now growing daily at the rookery — is looking to start a nest.
Not sure whom this Sharp0shined Hawk was hunting, but certainly not the Great Egrets. My trusty Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas describes Sharp-Shined Hawks' feeding regimen as "chases or dives at small to medium-sized land birds."
But I watched this one circling above the middle of the trees over and over — or I probably would not have been able to capture it this well.
Great Blue Heron Flyover
This was shot last week, when I put it off till I didn't already have some great shots. Then, I did, today, I'm lucky to have these.
GBH Fly Over
GBHs are still my favorite birds, and not at all uncommon.
Sometimes they look rather dramatic. Sometimes, we can't even see them, even when they're right in front of us, because their patterns mix in so well with Nature's patterns.
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