J R Compton.comSearchMAP
White Rock Lake
The Walking Bridge is open but the tourist area along The Spillway is not. We saw that the trail was open yesterday while we drove around, but this Holiday Weekend Saturday morning the trail was flooded with runners, walkers and speeding bicyclists, protection from whom the tourist area was designed for. But that area is still cordoned off, making absolutely certain that we're all in the mix together till the City gets its wherewith all together enough to open all the areas along The Spillway. Which looks like it'll take time.
Till then, I won't be able to separate off from the speeding hoards and concentrate on photography an not worry about getting creamed by a bicycler whose attentions have momentarily wandered. And I'd be closer to the birds. There's plants in there already, and big trees planted along the way. They must need an official opening celebration for that, but not the trail. Make the usual nonsense, but I've waited years, I guess I can wait a few more weeks.
I saw one Black-crowned Night Heron (this dashing one), one Snowy Egret (you've already met), one American Crow (you'll meet in a minute), one Great Egret (maybe next time), one Killdeer (soon, soon) and some ducks. Spare huntin' down there, but they will gather as they always have —
Great Blue Herons, the spare leftover cormorants, Yellow-crowned Night Herons, Little Blue Herons and a smattering of Peeps and other birds drawn by good fishing in swift and shallow waters —
They'll all be gathering down there once it's clear the big, noisy clanging metal machines won't be back. They'll bring their siblings, cousins and long-forgotten, and the air over and the concrete along will fill with species of interest to Dallasites and visitor.
I've been waiting to hang out there off that fence for years. I can't wait to get to that fence down along the middle and lower Spillway..
These shots were taken from the one concrete — everything's concrete there (They worried about all the weight of the cars that will no longer park up there, but there's gajillion tons of concrete everywhere, so the next 100-year flood will be amazing.) overlook that they just couldn't fence off.
I was careful and quiet up there, the noisy hoards rushing by just a few feet away, but I got that good ole used to be sense of isolation, picking out birds along the mud flats, rushes and eddies under the dam.
It was golden like this near the park this early Saturday morning. I'll be back and back and back to The Spillway, my favorite perch on the lake. No longer the easiest access, but once the little lot across from he 7-11 is open, and it looks ready now, I'll be there often and I hope so will lots of shorebirds.
Again I was looking for Green Heron and not finding any, although I did see one unidentified heron about that size fly past the wires over the new wood bridge by the Old Boat House. Too silhouette to tell who, too blurry to put here. Oh, well. I'll keep haunting my known Green Heron haunts.
This looks like an ancient bird, but its just one that's changing from bright new, to summer plumage to grow blacker and then older.
The Cry of the Killdeer is a plaintive tone one must pay attention to. Then try to find in the field of green one brown bird with red eyes. Stop, hold still just a second or two, then race walk off somewhere else. And more piercing peeping.
Usually, it's about all I can do to get one Killdie in focus. Here, I got two killdeer in one focus and I'm just so proud.
I'm guessing here. Either a Wood Duck tyke or a teen-aged Mallard.
Too early in the morning for my sleeping habits, but by about 7:30 I was walking toward Anna, who was seated on the pier at Sunset Bay. This bird was the first one I actually focused upon, although about all I could see was black bird with red/yellow wing coverlet. I immediately thought of the setting as an abstract one. Had no idea the gleam of black would come up so nicely.
Right about now, as the heat hots up, mallards lose their bright colors and have to settle for this mottle brown look.
Driving up Lawther somewhat later, I was able to sidle Blue right up next to this Killdeer who was intent on finding food and barely cognizant of a large (comparatively) blue automobile right next to him/her.
After watching the ducks in the cool clear bay, we drove over to The Green Spot for a breakfast tacos, interesting morning brews and the accompaniment of lots of sparrows, many of whom lived above an outdoor speaker just above our heads. This is the wires off beyond the parking lot, and the bird is a starling. We'll get to sparrows forthwith.
Oh, did I mention how deliriously delicious the light was? Lush colors shone in the damp overcast landscape — as above it. I photographed a lot of sparrows over breakfast this morning. Darned few of them turned out this well, but it's always a matter of percentages and pure raw luck.
In glorious profile perched briefly on top of something close by. A table, maybe a chair. They didn't stay long, so I photographed fast.
I usually think of them just as Little Brown Birds, but there's a riot of color going on in those quick wings.
And one who's been eating little bits of green somewhere close enough to still have some on his beak. Only adult breeding House Sparrows sport the black bib, from March through September.
The Medical Center Rookery
I don't tend to photograph Cattle Egret very often, but in the rookery they are vividly colorful birds. Once they've graduated to the world out there, I don't see them much unless I find a cow or two willing to share their bounty.
I'm guessing the first Cattle Egret and the next one are males and that this and other milder colored one are females, but I don't know nearly as much about Cattle Egrets as I need to. Nice to get the opportunity to watch them today.
This half hour or so of shooting after I came back into human-ness thanks to the nice people including police persons there, may be my most extended Cat-Eeg shoot yet.
If my male-female guesses are right, then this would probably be a female. But I'm not at all sure, and Jason, who used to let me know when I got way off the bird-identifying mark, doesn't visit here so much anymore. So I dunno. I can only plead amateurism, which is not altogether a bad thing, and was actually a good enough thing to get me started in this now-four-year project of mine to become a better writer bird photographer.
Anna saw this chick fall from its nest, high above us in the thick overgrowth at the Med Center Rookery. Several adult Great Egrets attempted to nudge it back up in its nest, but they hadn't accomplished that by the time we moved on.
I'm sure there's many little dramas playing themselves out at the rookery every single day.
I love the way their tiny feathers are standing up all around their bodies in this shot. I don't know their context at all, except it's green.
And, finally, just because I hadn't been able to catch other Snowies in action at the lake for such a long time — I miss their antics, cockiness and willingness to do battle with any egret, giant or tiny.
Earlier today, while attempting to photograph birds when I first arrived, I experienced a major and unexpected Diabetic Sugar Low during which I lost my keys and sense of reality, and I was unable to get at the candy I always travel with.
I want to thank the nice woman who worked there who gave me a ride to the campus police station, the police-women and men there for feeding me, first some of their own candy, then a Coke from their machine, then stayed with me till I gathered back most of my wits and went out to help find my keys again. I especially want to thank the policewoman who found my keys and gave me her own peppermint candy. They let me use their personal cell phone to call Anna, whom I also thank, as always.
They were pleasant, kind and helped make the best of a strange situation. Thanks to you all.
J R Compton
White Rock Lake
Maybe the best way to photograph enough birds is to photograph at least one every day. But that's never worked. Traveling with the Rocket Launcher is too conspicuous. So maybe I should instead photograph fewer birds, just more often. Or something like that.
I’m back again. Just spent three days in a different hospital for not having either a genuine stroke or a Transient Ischemic Attack (mini stroke), although I did have a symptom or two that might have been confused for one or the other. Two Cat (Computed Tomography) Scans and an intense and loud MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) apparently clearly showed that I had had neither.
At departure someone told me I could expect to be stuck in the hospital for three days each and every time I presented any signs of having had another one of those things I didn't have that netted me my last stay in The Land of No Sleep.
So today's my first trip back to the lake, and it just about wore me out. I'll return, again and again, but perhaps not as often as I used to. For awhile, at least.
Or then again, maybe I'll be out at the lake more often. Who knows. I sure missed photographing birds. Even dreamed — nightmared — processing images for my latest entry. Don't remember what the birds looked like in the sleepless dreamlike world. Probably more coherent than this one.
Lots of flycatchers catching lots of flies in the meadow up to Winfrey from Lawther today. I stopped when no birds were in sight, just waving, wild flowers, and I waited. Within moments, two scissor-tails arrived, a pair, I think. They posed and they flew and they caught bugs while I clicked away.
That I actually caught them in the act of flying is some sort of magical miracle. Not perfect shot, but ones that show wings flapping and tail parts helping steer.
A beautiful meadow exploding with a springtime of flowers and bugs.
Held still just long enough to find more bugs to catch and eat.
I love the spread-eagle scissor-tail look. I've photographed it for years. Someday with the right voodoo, I'll finally get it in focus. Then I'll set about trying some other impossible task.
Had a something in its beak and was shaking it with all the torque that little neck could twist out. Looks like it was shredding, whatever it was.
Down, closer to the water, while I was hopin' and lookin' for the much-sought-after first Green Heron of the season, I found instead, and not unexpectantly, Red-winged Blackbirds.
Whose brilliant yellow and red portions stand out significantly from all those green and yellowish green leaves. The bird turns into a shadow, and we lose track of everything but those vivid feathers.
Then, suddenly, one takes flight.
Waiting for the next redwing, a white wing flies by, up over the tall trees along Lawther. I got one shot and still managed to catch that subtle left wing.
Medical Center Rookery
After spending the afternoon at the hospital I drove straight to the Medical Center Rookery to see what I could see. I assumed a wider variety of birds than I've been finding at the lake, and it was true. Nothing really exotic today, but anything different was greatly appreciated.
This male kept chasing the other one away, so it could stay and mate. I didn't see the female in question, but these guys kept at it long enough to get my exposure right. The one whose tail is disappearing to the left was always running away. He never stopped long enough to capture his feather array. I guess that makes this one the winner.
Cattle Egrets are usually about 20 inches long with wingspans of about three feet, but when they really want to, they can appear somewhat larger and fiercer.
Few Cattle Egrets make it to White Rock Lake, although there is one place where I can expect to find one or two every summer, if I keep going back. Lots of them are at the rookery, however and hanging around cows everywhere. This one went through several changes in as fast as I could photograph it. When I saw it, its crop was down. By the time I got the camera going, it had a sudden Mohawk.
Then just as I hoped to settle in for a for-sure shot, it flew away.
There were plenty of Little Blue Herons at the rookery, but I hadn't photographed them yet this year, so I paid special attention to them today, eventually getting two of them in the same photograph. Little Blue Herons are usually about two feet long with 40-inch wingspans.
And another one in the air, coming down from a hunt elsewhere. I think that might be a Cattle Egret flying toward the building.
Not sure exactly why, but I photographed a lot of birds today with industrial smokestacks, wires and towers in the background. Vary the background from the urban jungle of the rookery, I guess. Show that birds occupy the spaces above us almost everywhere, even when we don't look up to see them.
Lots of Great Egrets. This one with even more towers and poles beyond the green of the rookery. Great Egrets are 39 inches long with wingspans of about 51 inches.
And, of course, a couple shots of the few Ibis I saw this trip. Not nearly so lucky as my last visit there when I saw as many as 72 in one flyover, and thee were probably lots more up there. Today, I saw maybe a dozen. Adult White Ibis like these are about 25 inches long with wingspans of about 38 inches.
Another, much smaller adventure playing itself out not terribly far from the high parking garage I stood on for about an hour — practicing walking on even ground in my bare feet. Sox actually on clean concrete. I kept seeing this little — compared to Little Blue Herons, Cattle and Great Egrets and Ibis — bird.
It would sit on the tallest tree around, and every once in a while, fly nearly straight up off the top of that tree like a Mockingbird trying to attract the attention of a mate. Not, I think, after a bug, unless there were lots of bugs that flew nearly straight up off that tree top.
More of a mate-attracting dance than just a flap around some trees. These shots are the times it would go off its branch and actually fly around some tree.
Although it always seemed to go back to that one branch, on the top of the tree. Where it would perch for awhile, then suddenly jump up and fly around some more. Western Kingbirds are 8.75 inches long with 15.5-inch wingspans.
White Rock Lake
Lots of wind. Standing uneasily at the top of Dreyfuss Point, on the very spot the Dreyfuss Building used to stand, I could feel every breeze, every gust. They skies were gray. Few birds and those were far between, except a few brave ducks swimming with the turgid current. Great day to stand out under the clouds and feel the weather. Lousy day for photographing birds at the lake.
Found this beauty on the west side in The Big Thicket. Big tree between us kept it from being much bothered by me and my car sneaking up then parking with the AC off and a big black lens stuck out the driver's side window. Photographed it standing out there, dodging and weaving in the wind. Then hold this pose for a few moments, and ...
Zap! Small splash its head into the shallow drink a foot or so south of where its feet were, firmly gripped to that outcrop just beyond the weeds at the edge of the lake protected from most Thursday afternoon lake visitors' view by that big tree.
Every few seconds it would lunge forward or back as winds buffeted. At first, I thought it might fly away. Then I got used to it balancing in the wind..
Birds, even big, long, tall, beautiful white ones, gotta preen. Always gotta preen.
Tall tall tall birds with elegant lean poses and long black feet and toes. Of course gotta go vertical to get it all in one shot.
Could not have framed this shot better. I had no idea it was about to jump up and fly away, or I would have rotated the camera to horizontal, but by then it would have been gone. Call it luck. Or a decisive moment.
Drove the rest of the way down Lawther toward the loop where the bike-lers head off to the Bath House, I noticed a Red-winged Blackbird flitter into the top of a tree. I pulled over to photograph him, all the while realizing how common a sight they are on the top of whatever they can find proclaiming their territory, their need or whatever in their repetitive scream.
Then I saw another bird flitter from branch to branch. This one. Seemed too big for a woodpecker but woodpecker it was. Usually, I catch them flitting, me looking straight up the tree, them circling the branches, scurrying upside down. And pecking. Never being still for more than a half second or so. Busy busy. This one just stood there. I clicked. Then I tried again and again and again and never once again got it even in the picture.
Once again, I was thinking Green Heron thoughts, so instead of heading down the same old track to Winfrey so-called Point (it's round, not pointed), I drove to The Old Boat House hoping to find herons hiding in the lush green swamp along the other side of the walking bridge over Heron Lagoon.
I didn't find any Green Herons — brilliant sunshine, dark shadows over there; hard to see — but there were plenty other species, many amazingly colorful to find and photograph. I waited a long time to the Barn Swallows flitting over the lagoon to get tired of that and settle on the outside of the bridge. I'd seen them there many times, and I knew that eventually, they'd settle there. I hoped.
Eventually, and only for a little while and just once in the hour and a half I was there, two of them did just that. I clicked away, inching forward after each several shots, till I was pretty close and they'd given up worrying about me leaning against the top of the guard rail inside the bridge at them on the outside, panting and preening.
Meanwhile, people passing by threw bread at the ducks, who fought among themselves to get some. This lone male Wood Duck was especially adept at getting to the bread on the water quickly. I keep telling people bread is not good for birds, but the birds sure do like the stuff.
My bird-identifying skills are minimal at best, but though I know the guy on the left, the one escaping the frame on the right is somebody I don't know. I want to call it a grackle, since there's so many of them hereabouts, but it sure doesn't look like one.
Lots of duckling swimming under the bridge today — chasing bread or each other — until the large power motors propelling the SMU Women's rowing teams yellers tore out of the boat house, powered up in wide circles thoroughly disrupting the surface in the lower lagoon, then roared past the rowers and out onto the central lake.
We call ducks this age — probably just a few months, if that old — teenagers, because like human teens, they're at that awkward age, still growing, still changing constantly, nearly as large as adult ducks, yet they still need tending and teaching.
The bridge provides a great view for birds swimming under or courting off to the side from. I was busy photographing the teen Mallards when I noticed this guy ballooning himself out to earn the attraction of the apparently much smaller female grackle on the right.
Then when they turned around, I got this. Shortly thereafter, she split.
Supposed to rain this early Sunday morning — and eventually it did, but I was up and could not get back to sleep, so I went anyway. I had dreams of Great Blue Herons, Green Herons or Little Blue Herons dancing in my head, but Wood Ducks, cormorants, cardinals, Red-winged Blackbirds and grackles is all I saw this early morning.
It was a lot darker than it seems from these shots. And it took me a long time to sneak up on the Wood Ducks who seemed to be in charge of the pier. Till I got there. As I got closer, they looked out across the water, down at the surface, and jumped in to swim away. Except the one on the grodty tree stump. He stayed a long, long time. Secure, I suppose, in the knowledge I was unlikely to go wading in that fowl water, just to get a closer shot of him.
It was also very pleasantly cool — about 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Delicious springtime weather for ducks, cormorants and humans.
Gradually, slowly and quietly, I settled myself into the creaking wood on Sunset Pier and waited and watched for anything new or different. None of which happened by while I sat and stared off into avian space.
Much as I like wood ducks and distant cormorants, I was hoping for more exotic species, so eventually I managed to pick myself up from the pier and drive off toward Dreyfuss.
Where I promptly found this brilliantly crimson singer.
And a treetop full of fluttering and flapping Cedar Waxwings, who wouldn't let me get any closer than this. When I'd approach, they'd flock off, then when I returned to my car, they'd come back and pose. Eventually, I just stayed where I was, and they stayed where they were, and I tried to figure out ways to hold my big lens stiller.
Much earlier, as I was driving slowly up to Dreyfuss, I saw this lone black bird screaming from the top of a lamp post, in dark so dark, I could only make him out from his silhouette. And that tiny red tinge he always carries on his winged shoulders.
text and photographs copyright 2010 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.