DO NOT USE photos without permissionBird Rescue Advice from Rogers Rehab White Rock Map
Pelican Beaks Herons Coyotes Egrets Herons v Egrets Feedback Rouses Books & Links
Learning my latest cameraEmory Eagle Festhear
I remember the sun fading fast, and that I had not yet mastered the trick of snaking up on a roadrunner with The Slider. That memory is vivid. But for several of the following too many birds, I don't remember anything at all of photographing them — like this next shot.
Then again, maybe this was in a tree at the motel that I captured as we hove into view of it.
We stayed on the third floor of an otherwise full to overflowing — some folks in front of us didn't have reservations, so they did not find room in the inn that night, but we did, so we did. Early the next morning, even before breakfast, I was photographing grackles in the trees out our window.
I think I remember knowing what this bird was when I photographed it, and I think that was a crow.
It didn't take too long to abandon photographing each new instance of egret, but I never gave up on Great Blue Herons, so you will find them scattered all the way down today's chronologically arranged Hagerman journal entry.
Something else we saw over and over again. The noble Canada Goose.
In its natural habitat, on top of a governmental sign. It didn't take us but one shot of this widespread species to not shoot any more.
I was rushing the camera to the job, shooting at an odd angle out the passenger's window (I was driving) and other excuses. Considering all that, however, it's mostly in focus, and the colors are about right. Not our first Dickcissel, but our most recent.
Took me awhile to work back up toward photographing the Dickcissel out Anna's window again. There were plenty of birds there in the morning. But they thinned out during the day.
Eventually, I pointed the camera in the right direction, managed to hold in pretty still for several seconds, and netted this shot that's mostly right-side-up.
Meanwhile, Anna held steady on her prey and even got a shot of it with its beak open.
Essentially, the part of Hagerman we explored today — A to E of what I think of a spokes out from the main road — splatter out through trees, and either past almost-always pumping oil wells or out onto strategically placed oil wells onto islands. Long, narrow roads transverse most of those islands. Generally, there was ample weeds and wildflowers and often birds on either side of the road, but not much maneuvering room — unless you are a bird.
Several times when we encountered gooses crossing the road — always to either get on the other side or to confuse us into thinking that's what they were up to — they'd cross in front of us. We'd stop, wait for them, and photograph them via a long telephoto lens, to give them plenty of room. They did seem a little confused, but it gave us time to figure out that often several families traveled together, and some of those extended families had young of various recent ages.
The down is getting a little scraggly, but I like the term as it applies to this goose so young it does not yet have any semblance of stripe across its face.
I've no idea when a Canada Goose stops being a juvenile and becomes an adolescent or whether those are just terms borrowed from human children, where it's often also difficult to discern the differences.
Pipes led from the very-much-working oil wells to wherever the oil goes. There was all sorts of strange and often elderly oil transporting and pumping equipment all around all around. And birds, too.
Of which there were also plenty, though not in numbers approaching the current Canada Goose population.
I like the Alfalfa-like cowlick sticking almost straight up.
We both spent a lot of time aiming and attempting to focus bright white birds flying low over the remarkably varied landscape at Hagerman. There might have been one other that was close, but this is the only one I thought worth sharing with you today.
Really a nice family portrait, except for all those brambles and branches reaching up out of the water among those young faces. The adult gooses could always just extend their necks and see over most obstacles.
Which is a particularly good thing.
I don't remember photographing this bird. Apparently I got only one shot at it. And if I'd got another, I might have got its head in sharp focus, too. But I don't remember seeing another one of these. Ever. Except my spellchecker already knew how to spell it correctly, so I must have stumbled over another sometime.
I believe tat when I began photographing this stand of egrets, there were several more, but by this moment in time, there were a lot fewer, and within seconds, this one flew away also, and then there were none.
I thought it was a flycatcher. Anna thinks it's a swallow. Luckily, swallows catch flies, so we're all covered. But the pix I found in books didn't match either. Now, she says it's a Western Kingbird, which is also a Flycatcher, so we're all still covered. Then she said it was an Eastern Kingbird, and that's okay with me to. Kinda what I thought when I first saw it.
But this one is a better shot, even if the eye is darker and it's a head-on view. I've always liked the Eastern Kingbirds better, because they're yellow. But then I don't know much about them, except I love watching them catch bugs mid-air. I guess I'm still waiting for it to catch something.
I kept wondering who gets the money for all that oil being pumped up, then I found a short paragraph about it on the Hagerman site.
"Downy Youth" is a term I've heard, but by the time they get fuzzy, I don't think it works anymore, so I'm calling this one a "fuzzy" youth. It's got the beginnings of a facial stripe, so maybe it's what we I'm sure mistakenly call adolescent. Kinda lumpy overall form with patches of kid feathers and adult features. Cute as the dickens, although I know we're semi-professional wildlife photographers, so we don't even think about such things.
I have a page of Herons and another page of Egrets — as well as a page that shows the differences between Herons and Egrets — showing the various stages of some of the young birds of those species that I've photographed. Maybe someday I'll mix and match Canada and other geese's in a similar fashion.
It's difficult enough to get them to hold still long enough to pose for a photograph, but to get one to fly in range of a camera is night on to impossible. Exposure's usually a challenge, too.
Usually attempts to photograph them flying accomplishes looking very much like they're flying through weeds instead of air.
Although if everything is perfect, and photographers make no sudden movies, sometimes a perched portrait works out pretty well. I've always called the short-tailed version females, but this could instead be a juvenile. I love Peterson's larger images and brilliant color, but I often miss Sibley's subtle distinctions. This one's got a pinkish-orange belly and underwings, so — according to Sibley — it's an adult, but I still don't know which gender. My guess is with a tail that short it's an adult female, but I can't get any of my books to agree. And, sure enough, Crossley is no help at all.
This one was closer than our first roadrunner that we sighted last night in the gorgeous green, cool evening hills east of Sherman, Texas. Or I'd learned to sneak up closer to get a bead on it. It was still plenty far from us. This is a little soft, because it is blown up somewhat from a tiny portion of the frame. But there's more light in the nearly noonday sun. I liked that today's journal entry is bookended by Roadrunners, whom we usually do not see for years at a time, although people around Sherman probably see them more often.
That's what Anna and I call Turkey Vultures, as in Jonathan Livingston Turkey Vulture, the most elegant flier out there.
May 24 2012
Little Blues start out mostly white, then gradually, the white wears through, revealing Little Blue Heron blue.
Great Blue Heron breaking every bone in an eel's body
May 22 2012
I've been updating my Herons page with baby pictures, so today I thought I should visit the Southwestern Medical School Rookery to see what babies I could find there. I was especially hoping for baby Little Blue Herons. I don't know when they hatch — I assume around late spring or early summer, but no idea what part of the summer I should expect them. So I just went and saw what I could see.
Not surprisingly, finding nests full of birds in the Heron family was not difficult in a rookery. I found lots of those. More egrets than anything else, of course. But plenty of Cattle Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons and even a couple White Ibis.
Parental unit — either a male or female, I don't know which, but I'm always curious, regurges food and feeds the chicks.
Or one waits to be fed. I think those are the two states. Hungry or being fed.
There's plenty of Cattle Egret nests at the rookery, but I didn't see any babies, and I looked long and hard.
Maybe it's early in their birth cycle, and they were still working on nests.
I even found a White Ibis on a big nest, but no babies there, either.
Black-crowned Night-Herons a plenty.
But only maybe a half-dozen Little Blue Herons overall. And they were deeper in the interior — well into the No Trespassing Zone. I watched, but I didn't see nests or babies. Yet.
White Rock Lake
Driving home past the cut-off to the Pump House, I saw a colorful bird on a fat wire across the road, stopped long enough to click at it a half dozen times, and got this.
In addition to birds, such as this case in point, Wood Ducks, sometimes showing different-colored feathers in differing seasons, they also show differing colors in different colors of light. In later evening, when they are illuminated by either a blue sky or a red one, birds look bluish or reddish, as do we all. So saying this or that bird is showing its natural colors is always just a guess — besides the fact that birds see in a wider spectrum of light than we do.
Adding to that unknowingness, today for quite a departure from my usual ways, I shot a lot of Wood Ducks in what's sometimes called Synchro-sunlight Flash. What's synchronized is whatever sunlight is available and the amount of light provided by the llash; the closer the two are, the more natural looking is the photograph. We used to have to do all the figuring manually. Now, some cameras almost automatically figure all that stuff out for us.
This image shows a male Wood Duck in his summer eclipse, when what are usually bright and blatant colorations turn what seems like suddenly much more muted and against brown instead of their usually more contrasty body colors. I should note that I did not set out tonight to show eclipse colorations. I was much too tired to figure that out even after photographing several dozen Wood Ducks with flash.
I started shooting flash, because the sun was setting behind most of the ducks I was photographing tonight, rendering them in dark silhouetted shadows against a gradually redder sunset sky (in Sunset Bay). I used flash, so I could see them. Trouble was first half dozen times I tried my flash, I didn't have the shutter speed set on my fancy Nikon dSLR set right. When the shutter is too fast we can't see the flash's light in the picture, so we have to use a slower shutter.
These two guys are in approximately the same pose, except this is this one's version of summer eclipse, and the one just above is pretty close to his spring colors (i.e., "normal" if you are stuck in eternal spring — which would not be all that wonderful probably, if you were there forever, but it would seem like a good idea for the colors and weather. This guy looks a little beat-up. Many of his colors are faded and there's a lot more brown showing than usual. You might say his usual bright clown colors have dimmed.
It's not really summer yet, so I'll call this seasonal variation, "late spring." The flash helps delineate the colors, the slight underexposure makes those colors slightly more intense, and all of these ducks shot with flash "suffer" from red-eye, whereas normal (non-flash) photos of Wood Ducks show the larger, inner portion of their eyes as black. Wikipedia defines and explains red-eye better than I ever could, so if you really want to know what it is, go to their page about it. It's not really "unnatural" lighting or unnatural color, just created by an "artificial" light.
I spend an inordinate percentage of my life dealing with the issues between natural and unnatural light and color. Essentially, every photograph made is experimental, because there are so many variables to go wrong at any given moment, in any given — or taken — lighting condition, photographer condition, camera condition, shutter, aperture, light balance, etc. It's all a crap shoot, really. I go click, and hope, every time. Just tonight the experimentation was more official.
These shots were more of an experiment than most. I made the effort to get the flash synchro shutter speed right. I did not move the built-in, camera's flash unit farther away from the lens axis (imagine a straight line through the center of the glass part of the lens and another line through the flash. Red-eye happens when those two axes are too close) to keep the light from rendering eyeballs weird colors (usually red, but ya' never really know what color will result. I even attempted to keep these birds in focus. But my techno expertise and manipulation stopped right about there. I just pointed at a likely wood duck configuration and shot.
Since I wasn't thinking about molt or eclipse colors when I shot these, just more or less blindly shooting, at a pretty quick pace, I was not careful to get eclipsed female wood ducks. Basically all the female Wood Ducks I shot tonight took about the same — all beautiful. The Crossley ID Guide to Eastern Birds (The Western version's not out yet.) is my best book for determining what feather colors show about a bird's age and gender, although I have a whole other book called Molt in North American Birds that ignores Wood Ducks altogether. Molt or moulting is defined here.
May 18.5 2012
A friend emailed telling me the Tricolored Heron was back. I was tired, lazy and still hurt from the previous day's exercize, so it took a few minutes to figure if it was really that important, decided that it definitely was, dressed and drove there. The friend had previously detailed where it tends to hang out, so after scanning the horizons, I looked there, found it, immediately photographed it, photographed it sixteen times total, counting when it was in the sky going away.
I probably wasn't subtle enough, but I thought I was in a hurry. So was the Tricolor. When we first saw each other, I stood my ground and aimed. It went behind those weeds to its left in the upper photo. Then it came immediately back out. Stood there long enough for me to get best focus for that far away, then it jumped into the air and made its escape. The Nikon D7000 does not focus well on something moving quickly in front of landscape, so it took awhile, but I got it sharp enough. And it flew away toward the southwest, and I clicked as long as I could till it disappeared into the atmosphere.
I've seen Tricolored Herons around Dallas before. They nest in the Southwestern Medical Center Rookery, and I've sighted individuals along the Trinity River, and this one has been seen at White Rock before — in fact I missed it by a few minutes once already, but this was my first bona fide sighting (They don't count unless I get them in focus.) on White Rock Lake. Just last night, I added images of babies and juveniles to my popular Herons page that lists all the heron varieties I've seen or borrowed photographs of in Texas, if you are curious.
Yeah, I know it's not quite in focus, but it's the first click of a series of shots I made with the camera in the rather uncomfortable vertical position, which is rarely much good for my photographs, but sometimes I just gotta. It gets better.
It was standing there, and I had finagled my clunky Nikon D7000 to match its awkward and uncomfortable "portrait" orientation, then the bird did what we are here watching it do, and I had no time to turn it to the much more comfortable horizontal position to match its new orientation. That this shot and most of the subsequent ones are in focus or anywhere near it, is some sort of minor miracle.
Well, some parts are in sharp focus, and other parts are blurred because they are moving.
So, if you didn't know already from reading this journal, you now are pretty sure this guy is a bit nuts about Great Blue Herons — and, of course, photography thereof.
It doesn't surprise me a bit.
Schlag is the shortened version of German for whipped cream. A bunch of at at the University of Dallas used to just love saying "mit Schlag," once we learned that everything goes better mit Schlag.
May 17 2012
Actually, it's just changing position. He knows nothing of the stupidity of The City's Arboretum wanting to pave a small portion of White Rock Lake Park's Prairie Grass / Wildflower Area and putting in a Parking Lot. Lucky bird.
This all-day and all-night blinking sign is planted in exactly the area that The City's Arboretum wanted and The City was all set to make happen a parking lot in a prairie. I had to back off some distance to get the whole sign in the picture using my 900mm lens, so what you see in the background here, is not the actual prairie, but the hill overlooking the lake. The sign is planted squarely in front of the very prairie The City wanted to turn in to a parking lot.
More info about this particular City Idiocy below. This fight only seems to have been won by The People. Depend upon The City to sneak it back on the agenda soon as we forget for a few moments that paving paradise is a bad idea.
Lest we forget.
This bird looked very much as if it were hiding behind that clump of grass in the parking lot for the baseball fields that The City did or will still want to pave over as the parking lot across from the other prairie that will by then already be a parking lot. Follow this bird's line of sight in the image above or the one below directly to that prairie. Yes, they (still) want to pave over the freshly upgraded baseball fields for another overflow parking lot for the Arboretum.
There's a celebration there tonight, by the citizens who think they've thwarted The City. They probably won't figure out they've been duped till the pavement is laid when they aren't looking.
I'm not at all sure why it stayed there while I drove to within about twenty feet of it. It looked worried. Maybe it had heard about The City's plan for its home, where it comes to raise cute little fuzzy killdeer babies every late spring-early summer for the last fifty years or so.
Something else I'd never noticed before. Look at the size of this bird's feet. All the better for scratching what itches, m'dear. And the comparably tiny little head and small caliber beak, though it is longish and pointy.
Probably looking for somebody else's eggs to rob or babies to eat, but doesn't it look handsome, despite the bit of feather on the end of its beak?
Friday May 11 2012
Uin better light below
Always a speedy bunch of these on a dark morning in Sunset Bay.
I wouldn't, after watching them scat snow-white forests around Cormorant Bay, but many countries think corms are so regal and noble, etc, that they put them on their coins.
Grackles take bread they can't deal with and soak it in the nearest water feature. Like a lake. Wet it's nice and soggy, they gather it best they can in their beak and either eat it or tempt other grackles to want it bad enough to fight them for it. This sample looks like white bread, which means it's about as much good for them as it is for us. I.e., not much, but like us, they are drawn to it.
I've got these and a good many more photographs from our Southern Loop through Texas more to show you, but I just had to check out Sunset Bay this ayem.
WINFREY UPDATE: The latest info is that the powers that tried to be last couple weeks will not attempt to pave paradise at this time. No, they'll wait till all this citizen uproar dies out, then hit it again, when we least expect it. What else could we expect of our elected officials and their unwitting minions?
Ah! By the distinctive wing patterns, I believe I recognize this newly arriving bird as a juvenile Willit. The one on the right, however, may not be. On another, earlier trip down the coast, I was privileged to capture a breeding pair doing The Willit Sky Dance. Then again, maybe not. Perhaps you can see why I've kept these pix back.
I believe these are more images from the eastern seashore of Galveston Island, where the big ships parade past. BIG ships and little birds a plenty all in plain sight. And huge mansions or hotels or something like that. I didn't see huge security presences, but I did see surprising wild birds in apparently tame, sidewalk even here, places. This image will, no doubt, find its way to my page of birds rousing.
With its feathers somewhat straightened out and back into balance with the Universe for another little while.
Such a dashing little creature with that bright white occipital plume flaring in the breeze.
Not as if we won't have our share of Tricolored Herons flying around this neighborhood.
In Dallas, I rarely even both to photograph doves.
Or starlings, for that matter.
Pelicans can get away with swimming in dangerous currents, because, unlike us, when danger threatens, they can just fly away.
Winfrey Prairie has lots of Eastern Kingbirds. I sometimes go there just for them.
Anna and another friend say this may be a female Bronzed Cowbird, but I wanted that beak to be on some bird more exotic. But then I often do.
First times we went to the South Texas Coast we got more bright-colored exotic birds and more exotic bird action. Now we go all that way and we photograph the same birds we have right here at White Rock Lake. Maybe we need to go farther south. I want to, but I need to eliminate all that driving.
A common-enough bird hereabouts, but again, all these birds were photographed along Texas' Gulf Coast. This particular image was shot out the Slider's window in northern — I think they called it east — Galveston Island. I'm sure it's a grackle, but I was never sure if they were Great-tailed or Boat-tailed, and I probably never will be.
Anna spotted this odd, symbiotic relationship between a very annoying Laughing Gull (above) and an annoyed Brown Pelican (with splash, below). Seems like wherever the pelican went or what it did, the gull would be right there. Sitting on its head, getting in its face, stealing food from it.
Pelicans are comparatively larger and stronger birds than gulls — although I find most gulls mostly annoying, I've never experienced a trauma bond like this one.
I did mention that the gull would sit on the pelican's head, didn't I. I bet you thought that was typical J R hyperbole, but nope. Here it is for real. Note the beleaguered pelican's eye just above ocean level as the gull sits on the back of its head. Some might call this relationship symbiotic. But it looked purely annoying to us.
And I say that with one of my deeper senses of irony. Inseparable. Yet, the pelican did not attempt to kill the creepy gull. Must need it for something.
On the left, and a little to the back, is the adult, breeding Laughing Gull. And on the right and in front, is the adult, non-breeding Laughing Gull. A sort of a short and sweet version of a truncated family portrait.
Just when we were getting used to the elegance of American White Pelicans, now we're beginning to accept that its oceanic cousins just aren't all that elegant. Gives them a nice distinction. There's much else for us to discover about the ocean-diver versions, but they sure are different.
We kept seeing avocets, so they must be usual denizens there. But I keep remembering tracking a flock of them around White Rock Lake a few years ago, where they almost landed in Sunset Bay a couple times.
Such handsome birds a little closer and standing, not keeping flying by.
Left to Right: American Avocet, Turned-under
Royal Tern and another avocet. I assume the first avo is resting its other leg.
Lots of birds do it. It involves a little cantilevering and some practice, but
it's hardly amazing. The tern is probably just leaning over and turning its head.
No idea why, but if I were a tern, I'd probably have a deep understanding. Anna
says it's scratching its head. That makes sense.
SAVE WHITE ROCK LAKE Park!
"Upper Sunset Meadow" is The Arboretum's Initial Target to Become A Parking Lot — It's down the hill toward the lake from Barbec's and across from the baseball diamonds. On our map, it's just under the Y of Sunset Bay. Just some of the bird species I have photographed in or over this area include: Redtailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, a lot of drunk Cedar Waxwings, various sparrows, mockingbirds, Killdeer, Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles, Mallards and other species.
"The Arboretum" has been pestering The City of Dallas to let them build an amusement park along the coast of White Rock Lake for decades. Lately, they have been uprooting real trees (the "arbor" in arboretum is for trees.) to build big metal ones to support the aerial tramway featured in the new, nature-themed park.
Trouble is, with all that and the Chihuly and other art exhibits, they expect to attract many more people in many more cars, and they don't have the space to build parking lots, so they've been sneaking through plans to grab wild prairie land around the lake for their parking purposes.
Is the City of Dallas planning to mow down what I've always called the Sunset Meadow (the area up the hill toward Garland Road from Sunset Bay proper See below to put in an overflow parking lot for The Arboretum? I wouldn't put it past either the City or the Arboretum. And this plot of land is only the first on their list. Next come the newly refurbished baseball diamonds and other nearby spaces.
Save Winfrey Point. Sign the online petition. Stop the so-called Arboretum from turning White Rock Lake into one big parking lot.
Where the bird pictures begin below.
Eerily similar to the Joni Mitchell's song, "The Yellow Taxi" from 1970:
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot SPOT.
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
'Til it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
Then they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see 'em
Hey farmer, farmer
Put away that DDT now
Give me spots on my apples
But LEAVE me the birds and the bees
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
'Til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
More about the song.
May 7 2012
Sometimes it's really nice to get out of familiar circumstances and into more alien landscapes. We pretty much know what to expect looking offshore. This is the view the other direction from the beach where we were near Freeport, Texas on the South Texas Gulf Coast. Couldn't quite smell it exactly, but oil refineries as far as the eye could see.
Almost in any direction, if you look up and see something flapping, it's either a Laughing Gull …
Or an American Brown Pelican. After getting used to seeing American White Pelicans six months of every year at White Rock Lake, looking up and seeing these similar but dark, gnarly-looking creatures was always a surprise. I suppose if we spent more than a week at a time down there, the surprise would wear rather thinner, but we didn't, and it did not, either.
Seeing them up closer and more personal stayed freakish all the time we were there. Compared to our elegant white flyers, these guys seemed barely glued together, dark and strange. But of course, they're just more pelicans. And not only can they fly beautifully, they can crash into the distant water horizon, keep going down, and catch fish like no American White Pelican can.
Although by the time they grow into adult breeders, they attain a strange, dark beauty.
Ruddy Turnstones are reddish shorebirds who use their bills "to flip over pebbles, shells and washed-up vegetation to expose hidden invertebrates. The short, stubby, slightly upturned bill is an ideal utensil for this unusual foraging style," says Keith A. Arnold and Gregory Kennedy in their Lone Pine Birds of Texas.
They'll eat just about anything they find
by flipping and probing, "berries, seeds, spiders and carrion," "eggs
of crabs or other birds and even leftover french fries."
9.5 inches in length with wingspans about 21 inches.
They were not at all rare. So plentiful, I suspected they were juvenile Laughing Gulls. Laughing Gulls were the dominant species everywhere we traveled.
But the beaks on these birds don't seem to match the big, bulbous beaks on these birds.
So until someone who is more intelligent about recognizing and naming these guys comes along and helps, I'll just keep thinking of them as Big-nose Birds, although I have the creepy feeling — as I often do in these situations — that I really should know this one.
No such problems with these very distinctive birds whose eyes seem to disappear into their black feathers atop their heads.
This almost seems too much a caricature of this bird to believe it really exists like this. But there it is.
And we knew this one as soon as we saw it. I've photographed them here at White Rock often, and loved the chance to photograph them flying even for a short hop.
Lots more to come, of course, although I really have no idea how many or for how long I can keep them coming. Anna's shots are, as usual, on Facebook. More of mine will be higher on this page in days to come, as I gradually catch back up with all my little projects back here in Dallas.
text and photographs copyright 2011 by J
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without
specific written permission from and payment to
the writer or photographer.
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.