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The Amateur Birder's Journal - Stories & Photographs by J R Compton
The Current Journal is HERE  All Contents Copyright 2012 and before by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.   Cameras & Lenses Used.
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Learning my latest camera.   Emory Eagle Fest  If you can help me identify birds here, I'd love to hear from you.

White Rock Lake

May 30

Pre-flight, wings cupped Black Vulture - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Pre-flight, Up-skirt, Wings-cupped Black Vulture

I parked The Slider up a ritzy residential side-road along Garland Road after I saw two Black Vultures land on a telephone pole overlooking the Spillway today. Walked back past a bunch of rain-soaked and mudded American flags in wretched condition, to stand under the pole and look up the skirts of this one black vulture, whom I thought might be a female, after the other one apparently flew off before I got there.

Black Vulture Watching - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black Vulture Watching

I only had my Lumix kit with me, including the 300mm lens (supposedly the equivalent to my 600mm bazooka. I put it on as I walked down the medium, then down the sidewalk to the pole. I'd come from exercising at the Y, so might have been a little ditzier than usual. A couple bike-lers shouted "left" and "hey there" at me probably standing in the middle of their sidewalk. But I wanted these pix of a Black Vulture.

Black Vulture Watch - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black Vulture Before She Decided to Fly Away

Today's first picture is the money-winner for the day. She's just about to take off, has taken the time to cup her wings before she jumped off the pole, and I had taken my time to open up the aperture to noticeably lighten up her under-wing area, so it would show as something brighter than black, and it worked. She flew off with minimal 'sink' and I got the shot and a couple others. And I learned a little more about our natural street cleaners.

Flagging Flags - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Flagging Sagging Flags

A lot of them were dragging in the mud.

Mud Circles - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mud Circles Near The Big Hum

I drove over to the other side of The Old Boat House Lagoon, past this concentric mass of mudding I often drive up through when it's dry, to The Big Hum where the electric company's signs announce it is cohabitating with the parakeets yet their habitat and nests mysteriously disappear every time they work on the electric station hidden around the corner to the left at the top of this hill.

Female Mallard Coming Up the Boat Ramp - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female Mallard Walking Up the Boat Ramp

I shot lots of pictures, but the Lumix is not as fast a shooter as my usual bird camera Nikon, so most of them were blurred. I know these gals are common, but I love them still.

Grackle After the Rain - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Grackle After the Rain

As I love these guys, too.
 

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge

May 27

 First Roadrunner - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

First Roadrunner Somewhere East of Sherman

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.

Lark Sparrow - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Lark Sparrow

Then again, maybe this was in a tree at the motel that I captured as we hove into view of it.

Motel Tree Grackles - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Motel Tree Grackles

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.

black bird on colored landscape - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black Bird on Colored Landscape

I think I remember knowing what this bird was when I photographed it, and I think that was a crow.

Another Great Blue Heron - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Another Great Blue Heron

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.

Early Canada Goose - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Early Canada Goose

Something else we saw over and over again. The noble Canada Goose.

Great Blue Heron with open beak - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Blue Heron with Open Beak

Red-winged Blackbird - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-winged Blackbird

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.

My First Dickcissel shot - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

My First Dickcissel Shot

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.

Snowy Egret - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Snowy Egret

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.

Dickcisssel - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Breeding Male Dickcissel

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.

Anna's Dickcissel

Anna's Dickcissel with its Beak Open

Meanwhile, Anna held steady on her prey and even got a shot of it with its beak open.

Canada Geese Families Crossing Path - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Canada Geese Families Crossing Road

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.

Canada Gooses Crossing - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Younger Canada Gooses Crossing

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.

Downy Young Canada Goose - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Downy Young Canada Goose

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.

Juvenile Can Goo - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile and Adolescent Can Gooses

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.

Killdeer on a Rail - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Killdeer on a Pipe

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.

Cattle Egret Down the Line - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Breeding Adult Cattle Egret

Of which there were also plenty, though not in numbers approaching the current Canada Goose population.

Elongated GBH - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Oddly-elongated Great Blue Heron Sneaking Up on Something

I like the Alfalfa-like cowlick sticking almost straight up.

The Only Successful Flock Shot - pcry

My Only Successful Flock Shot All Day

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.

Guess Who Again? - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Guess Who Again

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.

GBH - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

I Just Love Great Blue Herons

Which is a particularly good thing.

Blue Grossbeak - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Blue Grosbeak

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.

Another Cattle Egret - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Another Adult Breeding Cattle Egret

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.

Some Bird - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Some Bird — Maybe a Tree Swallow or a Flycatcher or Something

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.

Another One - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Another One Mostly Just Like the Other One

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.

Oil Well with Cattle Egret - crpy

Oil Well with Cattle Egret

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.

Fuzzy Juvenile Canada Goose - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Fuzzy Juvenile Canada Goose

"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.

Juvenile Canada Gooses Playing - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile Canada Gooses Playing (or fighting)

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.

The Elusive Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Elusive Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Flight

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.

Scissor-taile Flying - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Flying Through Reeds

Usually attempts to photograph them flying accomplishes looking very much like they're flying through weeds instead of air.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Posing - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Adult Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

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.

End Roadrunner - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Our Last Roadrunner

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.

TV - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

TV

That's what Anna and I call Turkey Vultures, as in Jonathan Livingston Turkey Vulture, the most elegant flier out there.

 

City of Fort Worth Solids Drying Area Village Creek Plant

May 24 2012

 Imature Little Blue Heron and Black-crowned Night-Heron - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Immature Little Blue Heron and Black-crowned Night-Heron

Sometimes coming down the road just inside the front gate at the beds in uneventful. We stare intently past the screen of trees and weeds and see nearly nothing. Not today. I keep thinking that someday I'll pay close attention to the first section before we get to the open swamp area. I imagine owls in there and other soft, quiet creatures. But we mostly just drove by that mysterious area and slowed down to stopping occasionally along the swamp, which apparently will someday have a boardwalk winding through it.

Little Blues start out mostly white, then gradually, the white wears through, revealing Little Blue Heron blue.

Black-crowned Night-Heron on a pole - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile-ish Black-crowned Night-Heron on a Pole

We both vividly remembered seeing that Great Blue Heron breaking every bone in an eel's body on the road right in front of us on one of these tours to The Drying Beds this most recent March, but today's action was all in the swamp, some distance from the road we were slowly going down.

Black-crowned Night-Heron on a Pole - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black-crowned Night-Heron on a Pole in Very Blue Open Shade

Lots of herons on poles today. Watching their eternal watch, waiting for food to show itself in the water. We watched and photographed and watched some more, slowly creeping down the road, up the hill overlooking the beds and past these guys:

Two Grackles Showing Heads-Up Display - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Male Great-tail Grackles Exhibiting Heads-up Display

Either hankering for a fight or just showing off their great form.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks with Shared Babies - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks — and Others — with Baby Black-bellied Whistling Duck Lumps

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks seem to share baby-sitting responsibilities. Here, one Whistler closely watches babies of at least two different batches while another guards their safety from the rear and a Red-winged Blackbird I never even saw flies blithely over. From where we sat in Anna's car, I could tell the lumps were babies. I couldn't see any details of them, although later the rear guard splashed through the water chasing some other duck interloper. I could see the splashing. This is a considerable enlargement of the original scene.

Stripey Babies' Details - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Stripey Baby Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Nice thing about having a really good telephoto lens is that it's sharp enough to still show some detail, which by the time they are blown up this much are about to lose their sharpest edges, but we can still tell what's going on here. One of my great hopes in birding is to someday photograph fluffy, stripey baby Whistling Ducks a great deal closer than this. But these shots will do till then.

Stripey Baby Whistlers with Families - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Stripey Baby Whistling Ducks of at least Two Ages

The babies on the left, partially obscured by the baby-sitter here, are at an earlier age, where they're mostly fluffy lumps. The fluff has come off the three an the right, whose earlier stripes have turned to an odd patterning. The ones on the right have well-formed beaks, heads and feet. I can't really see into the fluffy lumps at the left. That, and the fact that we've seen Whistling Ducks herding several ages of babies across the pans at the beds before, leads me to believe they share babysitting tasks. I didn't read about it, I've seen it, and those birdly details fascinate me.

Fluffy Babies and This Guy - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Fluffy Lumps of Little Babies and That One Stripey

Actually, there's two stripeys here, but one is facing the back, so we can only see stripey detail in that one. I shot about five hundred shots that day, and I have a bunch more to show, but no time to work them up today, so I'll leave you with one more, then collect up some more for the next journal entry.

Two Dabbling Ducks Dabbling - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Dabbling Ducks Doing That

We saw these from quite a distance. My tele enlarges about 12x normal, and this — unlike many of the above shots — is almost full frame. We were so hoping we'd found some exotic flavor of duck here. But when they righted themselves, so they could once again tip down to get more edible goodies down there, we saw that they were two Mallards.

Southwestern Medical School Rookery

May 22 2012

 Young Egret Family - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Young Egret Family

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.

Other Hungry Egret Babies - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Other Hungry Egret Babies

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 Feed Baby Egret - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Parental Unit Feeds Hungry Baby Egret

Parental unit — either a male or female, I don't know which, but I'm always curious, regurges food and feeds the chicks.

Another Hungry Baby Egret - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Another Hungry Baby Egret

Or one waits to be fed. I think those are the two states. Hungry or being fed.

Cattle Egret Sitting Nest - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cattle Egret Sitting Nest

There's plenty of Cattle Egret nests at the rookery, but I didn't see any babies, and I looked long and hard.

Cattle Egret with a Nest Twig - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cattle Egret with a Nest Twig

Maybe it's early in their birth cycle, and they were still working on nests.

White Ibis - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

White Ibis on Nest

I even found a White Ibis on a big nest, but no babies there, either.

Black-crowned Night-Heron on Nest - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black-crowned Night-Heron on Nest

Black-crowned Night-Herons a plenty.

Unnested Little Blue Heron - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Un-nested Little Blue Heron

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

Barn Swallow on  a Wire - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Barn Swallow on a Fat Wire

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.

May 21

Male Wood Duck with Summer Molt Mallards - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Male Wood Duck with Two Male Summer Molt Mallards

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.

Male Wood Duck - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Male Wood Duck in Summer Eclipse

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.

Betweeen Spring & Summer Eclipse - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Between

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.

Summer Eclipse Male Wood Duck - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Summer Eclipse Male Wood Duck

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.

Female Wood Duck - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female Wood Duck

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.

Wood Duck Pair in late May - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wood Duck Pair (male & female) with Eclipsing Male Mallard, May 21, 2012

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.

Female Wood Duck - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female Wood Duck This Evening

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.

Female Wood Duck - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female Wood Duck

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

Tricolored Heron in Sunset Bay - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Adult Breeding Tricolored Heron At White Rock Lake

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.

Tricolored Heron Escape - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Tricolored Heron Escape

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.

 

May 18

Great Blue Heron Take-off - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Blue Heron Jump #1

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.

Great Blue Heron Jump #2 - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Blue Heron Jump #2

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.

Great Blue Heron Jump #3 - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Blue Heron Jump #3

Well, some parts are in sharp focus, and other parts are blurred because they are moving.

Great Blue Heron Jump #4 - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Blue Heron Jump #4

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.

Great Blue Heron with Falling Water - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Blue Heron with Falling Water

It doesn't surprise me a bit.

Great Blue Heron mit froth - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Blue Heron mit Schlag

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.

Great Blue Heron Showing Us Its Tongue - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Blue Heron Showing Us Its Tongue
 

May 17 2012

 Prairie Grass Wildlife Area - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mockingbird Jumping for Joy that the PGWA won't become a Parking Lot

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.

One More Sign - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Somebody at The City Seems to have a Sense of Humor

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.

Paradise not yet a parking lot - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Paradise Not Yet a Parking Lot

Lest we forget.

Panting Killdeer Hiding - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Panting Killdeer Hiding Behind a Clump of Grass

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.

Pating Killdeer Closeup - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Panting Killdeer Close-up

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.

 

Dallas' Medical Center Rookery

May 15 2012

Adult Breeding Anhinga - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Adult Breeding Anhinga at Rest

Anna found it for me. My far vision unaided by 900mm worth of telephoto is utterly lacking. With those spectacles, however, I could see this one pretty well, but not well enough to know exactly what I'd got each time. So I did what I usually do in an unlikely-to-be-repeated experience, I shot and shot and shot. Then I shot some more.

Anhinga at Rest. facomg Left - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Adult Breeding Anhinga Facing Left

It was a booger paring them down to these few, but it needed doing, so I spent some time at it, and am very pleased with my results. I've been thinking about getting a shorter telextender — a 1.4 X instead of a 2 X, because I often have such difficulty even finding a flying bird in a lot of sky or trees, but I figure what I need most is more practice at photographing birds in flight (BIF).

Anhinga Scratch - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Anhinga Scratch

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.

 Anhinga Flying at 45-degrees - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Faraway Anhinga Flyover

I got what I got of this one in pretty good focus, except it's either flapping its tail or I focused on its head instead of all of it. I never know about that, which is why I just keep shooting when I get an interesting chance. Anhinga have usually been aloof from my photographic efforts — or maybe they're just shy of humans. I would like to have got the whole bird. There was plenty of sky to frame it in, I just am not always able to hold a lens that big and heavy steadily enough.

Anhinga at 45-degrees - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Anhinga Flying a Little Bit Farther Away

Another good reason to keep shooting and shooting. Hard to say exactly where my Nikon D7000 will decide to focus, if it decides to focus at all. So I just keep shooting. Sometimes I get an odd angle but amazing focus. I'll take it.

 Breeding Great Egret - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Breeding Great Egret

I may only have shot this one twice. Sometimes it just works out, and everything's copacetic.

 Great Egret in Nest - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Fine-plumed Adult Breeding Great Egret in Nest

Sometimes a branch or leaf or something gets in the way of something important, like their eyes or beaks.

 Adult Black-crowned Night-Heron - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron

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?

 Breeding Adult Cattle Egret - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Breeding Adult Cattle Egret

Notice the high lilac lores, behind the beak. I don't think I've ever noticed that amazing color on what I sometimes think of these rather ordinary birds. Not that they look ordinary around breeding time. Sometimes then, they gorgeous.

Breeding Adult Cattle Egret - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Breeding Adult Cattle Egret

Sometimes, usually in the shade, they just look so soft and subtle.

 Adult White Ibis - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Adult White Ibis

We were, as ever, hoping for Anhinga, but I was surprised to see so very many Ibis. Must be Ibis time.

 Adult White Ibis - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Adult White Ibis

The Sibley Guide to Birds, which I have open on my drawer in close reach as I post these images, does not mention any breeding plumage on these guys, or I'd probably mention it.

 First Summer White Ibis - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

First Summer White Ibis

But it does mention this unique individual it is March through August brown, patchy wings. Very distinctive.

 One More White Ibis Adult - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

And, Oh, Why Not?

One more pretty detailed adult White Ibis looking almost as subtle as a white bird with a red face and blue eyes can possibly look. A few years back, I managed to photograph something like 70 White Ibis flying over the lower parking garage across from the basketball courts. Maybe I can get even more detail with my sharp new longer lens. Heck, maybe I can just get a couple of them in focus.

White Rock Lake

Friday May 11 2012

Avocet in the Morning - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

American Avocet in Sunset Bay

Up early. Exercising too much, so my sleep cycle's way off. I was at the lake this morning by 8:20. Hit the pier first, of course, hoping to find there something exotic. Did not. But over on the Bird Squad side were a few Blue-wing Teal and this, that I'd photographed several hundred miles south and east last week (in better light below and that flock I photographed in Sunset several years ago).

The Family Wood Duck - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Family Wood Duck with the Mother Leading

I'd been hoping to catch sight of this family for awhile. There's probably several of them going and any particular week in Sunset Bay in the spring. Glad I was there early enough to catch them.

Spotted Sandpiper - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Spotted Sandpiper

Not unusual this time of the year, but my first of probably several scattered around the lake. There's usually one or two near the dam by about this time.

The Lone Pelican - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Lone Pelican

The Lone Pelican has been with us a couple summers now. Charles has seen it flying and flying well, but maybe it lacks the confidence to fly the distance to Southern Idaho, where our usual winter contingent of American White Pelicans are from. I'm pretty sure this is one of the eight pelicans released by Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation onto White Rock Lake last April, just after all our other pelicans flew north.

Adult Female Red-winged Blackbird - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Adult Female Red-winged Blackbird

Always a speedy bunch of these on a dark morning in Sunset Bay.

Black-crowned Night-Heron - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Not at all an unusual visitor. Just surprised I saw it, then was able to focus it flying out into Sunset Bay this morning. Early for me. It's supposedly nocturnal, but I'm sure it was up way earlier than I was. Usually, that wouldn't take much.

White Duck Padding the Pier - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

White Duck Padding Sunset Pier

Toward me, but at some distance.

The Regal - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Ever-regal Double-crested Cormorant

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.

Red-winged Blackbird on the Pier - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-winged Blackbird Proclaiming on Sunset Pier

Startled me, he was so close. Of course I was using a slow-focusing 600mm lens, but he didn't seem any more bothered by my presence than I was by his.

 Grackle with wet bread- Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female Grackle with Soggy Bread

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.

The Seated Cormorant - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Seated Double-crested Cormorant

Whom I usually managed to neglect, because there are so many of them, but this was unusual enough a pose, why not?

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?

The South Texas Coast

May 11.5 2012

 Whitish Shore Bird - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

"Whitish Shore Bird"

I've been avoiding showing you some pix from our recent trip south along Texas' Gulf Coast. Mostly because I don't know who these birds are. Not that I know who many birds are, but after awhile of photographing the same ones over and over again, some identifications tend to stick. If I lived on the Gulf Coast, maybe some of these would. But they have not yet.

Big-eyed Walker - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

"Big-eyed Walker"

I'm pretty sure each of these is a specific and different bird species, but I can't even promise that.

Juve Lesser Yellow-legs - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Greater Yellowlegs Maybe

I think it's either a Greater or Lesser Yellowlegs, but I've been known to be wrong about these things. Often.

Upwing Arrival - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Upwing Arrival

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.

Having Arrived - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Having Arrived

These are the same three birds just a second or two later. I'm not even going to attempt an I.D of the one swimming. Not enough info. But at least I got these two in focus.

May 11

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron Learning How to Rouse

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.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron Just Standing There - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron Just Standing There

With its feathers somewhat straightened out and back into balance with the Universe for another little while.

Parental Black-crowned Night-Heron - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Parental Black-crowned Night Heron

Such a dashing little creature with that bright white occipital plume flaring in the breeze.

Tricolored Heron - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Tri-colored Heron on the Rocks

Not as if we won't have our share of Tricolored Herons flying around this neighborhood.

Dove in the Bramble - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mourning Dove in the Brambles

In Dallas, I rarely even both to photograph doves.

Starling On A Sign - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Starling on a Sign

Or starlings, for that matter.

Pelicans on another Sign - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelicans on a Sign

Pelicans can get away with swimming in dangerous currents, because, unlike us, when danger threatens, they can just fly away.

Bird in a Bramble - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Eastern Kingbird on a Bramble

Winfrey Prairie has lots of Eastern Kingbirds. I sometimes go there just for them.

Bumpnose Brown Bird - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission. x

"Bump-nose Brown Bird"

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.

 Cattle Egret in the Grass - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cattle Egret in the Grass

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.

May 8

 A Grackle in Wild Weeds - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

A Grackle in the Wild Weeds

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.

Pelican Wing-Splash with Annoying Laughing Gull - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Wing-splash with Annoying Laughing Gull

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.

BFF = Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Oh, No. Here It Comes Again

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.

The Nuissance Gull - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Nuisance Gull

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.

Pals Forever - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pals Forever

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.

Two Gulls on the Beach - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Gulls on the Beach

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.

Brown Pelican Sprawl - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile Brown Pelican sprawl

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.

Avocet in a Hurry - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Avocet In A Hurry

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.

Two Avocets and a Laughing Gull - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Female American Avocets and a Laughing Gull

Such handsome birds a little closer and standing, not keeping flying by.

Acrobatic Avocet and Turned-over Tern - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Acrobatic Avocet and a Turned-0ver Tern

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 - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

"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

CHORUS

Hey farmer, farmer
Put away that DDT now
Give me spots on my apples
But LEAVE me the birds and the bees
Please!

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

Gulf Coast Landscape - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gulf Coast Landscape

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.

Laughing Gull Floating - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

If You Look Up and See a Bird, It's Probably a Laughing Gull

Almost in any direction, if you look up and see something flapping, it's either a Laughing Gull …

Pelicans Over Surf - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Dark Pelicans Over Surf

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.

Brown Pelican CU - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

First Year Juvenile Brown Pelican

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.

Detailed Adult Brown Pelican - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Adult Breeding Atlantic Brown Pelican

Although by the time they grow into adult breeders, they attain a strange, dark beauty.

Ruddy Turnstones on the Beach - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Adult Male & Female Breeding Ruddy Turnstones on the Beach

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.

Sharp Turnstones - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ruddy Turnstones in the Seaweed

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."

Ruddy Turnstones in Flight - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ruddy Turnstones in Flight

9.5 inches in length with wingspans about 21 inches.

Bignose on Beach - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

This is a Juvenile Laughing Gull.

They were not at all rare. So plentiful, I suspected they were juvenile Laughing Gulls. Laughing Gulls were the dominant species everywhere we traveled.

Bignose Aloft - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile Laughing Gull Aloft

But the beaks on these birds don't seem to match the big, bulbous beaks on these birds.

Bignose Away - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile Laughing Gull Flying Away

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.

Black Skimmer - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black Skimmer Against Surf

No such problems with these very distinctive birds whose eyes seem to disappear into their black feathers atop their heads.

 Black Skimmer with Flap Up - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black Skimmer with Wings Up

This almost seems too much a caricature of this bird to believe it really exists like this. But there it is.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck Landing - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck Landing

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.

Breeding Black-crowned Night-Heron - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Breeding Black-crowned Night-Heron

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.

 

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All text and photographs copyright 2011 by J R Compton.
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 know." I 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.

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