The Current Journal is always here. Best shots his Month: Little Blue Herons start out white, then acquire blue splotches, and eventually turn all blue Tricolored Heron The Coyote Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Bird Walk with Ron Baughman Illegal Parking Six Adult Breeding Male American Avocets Barn Swallow close-ups Upchucking Flycatcher a true Double-crested Cormorant Blue-winged Teal pair Red-bellied Woodpecker Closer-up Indian Runners Possum on Charles' Tummy Downy Great Egret solo American Avocet Wilson's Phalarope Lesser Yellowlegs & Spotted Sandpiper Bald Eagles White-faced Ibis Killdeer playing wounded All Contents Copyright 2014 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. Cameras Used Ethics Feedback Coyotes Bird Rescue Advice Name That Bird Herons Egrets Herons vs Egrets Books & Links Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch Rouses Courtship Displays Duck Love Birding Galveston 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds & the 1st Bald Eagle 800e Journal G5 Journal JRCompton.com Links resume Contact Me DallasArtsRevue
I photographed birds every single day this month.
Coyote pix below.
May 31 2014
I'm calling this series Sibling Rivalry. I was one of five kids, so I know the concept down in my bones. But Great Egrets usually only have two or three kits. Here, I think, there are only two, but one is bigger, and it go that way by being dominant, and being dominant only makes it more dominant. Often the non-dominant young either dies or gets offed. It's a vicious cycle
That's the parental adult on the left, the nonruminant young in the middle and the dominant one on the right.
I'm posting these with the May pix, because that's when I shot them, and now they'll stay at the top of May, and the beginning of June can go hang a day or so, till I start that month's bird journal in earnest. Meanwhile, I'm sitting at home listening to KXT live and loud on the stereo and finishing my most active-ever month of the Amateur Birder's Journal.
Anna was talking to somebody, and I kept wanting to alert her to what was happening up, above our heads, but I was too busy snapping away. My cam was on my elderly tripod, and I felt guilty for clickety-clicking along, wasting all that silicon — and the inevitable time it'd take to work these images up. Hours, actually. But it's never quick.
'Least that's what it looks like. Maybe the dominant one on the right has just got fed a wad of regurgitated food, and the less dominant one thinks it should get it, and the quickest way to get it is to go to the source. Each of these actions were quick, with a lot of flairling around. And I was only able to photograph them when their little heads rose above the tree leaves.
I've long since lost track of whom is who in this setting, but I think that's the adult standing taller than everybody else.
Parental unit on the left, non-dom chick in the middle and dominant chick on the right.
At first I thought these were just two of them, not I'm pretty sure it's all three. Ya have to divide by beaks, though, to come closest to the actual number of egrets in this picture.
Maybe this is a normal, every day occurrence for this young family, but …
I remember putting blue food coloring in the milk, because back then in the early 1950, skim milk was just a little blue, and everybody knew that blue milk was much less good than the whiter stuff, and that way I got a little more. But this seems a whole lot more active aggressive than that.
And a couple of them have their not-quite-yet fledged wings raised for balance and to confuse the effort just a little more.
Most birds that day at the rookery, and especially the Tricolored Heron, were deep in the shade and behind walls and walls of an entanglement of branches. It were a booger to get the birds sharp beyond that mess.
Been awhile since I got a pic of a mean-looking Cattle Egret. They're so mild-mannered most of the time, nice to see them switch character.
Can't see its darker parts yet. They start out white, then acquire a few gray spots, and eventually, they begin to develop splotches of blue, like in yesterday's journal entry below. Although it could be a very young Cattle Egret, too. They've very difficult to discern the differences between them and Little Blues. I'm wondering now if the little tufts of orange-brown feathers might be a giveway that they are not Little Blues but little Cattle Egrets instead.
May 31 2014
At least that's what I thought it was when it was standing sedately on that piece of wrought iron. Of course, soon as I got it focused, it could feel me out here composing, and therefore jumped into flight. I like the pic, I just wish I knew who it was. I get more embarrassed every time I post a common bird everybody knows on Bird Chat...
I didn't think I would, but most of these images are in my usual chronological order. I put the two pix of swallows and three of Little Blue Herons together, so they'd make more sense.
They do whistle, and they have black bellies, but they are so much more beautiful than that. I think they need a more colorful name. They have pink beaks and feet, that luscious brown over everywhere that's not black or that lovely, contrasting white. I knew who this was soon as I saw it flying over us.
One of my better Killdeer fly over pix. Too bad there wasn't more blue in the gray gray sky.
Most of the pans were mostly empty. Truly dry Drying Beds. We only walked a half mile or so into the beds proper — because kids were caught racing their cars on the grid of dirt roads, cars are now prohibited and physically blocked off by bright yellow-painted concrete and black-painted iron gates, which is what the little unidentified bird at the top of this journal entry is flying up off of.
Most of the ponds were dry, as in The Fort Worth Dry Beds, although most people call the place the Legacy Park Drying Beds, because that's what's directly next to it.
I'd pegged it as a Barn swallow with the red-gold chin, but none of the pix in the bird I.D books I use look like this, so I'll have to look in all the other books. Maybe Crossley I.D.
Instead, I looked at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology online, and some Cliff Swallow adults look a lot like these guys, except for a white swath on their foreheads. These look a little older than the one above, which may be a juvenile. But these look more like the pix of a juvenile Cliff Swallow than any other swallow — Barn, Tree, Bank, Cave, Northern Rough-winged, Violet-green, Bahama or Mangrove; including Brown-chested, Common House and Purple Martins. Like these guys, juvenile Cliff Swallows are tan and white under, with gray and blacks and even some splotches of white on its uppers. Wings dark.
All four of these must be Cliff Swallows
He's probably turning.
Last time I remember wanting to see a bird I hadn't seen in awhile, it was an adult Little Blue Heron, so this answers a small prayer. About as soon as I'd seen it, I started hoping for a Juvenile Little Blue Heron who is white with blue splotches.
Little Blue Herons first color stage is white (as the one above), with lines on the wings and someplace else I forget right now.
Gradually, they acquire splotches of blue-black, which mellow into the whole bird becoming dark blue and sometimes purple.
Then we drove over to Village Creek Park right next door. Close enough if we had a four-wheel vehicle, we could have drive over one of the berms right into there. But we drove around, took every road and I loved driving through all the parking lots. We even paused briefly in the parking lot where, come July, there'll be visitations of hummingbirds at each of the plants at either end of that lot, every thirty minutes or so.
No hummers this time, but we saw a pair of Cardinals. This shot has pretty good detail, thanks to the overcast skies and low light, but it's not the definitive Male Cardinal photograph I still hope I will someday capture.
Ditto that here.
Nice, but eventually, I'll do great by them.
We also visited the Rookery just a little later, after having a delightful breakfast at Al's, not far from that big stadium over there in Arlington. I'll run that tomorrow, next month.
May 30 2014
Early Morning at Sunset Bay
I didn't expect much in the way of variety, but boy, was I wrong again. This is my second to last day of photographing birds every day this month. There were a couple times when I didn't post what I'd got, but I photographed birds every day this month, and sometimes posted new ones twice in a day, and I can't wait to not do that again for awhile. Day after tomorrow it's back to my usual schedule of "at least three times a week." But I wanted to see if I could do it, and sure enough, I did.
Of course, I went to Sunset Bay early (6:30) this ayem, and was surprised that Sunset Bay was already a very busy place with comings and goings and flyings and swimmings. A lot of birds I had assumed — like the Appleyard ducks — lived right here in Sunset Bay, apparently come in from somewhere west of here.
I started this journal entry with the first picture I made today, at least partially because it was right there, and partially because I so often do not photograph coots that much. I remember early in spring or last winter somebody on Bird Chat announcing he'd seen his FOS (first of season) American Coot near the Yacht Clubs. I felt a little pushy when I replied that a few American Coots never quite leave White Rock Lake, so finding a FOS is difficult, because at least a few of them are always here.
At some point this morning, the rising sun disappeared behind the growing cloud bank east of Sunset Bay. At first I thought it was just clouds over there, and the sun was coming up gloriously. Then, awhile later, I realized the long string of lovely pink-edged white clouds floating out over the lake were turning gray, too. The dark and gray behind this Great-tailed Grackle reminded me of that transition, but as you can see further down this page, the end of the beginning of a bright, sunshiny day had not yet commenced.
As often, these photographs are presented in strict chronological order, because it's the only order that makes sense.
And they are illuminated by the rising sun.
So was this pair of Mallards heading West.
This is a huge enlargement of a tiny speck of a fast-moving swallow flinging itself across Sunset Bay. I'm always amazed when I capture one of those anywhere near sharp, let alone in full, blazing, natural color, somewhat enhanced by the rising sun.
I was really into photographing birds flying over or well out into the bay, but any chance I got to photograph somebody closer, I took. I love this mélange of colors, and yes, I had the camera crooked. The Shoveler knows from upright, but I can't always associate a local vertical.
I understand that pigeons are supposed to be very smart, but I wonder about that every time I see a couple or a whole flock of them get in the air and fly in a big circle out over the bay, then go back to where they were before one or more of them suddenly realized they didn't know where they were. I'm told they do that to geo locate themselves.
I only saw and photographed one Killdeer flying over Sunset This morning, and his repetitive, electronic-sounding peeps were noticeable and annoying and very loud. Piercing, man! That I got it in such good focus is something of another miracle. Killdeer and other small species of shorebirds are called "peeps," because of the sounds they emit.
... Landing into Sunset Bay proper.
I guess they're finding themselves every time they fly out over the bay and circle back to where they came from. Resetting their internal GPS.
Kinda looks like he's dancing. Today's journal entry is not just about who flew in, out or over Sunset Bay. It's a documentation of almost every bird that did anything worthwhile in the bay this morning (that I was able to capture well). The one bird I saw but was not able to catch up with looked like it might have been and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, but I'm not sure, because I didn't capture its image and likeness, although I dearly wish I had and tried like the dickens.
No telling what gets dumped into nearby creeks during flood season and is thus subsequently washed into White Rock Lake. Too bad last year's Christmas Trees still float.
My camera's crooked again. It often is. But here, it makes this bird look like it's really flying fast.
It's not a special species unto itself. It's just a regular, old — gorgeous, elegant — Great Egret with its neck feathers awry. I almost don't even care that it's looking the other way, and for a change, I got the bird, not the branches in focus.
Or something over there toward the intersection of major Dallas traffic arteries, Central Expressway and Northwest Highway, where those buildings all are.
They are the only two Appleyards we've got. Their species was developed by some English guy last-named Appleyard, although there's something of the colors of an actual apple yard — no green, of course — in them, too. I at first thought it was a description, only learned later they're named after Mr. Appleyard.
Something else that huge proboscis might be good for besides shoveling food is streamlining its duck.
The woman who was standing next to me named it Wood Duck. The only times I can tell the difference between Wood Duck and Mallard juveniles or babies is when either the mom or dad is hovering nearby, and in this case neither were, so I'm going with her identification. She sounded like she knew. I'm almost always better off deferring to somebody else's identifications of tricky birds. I believe there were two ducks that looked pretty much the same as this in Sunset Bay this early morning, and they probably started off as ones of a dozen or more.
I remember maybe a couple years ago, someone new to this area asking if we "ever see Mallards around here?" I answered, yeah, we see an awful lot of them. But they're still kinda pretty, vastly interesting to watch and learn about, and they are the progenitors of most other duck species, since they'll mate with almost anything.
At least that's what I thought at first, before he got at an angle enough from my line of sight that I could tell he was holding the smaller one while pedaling the larger one. I assume he was delivering it to a child. I've tried that parallel bike-ism, and it's a careful skill that I never quite got to work.
May 29 2014
First, I tried White Rock Lake. It's close, and its bounty is usually not difficult to reveal, but today it was. I got a couple shots I like, and I'll post those below. So I visited the Medical Center Rookery, set up my tripod and started shooting. Took awhile just to see the birds for the trees. Then I shot what was easy — Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Herons, etc., although nothing was particularly easy today. They seemed hunkered down, not hiding, but not always out in the open, instead hidden in deep shade like this Tricolor.
So I looked much more carefully before photographing. That's when I found this, usually hidden in deep shade. On the way over, I'd let the Universe know that photographing a Tricolored Heron would be several kinds of wonderful. But I ask for birds a lot, and they are often not delivered. Today, though, this one was. I was amazed and very pleased. And willing to work at it to get these pix.
Next time, I'll ask for a Little Blue Heron …
It kept moving up there, and I kept changing positions to try to get the heron between instead of behind the various branches between it and me. I'd change every couple minutes, wishing my tripod were lighter. I am still not willing to give up my long-term dream of having a zero gravity unit to hold my cam and lens — someday, maybe. But if I can get to see and photograph Tricolored Herons, how difficult could it be to get a Zero Grav No-pod?
Its colors are brilliant in bright daylight but dull and even dark in deep shade.
Most of today's egrets were much more hidden.
Long, tall Great Egret.
Took me awhile to figure out what it was on its breast.
I photographed this flier till I got most of it in focus on my home turf, the pier at Sunset Bay on White Rock Lake. There were some other, much smaller dragonflies I was not able to capture. Yet.
I'd hoped to capture it flying, even if it only flew a few feet, but I shot too soon, so I got a tipping dove sharp instead of a flying dove blurred.
May 28 2014
It must be getting too summerish for 1:30 in the afternoon to be still an adequate time to go see birds at the lake. I'm by nature a stay-up-till-too-late-at-night kind of guy, and that schedule works best for me. But sometimes I just need to go to bed earlier, so I can get up and be at the lake earlier.
Once again I walked up the Fitchery path up to the dam to hope to see some herons, including egrets. And once again, they weren't there. I'm not exactly sure where this is, but I remember thinking how beautiful it was and how much it needed having its picture taken. The next shot of this same scene included a bicycle, but you don't see many of those in my pictures, and not in this one either.
The pic before this one was a perfectly decent silhouette of a crow standing on a limb. Then it jumped into flight, and I saw a nice silhouette of it with its wings out and flying off. That's not what I got, but this is close, maybe a couple milliseconds before that elegant vision.
This is at Dreyfus, where I sometimes get good shots of birds flying into Sunset Bay and sometimes find something interesting in one of the trees — where I used to see a lot of hawks — or on the wires where flycatchers and other birds like to pause. I usually try to get shots of Scissortails where we can see their eyes, but this view has its interesting details, also.
It's always difficult to hold the camera vertically, and sometimes it's worth the trouble.
I like this series, because we get to see lots of detail — like the hair-like feathers around his beak that help him catch bugs. Almost looks like a mustache here. And, of course, that long tail.
This one's tail is much shorter, so that probably means its a female.
May 27 2014
The dam would be just to the left of this little scene. I keep going up there hoping to capture a variety of herons and egrets, and I keep being disappointed. I remember seeing the mallard fly into my frame from the left, but by the time I could mash down on the shutter, it was well off to the left. Almost perfect fro the composition. Still, I'd avoided posting the pix I shot this morning as I avoided posted the ones I shot this afternoon — including this one. Just I can rarely know for sure whether I've got anything till I thoroughly investigate just exactly what I got. It didn't help much that it was raining every time I went to the lake today. Yes, my camera is weather-sealed, but I am not.
Some Great-tailed Grackle tails get roughed up and torn. But this one is in great shape.
Same species as above, but the female Great-tailed Grackle's tail is nothing anywhere near great.
Walking out on the pier at Sunset Bay, I saw some Mallard teenagers single-filing through the new growth and new ponds below. They were wet and they were about to get wetter, but this one was twist and splashing some of that wetness off. I was impressed that they were still together. I don't know at what age they separate to go their own separate ways, but these ducks had not done that yet. It's gotta be a scary world for ducks that young, and I bet they feel much more secure when they're together.
Their previous group portrait was not in the rain, so there was more color in the water and in them.
I don't usually photograph pigeons, because, well, they're pigeons. But about this time every year, the males go a little crazy in order to capture the attention of a mate. That's not what's happening here, but it does show a Rock pigeon looking pretty normal and a strange, whitish pigeon.
I've been watching pigeons for a long time now, and I've never noticed any particular female mating display, but when a male puffs up, turns his colors more intense and drags his tail while raising the ends of his wing feathers, you know something is going on. But he doesn't just stand there, he follows a female, and if she likes him, they engage. But usually, it seems, they don't.
Probably something to do with the rain that kept falling intermittently all afternoon into evening.
Often I consider our resident mute swan just another goose. I guess I've got used to seeing her around. But there are times, when she looks particularly alluring.
Like today, in the rain. So I stayed with her awhile and captures some captivating images.
With her wings up, she looks amazing, and it was hardly a surprise to see her that way considering it was raining. But I guess by now, her wings are dry enough to put them down.
May 26 2014
I shot this female Red-winged Blackbird stopped in a wonderland of seeds, with one in its beak, before I was to meet Anna where we hoped to see Nighthawks.
And I found this Great-tailed Grackle flying sideways along the weeds and reeds along the creek that flowed under the bridge we would stand on to photograph night hawks.
I kept failing at photographing a single Barn Swallow from the little bridge, but pointing my lens east and north, the sky and trees and thick ground cover was gorgeous.
There was a lot of activity in those reeds, and I hoped to be able to visually separate the birds from the plants. Not sure if I managed to do that, but that was the plan.
I think this is all one big, fluffed-out male Great-tailed Grackle trying to impress a female grackle whom I did not see. Not a very good angle to see that, but just before I shot this I could see it pretty good.
Okay, it's another Great-tailed Grackle, but this doesn't seem like a Great-tailed Grackle with a great Great-tailed Grackle tail. I'd call it a little above ordinary, although that shiny bit of sunshine does raise it a couple of levels, easily.
He's just whipped his rod back over his head, then flicked it forward and whatever he's got on the end of it is arcing down up the crook to maybe catch a fish. I'd seen him flash that line in the bright bit of sunshine a couple times, just watching, because there were no really interesting birds where I was. So I tried it, and got the line in the sunshine once, but sharp enough twice other, though those were dark.
At first I thought what she had in her beak was a bug. Now I'm pretty sure it was a seed. We were standing on the foot bridge over the creek at the northern-most point of Parrot Bay (See my White Rock Map.) hoping to photograph some Night Hawks that Ben had seen and reported on Bird Chat (It's free, but you gotta sign in and pick a password — it's a great way to keep up with some of the bird sightings in this area.)
I saw and photographed some Nighthawks while I was swimming in my mother's pool in the Lower Rio Grand Valley, then went to a Bird Talk at the local bird place the next day, which shunted me along my path to becoming a birder in 2006. So I figured I owed it to the Nighthawks to go photograph them if I possibly could. But I couldn't because they weren't still there. So while I was there, I photographed anything I could find.
And not, I should point out, finding any Night Hawks.
Not sure why I got such wonderful light here, and so less-than-good-enough light much of the rest of this journal entry, but I'll take it when I can get it.
One of the birds who, when they flew over, I tried to capture flying over, although I only maybe twice all evening actually got their photo and sharp, but both of those birds had their wings tucked in to be fully streamlined while they shot forward from their last couple wing thrusts, and all the looked like was dark streamlined shapes that didn't even resemble birds, so I didn't use their pix.
I kept wondering why drivers of cars who have loud engines sometimes get tickets for that, but motorcycle drivers never do — in my limited experience. But we liked seeing, and I don't eve remember hearing this one, I was so intent on getting what I could with my telephoto lens.
At least I assume the smaller one on the far right is younger. He does not seem to have developed the herringbone sidewalls yet.
The second male Wood Duck from the left is preening the first female Wood Duck from the left. So, what there aren't very many more females than males, as I have been surmising.
When they're younger, I sometimes believe I can tell a fluffy young juvenile Mallard from a fluffy young juvenile Wood Duck. But not when they're not younger anymore.
I remember assuming when I saw this bird and scrambled to get its picture as it flew toward me, that it was a Great Egret. But it's not. Yellow feet give it away here.
And yellow feet and black beak give it away here.
Anna was driving, so I was feeling freer to photograph while she adjusted the distance.
I was also more careful with the exposure than the last time I did this. Much more careful. And it shows. No photograph ever depicts a bird or animal or human exactly reproduces its real colors, but this photo comes very close. I have another photo showing his tail, but it's not that different from the image above.
Either because it's warm and comfy or cool and comfy, or to stop traffic. I tend toward that last explanation. They sometimes move around out there, and my only explanation, is that they enjoy blocking traffic. I think I probably would, also. Bicyclers sometimes kill birds they are not able to get around — or don't try. I'm on the geese's side this time. I've seen several geese purposely thwarting ducks trying to copulate and other actions they do not approve of. They are the self-appointed moral deciders out there.
I know that someday I will be able to photograph a flock of them flying by in great detail and near-perfect color. But not yet. What birds do is fly, so anytime I photograph them doing anything else, I'm settling.
Usually when I can't identify a bird, it's a very familiar bird, and I should know better. And sure enough, that's what's happened again here with this guy. Thanks to Jason Ferguson on Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat, I know realize this is a juvenile European Starling, and its the evening sun slanting down making it brown, when it's really gray on gray. Thanks, Jason.
I'm mildly obsessed with photographing The Yellow Crane. This time we see it at the top of the hill up from the Breetum. The gray concrete building behind the crane is the multi-story parking lot the Breetum is building.
We saw so many squirrels today, it was amazing. There's probably more squirrels at the lake right now than there are in my attic.
Young Coyote in Winstead Park
Anna and I went birding this early Sunday Morning, starting of course at Sunset Bay, but soon we were rounding the Spillway toward the Old Boathouse Lagoon, when we saw this. Yes. It's not a bird, but when we saw it, we were boisterously appreciative. It didn't seem to notice us as it took a dump too close to contain it in my frame, then it sauntered down the hill across the parking lot, and loped into the woods through the Fitchery gate.
He or she did their business quickly without fuss or covering it up. Anna's telephoto is a little shorter, so she got the whole coyote in her picture. I got its hindquarters with a short bit of poop falling but decided not to use that image.
I thought it was a female, but friends on Face book say it's young. Just about everything I know about Coyotes is on my Coyote Concerns page from six years ago, but it's sure nice to finally have pleasant pix of one there. The older pix were shot at night with an on-camera flash that makes their eyes glow as if they were evil monsters, which they decidedly are not.
Nobody else seemed to take note of it. There's so many dogs running loose, without their legal leashes, that it didn't really stand out.
Odd that it slowed down significantly over the pavement, then rapidly picked up speed again on the other side:
I photographed it till it went through the Fitchery (Anna's contraction of the phrase, The Old Fish Hatchery Area) gate and disappeared into the woods.
May 23 2014
There were, of course, the usual high number of bird species in Sunset Bay this morning. My only issue was that I'd already photographed most of them. But that just meant I had to open my eyes a little more and pay more careful attention. The major difference in this photo is that instead of a dozen or more downy young, this female Wood Duck now has only four. Attrition is normal; if they all lived, we'd have too many.
One other thing I noticed this early morning was that there were a lot of Wood Ducks on the public, land-side of Sunset Bay. They had been staying on the far side of the lagoon, but now — in the early mornings, at least — they're all over. I saw this Gadwall well enough, but I kept thinking it was a female widgeon. I don't remember seeing it before, so maybe it just flew in today or yesterday. Hard to imagine a more diverse set of male ducks. The subtle, demure even, coloration of the Gadwall and the brazen clown colors of the Wood Duck, and they swam around and rested together. Two peas in a pod.
Except during courting and just after their kits are hatched, male Wood Ducks tend to hang out together. All but one here are male. The Gadwall — first duck on the left — is also male. The only female is the fourth bird from the right on top of the log.
Looking all noble and classic like on a European coin or coat of arms.
I've been photographing them for eight or nine years now, and there's still something very elegant about Great Egrets. I tried twice to capture photos of one or another of them flying over today, but this series is as close as I got, and it was plenty close enough.
I appreciated this one's smallish jump from a foot above the water, out and left from that perch.
There was another photog on the pier this morning. He came later. I said hello; he didn't even nod. I so often enjoy talking with other photographers; hardly matters what level or what equipment they have. He didn't stay very long, but I did, and I kept finding new and interesting birds. I didn't count bird species in the bay this morning, but I will.
Lovely to have such an elegant bird fly by so close.
Right foot big toe is a fraction of an inch off the water. After this millisecond, my images rendered as blurs.
This was at the far edge of my cam / lens' ability to render fine detail. I'd seen one Spotted Sandpiper so many times lately, I was assuming there was only that one, so it was nice to see two. The new Sibley has its issues. That gray text makes it really hard to read captions and index listing. But he's got more varieties. Shows three for Spotted Sandpipers. Juvenile, with no spots. Adult nonbreeding with the barest few over and behind its legs, and noticeably spotted on Adult breeding, which both of these appear to be. So I'm happy for the one I kept assuming was solo. It's either got a friend or a mate. These two look distinct but both qualify, according to David Allen Sibley's drawings.
Maybe because I'd brought my comparatively new, heavy, chunky with-anything-but-smooth-motion tripod, I was able to stay on target, and when they started flying, I followed them. I've been doing my due diligence studying tripods, will be getting a much lighter carbon fiber one, but for soon, just a ball head, and later, if I don't send that tripod back, I'll get a gimbal tripod head, which would probably cost more than the tripod, but it will make following flying birds a lot simpler than hand-holding or my current tripod.
A little fuzzy from the low light, but it's identifiable.
And, I didn't think I'd got a good one of them together, but upon careful scrutiny of some of the shots I thought weren't good enough, I found this.
I never seem to tire of photographing Red-winged Blackbirds Screaming their presence and readiness to take up with a suitable female.
Not everybody who walks out on the pier at Sunset Bay looks up. I'm usually very careful about falling trajectories there.
Winfrey Meadow is is superb form now with new bird every couple weeks.
Pretty flowers and pretty birds.
It may well be hungry.
May 22 2014
I've been saving these up for just such an occasion as today. Well, actually, I've been shooting so many images, some of them got lost. All of today's images were shot on May 16, a Friday just under a week ago. I think this mockingbird has just pulled this unknown food item out of the ground. Pop!
The worm or grub or whatever this bird is struggling with has attached itself by enclosing the mock's upper beak. The bird apparently thinks it can deal with it, but it's taking some time.
So it paused the battle with the worm and stared off into space awhile.
Then he attacked it again, and I finally got the wormy thing in better focus than anytime before.
Now it's got two halves of food-thing.
The next shot on the reel was just the Mockingbird's legs and a flash of posterior escaping out of the upper left corner of the frame. Kinda like a Happily Ever After.
This seems to be the only shot I made that day of pigeons, except with the Franklin's Gull. It was close. The boards blurred in the background look like the ones at the pier at Sunset Bay.
I remember sighting a brown-gray, smallish heron-looking shape fly past the pier I was on then, and it disappeared past the last clump of weeds at the far edge of the sog of island-like mass up the lagoon. Then when I walked up-lagoon I found this.
After awhile, I left the area. Partly because I wanted the heron to be able to hunt in peace, and partly because after a little while, it disappeared altogether into the tall weeds. I hoped it would come back often.
What usually happens after one takes a drink.
There was only one gull on the grass up the hill from what I liked to call Sunset Beach. I watched it walk up the grassy area between the road and the water. I can't say it looked hungry, but it was quick to eat bread tossed to the geese.
Soon as it got a little bread, it flew out over the inner bay.
I love the abstraction of the stripes and solids and all fine feathers.
This must be a very quick opportunity. I don't remember the occasion. Wings are blurred still flapping furiously, but everything else is in sharp focus, which is always a feat.
I love this photograph. I can't imagine not using it on Friday, May 16. Apparently, I overlooked it. Pity.
Nice to have a catch-up.
I was hoping to do a series of Western Kingbird pix of them flying after and catching bugs, then eating them.
I didn't think much of these when I first saw them,
When I've set the camera to judge for itself the proper ISO to use, it sometimes jacks the ISO (film speed) all the way up, and we get grain.
Pretty bird, but this is a little out of focus.
This, unfortunately for my plans to do a whole series of flycatchers catching bugs, is the only shot I got with a bird with a bug in its beak.
Photographed and posted May 21 2014
I've seen foam in places of water turbulence now and then, but this, with this family nonchalantly swimming around in it, was too good to pass up. I'd got tired of photographing cute ducklings — I even did a few of those earlier this morning ... boring — and these guys did not seem to feel they were in any danger, but there's no telling what all is in the water, which comes down and into the lake from all around Dallas in storms like we've been having lately.
I remember trying to capture groups and especially those including the female and at least a couple young, and with any luck, get them in a particularly interesting bit of foam.
Heading out into cleaner water.
Heads up either means a fight in the offing, a stretch, or something above them that needs consideration. But both these guys are showing off up there.
I believe this is the one, same Spotted Sandpiper, who visits Sunset Bay (one of the several places I visited today; the foam's under the walking bridge along the Lower Spillway.) almost every time I visit, although it's usually a good distance from shore. For photo buffs, this is a 100% image. Everything else had to be cropped out, because it wasn't Spotted Sandpiper.
And this is most of a single frame. The bird is probably about the same distance, but it's a lot bigger, and it wasn't moving as much as the sandpiper. This one's gorgeous and would make a great, 20 x 24-inch or larger print, if I still made prints. The sandpiper is pretty good, considering. But then this one's a more handsome bird.
I keep hoping to get to see and capture images of one of these often feisty birds flipping its head feathers up for a display of its — whatever. But the only ones I've seen so far this year are singles. And it takes at least doubles of Snowies to get a ruckus going. Snowies look like Great Egrets, only they're smaller and their beaks are black, and their feet are yellow.
I've taken a lot of pix of male Wood Ducks lately. Even about a dozen today. But this is the best and most realistically colorful one I've made in a long time. I still think the females are more attractive, but this guy's got a lot of color going for him. And that iridescent green contrasting the yellow and orange of his beak is just amazing.
I have a fondness for Red-eared Sliders, but furry green ones are amazing.
This is some sort of platform, and it's floating up near the lake portion of the Old Boat House Lagoon. This is a shot I forgot to use yesterday, and a good enough place to stop for today.
This woodpecker startled and amazed me, because he stayed right where it was while I photographed out the driver's side window of my absurdly huge rent a car while The Slider's in the shop. The rent a car guy proudly announced this one gets up to 28 m.p.g. I told him I'd never got that low on The Slider, which usually averages 53. I don't really like the Chevy, but it'll do, since it's won the Woodpecker Badge of Honor.
I only just now realized I think I know where these guys might be bee-lining it to. I've taken to photograph any bunch of birds that I know aren't grackles or herons, just to find out who's been over-flying me. I was surprised at the Cedar Waxwings.
I'd seen something that looked mostly brown but heron-ish fly past me at the edge of the lake, so I walked over to where I thought it might be. Here. I was careful, quiet, slower than usual, and I didn't make any sudden motions.
My next really good shot of it included everything but its feet, and I was amazed at the detail I got it in. The woodpecker was done somewhat earlier in near darkness, so the high ISO robbed me of some detail. This is later, with a lot more light, so great color and delicious detail.
I photographed it awhile, then decided I didn't want to spook it, so I all but withdrew. I stayed in the area, and I could still see the top of its head, but I wanted it to feel at home there, so I could come back and find it again some early morning again.
Meanwhile, the ground crew arrived from Good Earth Landscaping. I watched them use long-range picker-uppers to pull plastic bags and paper cups from the water and the grounds, and I was really proud of them for doing that, till I saw this one heading in the general direction of the hunting Yellow-crowned. The colorfully dressed guy was talking loudly on a cell phone and paying no attention whatsoever to where he was and who else might be hunting along that stretch of coastline, so I knew I couldn't stop the human, and that the human would scare the bird, so I set up well away from the latter as the former hove into too close a view.
Sure enough. And I'm certain the guy never saw the bird. Never even looked up to see anything but trash. So when he got too close. Guess what?
I was in the perfect place to capturing the action. The Good Earth guy never even looked up from his loud phone conversation. He's probably still talking loud and picking up trash that desperately needs picking up. But I still think it's wrong not to pay enough attention to know he's about to spook one of the residents.
This is the last clear shot. It must have turned suddenly, because my shots after these rather spectacular ones were all blue and orange and black blurs. My first Yellow-crown Nigh-Heron flying shots of the year, and one of the best sequences of them flying ever. But I'd still rather it felt comfortable enough to stay so I could come visit again sometime. But 'cha can't always get what ya' want.
Anna and I visited the Medical School Rookery today, and I concentrated on photographing juveniles — for a change, using a tripod. A heavy old, clunky aluminum one, but a tripod. Tripods hold cameras and lenses still, and keep them aimed where they need to be aimed for continuous shooting, like when juvenile Great Egrets are just barely able to lift their heads up over the sides of their nests, or they begin using their newly-grown wings.
I can sometimes manage to shoot a series of photos of a still or fast-moving bird while hand-holding my big camera and bigger lens, but when I'm trying to point it at the same place for a series of shots, the camera's view tends to shake, roll and rattle sometimes. Tripods hold mostly steady, but aren't nearly as easy to move around. So today, mostly I didn't move around as much as usual.
These are another set of sibling Great Egrets, whose parents I did not see. I'm sure they've gone for food for the little ones, who kept themselves busy learning how to use their bodies and beginning to understand about wings.
Whose feathers are only just begun growing, and are not yet much good for flying.
But the siblings are beginning to figure out how to hold them and what they might eventually be good for. The neighbor sibs are watching or just standing around learning their own lessons.
Both siblings on the left nest area are still pretty clumsy with their wing-things, but it won't be much longer till they use them every day, whenever they need to go beyond their tree.
Not far away was this White Ibis. It's always nice to find somebody a little exotic there. The Tricolored Herons, which used to nest on the outer edge of the rookery — assuming they're still using it at all — are probably somewhere in the interior. They never got much privacy from photographers, birders and other visitors. This bird was 'hidden' away under dark shadows, which can be brightened, so we can see them better here.
And if, per chance, we find a big fluffy bird with a backlight, you could even say it glows.
One of the few times I've seen a Snowy Egret when it wasn't showing off or picking a fight.
We hadn't thought much about how the storm must have affected the rookery, till we saw bodies hanging from high limbs. Trouble with not having fingers or opposing thumbs is one cannot lift, twist and drop bodies from one's immediate vicinity. We also noticed a lot of trees down and at first thought the sometimes overzealous ground crew might have been knocking down more trees there, but now we're pretty sure most of the damage was done by last week's vicious storms, which uprooted trees all over Dallas.
May 17 2014
Before the Audubon Picnic this morning, about a half dozen of us went on a Bird Walk with Naturalist Ron Baughman. We started where we were, because of course, there's always birds pretty much wherever that is at White Rock Lake — as proven by this pretty little Bluebird, who may be entering his home. Well, he was entering the knot hole, but I'm not certain it's his home. The tree hole was within yards of where we started the walk.
There was plenty of wildlife active in the ponds where I have seen grown men and their children pull giant catfish out of the water. Haven't seen any catfish this downpour, and I haven't seen anybody out there pulling big cats out with their bare hands.
I saw more bluebirds under Ron's guidance than I've ever seen before, and I knew where to look and I was careful before. Nice how much a good guide can help.
For awhile, they seemed everywhere, though we probably only saw a half-dozen of them.
Standing, watching or jumping into flight.
I've looked at two bird I.D books, but I don't recognize this one in either. If I remembered what Ron said, I'd know. Anna pointed me to a page of Baltimore Orioles, but I don't think this is exactly that. Maybe it's just visiting from Sparrow's Point or Hawk Cove.
It's odd how much pure, raw pleasure my fellow birders this morning derived from seeing fairly common birds at great distances. It's almost as if they expected them to be far away. These treetop pix were but tiny blips of color in my 35mm frame. I could barely see them through my telephoto lens, and usually not at all with my bare eyes. And I know this woodpecker looks like it couldn't possibly be standing on nothing that high up and still be leaning back. But I checked carefully, and there's wood behind it, and the picture is upright and straight.
I kept wondering, especially with these last two birds, whether my fellow birders would be as utterly thrilled when birds come right up to us, like what happens almost every day in Sunset Bay. I mean compare the same species of woodpecker in the image above this one, to the image somewhat down this page. But the object of birding and the object of bird photography are different. We photogs like a lot of detail and, if possible, some behavior stuff into our photographs. Birders are happy just to see many more birds than a bird photographer could manage that quickly and cursorily.
Anna and I both checked Sunset Bay before the Bird Walk to learn whether the avocets were still there, and they were not.
I guess if you've got miniature burros, they need walking, pretty much just like dogs do. I wonder if these blue-clothed humans bag the brown burros' droppings... I think I've seen the burros in the Peninsula Neighborhood.
Even now, much later on Saturday, I'm feeling guilty for getting this close to a bird along the Bird Walk. This is Sunset Bay Close, even if it's on Dreyfus Point close instead.
But not half bad. Love that mop top.
Much later, I drove back up to Winfrey and saw cars parked in the grass just where I'd seen cars ticketed last time there's been a furor over cars parking on the grass. I didn't see any tickets on these cars, whose owners were probably helping somebody celebrate. As I've pointed out here before, these cars were parked right where Killdeer nest and hunt and fly away fast when they see idiots parking on the prohibited grass again.
It's lovely that the people stopped The Arboretum from using this meadow full of plants and birds to park their cars, but can't we stop partyers from doing the same? There's a big baseball parking lot down the hill, and it wouldn't take too much ingenuity to ride the people up to the party from there and back.
May 16 2014
Just a little northwest of the pier at Sunset Bay. I noticed them before I even got half-way up the pier. Ben and I had seen and photographed two of them May 2 (earlier this month). And I saw and photographed a flock of 20+ American Avocets in September 2008 (top of that page) and and bunch of photographers got the five who visited several days in May 2013.
I had hoped to wake up at around 6:30 and bee-line to the lake, but going to bed at 2 ayem, blocked that idea but good. So I didn't wander around to the lake till about 1:30 p.m., which was lucky for me. I photographed some Western Kingbirds flying off a telephone line after bugs for awhile, then parked down in the gulch between Winfrey and Sunset and walked in.
I photographed them to my heart's content, varying aperture so I might get more in focus and planted the camera/lens firmly onto one of the rotting tops of the posts on the pier. I photographed these at about 1:30 PM. I came back later and shot a few more pics, but mostly just stared. Only later this evening did I check them out in the new Sibley's Guide and learn these are all Adult Breeding Males. Juveniles have much lighter necks and heads and all-white breasts.
They seemed curious and were keeping track of everything around them and wandered around out there. The one closest to the largish log with its tangle of branches must have been hungry, because it was poking the water for food.
The rest just wandered around within a very small area of about a hundred square feet, probably tired from flying in from wherever.
Mostly they just lurked out there, walking around in the shallow water. While watching them, I noticed that some had narrower white white scapulars, but that variation does not mark any particular age or sex. Females have more upturned beaks, while males are straighter.
May 15 2014
Didn't see it or them when I drove around the circle in front of the building, but when I walked back I did. I was careful, slow, as precise as possible carrying a Blunderbuss. I'd sneak up, take some pix, carefully advance ten paces, take some more. I never did send it flying. Do I wish it had its head up when I sot this. Well, of course, but ya can't have everything. Nice to have rendered the soft colors of its breast and the white pattern on the back of its neck in one shot.
Looks like its got something in its beak that has wings. I've seen them resting there in the shade of the front door, and I have often attempted to photograph Barn Swallow there. Just haven't succeeded till today.
I really do need a tripod I can carry in my back pocket.
I kept photographing birds eating things, and I never once got hungry. They stay in their adult breeding appearance December through August.
David Allen Sibley says, "faint spots on breast held briefly," so this is a pretty young Northern Mockingbird. And I had a firm windowsill to hold the camera into. Hence the detail. Nice when that happens. We can even see the tiny details on its chinny-chin-chin. I knew it was a Mockingbird when I photographed it, but I didn't know it was a juvenile till later, so I did not pay it the attention it deserved, and I missed out on whatever it was up to.
It followed and flew around me for five or six minutes. Finally it landed close enough and stayed posed with wings out and vertical to my view, so the whole thing's mostly in focus. Nice.
I keep photographing Western Kingbirds, but I think this is the nicest shot I've yet got. At first I thought it had its wing somehow wrapped around its shoulder, but then I realized it'd be faced off to the left and behind, if its head weren't looking over its shoulder. Still looks a little weird.
I blew its little morsel up to nearly fill the screen, and I still couldn't tell what it was.
The crane is down inside the multi-story parking lot in the works some unnamed organization really wanted to plant on and around in the wildflower meadow around Winfrey Point. So it seems appropriate and fitting that I shot it from where The People wouldn't let that travesty happen. I've photographed the crane and the building several times, but none as pleasing as this.
In Sunset Bay, where Anna was just turning the corner to go out, so we photographed cute baby ducks for awhile together first.
I saw the dark cubish chunk fall, but I didn't capture it on silicon. I only got this part. I assume it was something it ate as food that wasn't digestible. I guess we all know the feeling, but in my effort to present bird behavior pix over some-bird-standing-there-all-pretty images, I had to put this one in at the top of today's journal entry.
These shots of one scissortail that were captured atop Dreyfus Point are particularly detailed, because he let me get close. I have the Slider to thank for that. Bright white cars frighten birds far less than lil' old humans.
I've been photographing these guys who generally hang out in the picnic grounds just east of the Beach at Sunset Bay for several months. The ducks look like birds somebody used to own then got tired of owning, so they dropped them off at the lake. At least one of the two Muscovies (also ducks) usually hang out with those ducks, so it's really a gang. Not that they're into drugs or graffiti or anything. Just that they hang together most of the time.
Okay, maybe they're really brown and white, but I've been thinking of them as black & white for so long, I still tend to call them that. It depends upon the light. I haven't seen them fly, so I don't know if those flimsy little wings actually support them in flight.
I love his colors showing and the detail. In my other life — now on slight hiatus — I am an art critic, so I see all this feather disarray as a positive aspect.
Several times when one or another male Mallard was in this position, it suddenly jetted underwater, where it stayed for several seconds, then popped up again a little farther down its trajectory. Mallards aren't usually divers, so I was surprised, but until I get a decent tripod (I've only put it off three or four years, so far), I can't hold the Blunderbuss up and pointed at a bird for more than maybe a minute, whereas a tripod would keep it in position, so I'm thinking it might help me capture actions that I usually miss.
This guy, like the diving Mallard action I'm trying to describe, was taking a bath.
It was flitting about, and I tried to follow it and the birds at the same time, so naturally I missed the birds. Note that the back edge of it is sharp, and the antenna and head end is not. That's what comes of using a long telephoto for something that's only a few feet away.
Trouble with Double-crested Cormorants is that they are only double-crested for a few short weeks a year. First time I posted a pic here, its double-crests were awry, and not organized into two separate tufts like this same bird in another shot that I only stumbled on a couple days later. But this is why whoever named this species named it that. Maybe those longish feathers are more like long, stand-up eyebrows, although they're considerably higher on its head than eyebrows usually are. In his popular Field Guide, author and artist David Allen Sibley says that Double-crested Cormorants can be hard to distinguish from Neotropic Cormorants in areas where the two species' populations overlap — like around here. But when those crowns come up, they become very distinguished, indeed.
In breeding season, their eyes turn a bright, blazing blue and that crop pops up, so everybody can tell it's ready to breed. Like this one, the bird in my best photo of a Breeding Adult Double-crested Cormorant, was also close to shore. Not sure why that is.
Thanks to Kelly for pointing this bird out to me. I'd noticed it, but I hadn't seen the crests. Before I clued into it, I saw just a dark lump on a chunk of tree a ways off shore.
Since I already have been, I've decided to go along with my own trend and photograph birds every day this delicious month. Today, I spent one hour shooting more than 97 — I've already thrown several 'not quites' away — shots of birds. My Lone Pine Birds of Texas says of these birds, they "migrate farther than most ducks, summering as far north as the Canadian tundra and wintering mainly in Central and South America. Some birds overwinter in Texas, remaining here until late April or May."
The male has been around for a week or so, but I hadn't noticed the female till today, probably because she looks enough like a female Mallard to thoroughly confuse me. When I first saw them today, I only saw him, since she was completely behind the larger male, and they were at some distance from me. Thinking most ducks wouldn't mind if I got a little closer — though mostly thinking of Mallards — I got closer, and they started fidgeting.
I got closer, so I could prop the blunderbuss up on one of the pier's posts, and that certainly steadied these images, but first he got off the log at the edge of the water, and swam another five or six yards farther from me, exploring the wood-strewn area, found a good place, then came back for her. Then they both swam off to their new perch.
Which only required a little more cropping. He's twisting and squeezing out all the extra water. She's just staring at me. I apologized to them and promised not to do that ever again. There's a Blue-winged Teal flying near the bottom of this page. .
Oddly enough, as elegant as she is, she fits right in with the geese — enough to have sex with one male.
There's already a dove called Inca, but these have always seemed more Incan than those. This is one beautiful Dogeon.
Appleyard Ducks have gorgeous sunset colors, but when I saw this one twitching and shaking and stretching and doing an all-out preen, I had to follow along and try to get as many parts showing as possible.
Still lots of very juvenile Wood and Mallard ducks floating around Sunset Bay eating everything in sight and learning the ways of the world.
I saw a flutter of red and buff and black and white and I tried to keep up. Lucky for me, this bird likes to pose between flip-flop flying from tree to tree. See that daring reddish spot about over where its tummy would be if it were a human? That's why this bird is called a Red-bellied Woodpecker. Handsome little critter who's black and white and red all over.
And a profile. Then it flew off, but I suspect we'll see it again. If you look carefully, that red spot extends back under the Red-bellied Woodpecker almost to its tail.
The shot I got after this one was it flying into some trees. Nothing in between here and there focused, but then it was moving fast.
Although whoever brought all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare to America was clearly misguided, because they had and have no natural enemies here to keep them in check, so they have thrived to overpopulation, they are — especially in springtime and up close — gorgeous birds.
I have this thing about Blue Jays. As much as I love looking at them and attempting to photograph them, this is about as detailed an image as I've every got of one, and I know I can do better.
The main way Indian Runners distinguish themselves from all the other ducks is that they walk tall and erect. The Wikipedia article on them says they run, not walk, but this is a photograph of two Indian Runners walking not running down the road just before or just after the rain. The all-white duck is walking like most ducks walk, with their bodies diagonally horizontal.
I've been attempting to bring this subject up for awhile, but I never got the right set of pictures to show you what I was talking about.
It's easy enough to catch pix of one variety or the other, but there always seems to be something in the way when I get both in the same pic.
I spent most of my day getting my blood tested then waiting for the Diabetic Nurse at the VA, who is always a font of important knowledge. I went outside three times between the tests and the appointment, and it was beautiful out there. When all that was over I saw how dark it had become outside, so I walked fast and/or ran through the horse pistol out to the immense parking lot to The Slider. I just got to it, when I felt the first rain drops.
I drove home the slow way, because I don't trust highways in the rain. I stayed inside through most of the stormy parts, then high-tailed it to the lake, where I looked for rainy-day activities or looks. It was pretty dark, so I cranked up the ISO, thus making some of the pix pretty grainy. But not as grainy as a wet duck. I need to move the next journal entry down to where it belongs in this sometimes chronological journal, but there's just such a wonderful contrast between these dark, wet shots and that lovely spring day, that I'll keep it up here another day or two.
I wonder why fisher persons fish in the rain, so I asked a closer guy who was returning from fishing off the pier if he'd caught anything, and he pointed to this guy and told me about a fish "this big."
So far I've photographed birds every day this month, and I'm attempting to keep that constancy going. There always seems to be something worth photographing at the lake.
May 11 2014
Very similar to laughing gulls, and they sound like they are laughing, but this is a Franklin's Gull instead. Something about how thick the eye rings is is the big visible feature difference.
Seeing the above single Franklin's Gull reminded me too much of another, much bigger bunch of Franklin's Gulls I hope I can find, that Anna and I photographed somewhere up north of Dallas a few weeks ago but that I never got around to showing here. I keep finding whole days of shots that I haven't cluded in here yet. I doubt I'll ever catch up.
Like any large flock, they were fascinating to watch as they randomly compressed and expanded high above us. Kinda wish I could fly sometimes. Looks like fun.
Okay, so much for Franklin's Gulls from somewhere else. Now back to White Rock Lake.
Too far, really, but my first shot this year of a male and a female in one pic.
Both these Martin Houses were along the road from which one can look down at the Bath House from.
I think these may be new houses. They look different. No numbers on the sides.
Remember the big, burly goose on the pier at Sunset Bay that kept biting me and my pants the other day? This is that guy.
And this lovely goose chewing on reeds (They're better than lawn mowers.) is Burley's well-protected little friend.
Sorry, readers. I really didn't expect them to keep my computer for three days to copy some stuff off it. But they did, and they managed to delete some rather important stuff, including all my macros. So I'm still catching up, and next time I'll take it elsewhere.
I've been going to the lake at least every day since. Usually twice a day. I'm starting with what was yesterday as I type this. The storm was the most interesting and exciting Nature Event in awhile, and it hit White Rock Lake and much of Dallas. Except one or maybe two images, I'm presenting these in chronological order. I took some other pix Thursday, but really nothing worth much, and when it began to rain again (It had earlier, and I expected more.), I walked fast back to The Slider, where I waited awhile till I could see where I was leaving.
This is later, after the storm. This tree has been at the far right end of Sunset Bay Proper (the waterside end) or the far left side of the picnic and nature grounds toward Buckner Boulevard from the lake itself. There's a little creek just to the left and behind this once large and old tree.
Here and then, there was a lot shorter roll down the hill to the water's edge. I'd watched as the rain began to fall, a little then a lot, as the gooses just stood there. Some Mallards sought the shelter of trees, but trees aren't always safe, and besides, shorebirds like these and lots others swim in that water stuff most of their lives, so a little more falling from above is not a distraction.
These young mallards are actually only a week or so old, but they mature quickly. These haven't quite yet, and still most of them won't live through the experience, but spring always brings with it, hope.
I didn't see it when Charles pointed me to the first tree it landed in. Something about parallax and the lack of depth perception keeps me from seeing where people are pointing sometimes. But when this red-headed woodpecker, who is instead called "Red-bellied" for no apparent reason, flew to a barer tree, I followed it intently, and got a couple of shots. I wonder if they like humid, after-a-storm air.
After I finally got it in focus, it chose to go elsewhere. Probably didn't like my attentions.
After Charles did this, I asked him why, and he had a perfectly understandable reason. I just don't remember what it was. But Charles is a bird-helper, never a hinderer.
Most of the gooses that congregate at Sunset Bay were purchased from Feed & Seed stores, some of which are not at all kind to their birds. Charles brought them to Sunset Bay, and feeds them like the farm animals that they are, every day.
This is my fave of the pictures in this short series. When I saw Charles looking like he was going to release the goose, I ran closer, so I could get the whole series, and I only managed to miss a couple of the first few seconds.
The water almost but not quite covered the pier. I was glad of that, because the pier is where I generally want to be. I was careful even earlier when it was raining. But that pier is sturdy. The swan and ducks and gooses and others seemed happy to have the water there instead of the land.
I knew to photograph it, but I didn't know what to do with a dying baby bird gasping for its last breath. I didn't want to kill it, and I didn't want to make it live through this.
Ben called this one of more than half a dozen similar baby birds sprawled across the ground under where once was a mature tree, that was popped out of the ground by the storm, and now has more of its roots showing, "a starling," but it looks more like a duck. The tree they fell from was near the edge of the road of the building that once was a restaurant called Sunset Inn. Both ducks and starlings begin in trees, and these died under where that tree used to be — all part of the more obvious collateral damage done by the sudden storm.
If there was a strong enough wind to move these water and other substances-filled objects around and sling them on their edges, just imagine the force blowing the helpless little birds who probably thought they would be safe in their nests.
I shot this on Tuesday, May 6, because I wanted to have proof that the ka-zillion-dollar "improvements" on the Lower Steps at the Spillway didn't do what they were supposed to do — what the engineers and P R Guys promised they would do. Including even out the water flow down the Lower Spillway, to flow evenly down the steps. These steps. Couple years ago, before the extraordinarily expensive and time-consuming reconcretizing and remodeling of The Spillway, water usually did not fall down the west side (left above) during dry periods. Now sometimes, as shown above, water does not fall down the east side. Not exactly a big improvement.
But for now, it's a comparison shot for those that follow, which were taken after the storm.
This is pretty close to the same angle I shot the image above, although this one was later in the evening of a couple days later.
This was shot down into the slough from the walking bridge above The Lower Steps, just almost exactly where the water had not been flowing a couple days previous. It was wet and dark down there, so I tried using the on-camera flash, so some of the crashing water shows brighter.
It was getting toward dark, so the top and bottom images of this threesome were time exposures. Today, Friday, as I drove by this area, I saw a Great Egret fishing on the far, west sloping edge, right down at the water. I've seen whole lines of Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons and others in daylight before, and I bet the Yellow- and Black-crowned Night-Herons have been on it tonight already, so I'm hoping to find some fine feathered and intrepid fisher-birds tomorrow.
posted May 12
From Before The Storm
As usual, today I started along the edge of the lake on Arboretum Drive to Winfrey Point, found my way back to The Fitchery, looped around to Sunset Bay, looking for birds where I knew they'd be. For these shots, I photographed from The Slider, sidled up into the grass on the lake side of the little road that fumbles up Winfrey Point. Camera rested on the driver's side window sill waiting for it to do something interesting. These are from various recent dates, and I'm at the lake making more every day, just keep adding them here.
Like this. Usually, these sorts of set-up shots don't work for me. The bird jumps into the air when I'm not expecting it, or my camera slips in my hand, or any number of other goofs on my part. This magical time, it worked. Hallelujah!
And another Western Kingbird jumps off another one of those plants.
The whole hill up toward Winfrey Building — the one that the Arboretum wanted to annex for their parking lot before they bought the land across Garland Road for a multi-story parking lot — was filled with Western Kingbirds (probably no more than a half dozen) jumping off tall, bulbous plants, flying awhile, catching bugs as it did, then alighted on yet another tall plant, till its gullet was full of flies.
Exquisite, delicate, sturdy Great Blue Heron atop the Lower Steps, with the Garland Road car bridge in the dark behind. For place names and locations, check out my Annotated (bird sightings) Map of White Rock Lake.
I saw this one down through under the walking bridge, turned and parked in the lot by the Fitchery, and carefully did not frighten this bird away. I thought it might be my first of season (FOS) Little Blue Heron, but it's not.
On the metal fence overlooking the Lower Steps.
A Great-tailed Grackle (our usual variety) with its tail up and balancing, while he gets some water by the boat ramp across from The Old Boat House.
It's one of my favorite nature views.
I've seen them in scattered places since mid-late-winter, but I haven't seen any downy young yet, and I miss their tall legs pumping furiously and puffs of down that they are.
Watching the ducks scrabble for corn Charles pours along the edge of the beach at Sunset Bay.
Without the Anna Cam, the little possum looked like the greatest T-shirt emblem ever.
The cage did keep it in, but more than that, it kept it from wandering off, and it kept much larger birds out. It's Charles accommodating its need to join the flock, while still protecting it.
May 7 or so
Wood Duck (above) and Mallard (below) Downy Young in this entry. Lots of baby pictures, which really don't need explaining. They are cute. You know it, and I know it.
Don't know if you've noticed, but I've been continually this month attempting to photograph birds every single day of May. It's a mighty challenge.
This pretty guy is here to separate the Woodies from the Mallards. I have in springs before seen daddy ducks nip at their own and others' young. They've been very well-behaved lately.
I know I shouldn't call these baby ducks. Not sure exactly why, but I'm told they are downy young. Very young. Just a few days young.
Notice that very small and not-much-developed beginning of a wing.
Let's set the scene. Mom, who's been keeping up with ten (if I'm counting right...) downy kits, takes a preening break while the kits sleep. Next shot is a detail of the lower left corner of this shot.
I watched carefully which fuzzy little ducks hung out with which sets of parents, and I think I can tell the Wood Ducks from the Mallards, but I'm never positive. Let me know, if you can tell the differences, and I got them right. Mallards' beaks are not pink tipped, but Mallards have a dash of brown on their cheeks. It's usually obvious. Wood duck's brown dashes are much less obvious, if that's even what that is.
In Sunset Bay.
My computer's in the shop, and I keep photographing more birds every day, but I can't show them till I get my puter back., s
So these are here, instead. The one on the left seems smaller, so he may be younger.
I don't often get them this close to focus or this fun.
I've made pictures like this series of American White Pelicans many times, but I think this is the first time I've tried it with Mallards. But then I've only been doing this journal for nine years...
The burly hunk of goose on the left was the formidable guardian male of that other, smaller female goose on the right. The burly one bit me or my pant legs several times and generally looked forbidding (goose bites scare little children and adults who don't know), too, but I've been bit by gooses so many times, it's hardly noticeable. He obviously did not want me out on the pier at Sunset Bay. I was, however, determined to be there, but I gave the couple their space. Later, when several sets of families with small children packing lots of white bread for feeding the ducks, the gooses proved their value, even to me, by keeping the families away. I thanked them before I left with lots of photos of today's baby duck parades.
I still photograph fast-moving birds whenever I see them. Sometimes I get pretty good pictures of their descent or takeoffs.
I understand that saying "Mallard" and "duck" together in the same sentence proves our ignorance. So these are baby ducks — some would prefer I said "downy young," and they are Mallards.
Baby ducks start feeding themselves almost immediately. Mom was right there to keep them on the straight and narrow, but they were very busy trying out everything they came upon to taste whether it was food. Apparently, a lot of it was.
These images are in fairly strict chronological order. I got distracted by the Mute Swan swimming by with her wings up to dry them out. I'd seen American White Pelicans do that often, but this was my first site of the swan doing it.
I still have difficultly discerning Wood Duck and Mallard Babies, but the give away is which Mom was just out of view.
The water off Sunset Bay's pier was full of very young ducks this afternoon.
Hadn't thought of these as practice photographing birds in flight — just me following birds I saw flying the far, circle route around and over the rookery. I always need to practice that skill, and it's never simple. I gotta follow the bird with a tiny square in the middle of the frame. This one worked out spectacularly. I knew it was flying past a building, but I paid no attention to that other than having it there. I often tilt the camera following a bird across the sky. I can't pick where on the building I'll catch up or which building. This one is especially nice for its mostly neutral background and green bushes / tree/ / whatever. The blue windows is an especially nice touch.
This dark-appearing building with its dark windows really set off the bright white egret in sunlight slanting nearly straight down its body, casting its head shadow onto its left wing. Nice effect I couldn't in a million years plan ahead.
This could be the same building as that last shot. Who knows? I never look at the buildings there, except to hope a bird flies past it. Usually, when I'm there I'm looking for birds, and there's lots of them. But I get bored photographing bids perched, almost always partially blocked by limbs or branches of leaves. In free flight is several kinds of magnificence.
He's coasting after flapping up some speed.
I love this shot, because it's so real, so obvious, yet so abstracted. As if everything but that tree were symbols of something.
I had assumed the birds flying past the buildings would be way too far away for good photographs — wrong again, J R — so I set up with my car on the shady side of the street past the Rookery, sitting back against the hood of The Slider (warm) but less stressful than standing, with the blunderbuss in my hands. There was a clearish sky above. The dark trees of the rookery to my left and more trees causing the shade on me and The Slider on my side. Kind of a narrow-ish wide spot over the road that usually has restricted, Sticker-Only parking on weekdays, but free and clear on a Saturday afternoon.
And somehow looking much larger than it usually appears.
With the positioning, I usually had about four seconds to catch up with and focus and begin to make exposures. Sometimes I got as many as three shots after that initial delay. Sometimes just two or one. It's a situation where I have to become either at one with the camera or thinking awfully darned fast. Although not thinking actually seemed to help. It's something I can do well. Just physically follow the bird with the seven pound-plus camera, keeping the focus square on the bird, preferably on its eye or eyes, but often just anywhere possible and keep it there as the bird closes in on my position, for as long as possible.
It's a skill, but not a skill that stays with me. I gotta keep practicing, and sometimes when I'm hot (accurate, not heat hot) I can get some good bird shots when doing it. Other times I have been lousy at it, and obviously in need of more practice. These turned out very well indeed. Birds are at their best when they are flying.
It's not really diving, I'm just shooting straight up at it. Usually a bad idea, because I often loose my framing that way — or my focus, but this turned out especially well, even if I almost turned myself nearly over or inside out doing it. Makes an especially nice transition between bird species.
Since there's more Great Egrets than any other bird there, I got to practice more with them than any other species. Not long before I set up on the other side of the street, I had watched a White Ibis float into the Rookery from Inwood Road. As I saw, then watched it, I assumed it was another GE (Great Egret) except that its beak was long and curved, and part of my motivation to motivate across the street was that I was hoping I'd see it again after I got set up leaning on The Slider, but no such luck.
There's usually not much chance getting the camera up and following along under that many trees where I first saw it, but a photographer can dream. That was my FOS (first of season) White Ibis, although I'll be back earlier in the day, when there might be more chance to photograph ibises. I've photographed as many as 70 at one time, flying in parallel formation over the tall parking garage, and I'd love to do that again. It was an amazing, elegant occasion. Of course, I was using a zoom then.
Afternoon May 3
Went birding twice today. First to Sunset Bay to see if any of yesterday's birds were there — only the one Spotted Sandpiper showed up somewhat later. The second bird experience was where I was pretty sure there would be interesting birds — at the Medical Center Rookery. This Great Egret's lores are no longer green.
The rookery, where even ordinary birds are interesting. Note that the one Downy Young Great Egret is much larger than the other, who is probably the runt, and either its sibling(s) or its parents may push it out of the nest, probably to its death, although there are people who bring pushed-out runts to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation, which may be why they now request a one-hundred dollar donation with each injured bird brought to them. Then again, that lump to the right of this bigger, stronger sibling, may not be an egret, after all. But it sure looks like one.
Probably the most fun I had Saturday afternoon was photographing many of these birds flying. We'll get to that Photographing Rookery Birds Flying Practice later.
Of course, I hardly need to go to the Rookery for Black-crowned Night Herons. We got lots across the lagoon from The Old Boat House. And probably more places if I could see in the dark. But there seems to be more room for them to fly around in at the rookery, so we'll be seeing lots of flying birds — imagine that — here, soon.
Early Morning May 3
Last night was so lucky for getting new species I thought I should definitely show up the next morning, so I did. To less effect, perhaps. But there were birds I didn't recognize. Like this gull that, in the end, I decided it was just another Ring-billed gull. Oh, well.
This bird didn't even notice me, standing on the pier at Sunset Bay. I hoped she'd move much farther away, so I could get all of her in my frame, but she wasn't interested in anything but being right under my feet. So I photographed her there.
Always moving. I'm used to photographing birds that sometimes stop and pose just right. Not this one. Every movement was in her hurry.
Just perching there, most of them up on one foot.
That might be a head emerging from its feathered carapace. But those dots on its feathers remind me of the spots on a Yellow-crowned Night Heron. But nothing else seems to match. The little flying bird is, I believe, our little friend the Spotted Sandpiper.
Not exactly an example of 'heads up' behavior. More like a male Red-winged Blackbird up on its tippy toes looking around.
It could be the same one.
I remember chasing this little guy across the sky with no expectation whatsoever of capturing it. I always thought that when I captured a Mocker flying, I'd be able to see its white parts flicker. It doesn't.
The announcer was broadcasting loud enough to wake the dead. No wonder there weren't many birds.
I had just come home from the Memorial and Reception for George Boyd, and I was thinking about Avocets, because he had said that's the one bird he hadn't seen, and I knew they came to Sunset Bay sometimes, a couple of times in a short flock of them. So it wasn't a huge surprise to find one in Sunset Bay this lovely evening. Just one, and I never saw him come very close to the pier, but there he was. Seemed like a good, solid, cosmic coincidence.
I saw Katy swimming in that direction, and I thought it would be nice to have them both in the frame. I wasn't really planning a size comparison just two very interesting birds occupying similar circumstances, but the size comparison works pretty well, too. Of course I was shooting with a major telephoto, and as you may have noticed in baseball and other sports on TV, those things tend to enlarge what's in the background compared to what's in the foreground. Kinda like this. American Avocets are usually about 18 inches long and weigh 11 ounces, and Mute Swans are usually about 60 inches long and weigh 22 pounds, making Katy about 32 times the mass of the avocet I kept thinking of as large.
Fun watching the only avocet Ben and I saw that evening. We both wondered whether he was a scout for a flock. Both times I'd seen avocets in Sunset Bay, there were several, and they stayed awhile, and were much admired and photographed. Despite all the hoopla, I am hoping this one will tell its friends what a lovely place this is for avocets, and they will once again visit for awhile. We've also seen avocets at The Fort Worth Drying Beds, the Monterey Aquarium in California, the Lower Rio Grande Valley in deep south Texas, and Ben's seen them at right about this seams date in previous years at the Spillway.
Previous multiple-avocet visits to Sunset Bay that I've photographed
were 20+ bird in September 2008 (top of page) and 5 in May 2013.
Which experience would have been entirely enough, but it's spring, and all sorts of birds show up at White Rock Lake in spring. There was even a Bald Eagle last week, I'm not sure where, but somebody apparently got a good photograph of it, so my 14 seconds of photographing a Bald Eagle a few years ago is no longer the the only time one of those magnificent beasts has been photographed here. I haven't seen it, but I suspect it's a much better photo, too.
I believe this is the first time I've ever seen a Wilson's Phalarope. Anna and I have watched Red Phalaropes running mad circles in the water, usually in San Antonio, many times in many places.
Although I did know I had no idea what it was, and it didn't slow me down from photographing it a bit.
I've seen these guys so often, I almost knew who it was while I was still photographing it, although I had to check whether it was a Lesser or a Greater, and I had to be certain it really was a Yellowlegs, although even I knew it had yellow legs.
Or almost catching something.
We've either seen this exact same sandpiper earlier this week or one that looks almost identical.
Early May 2
Especially in early spring, Northern Mockingbirds flash their wings, then expect insects or whatever to come up out of the ground or from under something, so they can eat it. And just about every year at right about this time, I find a juvenile trying out the technique to more or less success. I never once saw this guy eat something, but its lack of success did not deter it in any way. It would walk a few paces, then flash, walk a few more and flash again and again.
It was still flashing when The Slider and I drove away. These shots were, as usual for me and flashing Mockingbirds, shot from the driver's side window as I followed a flashing Mockingbird up Winfrey Hill toward the circle and parking lot up there.
This is the first picture I made before arriving at the pier in Sunset Bay — and before laying my eyes on the solo American Avocet, the Wilson's Phalarope, the Lesser Yellowlegs and that Spotted Sandpiper.
There's an obituary for long-time White Rock Lake Bird Photographer George Boyd
on The Advocate site and an older story on the White Rock Lake Weekly site.
May 1 2014
Lots of great excuses for not getting any better a picture than this. We had just walked about two miles to get as close to the tower with the nest as was possible or legal (These guys are protected for hundreds of yard in a lot of directions), and we were tired and cranky. I didn't bring a tripod, because mine's heavy and clunky, and it was really too far to focus. I know, lame excuses. If I ever do it again, I'll bring a decent, new light tripod and a bunch of Off, some food and water, something to sit my weary bones on, and I'll stay awhile till they do something besides just stand there.
If you look carefully in the top photo, you might discern a juvenile standing near the top of its nest, behind the adult. It's got its beak open, and you can see the reflection off its left eye. Some of the tower's struts are sharp, and some aren't. The nest is almost sharp, which means so was the photographer. But I got a lot of other birds that day, too. Since the standing-up adult eagle was bisected by an angled strut from this viewpoint, I reluctantly went a little further to the next flat-top post somewhat to the left of this view, to park my cam and lens on the post to photograph the pix on the top of today's extravaganza.
Yeah, I know, Coots are everywhere.
I'm too tired and tired to look up these birds, although I doubt I even have a chance of identifying these birds. Maybe if I'd got the camera to focus when they were much closer, but ya' just can't have everything.
On the way to the "Stand Here for a pix of an eagle probably too far to be identified" place, I took lots of other pix. Even at noon, the place was rife with them. But clunking out to the nest photographing place, then clunking back is just the wrongest possible way to see or photograph birds or to enjoy JBSWC, which we did anyway.
Beautiful birds, and the woman at the center when we came back and needed to talk, seemed surprised I'd seen them. I was, too. There were at least five. I read in one bird I.D book or another that males have longer feet and longer bills, so this is very possibly two males and one female.
Whenever I leaned against something big and metal and probably not put where it was for me to lean on it, but it was helpful, so I did — I kept my camera ready just in case something like this hove into view.
This one looks very familiar. It may just be a Greater Yellowlegs.
Trudge, trudge. Getting there was farther than we'd walked in a while. Getting back — we took the scenic route — seemed to take forever. Anna said her phone was covered with pollen. So were my nasal passages. I sneezed and sneezed and sneezed. I'm still sneezing just past midnight the next day.
More Killdeer action when we get back to the John Bunker Sands center.
Was this beautiful bird. I'm guessing — since it looks a lot like it, except it had a white breast, and this one's striped, which they often do for mating and attracting purposes — it's a White-throated Sparrow. But it doesn't look quite like any of those in The Sibley Guide to Birds, Second Edition I got in the mail last month. So I'm still working on the identification of this one. And still hoping someone will come along and just tell me who this is.
In front of the John Bunker Sands Center. This was shot from the boardwalk crisscrossing through the swamp behind the center.
Even though, as often they do, this Killdeer parked its precious nest right up front of the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center building, right inside the JBSWC parking lot. The staff had obliged its simple-mindedness by posting two bright orange traffic cones, one on the left and one on the right of the Killdeer nest.
And we did not fall for the trick, but we did get as close as we could, so we could photograph the show.
I carefully panned my telephoto up and down, left and right over the area between the cones, but I did not discern anything resembling a bird nest, so I didn't take its photo till I drove The Slider very slowly across the crunching gravel parking lot, saw this Killdeer doing this, and photographed it, wondering how big the eggs were or even if there were any eggs yet. I figure it figured we weren't falling for its ploys to lead us away from its nest, so it might as well sit it.
We were very careful not to get close to the cone-delimited nest area, and it seemed, at last, to realize that. But then birds aren't afraid of cars, just of people.
I didn't even get out of The Slider on the two-lane highway. I just stuck the blunderbuss out the window and held it as still as I could firmly attached to my hand on the partially-raised driver's window, and clicked away for awhile. I thought it would be possible, but having done it, I wouldn't recommend it. It was stupid and dangerous, and it didn't get me any closer to the iggles than walking did, and most other views would be blocked by trees closer to the highway. It was just easier — and air-conditioned.