I am NOT a bird I.D expert. The Current Journal Cameras Used Ethics Feedback Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat forum Bird Rescue Info What to do if you find a baby bird. Herons Egrets Heron or Egret? Books & Links Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelks Playing Catch Birds Rousing Courtship Displays attempted murder of a House Sparrow Birding Galveston 2015 & 2013 The 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds & the 1st Bald Eagles here Banding Info Coyotes 800e Journal G5 Journal JRCompton.com: Links resumé Contact DallasArtsRevue So you want to use my photos to make your project look better, but you don't want to pay me? How to Photograph Birds Birding Places: The Med School Rookery Village Creek Drying Beds White Rock Lake
MAY's Best Pix: Katy's gone & when a Mute Swan showed in nearby Irving, Texas, we got pix of both swans [below] with Kelly's pix of Katy [in April] for you to decide if they are the same swan. Roseate Spoonbills Flying; Nest with Downy Young Red-shouldered Hawks and One of the Same Young Birds later; FOS Scissor-tailed Flycatchers; Downy Young Canada Geese by Kala King; Reddish Egret Hunting & a pair of Caracaras; the First Screech Owls ever photographed at White Rock was discovered by Anna Galvan.
226 photographs so far this month
Our Trip to Haggerman
Posted May 30 2016
Many birds were elusive this day. Many others were either invisible or just not there.
I still know some birds that I don't see very often.
And these guys, close or far, are pretty obvious.
I should know these birds, too. Looks like at least two species, but I never know.
This is an old friend. I love Killdeer.
I keep being surprised by seeing American White Pelicans well past when they usually fly away from Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake. So I keep photographing them in ones and twos and manys.
Great Egrets are in abundance everywhere in Texas I've seen birds so far, except dead by the side of the road in South Texas, where we once found three different varieties of dead owls, one whose only damage was its head, so we learned a lot by looking at that body, how owls fly quiet.
No idea who they are, but they were beautiful, so they qualified for inclusion here. Anna says they are a variety of "Purple Horsemint."
When we first saw these guys, they were spatting, but I seriously overexposed all those and only got the exposure down right when they backed off and just stood there in that extended tree bramble.
A second American White Pelican surprise.
About the commonest bird around.
But I've long strove to catch one jumping into the air, and this must be it.
Never figured out exactly who this was, but I couldn't get it all in one telephoto shot, so I shot it twice and had Photoshop merge them together into this. Sure wish I could present it to you all a lot bigger but this is it.
So I'm calling it a female RWBB, whether it is or it isn't, just to set up the next pic down. Which was taken somewhere else entirely.
Love me some jump birds pix.
Anna knew, and I didn't think I cared, except the flood kept us from easily accessing the other side where we usually find so many beautiful and interesting birds, except when we had to go all the way around the park to get to the birds on the other side, we got hopelessly lost and disgruntled, so we eventually drove on home instead. By then it had sprinkled a couple times and eventually we got real rain.
But first we wandered J R Style around mostly lost but who cares in and around Sherman, Texas where we stayed. I kept missing the bigger birds I love so much, but when I saw a flock of gray birds swoop into these brambly trees on the side of the road around someone's trash pile, I slowed to a stop and zoomed in.
Anna saw this guy, and I eased The Slider in close.
This is probably the best of the bunch. I assume it's a House or some other closely-related Sparrow, but what do I know?
Yeah, we noticed right away this was not a bird. But we passed this cow and the ones she hangs out with close-in on the way into Haggerman Wildlife Refuge, and Anna loved her beautiful eyelashes, and I like her lovely eyebrows, so since I was on that side, I photographed her.
We were just driving around, and generally when we do that we tend toward the lower class neighborhoods, because rich folk have so much less taste and tend to block mere drivers-down-streets' views of their lifestyles. This is right there in the full public and open. The one other similarly dilapidated home that we just loved, had, as the outer shell of its façade an assortment of materials including, in vertical display reading, part of a huge political sign spelling out some pol's name in huge black on white letters running vertically. I sure wish we would have taken its pix, too. I shot this out the driver's side window of The Slider with Anna's iPhone, which didn't have much of a zoom, but held up well when I cropped it.
Honoring the Black-crowned Night-Heron who started yesterday's shoot
Posted on the Evening of May 26 2016
I promised I'd post these pix of the Black-crowned Night-Heron who led me to start taking pix of it on The Lower Steps yesterday (Wednesday May 25, 2016) — thus getting all the pix that are just below, although at that time I did not deem the pix I got of the Black-crown to be all that worthy. But I promised the Universe, so here they are.
Mild, unassuming little, supposedly nocturnal (that, too — but this was shot at 11-something in the morning. Early for some of us. Either very early or pretty late for a nocturnal bird. But it was probably hungry. That's generally why birds gather at the lower steps at the bottom of The Spillway.
When the water is moving fast, it includes a lot of fish who just happened to be there when the water they were swimming in dropped over the dam and down past whatever birds were up there, down to the pool behind the Black-crowned Night-Heron above, then bump-bump-bump (like Winnie-the_Poo down the stairs.
Sometimes the stairs are the best place to catch fish. Often a better place is where the water makes a sudden, splashing, swirling turn to the left at the concrete slant, then slushes past whatever birds are lined up along the slant. From there, the water sluices down into one of maybe about a dozen White Rock Creeks in Dallas.
This White Rock Creek goes under the Walking Bridge, then under the automobile bridge, both at or on Garland Road, then it journeys east toward elevated I-30, where it goes under, then beyond. But it's got the most fish when it swirls through this area — and the most power. Birds wait for the power to subside, hoping there's still some fish in there, too.
I love those two white occipital plumes rakishly curving down over its shoulder — or blowing in the wind. I have so many favorite birds, it's hard to remember them all, but this is one. Handsome little critter. 23 - 26 inches long with a wingspan of about 3.5 feet. Small compared with Great Egrets or Great Herons. About the same size, but with a slightly differing configuration of colors than the Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, which we will soon be seeing many of.
Alas, the BCNH did not do anything amazing or noteworthy that Wednesday afternoon. I'm lucky to have found these five halfway decent shots
It's not a chase, it's just a coincidence. BCNH traveling, Great Egret landing.
Today's characters include one Snowy Egret (with black beak and legs and yellow lores and feet). Snowies are smaller and feistier than Great Egrets who usually have yellow lores and beaks, legs and feet. Breeding adult Snowy Egrets as seen somewhat down this page, often have red lores (the surface on each side of a bird's head between the eye and the upper base of the beak), but everything else stays the same, except the head and tail feathers).
Another difference is that Snowy Egrets are amazing fisher birds. I watched this one stick its beak in and pull out a fish over and over and over again today.
The Great Blue Heron, who also plays a part in today's shenanigans, is not a big white bird. It's a big gray to blueish bird, who only really looks bluish in shade and sometimes in the sky.
You'll immediately recognize the Great Blue Heron, because it's so different from these other big white birds.
Wherever it was, whenever and whatever it was up to, a Snowy Egret will catch fish after fish after fish. The only bird I've seen who's even in its class is a Little Blue Heron, whom we will probably see at either The Lower Steps or up closer to the dam along the Upper Spillway. Soon. Maybe in a month or two. I'd like to watch a competition between Snowies and Little Blues. That'd be amazing, assuming either one would play fair and not run off the other bird.
The Great Egret is bigger than the littler Snowy and Cattle egrets. The Great Blue Heron, when fully grown, is bigger than a Great Egret, who is bigger than all our (North Central Texas) other egrets.
And here's the back of a juvenile Great Blue Heron chasing our speedy little fisher-bird, the Snowy Egret. It's already bigger than the Snowy, but it will get bigger and better balanced and with more practice, the GBH (Great Blue Heron) will not slip so easily in the slime near the bottom of the concrete slant.
This juvenile GBH is mostly angry with the Snowy, because the Snowy keeps finding the best possible places to catch fish, then the Snowy just hauls them in, fish after fish after fish. While I photographed them today, I have pix of the Snowy catching 11 different, mostly smallish fish, and I also photographed some other birds. And the juvenile GBH, who will grow to be smarter and more careful, and much bigger, will also, when it's older and bigger, catch bigger fish than the little ones the Snowy catches so easily now. But the Great Blue will never be that great a fisher. This is, more than anything else a vent-its-frustration chase.
One of the great lessons this Lower Steps area has for juvenile Great Blue Herons is about going up concrete slants, slime or no slime. IThe only birds I've ever seen fall in the slime on the slant have been young GBHs and a Tricolored Heron, but we don't get many Tricolors at White Rock, although a few will show up later this summer.
These fights are all just for show. I've never seen blood let in any egret or heron fight. Those fights and chases are often more elegant than this one, involving birds who seem to float and fly like ballet, but this is just a pretty basic chase. Who wins is who manages to get back from the chase to where it really wanted to stand and catch fish.
But the GBH here probably hasn't figured that out yet. And the Snowy doesn't care, because almost wherever it stands, it will be able to catch many more fish than almost any other bird.
I'm sorry I didn't give our juvenile GBH here a little more room in the camera frame for its toenails, although I am delighted how well this photo turned out otherwise. The big trick here was to keep my finger on the shutter button and keep focus on the bird. Exposure that allows us to see the texture in the frothing water is also helpful, but it's a little easier with dark birds on white foam.
Kala King, who often correctly identifies birds for me here believes this is not a juvenile, but I do, and to do that I used David Allen Sibley's GBH paintings in his The Sibley Guide to Birds (Vol I — I can't find my Vol. II right now.) My i.d has to do with the juvenile GBH configuration of no-white on its face; its eyes are set back on the side of its head like juveniles are; then there's its inexperience with slime on the bottom of The Slant; as well as its overall in-general inexperience; and that its epaulets are pinkish, not orange. But I could be wrong, easy.
Meanwhile, some more recent-arriving Great Egrets have taken to flying around in circles for many of the same reasons the GBH was chasing the Snowy.
Who arrived first in my couple hours of watching the action from the Walker's Bridge over The Lower Steps (There's also an automobile bridge a few yards away along Garland Road, where I often slow down to see if there's any egret or heron action on the Lower Steps themselves.) Maybe we'll get to the Black-crowned Night-Heron tomorrow or the next day. I got plenty of pix of it doing not much really, but if more Black-crowns show up, it could be more exciting.
I love Snowy Egrets for their speed, fish-catching ability and feistiness.
I figured by now the Red-shouldered Hawks I photographed earlier this, mid last month and the month before [links just below] would have flown away and started new lives by now, but I was wrong. They're still around the nest and still have not flown. Which I discovered by driving by another photographer pointing his lens straight up into the tree I've become accustomed to shooting.
Nice action shot, huh? But my camera and lens have much better far vision than I do, and I see the bird but I really could not see what it was doing most of the time. I just kept shooting when it faced down at me and hoped for the best. Which it pretty much delivered.
I'd stopped and asked the guy who set up and shooting a short series of questions, and when he wasn't entirely forthcoming, I turned The Slider around and brought cam and tripod over near where he was shooting. He told me his name at least a half dozen times, insisting that even though he knew I was a photographer, I should visit his Facebook page "to see the whole story."
I have face- and name-blindness, and if I don't write somebody's name down, that info goes into the long-lost crannies of my mind to stay unless I see and talk with them several times on different occasions, and apparently I misunderstood what he repeatedly told me, anyway. But since I've been photographing this young family since shortly after Kelly (I think) discovered it, I didn't pay him much heed. He also bragged about knowing where an eagle's nest was close, but he wouldn't say where or how to access it.
He said ne parent was in the tree, but I never saw it or the other, more adventuresome juvenile. I quickly set up, started shooting, then when I'd got 42 more or less easy shots, split, to join Kala somewhat south of there, where she'd found some Orioles, whom I saw a couple times, but I wasn't quick enough to capture. This time. I was very pleased with these shots.
For somebody's party at Winfrey probably this evening.
New Pix from a yet another trip to The SW Med School Rookery
Posted May 24 2016
I keep going back trying to isolate specific species of herons. This trip — and the next trip, too, it turns out was devoted to finding pix of Snowy Egrets, which I found exactly none of, so this time I settled for Black-crowned Night Herons. Which aren't at all unusual at the SW Med School Rookery [See my map.], except that pix of their juvenile are always a challenge.
But this time I stumbled into one that was not hidden behind a forest of trees.
Being young, some juvenile BCNHs tend to be ready and willing to explore just about anything. And some are not.
I just liked this shot. Eyes sharp. Orange tail plumage very visible but not floating.
I was the first to photograph a Tri-colored Heron [link just above] at the SW Med School Rookery, except I thought it was a Great Blue Heron, so I missed the opportunity to be listed on Jim Peterson's site. Later, Anna and I often photographed a particularly obvious nest that was occupied by growing young and adult Tricolors, so I have nearly every stage of their development documented on my Herons page. My 'first' shot of a Triclolor and pix at various stages of their development are all on my Herons page at the link above under this photo.
Anna Galvan photographed this owl family then showed several other birders, including me. I did not discover them, their nest, nor their fledglings. She did. And although this is a more than adequate shot of one of the fledglings, my other photos leave much to be desired, but Anna sent me her shots that were made before it got so dark up under that tree. I rarely use my camera's flash, so I rarely have to deal with red-eyes, but I mostly disappeared the red caused, because my on-camera, direct flash was the only way I could expose it correctly in the coming darkness.
Anna said this was the first Screech Owl and Screech Owl Family seen at White Rock Lake. I'm just glad I was standing around Sunset Beach photographing birds you'll see when we get past the Screech Owls in today's journal entry, all photographed Sunday, May 22. This photo shows this owl's much more natural colorings, even if it's squinting its eyes. But at least it's got ears. More of Anna's photographs of Nature can be seen on Anna's Photo Journal.
All I could see was a gray lump of indeterminate detail. On this shot, I was able to coax my camera to focus on that tiny bird. On my other shot, it did not, so I'm not showing you it.
Instead we have Anna Galvan's shot of it in brighter daylight.
Now, we'll loop back in time to earlier that Sunday May 22 when I first visited White Rock looking for the rumored Mandarin Duck that I never did see that day, although I've seen and photographed it many other times. I identified this correctly the first time. Then for a long time, I wanted to to be a Snowy Egret, but it is not.
By the time we got back to Sunset Beach, there was even less light there, too. Only three Canada Gooses are left. I think they started with six.
The part of these kind of photographs I like best are the little globules of water splashed into the air on impact.
Yeah, he's more colorful.
I used to always get confused by these birds that arrive in hoards in early spring, but this year I did not. I wanted to, but I kept in the rein.
By now, regular readers know I think the female of the species is far more beautiful, even if the males have more colors.
Now that we've got the really important shots out of the way, I'll show you some of the pix I shot the first time I came out to the lake this Sunday, hoping to photograph the Mandarin Duck, which apparently came up on shore late last evening, but did not come back this afternoon or this evening to my direct knowledge.
Today's shots are definitely not in any kind of chronological order. They're just here.
Truly handsome couple. And soon, I assume, we'll see a bunch of Wood Duck Pairs trailing a dozen or more downy young, then pretty soon thereafter, some rangy-looking young juveniles we often call "teenagers."
Egret Dinner Time @ The SW Med School Rookery
Posted mid-day May 22 2016
Usually when I visit the SW Med School Rookery [Here's my map of it with species notes and suggestions], I walk up the sidewalk from the three-car visitor's lot — if there's a slot open (If there isn't, I find a place along the street, which is what a campus cop told me to do a long time ago.), then either go right or left around the whole rookery, taking pictures of whatever I see all around.
I didn't feel like walking this day, because I especially wanted to photograph birds growing up. And one of the better ways for them to grow is to eat, and at this tender young age, they can't feed themselves, so a parental unit feeds them. Kinda like this:
I wanted to photograph whichever species I could find easily by standing with my tripoded camera between the memorial garden wall and the rookery — right up front.
It may not be entirely obvious what's going on in this series of photographs, but every once in a while, a large Great Egret will appear on the left-most of this branch and feed its no-longer downy-young progeny who quickly join the fray.
In a Great Egret nest there's always competition for food, so usually there's several birds fighting for direct access to the parental unit. After awhile of shooting, that dangling branch that was more in the middle became an annoyance, and I gradually moved left, so it would move right, although it doesn't really bother me that much anymore.
The front face of the rookery is mostly occupied by Great Egrets, including the trees directly over my head when I shot these. I often look up to make sure I am not directly under a nest or perching bird, because bird scat is one of my least favorite fashion accoutrements. So far, in the last ten years or so, I've only been scat upon once, and then only on my left shoulder. Once burnt, learnt.
I hope these introductory images aren't too repetitive. I chose them from many, many more. As usual. I shot 361+ images on this couple hours of shooting. That's a little higher than usual, but it was the rookery, and I've never kept site-specific statistics.
She or he goes off, finds food, partially swallows and partially digests, then brings it back to feed her young. Youth on the left wants, but youth on the right is getting fed. Whoever is getting fed is somewhat ecstatic. Whoever isn't, desperately needs to be.
Sometimes it's very difficult to tell exactly what's going on. When the parent came with food, I started clicking, and after she or he left, I stopped. While a food-laden parent is in sight, I just kept shooting. Sometimes the parent had to lean back to hack up more food for whichever juvenile was most demanding at the moment. It's the kits who really decide who gets the most food, because it's the strongest ones who survive. And yes, sometimes they are utterly ruthless, pushing their siblings out of the nest.
Of course, the feeding went on an on, but after awhile, I tired of the Bright White Ballet of Great Egrets feeding and set out a few feet farther left to find other species. I was especially hopeful of finding Snowy Egrets, but I quickly settled instead for vividly-colored Cattle Egrets:
Visiting the SW Med School Rookery
Posted May 21 2016
I was especially hopeful of finding Snowy Egrets, but I quickly settled for vividly-colored Cattle Egrets. Usually meek and mild in behavior and countenance, Cattle Egrets in lust are much more colorful and combative.
It does look a little like one body with two heads, but it is of course, two with one each — heads, set of wings, etc.
Way more action than I bargained for.
I need to figure out where the Snowy Egrets hang out and just photograph them. I found this in my Lone Pine Birds of Texas: "Egrets are named after the silky breeding plumes — aigrettes — that most species produce during courtship. The aigrettes of a Great Egret can grow up to 4.5 feet long."
But the Cattle Egrets were also easy to find, just a little deeper into the forest that is the SW Med School Rookery, with Great Egrets all around. I generally had to wait awhile for Cattle Egrets to raise their crowns.
They look rather ordinary, though red-headed with it down, and remarkable when it's up. Like every other feather on their body, they can move these whenever they want.
I've often seen an ordinary-looking Cattle Egret, suddenly become about a foot taller, when the feathers on its crown go up.
It was right about here that I drove to the top of the Free Parking Garage on the South side of the Rookery itself. And from there I always hope I can photograph Anhingas Flying, and there were a couple opportunities for that, also.
These two rear views are of the same bird escaping into the forest. I enlarged both of them, but I enlarged this one a whole lot more. Being almost in focus helped.
And I had hoped to photograph more Ibis than I had in recent Rookery visits, and that happened, too. The best perch I've found for that is from the top of the free parking garage, across the street from the rookery. Many, many birds fly by, though a good telephoto really helps.
With some diversity. Sometimes and from some angles, the sky looked blue. Nice thing about shooting from up there, is that, depending upon where one stands, it's possible to shoot in any of the directions.
But I usually hide in the shadow of the elevator hutch on the rookery side of the top floor. My guess is that birds can't see me as well in shadow as they can in bright, blazing sunlight. That theory has held me in good stead, even in places other than the rookery, and I don't want to know if it's simply not true.
I first saw this bird on the rail around the top floor of the free parking garage, but those images were just it standing there. Eventually, it flew off. Then I noticed it atop a nearby tree, and I was just honing in on another ordinary perched shot, when it began to take off.
A Tale of Two Cameras
Posted May 19 2016
My regular birding camera is a big, full-frame Nikon dSLR almost always with a 300mm lens with a 1.7X extender = right about 500mm. It's what I use to photograph birds, and it's what I'm using for these top eight pix in today's journal.
The cam is high resolution and the lens is sharp.
And it's quick. I kept seeing this bird cross my line of view, but wasn't always able to catch up with it, at first. But I kept waiting for it to reappear, and it did. It wasn't simple as click, but click I did repeatedly, and I got it — sideways and …
Going away. Going away was easier to photograph, but it kept getting smaller. Then it did not reappear.
A nice thing about the Nikon is that when I push the shutter button, it goes off nanoseconds later. My littler camera takes its sweet time, by when the birds are often somewhat different.
These feel experimental, but making them was what I've been practising for for months and years.
This is the last of today's shots photographed with my big Nikon. Sometimes I can tell the differences. Sometimes I cannot.
This is the first shot in today's Bird Journal that was shot with my other camera, a Panasonic Lumix GX8, that I use for family and art and art opening pix.
Today's experiment was to use that little Panasonic (Pany) micro four-thirds camera to photograph birds. It's great advantage is that it's significantly smaller and lighter than my Nikon. It also shows the actual exposure through the viewfinder, which I usually use outside in daylight — and through the LCD on the back. So I can adjust the exposure while I'm looking at whatever I'm photographing. I can make the image darker or lighter or change the White Balance, etc.
The main drawback of the little camera is that it is very slow (comparatively) to focus and does not 'track' focus when I'm following a flying, fast-running or even swimming bird. Essentially, the GX8 is an amateur camera with greater ambitions but lesser features.
I thought it would be a giant leap forward from my Pany G5, but I wonder whether I should just have gone for the slightly more expensive G7 instead of the doubled price of the GX8. If the subject holds relatively slow, no problem. But if it moves fast, it's either hopeless, or I need a lot more practice.
Still, it has its qualities. And sometimes I use it for birds, almost always later wishing I had not. My car's not red, and it's not particularly slow, but it is called The Slider, after these turtles.
I think birds think they are invisible to us when they perch on the struts outside the railings.
Visiting to See if this Swan is Katy, but that's still controversial
Posted May 18 2016 — Now with reader's note about Katy.
The plan was to visit Centennial Park and see if the Mute Swan reported to be there was "our own" Katy. I'd been there before, so it was relatively easy to find the park, and then I saw this Great Egret down on the edge first, and had to photograph it.
It's a bird, so I got as close to it as I could and tried to follow its trajectory wherever it flew. But much farther down the right shore was a big, white blob of swan. It really could not have been anything else.
I approached it kindly and gently, just as I had so often approached Katy at Sunset Bay. I still don't know if this swan was the same swan as the one we all knew so well from White Rock. But it was a swan. And it was close.
And I kept getting closer till I could fill my wide-angle frame with swan, who did not seem at all interested in escaping. So just as I had so often approached Katy at Sunset Bay, I sneaked closer and closer and closer to this swan.
This one's feet were dark gray with tan sorta outlines, and I remembered people talking about how black Katy's feet were, but I don't remember much about those feet, so I figured I'd look carefully at Kelly's photos of Katy published here after Katy had been gone from Sunset Bay long enough it looked like she wouldn't be coming back. Those feet look pretty much the same as these, but I never once had any real sense that this was the same swan as Katy.
"I studied the photos of the swan you went to see at Centennial Park, but it does not look like Katy to me. For one, this swan has a more prominent bump at the top of the beak than Katy did, indicating it is probably a male. I don't see why Katy would change her "home," It was probably just her time to go. Swans can live up to 35 years.
Then Kala King joined the fray:
Kala says, "I have attached a portrait I took of Katy, and you can see the bump on the beak is exactly the same as the swan you photographed (in Irving). I could not find any differences in your swan and the photos I had of Katy. It is possible that most mute swans look alike."
According to Stanley Park Swans that raises swans in Vancouver, Canada:
How to recognize a male from a female swan: Male and female look alike, but if you look carefully, you can tell one from the other:
The Swans of Stanley Park's site also includes pages about How and What Our Swans Eat and How to Treat the Swans, which includes the caveat, Never try to touch them. They're not domestic birds, and don't relate to touch. And Never bring a dog near swans.
- Males are larger than females;
- The knob at the base of the male's upper bill is larger than the female's knob. By the way, it's this knob that distinguishes the mute swan from all others;
- The neck of a male is thicker than the neck of a female
I'd photographed this young family on the way to the mystery swan at Centennial, so on the way back to The Slider, I paused to fill my frame again.
Back to the Rookery on another Cloudy Cool Day
Posted May 16 2016
Wish I could have seen more heads popped up, but this is what I got for my first shot this also cloudy but cool day, last Saturday morning at the SW Med School Rookery. The adult's throat is expanded, probably because it's taken in food to distribute to its young nestlings.
No telling how it came to be that this fairly healthy-looking young bird got dangled off a nest in plain sight to anybody who walked by on the official rookery path around, but there it was, slowly twisting in the wind. I'm assuming it's a juvenile, because besides the wings, its dangling parts seem only partly grown. If one gets caught where no other egret can help, this often happens in a rookery.
Yes, juveniles are usually young, but these two are unusually young and may not yet have flown — they call it "unfledged." I don't know; I'm no expert, but I'm a pretty good amateur. As of next month, I will have been doing this Amateur Birder's Journal for ten years, and I'm having way too much fun still doing it to quit anytime soon.
I guess I just liked this shot.
Actually, I photographed it twice, but this is the far-better shot. The other one only showed its eye in all that thick foliage.
Still many, many, many Cattle Egrets at the rookery, although I have not seen the extreme breeding colors and mohawk-like crests raised as I have previously.
I've not seen any book or other info source that shows any breeding change in the looks of either Black-crowned or Yellow-crowned Night-Herons. Black-crowneds breed publicly and with other species, as here. Yellow-crowns do not. And the only Yellow-crowned rookery I've ever seen was in the Upper Lakewood neighborhood not far from the lake.
But I only saw it, when it was being carefully and systematically removed and destroyed by the home-owner behind a fancy fenced-in yard in Upper Lakewood. I'm sure he — and probably his whole family and all their neighbors — were tired and quite literally sick, of it. Though it is rightfully illegal to destroy a wild-bird rookery, all of which I only found out much later.
At the time, alas! I didn't even photograph it. But I distinctly remember him wielding a saw to cut down blighted limbs.
My precious Lone Pine Birds of Texas goes into great detail about these birds' mating ritual and how they protect their salt-sensitive young by rooking near salt-less water sources, which we in inland Texas have nearly no issue with. I suspect many books and info sites will have to change slightly to somewhat when the world finally realizes that Climate Change is real and is here already — and that former coastal birds have escaped northward where it might be a tad cooler and less salty.
Here, I wanted to show you the full White Ibis as here, but I also wanted to explain about nictitating membranes, which I go into at length under the next pic.
Enlarged more and with nictitating membrane across its eye. The best info with the most bird pix I found online was 10,000 Birds' What Is A Nictitating Membrane," which vividly and close-upedly shows the whole story, although it states that Black Vultures are on no one's list of attractive birds," which is just plain wrong, because I love Black Vultures and think they are very handsome, but then so do I think Turkey Vultures (TVs) are.
But TVs Rock! And by that, I mean that you can always tell a Turkey Vulture in flight, even if they're too far to identify normally, because they rock back and forth when they fly.
Well, all birds jump pretty much like this, with body extended and wings up to catch all the air they can. I suspect it thought I was spending too much time concentration on it. If I'd been paying more attention to focus, I might have got more than just its face in focus. Which allowed me to notice that for full flight, it got its eyes wide open.
When I worked at Joel Cooner Gallery of Tribal Art in Dallas, I was always careful to provide many views of each three-dimensional objet d'art. I kept that part-time job ten years — the longest employment of my life, except this site and DallasArtsRevue.com, although the gallery job paid better.
But out in the wild, I have no control whatsoever of what I see or what positions they get into. I just keep shooting.
It looks close, but it's really the same distance as the Ibis family six pix up. I had to look it up in my trusty Second-Edition of Sibley's Guide to Birds, my standard for bird Identification. I often quote from my Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, but it doesn't ever show all the different ages and morphs and sexes like the standard that is the Sibley's.
In it, Sibley explains that Juvenile White Ibises (the correct plural form of Ibis, even though I often call them all Ibi). Sibley dates "Young juvenile" as June-July, even if it's only May here in hotter Texas. Juveniles are July-December, and they have more prominently orange, instead of brown, beak and legs.
Sibley notes under his drawing of the Juvenile that the "white feathers appear on back beginning December," and there's a "gradual molt to white adult plumage" its "first summer (Mar-August)." And today, after this close reading, is the first time I've understood the differences. I wonder whether my elderly mind can hold that in, as few Ibises as I ever see here or down on The Coast.
I got its feet in focus, but the rest of it was moving too fast. It probably carefully chose that particular shape for its length and shape, thus probability it will work well in its nest..
& elsewhere on the Internet, there's Live Bird & Animal Cams
One Pelican!, two Green Herons, at least 16 Blue-winged Teal, a couple dozen Cattle Egrets, several Northern Shovelers, Some Wood Ducks & a pair of noisy Hairy Woodpeckers — all tribute to Sunset Bay's amazing bird diversity
Posted May 14 2016
Our usual contingent of American White Pelicans arrived in September and left in early April, just a week or so earlier than their usual annual habit. So I was amazed to see this bird flying high over Sunset Bay the pleasant, cool morning of Friday, May 13. It flew up and down, over and around. I assumed it was looking for something…
They flew in, then swam out somewhat west of the Pier at Sunset Bay whereupon I stood with my trusty tripod.
These guys swam right to left across in front of the pier.
One of many Cattle Egrets I saw this morning, although it's fairly rare that they attend White Rock Lake. They seemed to be heading off east somewhere.
I missed the Wood Ducks taking off this morning. I was just too slow. But there was much more light when this one flew me over.
It was obviously heading for Sunset Beach, so I followed it over there and set up and waited. I'd been thinking about Green Herons on my drive to the lake this morning, never quite realizing how early (compared to my usual afternoon visits) I was. I didn't expect to see one today, I was just wondering when they would come. The used to wait till it got really hot, but today was downright pleasant.
FOS = First of Season
More Cattle Egrets.
I like this setting. It looks like it must be somewhere else.
I've heard this or another very similar woodpecker hammering that very tree in the last month. I've stared up at that three and could not find the hammerer. This time I saw it or its mate up there interchangeably. This is the best shot of thirty or forty attempts.
If any read, only a small patch of it on the back of its head. Neither of these two woodpecker configurations agrees with any of Sibley's images of woodpeckers, so I'm hesitant to name them. Hairy or Downy is my guess, but I don't know which. Although I don't mind being corrected, which is a good thing, because I often need to be.
Now, here's a truly strange little bird. Called a Green Heron, even if no part of it is actually green. My Lone Pine Birds of Texas says, "The word virescens, Latin for "growing or becoming green," refers to this birds transition from a streaky brown juvenile to a greenish adult." Do you see anything green here?
According to Audubon.com's Green Heron page,"The "green" on this bird's back is an iridescent color, and often looks dull bluish or simply dark." I shot this bird through a fairly tall tree it was at the top of.
This is my today's favorite Green Heron photograph, which looks like a whole 'nother species than most of the pictures above, including the one of it flying flat out past the pier at Sunset Bay. It took me awhile to find a better viewpoint, but this is definitely it.
Another Cloudy Visit to the SW Med School Rookery
Posted May 13 2016
Didn't really pay much attention to the weather before I left. Nothing I could do about it, except increase the ISO and set the White Balance to Cloudy.
But shooting in dark that dark restricted my successful photos mostly to trees without many leaves, and some of those shots had way too high ISOs.
There were a lot of Cattle Egrets at the Rookery today. I saw a few Little Blue Herons and the usual high number of Great Egrets, even the spare two or three Ibis and dozen or so Anhinga, but the place was mobbed with Cattle Egrets.
Sure wish I could have got its head.
After nearly ten years of this Amateur Birder's Journal, I am still fascinated by the finery of Great Egrets' nuptial plumes.
The mildness of the season so far helped keep the number of dead juvenile Great Egrets way down — well, that and the fact that many birds who expect to raise two juveniles, hatch three eggs, just to make sure. The weakest juvenile often gets pushed out of the nest — either by the parents or the dominant juvenile. In terrible hot summers, it sometimes seems the place is upholstered in dead bodies. I've often seen them hanging from the trees.
At first I thought it might be a bug. Then maybe some leaves. Now I favor the latter, but as often, I just don't know.
I was hoping to find some other nests, including Little Blue Herons
I was watching carefully, and I hoped they'd be feeding the kits, but I really think they adults are just tending the nest, and that one downy young Great Egret is hungry.
I call her Mom. Not sure what they call her, if they're even that advanced yet. They are tiny, and it was a booger to get any of them in focus, let alone all four, but this shot comes close. All were shot from my usual cam and lens and tripod, but still, the birds were so small in the full frame [See just below.], focusing was very difficult. The one downy young who was most often visible behind the swaying branches and leaves was the one at far left here — right behind that twig that stole focus from way too many shots today.
My current lens kit takes me to just at or slightly over 500mm @ f5.4, I think. 800mm might help. A thousand would help more. We were photographing with a guy who had his camera attached to a Celestron Astro telescope, and the images he kept showing on his LCD looked a lot better than these, but LCDs lie with impunity, adding all that contrast that's not really there. So who knows. Neither do I know whose foot that is just above the center of this shot.
I tried auto-focus, of course. And manual focus, neatly forgetting after several shots that I hadn't adjusted it lately or switched back to auto, but those resulting shots were about as in or out of focus as the rest, so I'll probably never know. I assume this is the first-hatched chick on the left, because it was the biggest and most active. It's got spots on its back — about where it's wings are or soon will be, but I suppose those could have been smudged-on from something in the nest.
The one on the left is stretching its barely knitted-with-flight-feathers-yet wings — if what I think I see is really what I'm seeing — the beginnings of wings and flight feathers.
This nest has usually been much easier to see and thereby focus on than it was today, because it took awhile to grow all that green and put it in my way. I've been watching this downy young hawk's parental units since about March 18 this year, checking it every couple days, because I'd got nice, easy shots of both parents well before the tree filled out with branches and leaves. Then I visited the more active nest again April 19, so I feel kinda like a friend of the family.
I hadn't checked closely enough last week, although I slow down through there and try to see what I can see, which hasn't been much. Like another of our merry band today, I had wondered whether the nest had been abandoned. I had heard of a Cooper's nest not terribly far away that had been. But it had not.
To illustrate what sort of enlargement these shots took, here's the full frame from where I stood to photograph today's young hawk family. All these shots have this framing, then are just blown way up. The nest is probably the easiest thing to find in this shot that I took when the blowing branches opened to let us see it, since it's at or just a little lower than the dead center of this image. The two white young and the striped brown adult female are on top of the nest. It helps to start with a really sharp lens on a solid tripod — and luck and that patience I used to didn't think I had any of.
Kala King's pic of Muscovy Ducklings
Posted May 9 2016
According to Kala King, "I was at [Cottonwood park in Richardson] this [Monday] morning, found four families and then two more babies by themselves with no parent in sight. And one mom sitting eggs. I like to go there once each May since they are the only breeding Muscovies near by that I am aware of. I like how the babies look different from each other. You get a nice mix."
Visiting the SW Medical School Rookery
Posted May 7 2016
When I shot this, all I saw was the standing egret. Upon the close appraisal necessary to work up this photo I noticed another Great Egret close by and under. It's probably sitting the nest. I really like the natural framing here.
I assume that like cats, dogs and other varmints, birds don't sweat, so they do this. But I'm just guessing. I asked Bird Chat, but I got zero replies.
I always wondered about that possibility. But neither of the kits look at all remorseful. But they never do.
There's so many Cattle Egret in some places, it's difficult to tell who is with whom. So I didn't call them a pair. There's just two of them. And my telephoto lens sometimes put one and one together, even if the farther one is a little out of focus here.
Nice to see a juvenile White Ibis. I don't think I've seen one before, but every time I write that this, that or the other was my first-ever sighting, I eventually learn that it wasn't, but now Google has withdrawn this site's site-specific search engine, so I cannot easily find out, so we'll just leave it at that.
Handsome critters. I've seen more Cattle Egrets at White Rock Lake this year than ever before. But there were the usual number at the rookery.
For every bird who can be photographed in an open tree away from the confusion of leaves and other birds, there's dozens of birds in visual confusing places. So photographers go for what's easy, even if it does look waay better.
I believe this is the same tree as the earlier shot with this adult and its juvenile, even though time had passed between my two photos of it. Today's order is once again strictly chronological, and I think I really lucked out having the pair or Great Egrets at the top of today's journal entry, since nesting is what a rookery is all about.
I saw not a single Ibis on the ground. Just in — I think — only this one tree and the air above the rookery.
And I saw more Anhingae than I've in awhile. I'd hope to catch one in a nest, but Anhingas is the reason I visited the rookery today. I'd clicked on A Year Ago atop this journal entry (Almost every monthly entry has one; and I'm slowly fixing the ones that go somewhere else).
Over wherever I was standing at the time. I walked all the way around the rookery, and climbed the stairs to the walk-up stairs to the fourth — I think floor — of a parking building and photographed bird from various points up there for quite a while, and later I drove The Slider up the free-parking building on the other side of the street from The Rookery.
Sometimes it's possible to dredge up some light from under a wing when the sun is on the other side of the bird flying by. And sometimes it's just not. I never once today saw Little Blue Herons anywhere but flying. Not on the ground. Not in the trees, and when I photographed them up there, most of the time I didn't even know who they were. I just thought they must be somebody else.
It's just so amazing when I do get a bunch of birds in flight, especially these one who are at what I'd call "a great distance," I just have to show them to you all.
And so nice to get the back and front in focus, too.
I did get a little dark tonality is this Anhinga.
But I must have got this one's exposure better, because we can see much more texture in his body. So he's not rendered in strictly black & white, when we all know the world is really always just shades of gray. When I photographed black birds, I opened up three clicks (= one stop), and when I photographed white birds, I did three clicks (a third a stop each click) the other way. And yes, sometimes that got confusing. But you don't get to see those.
Probably won't get the ooohs and ahhhs I got from the Roseate Spoonbills Flying [well below on this very page], but it was gangbusters fun photographing these birds today. And these are, at the moment at least, all Dallas birds.
There's very likely as many females as males at the rookery this time of year, and I don't know their sex-related duties with the nest, but they males are probably going out for something to feed the rest of the family. My oft-quoted Lone Pine Birds of Texas says they nest "in a colony with cormorants and herons, in a tree above or near clam water; female uses sticks brought by male or may use an abandoned egret or heron nest; pair incubates 2-5 whitish eggs for 25-29 days."
There are more egrets in the Southwest Medical School Rookery on Inwood and Harry Hines than any other species. For full information about that place and photographing birds there, check my Bird-annotated map of the Med School Rookery realizing, of course, that the various species move around the site every year, with the general proclivity to move toward the interior from the exterior — except for the egrets, many of whom were on the lawn as I approached slowly, taking many really precipitous and useless photographs of them there.
I did not see any Ibis on nests or walking the grounds. I only ever saw them flying.
If an Anhinga flew past me, towards me (did not happen) or away from me today, I photographed it. And I really like this shot, which, even at 500mm with the teleXtender, looks foreshortened, although I did crop it somewhat from the full frame.
The first and only Snowy Egret in today's journal entry. And that kinda amazes me, because I loves me some Snowy Egrets.
Sometimes no sunlight enters under their wings, sometimes some does. It helps if the bird is flying around a curve.
Seems odd or slightly awkward, but I like it, because it is real.
Photographs from the Side of a Hill
Posted May 5 2016
Sometimes, I like to sit on the left of the road up the hill and just photograph whatever I see. In the grass before the wildflower field. On the wires that go over. In the air. Or on any of those luscious flowers growing fast, up the hill till the almost meet the sky. Heads-up in some birds is an invitation to mock battle. These guys (All are male.) didn't fight after like Grackles sometimes do. It seemed benign.
With a lovely blue sky and bright white clouds that I never even noticed till I tried to make the whites of the clouds a little darker, so they'd set off today's birds.
If they're not racing away, birds are easier to photograph flying. Some rare few times I can get a bead on on one or two as they race low across the field, through the pretty weed flowers and wild.
I'm a good distance away, and these birds are tiny in the frame, but the lens quality and camera are good enough, if I point it in the right direction and follow fast, to render half-way decent shots in something approaching focus. Nice, too, when I get the exposure close to correct.
Trick is to aim and hold the camera still, but don't get out of the car. Some guys with big cameras, some I recognized, came tromping through the field, scaring all the birds away wherever they went. It's too easy to spook birds. Like I say, they're easier to compose and photograph when they're not flying in the opposite direction. I think they saw me shooting from The Slider, and luckily, they did not keep thrashing the bushes to where I was.
If I see something really interesting, I hone in. Make the focus area the pinpoint it sometimes manages, and keep it right on the bird so it's in sharp focus.
Without focus, there's no party. Some of these were shot at f11 and f16, which gives me more out there in the field to stay in relative focus.
Same tall flower, so the same two birds on it, and the same other Scissortail floating along with them.
I used to think that if I captured a Northern Mockingbird in flight, I'd reveal the magic of its black & white wing flutter, but I caught it here, and I don't feel the magic.
And I wish I'd closed down, not opened up this, so those whites would go grayish, like in the pic above. Instead of solid, blazing white. But at least it's in sharp focus.
My rule is, if it flies or flutters or lands or take off out there, I click at it and try to follow the frame to wherever it goes. Usually left or right. Sometimes down or up.
If I manage two shots of the same bird before it flits away, sometimes the second one has more focus.
Not really. The stream is runoff from The Arboretum that I've been wondering ever since they finally installed the kiddies' park even though The City tried just slightly less time than it took to get them not to. Now, I wonder what comes down the hill with the water? I've seen rancid excrement-stinking water that birds loved to play in at the Arlington Drying Beds and other places. The stuff that flows down the Arboretum, through a culvert to this area along DeGoyler Drive.
See my map of White Rock Lake and environs to see where these places are. And what birds I've seen there.)
Okay. Now I can go back and work up more pix from out trip to Santone and Galveston. The next batch of pix may not be as spectacular as the Roseate Spoonbills Flying. But I have this need to post them.
All of today's photographs are by Kala King, who often helps me figure out which birds I have photographed. She found these and the parents in the ponds and creeks on the campus of Richland College. There were several families, some of which Kala found to take these photos.
According to my precious Lone Pine Edition of Birds of Texas, "Thousands of Canada Geese descend on Texas each winter to enjoy the abundant food supply found in agricultural fields and coastal marshes. … in recent decades, these large, bold geese have inundated urban waterfronts, picnic sites, golf courses and city parks. …
"Canada Geese mate for life and are devoted parents. … Unlike with most birds, a family stays together for nearly a year, which increases the survival rate of the young."
The whole family.
What all the birds in today's journal entry have in common was that they were all photographed along the narrow surface of Eight-Mile Road stretching past farm and swampland, much of it fenced, so we just stop when we see a bird — often, if they are close, just photographing out The Slider's windows so we don't scare them away.
We usually drive west on Seawall Boulevard past the beaches, then after it becomes Termini-San Luis Pass Rd., we turn right on The 8-Mile Road up to the Bay that separates Galveston Island from the rest of Texas. If that corner edge is not mostly underwater like it was this time, we spend our sweet time photographing the sea- and shore-birds all around the fisher persons, only three of whom were present this trip.
Then we turn West onto Sportsman, Road past all the large Beach Homes on the right and swamp land on the left, keeping our eyes wide open for the amazing diversity of birds in, over or on either side of that road ,close and far, down to the end, turn around and go back and see what we missed going the other way.
It's a total of 3.57 miles up the 8-Mile Road, to the end, double back just a little to turn west to the end of Sportsman. And a total of 8.5 driving miles (about 18 minutes) from Galveston City Hall, wherever that is, to the 8-Mile. So depending upon how many birds you see or are interested in for awhile, it could take from 40 minutes to a couple hours to go up and back both roads — sometimes much longer. I have spent hours doing it with hardly ever a dull moment. And if you don't see any birds, wait a minute.
Over the years of my visits, the 8-Mile & Sportsman Roads tour has become my second-favorite birding outing on Galveston Island. Both tours are topographically varied with lots of different large and small bird species in plain sight near and far.
The Sportsman Road span is right about where a seemingly never-ending line of Brown Pelicans, having crossed Galveston Bay from the mainland, flies east to follow the southern edge of beach from there past all the tourists along the City of Galveston's Seawall, and I really don't know where they go from there, but I like the idea that they just keep circling the route.
The 8-mile is just a road, and I suspect almost any road on Galveston Island would do for finding birds, but this one does it spectacularly, and if I'm in Galveston, I always do the 8-Mile/Sportsman Roads trip. On the way back, we stopped when we saw a sign for a nature conservancy or some-such on the 8-Mile, but it wasn't open yet. Then we saw another.
I don't suppose promoting it here will help that much, but I'm afraid it's going to become too popular, but there were many many more fisher persons, and way most of my responses to Google searches for bird info thee got, instead, where to find birds to shoot or fish to catch.
Oh, and Reddish Egrets aren't exactly rare in and around Galveston, but I've probably never seen more than maybe a dozen overall, and I've been looking for them.
when I photographed these, I assumed they were female Hooded Mergansers, but they didn't look much like the images in the three Field Guides I keep at home, although a Sibley's has been rattling around in The Slider since the first edition: Sibley's Guide to Birds, Second Edition; the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America; and The Crossley ID Guide, none of which were particularly helpful in this case.
So I posted the above pic on Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat asking "Are these Mergansers?" and got a couple more guesses good enough to follow to eventually find a remarkably similar image [#2 of 4] under 'Similar Species' on the Common Mergansers page at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds site, where there's a spitting image of either of both of these.
They are Adult Female Red-breasted Mergansers. The two Bird Chatters who helped by providing hints and a link to Cornell, led me into the right direction, where I found the answer.
the sun was behind these birds on this dark stump when I first saw them. Took awhile to open the exposure enough to tell birds from stump, then they took off before I had a chance to figure out who they were …
… which I started guessing at while watching them fly — swooping sideways often enough to tell me a pair of middle to good-sized (23 inches long with a wingspan of 4 feet) raptors were flying beautifully showing off their body and wing patterns. But who exactly they were escaped me till I got these:
With that ungainly Moe Howard mop on top, down through that bold beak, thick neck, body, legs and feet, it could only be a caracara, which species name is either from the sounds they make or the word "face" repeated. I chose the former.
Also known as the Mexican Eagle, these handsome birds are members of the Falcon family. I found more info on Texas Escapes dot com's Caracara page, whose goofy narrative includes many salient facts about these remarkable birds, who since global warming, I know from my own experience are venturing farther and farther north. Used to be I had to drive down toward Alice or the Rio Grande Valley to see them, but in the last few years I've photographed them in East Texas, not that far from Dallas.
And Some Other Birds
My other favorite Galveston Birding trip is along Seawall Boulevard on the east end of the island, but we'll get into that and the birds that either live or visit there, later. So far, I'm posting these Galveston images about every two days.
But I went to White Rock Lake Monday May 2nd and shot way too many pix of birds flitting and flying and landing on tall flowers in one of my favorite places, so expect those here, soon, too.
head and shoulders portrait.
The whole thing. Lovely, huh?
So I searched the net and found Wikipedia's page on Guinea Fowl; Guinea Fowl: Your Overlooked Backyard Buddy; and Raising Guinea Fowl: A Low-Maintenance Flock. We saw them easily escaping out of then back into a farmer's yard, so though they are birds and thus eligible to be here, they are not wild.
Neither are these chickens.
I think this is the same chicken as the one on the left above.
but only in the middle of the road for a minute or two. According to my nearly new Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, White Ibises are "often found with herons or shorebirds." And they "congregate from April to November, rhythmically probing the mud for crabs or crawfish." But that does not explain what these two are doing there.
This is not the same bird as either of the above, but we had several sightings of them along the 8-Mile Road, and the are always a treat to see. Quoting again, that same book by Keith A. Arnold and Gregory Kennedy, that is my all-time favorite bird book, their status is: "common coastal residents; breeder inland in eastern Texas, post-breeding wanderer statewide."
along the fence line just that side of the 8-Mile Road shot from the driver's side window stopped with the 500mm.
not enough information to determine what exactly it was.
i like this image better, even if it's in fast-fleeing disarray. It is closer and more detailed, even if the white on its fanned tail feathers may be too bright. I like the action.
But this shot is probably better for identification. I'm assuming it's a more or less Typical Adult Breeding Western Meadowlark, but the differences between Eastern and Western are too subtle to verify.
From under, they look red and/or pink. From other views, we get other colors. Most of my today's Roseate Spoonbills Flying photos are from the Rookery on High Island, which is not an island but is instead up a little from the edge of the mainland across the bay by ferry from Galveston, but a few are from around Galveston Island (which actually is an island), too.
I remember thinking days earlier than our visit to the rookery, "now, if I can just get a photo of one flying." Never realizing that once I was in just the right place, I could get dozens of them. Photographing Spoonbills at the rookery is like shooting fish in a barrel. There's lots of Spoonbills — and other birds, too. I just had to keep shooting, pay attention, and watch for stranger birds making the rounds — or maybe I should say oblongs, which is more or less, the shape of the small island the rookery inhabits.
Just for today's Bird Journal, I'm concentrating on Spoonbills flying. This pink is just one of the colors Roseate (pronounced rose ate) Spoonbills attain, depending upon the light and the darknesses. Bright sun dulls the colors; shadows, cloudy skies and rain intensify them.
With Roseate Spoonbills, however, I don't have to intensify the colors. They are already so intense they'd brighten a dark room, field, island or bay. On Galveston's East End, just before, after and during the rain, they seemed to be on fire with these warm hot colors.
Sometimes that tail skirt just over their feet appears muddy-brown, off-white, or pink and often it's a glowing orange. Sometimes the whole bird appears crimson. It's part of why many consider these birds Texas' most beautiful. I like the pink and red and orange parts, but those heads and bills are flat out ugly — not nearly enough beautiful about them.
There's lots of sunlight falling directly on this bird, so the pink may be a little subdued.
There's really no corners. This rookery comprises an elongated island with one big hill that by about the end of April becomes incredibly over-populated, although I assume its citizens think of it as populated just right. But not just with Roseate Spoonbills. There are many heron species involved, including Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and I even think I remember seeing one Green Heron.
That rookery is an island surrounded by water first, then deeply sloping land with tall trees and on this one side, several wood-planked sun-sheltered places to put tripods and people with binoculars. The back side, where — we determined — the White Ibis nest — was all but invisible in our one-sided view. We sometimes watched them fly by fast, but we were rarely quick enough to catch them, so — since the spoonbills were on this side, I concentrated on the big pink birds.
Unlike the other rookery we attended the week before in San Antonio, there were no Little Blue Heron on the island, and as the weeks back in Dallas wear on, I'll be showing my photographs of several of those species and other life forms on the mainland rookery and many more species across the bay a ferry boat ride away.
I didn't really decide till I was back home and doing post-production on the one thousand, one hundred and seven bird images I made in the birding portion of our vacation, that I would show just the flying spoonbill ones first. I also shot 958 photographs of my Mother's 95th Birthday and family gathered round, but we won't get to those here. I shot most of the birds on a Nikon and most of the family with my Panasonic Lumix GX8.
Usually, I do stories or as-they-happened occurrences. Today, I thought a series of Spoonbills in flight would be more fun — for me, at least. So there's these — presented as usual — but not always — here in nearly strict chronological order. Some like this and the next shot down are very short series.
And yes, Roseate Spoonbills have been known to show up around Dallas sometimes. But usually only in ones and twos, that I know of. I've been told about them, but by the time I manage to get out to the 'burbs where they've been sighted, they're gone. No problem in Galveston, The Bay and High so-called "Island."
Usually, if I get one or two shots of each species standing, hunting and flying, I'm happy. With this many shots of Roseate Spoonbills flying, I'm almost ecstatic. And they are mostly in strong focus, too. Which is almost miraculous for me. I was ON.
Like I say, like shooting fish in a barrel, although my previous visits in previous years were not nearly this successful. I guess practice photographing other, less pink but also flying, birds helps. As does a decent tripod.
Through thick brambles at the edge of the island rookery.
Look at that vivid orange tail, ugly head and oddly-shaped, spoonbill beak.
So often, they look better going away.
And these two shots of one spoonbill flying away might have been just the thing to end this Roseates Flying page.
But I've still got a couple couple Spoonbills Flying photos left.
But it's just flying over. In this view, us humans think it might look awkward, but it probably thinks it looks its usual gorgeous.
We heard lots of deep bass bullfrogs. I saw one alligator — and heard two stories about it catching and swallowing whole one small bird; five, I think large turtles; those White Ibis; a bunch of Great and Snowy Egrets; and at least two varieties — Double-crested and Neotropic — of Cormorants nesting.
Not yet sure what birds I'll show next. I have a nice series of a Reddish Egret fishing and doing their drunken dance, then catching a big fish and flying away. We made several ferry crossings, so there's Laughing Gulls a-plenty and quite a few Brown Pelicans, to whom I am warming. I think I like them about as much as the White versions that partially inhabit White Rock Lake half the year if there's places for them to perch (and there wasn't this year). The brown ones aren't as gorgeous or elegant, but they have their charms.
And we kept visiting and revisiting beaches, so there's beach birds, various shorebirds, several Tricolored Herons, a little bit of Crested Caracara action, some field birds, a short bevy of farmer's birds, chickens, ducks and others. All coming soon. And there will be more pix of Roeate Spoonbills, but far fewer of them flying.
And I'm in the loop for some nests and settlings-in of other birds at White Rock, too. May will be a busy month, fear not.
Fo Mo Info Then when I finished this journal entry and finally got it online and working, I looked up Roseate Spoonbills Flying and netted this super slo-mo vid; a page of Roseate Spoonbill Info; this more replete one from a-z animals; and images of all their life-cycle phases from Arkive — click on the little ones to see bigger ones and on the arrow right to see more and more; more and more interesting data from The Saint Louis Zoo; and, of course, the Wikipedia page with even more.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2016 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission from and payment to Writer and Photographer J R Compton. I am an amateur. I've only been birding since June 2006, and most of that is documented in this Journal, all the pages of which continue online. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964. 30