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The Amateur Birder's Journal - Stories & Photographs by J R Compton
All Contents © 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. DO NOT USE images without permission & payment.
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Since November 17 2006

I tripped and fell the Friday before Thanksgiving. At the lake, being way too loud to find birds but there for that. When I came to, I was face down in soft grass, the strong vines still taut against both shoes' laces. First thing I noticed was that the lens hood had come off. Then I realized I'd been out at least a few seconds.

I hurt. I'd fallen as tall as I am. 5' 8" 220 lbs. Solid mid-section one-point landing. I could breathe, see, smell, feel, even talk. I got up carefully and found my way out of the little woods at the official entrance to White Rock Lake on Boat House Lagoon. That took awhile.

When I found Anna, she hadn't heard anything but knew something was up. Or down. We walked back to the car in the Boat House lot and went home.

Gradually, I surmised I'd bent, bashed or broken some ribs. I'd done it before, and — like breaking toes, which I've also done — there's nothing anybody can do, although some pills help pain. The doctor appointment I already had the next Tuesday confirmed it. I passed on the expense of X-rays.

Kinda wish now I'd indulged him on the Xs. Might have shown an inflammation of the pancreas, which may have grown to Acute Pancreatitis. Or maybe not. On a lifetime sugar low at Thanksgiving dinner my Pancreas erupted.

I don't remember the trip to the hospital but I vividly remember the vomiting that preceded it. I already didn't like hospitals, and I'll write about that experience later. But I'm back in Dallas now, at home, warm, sleep a lot, write a little (This the first coherent), struggle sometimes to keep thoughts together more than about 45 seconds.

We've driven by the birds at Sunset Bay. Maybe next week I'll tow my camera in and shoot birds and continue this Journal. I shot some birds south. I'll add those tomorrow (Monday December 11).

November 17, 2006

Beligerant Coot - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Belligerent Coot

We don't know what its issues were, but this very belligerent coot was attacking the other coots he swam with around the Boat House Bridge today. Maybe he was horny or having a bad day. Perhaps it was the butt of too many coot jokes. After watching it perpetrate unwarranted attacks for awhile, we began to recognize certain coot traits we had not previously witnessed.

Coot High Speed Attack Mode - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Coot Escape Velocity Step 1 -
High Speed Attack Mode Profile

As each attack began, this American Coot stretched out, lowered its head and stuck its feet well out behind, so it was streamlined, efficient and fast. Using advanced coot propeller feet, it sped up across the water. Only by following this belligerent bird did I finally manage to photographically parse the mysterious coot water running procedure.

Coot Escape Velocity - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Coot Escape Velocity Step 2 -
Modified Body Surf Position

Today's photo series comprises images gathered from several attacks. It took us awhile to realize the full Coot Escape Velocity Procedure:  With head lowered and body flattened on the bottom, the coot begins a modified body surf position with feet still churning a frothy white wake.

Special thanks to Anna Palmer, who initially identified what this coot was up to.

Another View  Escape Velocity - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Coot Escape Velocity Step 3 —
Convert body surf to water run.

When it attains adequate speed, those big lobed feet switch from propelling to running along the furrow its surfing body has created.  Transitioning smoothly, it begins to run on the lowered surface, then continues running on the flatter surface ahead.

Coot Velocity Splash Chase - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Coot Escape Velocity Step 4 —
Run over the water chasing hapless victim.

Eventually, splashing left and right feet over the lake surface, the coot achieves full water running speed. As does its probably innocent prey. We saw it attack maybe a dozen times. Not once did the ornery coot catch its victim, which it apparently chose by random. It did expend a lot of energy. Eventually, it slowed down, calmed off and rejoined the flock.

November 16

Multi-species Splashathon - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Multi-species Splashathon — mostly coots,
but ducks and gooses and a pelk, too

Ah, back to the lake at last. To Sunset Bay, where I knew I'd find the widest variety and the largest numbers — ducks, of course, coots galore, all ten of the Ten Gooses Running clan making as much noise as traffic on an angry day. One Great Blue Heron far off in the middle. Dozens of Cormorants drying their wings and preening.

Innumerable grackles looking dark and so cool. Not quite the full winter's contingent of sea gulls and an occasional flyover by other unsub species. I didn't see the pigeons, but I'm sure they were there, too, flying in great frightened circles.

2 Pelks Flying Together - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Two Pelicans Flying Together

Of course, I was there primarily for pelicans, and the bay provideth. I shot them perched fluffily on their new tree only a few dozen feet off the pier. But the best shots were them flying in and by, elegant with their twelve-foot wingspans and soaring, unflapping flights.

Pelk Pair Silhouette - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pelk Pair Profile Flying — Do you suppose they might really
be a pair? Noticeable differences in beaks, bodies and wings.

Not sure what set off the splashathon. There was a small child over by the red truck guy scattering grain but with parents. Not that it takes much to set them off, en masse, running toward and over the water. Exciting to watch side view wise. Less pleasant when they flee me.

Ducks in Sudden Flight - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Ducks in Sudden Sunset Flight

The ducks in sudden flight was from a similar scare. By then, with the sunset sun shining low, the wind had turned cold. I needed a jacket. Before, long sleeved flannel was plenty. Nice to be back.

I've noticed an influx of new readers. Please tell me where you found out about this site, so I can thank them. Thank you.

November 15

Strange Bird in
the Neighborhood

Driving to work today, I noticed a strange bird flying cross the street in my neighborhood. I look at every bird but blow most of them off. Grackles, Little Brown Birds — few of which I've cataloged — pigeons and more grackles.

I'd stop for a humming bird, slow and watch a Cardinal or Blue Jay, but this was different.  Grayish overall, bigger and flying strangely, floating, then up to a phone pole.

I braked, pulled over, grabbed camera, shot twice, saw weird colors, pulled back, switched to daylight, looked up. And it was gone. These are Photoshopped as close to real colors as I could.

Headless Unsub with
twisted-together tail

Now. Identity: Stout leggings like a hawk or falcon. It's here, 'll be a local. Hooked beak. White or gray under. Short stripes of vague spots under wings. Red-tailed or Red-shouldered. Hawk. Tail twists at the end like Shouldered. Must be. Why didn't I know that first off? I've seen these guys before.

Just not down the street.

See August and September Red-tailed Hawk sightings with better photos and more info.

November 10

The Business End of Cormorants - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

The Business Ends of a
Young and an Old Cormorant

We walked under the Cormorant Trees at the Cormorant end of Cormorant Bay tonight on our way to Bent Bridge and back to the other end of Singing Bridge (See map). It was light enough still to see where they had already blessed the new-last-spring sidewalk — little and big white splats. Plus we could hear the stuff sizzling through the air and splat ting.

Still, I wanted to take closer-up shots of the corms up in the trees toward Mockingbird north on Lawther. Even after discovering that First-winter Corms had white tops, I more than half expected all the Tree Corms to be black.

Sleepy-eyed Cormorant - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

First-year Cormorant, either sleepy-eyed
or puffing all up to zing down another splat.

I had the forethought to bring my fast, 25-year-old 180mm f/2.8 lens, but I certainly did not plan to shoot flash pictures of nature, although dark corm silhouettes is all I got without, so I shot flash pix. Nice detail. I again half hoped to zap a low-flying corm — of which thee were a few, looking all elegant and regal — with the on-camera flash, though fast focusing might have been an issue.

But I didn't have time to wait, since I'd already walked further than I had in too long a time, and half-winded this tired old man. So we went to Alfonso's and shared a pizza.

November 6

Churn to Run

To get up on the water, so they can run, and maybe fly, but at least run away, first a Coot's gotta be scared. Then it has to churn the water like this, which probably means getting up to speed. But only after the waves churn , do they run fast enough ...

Coots Gotta Run

... To run up there. I've seen coots outrun a flying gull, one (apparently) of their natural enemies. But rarely for very long. Coots and gulls seem to like the same sort of food, thus the antipathy. And often, thus the coots running on water. This time, no gulls were involved, just the coots' normal fear of anything that moves.

Goose Beak Warming Exercise

It wasn't all that cold today, but the gooses were beaking down into their own down comforters for a little pre-winter  warming exercise. Or something like that. The Ten Gooses Running Clan still has ten gooses, and they are at their best running, but standing on one foot warming their beaks is also popular.

November 2

Cormorant Flying Low

I still photo birds at the lake almost every day but haven't done the time to load them here till now, 5 days later. I have to discipline myself not to just go to Sunset Bay every day and shoot pelicans. Thus the cormorant above.

Big-foot Coot Swimming
shot from the Boat House Bridge

I have not forgot my winter coot project. I've been watching them carefully every chance I get, trying to discover just what those big feet of theirs are good for, and I think I've found something I've yet to read about anywhere.

Coot Spurt After — or As — the Coot dives

I had noticed the unusual spurts of water bubbling up after they either arc over and, or just tilt over and, dive dive dive. It just seems so strange, till I finally captured this:

Churn-feet Coot

It's difficult to discern in this photo just exactly what is exactly what, but those big things at the top that are churning water like an egg-beater seem to be feet. I think those are legs and feet and torso between the spinning feet and what's nearly dunking into the churned water. I think that's a beak, eyes and face on a wet coot head, but I'm not sure of anything but those feet spinning like the blades of a sub marine helicopter.

Green Monk Parakeet Flying Low against the sun

Another species I've spent a little more time than usual tracking is our beloved and noisy Green Monk Parakeets — especially when I'm in their "home" feeding territory by the Boat House. I've got them flying blurred pretty often. This is the most amazing flying shot I've got of any of them yet. The sun strong at its back.


All text and photographs
copyright 2006 by J R Compton.
All Rights Reserved.

No reproduction without
specific written permission.

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