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,
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
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
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
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
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
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 Escape Velocity Step 1 -
High Speed Attack Mode
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
following this belligerent bird did I finally manage to photographically
parse the mysterious coot water running procedure.
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
a frothy white wake.
Special thanks to Anna Palmer, who initially identified
what this coot was up to.
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 Escape Velocity Step 4 —
Run over the water chasing
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
Multi-species Splashathon — mostly coots,
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.
looking dark and so cool. Not
quite the full winter's contingent of sea gulls and an occasional flyover
species. I didn't see the pigeons, but I'm sure they were there, too,
flying in great frightened circles.
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
elegant with their twelve-foot wingspans and soaring, unflapping flights.
Pelk Pair Profile Flying — Do you suppose they
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
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
Strange Bird in
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,
this was different. Grayish overall, bigger and flying
strangely, floating, then up to a phone pole.
I braked, pulled over,
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
Headless Unsub with
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.
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
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.
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
I shot flash
Nice detail. I again half hoped to zap a low-flying corm — of which
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
a time, and half-winded this tired old man. So we went to Alfonso's and
shared a pizza.
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
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.
Cormorant Flying Low
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
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:
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.