November 28 2008
I thought about Buffleheads, of course, but this cold, gray, wispy day seemed more like a kestrel day than another buffle one, bo I headed to the only kestrel territory I know about (I've been wanting one of these more than I've wanted a closer buffle for awhile now, I check often, when I get a kestrel hunch.) and looked around. I saw this colorful male American Kestrel in a tall tree on the down slope to the lake.
The female usually perches on the phone wire higher than anything on that hilltop, but the male was further down and away in a tree, so I was almost ready when he jumped into flight. I may be getting better, but I ain't perfect yet. Kestrels are too fast.
Meanwhile, on the west side of the lake I caught this trio's act off Tilley's point, again, and got an entirely different effect with the same elements. Eventually I might track down the other shot, but Bath House appears too many times in that other site I do to track it down on this one, since we share Search facilities.
Back down at the Lagoon up from the Old Boathouse, I saw dozens of herons mingling in the trees on the far side. I hurry parked Blue and descended to the water and waited in the shade of a tree as the Black-crowned Night-herons took turns flying up the lagoon. It was almost dark, way past when anyone who knew what they were doing would have gone home or attached a super flash.
I have that super flash, but not with me, so I just clicked away wondering myself what would come of these shots. Well, some of them look a lot like herons.
And others looked like some sort of specter levitating toward the lake.
Buffleheads again. More of them now, and a little bit closer. Still not the detail I want. Going to have to get a lot closer for that, but if I keep at it, I'm hoping they'll sidle up against the shore, show some feathery detail, get their eyes as something besides burn coals and maybe, just maybe, get a detailed shot or two of those big feet. I though Coot feet were the biggest, strangest peds I'd ever seen, but these are stranger.
Female Buffleheads are sweet and demur-looking, dark dark brown with a white swath across their cheeks, two-tone brown over tan bodies, and apparently smaller. Expose the male so his white patches don't blot out the light, and the female shows too dark.
The male's blurring out in this shot, but there's more de-tail in the fe-male. I didn't used to think ducks were all this amazing, but these and our hoodie mergansers in Irving — and all their multicolored pals — have been fascinating.
Not that wonderful a photograph, and I pay attention to such details, but this shot shows a Bufflehead flapping its wings, thus the wing colors and configurations, but I don't know what's going on with the lower middle Buffle here. Got his head turned and beak back messing with its feathers, gives another view of its pointed little head.
Except in close to the shore, the lake today was smooth as glass. I'd always thought buffles like that better. But they were hanging closer to shore today, and I'd thought they'd stay long enough that I'd get that detailed look I'm still wanting. In close, they were diving and bathing. The diving was they were swimming on the water, then they'd disappear. The bathing they'd rock back and forth, not splashing as much as gooses, pelicans, grackles or coots.
Anna pointed me at these two cormorants. Adult on top, juvenile below. The juvie is the only one I saw from the car parked on Lawther long enough for me to get somewhere closer to sharp shot of them. Only it was just the juvie that I saw. The blue one disappeared into the underbrush when I looked back over my shoulder with the Rocket Launcher (playing is stupid Sigma tricks again today, wobbling images, sudden lurching inside, velcro screaming. After awhile, it went away and was good again most of today's short shooting. But probably someday I'll have to send it off to Sigma to fix it — if that's even possible.
There were many, many, many, many more cormorants, of course. I just photographed two of them. Corm frost has again stained the northern edges of Cormorant Bay, and it stinks pungent awful up there.
Whatever else I photograph these days, what I'm really wanting to photograph is a Bufflehead. This is a Bufflehead. But it's too far away. I stopped on Lawther way far from either nearby parking lot. But No Parking by those big, tax-paying mansions. So I shot this from the car. I thought about the nearer of the far lots then walk back, but I'd already walked way farther than I usually walk,and I was tired, and the bird kept moving.
Actually, it was out there alone. Didn't see any females around him. I shot him at least two dozen times, but this is the best I did, which is not very good, I realize. But better than last year with the shorter zoom than the Rocket Launcher. I could have got about forty feet closer, but not close enough. They're here, We're gonna find them. They're gonna drift closer to shore.
This is the first thing I photographed today. First thing I saw might be worth photographing. Even though I've photographed them a lot lately, and don't really like to keep doing the same thing. One of those fishing armadas I'm so find of. More than halfway across the lake. Something about carrying around a Rocket Launcher gives me the notion I can photograph birds across the lake. Not much detail way out there, though.
Lots of momentary action. Big flapping. Not flying far, but fighting over fish. This is one of those exciting moments. Most of the time they just swam around with the cormorants and gulls hoping for fish. In this moment there's more than hope, there's excitement.
No detail this far away, so we can't tell whether they're catching anything. 500mm only goes so far.
November 22 & 23
Gulls just want to have fun, Anna keeps saying about the Jonathan Livingston Lake gulls we know so well every winter. I don't think they were looking for food or shelter or whatever else, they were playing. Ring-billed Gulls hafta have fun.
We visited The Rookery earlier this afternoon. I had the wild notion there might be strange birds there then that did not visit the place in the usual times, spring times. I was completely wrong, but we drove to the top of the what? six-story parking garage to look out over the rooking area. But saw not a single bird. Part of my rich notion was to photograph those strange birds flying against the far buildings with the Rocket Launcher. It is still a dream.
It was perhaps more fun than if birds had been there. We laughed and made up stories and sang along to really bad musics. Eventually, we drove to Sunset Bay, just on the off chance new birds would be there. Ha!
There were, however, the female Red-winged Blackbirds I'd been anticipating all month long. No males that we saw, but the fems were gorgeous, orange and reds streaking their wings nothing as bright as males' yellows and red epaulets. But handsome birds nonetheless.
So very distinctive
On Sunday we drove to Lake Lavon. Or that's where we ended up. Not sure why, but once again we thought we'd find birds there.
And, of course, we were mostly wrong. But who really cares. We found some birds everywhere we went.
Or almost everywhere.
Driving past DeGoyler I noticed a fishing armada across the lake. I pulled up the Rocket Launcher, scoped it out and decided it was too far. Then I thought about my luck lately finding fascinating birds. Stopped Blue, parked in a slot, got out and watched the unfurling excitement way across the lake.
More birds kept arriving. I wished I was closer. Wondered how many zillion cormorants were packed together out there.
Ducks, I think, flying over. Might could be cormorants. I don't know.
I'd been photographing it a while when it scrunched down like this. I assumed it was going to leap into the air and fly away, but it didn't. It just hung around looking much less photogenic.
Usually, I'm too far away for a pelk landing. Sometimes I'm not only too close, but I'm panning slow. Happens a lot with the Rocket Launcher, which behaved itself very well today. Yesterday it was doing the same old things, and I had to decide to keep it and hope it didn't vibrate or flip lens elements or go black sometimes. This is the first replacement. I don't need to try another. I've given up on Sigma having a good one if I keep getting my 150-500mm Sigma lens replaced.
Got the whole beak in this time. Landing gear still dragging air, flaps down, getting closer to the surface, inch by inch.
Then touch down, skid to a stop, then join the pack.
Pelican with a muddy beak tip. Gotta wonder what it's been digging for.
I missed the first couple times she attacked this very startled coot. This time I caught her coming in close with claws out.
Now the female grackle it giving the coot hell, again. After awhile, she just flew off. I haven't figure out why she was after it. Or what she expected to do if she caught it.
I'll keep looking through my books and my online, but I've yet to figure out what this very small, light green bird that kept flitting around the top of a tallish tree in the woods around the top of the Sunset Bay park area. Took a long time to get these two shots. Most of the others are badly out of focus, because when they held still briefly, they looked to me and to my new camera like a leaf.
From a letter from Sam Leake, President of White Rock Boathouse, Inc.: "This is a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. There were a pair in the bushes by our new Big Boathouse and I caught the male flashing his Ruby crown. And they do flit."
And there were more leaves than anything else up in that tree. I had the devil of a time getting my camera/lens to focus on anything that small moving around that fast. The only other bird I knew was up there was a Mockingbird that flit around a couple times but mostly perched on the very top and watched out.
Until I got these images big on my monitor I assumed all the little green birds I photographed up in that tree were the same bird, although this one could be the same variety. I knew there was more than one of them. I kept count as they flew away. Four or five total. What I didn't count on was that this one looks different. I'll update this page when I figure what they were. I may be getting better at identifying birds, but I'm still slow. It could take weeks.
But I know this one. In attempt to get one good, definitive portrait of another tree-flitter jumping branch to branch faster than I could think, let alone follow with my super-tele or focus for sure, I got lots of 'coverage' on this one. This particular, up the tree view may not be flattering or entirely in focus, but this, I'm pretty sure, is a Red-bellied Woodpecker.
The reason I can identify it, is I have shots of him from these three major, different angles that show the various areas that change from woodpecker to woodpecker. No dark stripes on the face. It's got a ladder-back, as we can see here. You might think of it as a tweed of black and white horizontal stripes. And a bright red — not with an orange nape, like a Golden-fronted Woodpecker has — head. Fairly visible in both upper shots. Definitely red.
Not visible in either of the other shots, his tail, nails the I.D. None of my field or home references shows him from the back, but several show the tail from a three-quarter side view, and that black-outlined white area with its own mini-ladder of black steps proves this bird to be an adult male Northern variety of a Red-bellied Woodpecker. Northern as opposed to a southern, Florida variety. I hope I can get a better shot now I know where he was this time.
No gulls flying around Cormorant Bay today. Wind blowing and I thought cold, but these are winter birds here. The gulls I did see were out along the jut of land I still call Thistle-down Road, although it's a paved path now and doesn't go near as close to the point into the lake I used to stand and watch Mockingbird Bridge and the yacht clubs on the other side. Those were are usual winter visitors, the Ring-billed Gulls, and few of them were flying. Most floated on the wind-driven waves.
Two of four Turkey Vultures to circle slowly over this side of Sunset Bay before circling back over Hidden Creek and out of sight.
I actually had to back up on the Sunset Bay pier to get this inquisitive Great-tailed Grackle in focus, he was so close. After several shots to make sure I got one really sharp one, he hopped closer to me, and I suggested he not get used to hopping into humans.
Me back on shore after not finding anything fascinating up over or around in the bay today.
That great crook-topped log-thing that's been between the pier and the logs in the middle of Sunset Bay has been moved onto the dirt bar that seems to be rising off to the north from the pier. These were shot from the shore, near where the gooses and duckses usually stand and squawk at J R.
Note the optical delusion that makes the just-landed gull appear to be so much larger than anything around it.
Until something significantly larger comes along and tests that hypothesis.
Large (which adjective may be redundant) Male Muscovy on top of submerged female muscovy for purposes of sex. It's how ducks do it. Mallards do it in gangs, sometimes so violent, women holler, and men throw things at them.
Neither male nor female Muscovy looks upset or angry or in any hurry to complete their task.
Here, they seem to remember, finally, what's going on between them. Attention is being paid.
The post-coital bath begins.
She bathed too quickly for me to catch on my camera.
Always wish I'd paid more attention. For no known reason, I photographed one gull today. Twice within seconds, as it was almost close enough to fill the frame over Anna's and my heads. I assumed it was the usual, Ring-billed Gull. But this photograph shows otherwise. It's got a mask — more like a black swimming cap than a full-headed hood, and the dark under its wings is not confined to a corner of its primaries.
So what is it? I'll keep tracking my ever-expanding library till I figure it out, for sure. Or Anna does. But thanks to the Lone Pine Birds of Texas' one small drawing of one, together with the National Geographic's Complete Birds of North America's multiple drawings, I believe it is a nonbreeding Franklin's Gull, but you can be sure I'll be back out there tomorrow watching more carefully and taking more pictures of the few that fly near.
We were busy being enchanted by a Ruddy Duck float-by, about as close as we've been to them. Still not particularly close close, but closer than before. Close enough for some detail in some Ruddy Ducks, most of whom had their beaks folded under their back feathers as the swam slowly or floated by.
I'd shot their head-turned and buried in their back, normal position often before, so these shots are not really representative of Ruddy Ducks, as I know them, briefly most late autumns, early winters here. But it seemed like a good idea to show them alert and awake and doing something besides sleeping.
No idea what it might be saying, but it is a different view than I've got before, so here it is, under the rubric of Bird Behavior. I like it.
Today's first bird on a stick.
Another dark bird on a unleafed stick. When I shot this I thought I was photographing a crow. I may have been, but I'm not sure.
That was the black of it. This the white. I'd encountered this Great Egret several minutes before when I apparently startled it in the high reeds around the creek. It flapped away croaking loudly, like I've heard its cousins the Great Blue Herons and cormorants gripe hoarsely. It seemed to feel uprooted. I never even saw it on the ground, only noticed when it broke for the sky.
Missed it that first time. This time, after staying perched on top that natural pole long enough for a dozen shots, hoping at least one of them would be sharp. Then flying away, shown here.
This bird — on another bare branch — seems to have the same light gray bib that the one a couple birds on empty branches up has, but this bird's beak is yellow, and the other one looks black.
I say pelican, but I'm not at all sure that's what this bird is, either, except not much else that big around here these days. And it's too stout to be an egret. There's piles of dirt atop Drefuss Point where the old Dreyfuss Club was and supposedly someone will be building anew.
Big black bird off the side of the road down from Winfrey toward Sunset. I stopped, dragged out the Rocket Launcher and started shooting. Turned out it had a mouthful. Two what I'm calling crow baubles. Not a shiny toy like a Raven would steal. Looks like food to me.
Short story today. I coulda shot cormorants flying over. Big excitement. Or pelicans preening. Nother big whoop. This crow seemed more interesting. I believe between these first two shots, the crow buried one of its baubles.
Flew to the top of on of the telephone poles near the top of Winfrey hill, looking all handsome with its beak full. Then went down the hill and was looking like it was burying the other one, but I was unable to get anything in focus that looked like a crow doing that.
Thought it might be difficult to go back to the same old grind after yester's multiple new species and great photographic light. Not a problem. Driving down Lawther along DeGoyler I spied a spotted armada of fishing birds. Scooping pelicans, diving cormorants, and swooping gulls.
Arching their bodies up, over and down into the deep to catch them some fish.
Last thing to go under is that large tail feather collection splashing under.
Love the Kline dark lines on the rippled blue field and white.
Stereotypical gathering of pelicans on the log off from where most of them usually gather. Classic three element composition with four American White Pelicans. Welcome back, J R.
Female duck standing single legged a simple landscape.
Then come in the pelicans who'd been out fishing.
Goofaloofus elegance in the air.
A sense of power.
Wingspans one inch less than a Condor.
Group landing nearly into a gathering of already 75 pelicans.
Last half dozen times I've been at Sunset Bay, I've worked at capturing the speedy little House Sparrows flitting among the weeds and reeds either side of the pier.
Anna had read several notices on the Audubon Dallas Forums of sightings of Hooded Mergansers on a pond near Royal and Los Colinas. She sent the link. I read them, too. She suggested we go visit, and I was all for it. So today's images were shot in a series of ponds stretching between Ticky-Tack apartments (and they all looked just the same) on some sides and industrial addresses on the others in ILC (Irving Los Colinas).
The two on the right are female Hooded Mergansers. I think I saw one at the zoo, but that hardly counts. The bird on the left may be a young male Hooded Merganser or something else. I'm pretty sure the one on the right is younger, also.
This may be the same little merganser, perhaps even a juvenile. But that doesn't jibe with the National Geographic big book. Sibley doesn't help much, either. Adult, non-breeding male Hooded Mergansers have the swept-back look the females have, but reddish and occupying more noggin space than this. Maybe his crest is not raised or perhaps her frosted brown crest is lowered. I sure don't know, but rank-amateur bird identifier thinks it's a male Hooded Merganser.
My guess is that's a female merganser flying, another female swimming, and a third female splashing down. Each of them seems to have their crest in a different position.
Catching any of the suddenly-bolting-into-the-sky Hooded Mergansers today was a serious challenge. I didn't know they were about to fly. I have zero experience with mergansers in the wild. I generally can tell when a heron or egret is about to fly. Sometimes I can guess that a certain cormorant or pelican is going to jump into the air, but I was completely surprised when the mergansers did it today. I got one panning pic of this one sharp. The rest are blurs.
The mergansers stayed as far away from us as they could get, whichever side of the ponds were moved to. When we were on one side, they were on the other. A couple times I caught them with the Rocket Launcher in the middle, but they didn't stay there long. The closest I got was when one flew the length of the ponds "by" me. Maybe I need a longer tele. Maybe I need to work on sneaking up better.
Probably a pair of them, since they stayed pretty close while I watched them. More than that I can only guess. This male's hood is down even farther than the one the next image up.
More than that I could guess better if I could watch them for a few hours or a few days or come back to them like I can all winter to the White Rock Lake contingent of American White Pelicans, or any others of the usuals. Nice though, to be somewhere else for a little while today.
There were lots other species of ducks in those ponds. I knew this one would prove to be something distinctive and different, and when I got my books out, I figured I'd find him in there. And I did. I may be getting better at identifying these guys. May be.
And this must be him and the Mrs. They are standing on the edge of one of those big, circular — tubular, really, in a vertical way — flood prevention holes they put in creeks and ponds. The first I encountered was in Turtle Creek, and I used to sing every time I saw it, "there's a hole in Turtle Creek where all the water goes" after a song about "the hole in Daddy's arm where all the money goes."
But wigeons are really lighter colored than this. His beak really is blue, and hers is gray. I found this shot more than a week later.
Those are four Female Northern Shovelers behind and between the two birds in front and another a couple clicks down this page. The birds in front here are a female American Wigeon and a male Northern Shoveler.
I see Northern Shovelers at White Rock Lake fairly often. But Mergansers, Hooded or otherwise are a rare treat well worth driving to Irving for. When I went to the University of Dallas in what is now Upper Las Colinas or eastern Irving, all that surrounded the school was Mesquite trees. It's a big different now.
Hard to imagine I could mistake that schnozz for some other bird, but I have been seeing a bird lately at White Rock that I kept thinking was a female Northern Shoveler, and now that I've directly compared two decent photos of the two, I think they are both adult female Northern Shovelers. So there.
I recognized these from seeing their pictures in bird books but later learned all ducks with white backs and red heads are not canvasbacks. We did eventually see some Mallards elsewhere but we were amazed to see a great diversity of ducks in those ponds. And this hasn't been the half of it yet.
When I placed this and the image below on this page, I assumed the one below was the same as the one top middle above, but now I see that they probably are not. The others above are Scaups, I think — except maybe the bird at the top left. I know there exist Greater and Lesser Scaups, and mostly we only get the Lessers here, and a unfair as that seems since I can't tell them apart it hardly matters.
I thought the ones with whitewalls were male and the brownwalls were females, but that's wrong, too. Scaups with white on either side of their beak are females. These browns are generally non-breeders. At White Rock the scaups often hang out with the coots, and as different as they look, it's sometimes difficult to tell them apart. Usually when I see scaups at the lake, they are only males. Females visit for a couple days then disappear again.
Anna to the rescue: two birds top left are Ring-necked ducks, male and female. Try as I might I don't see no rings around their necks. But I believe. Great! That's a whole nother new species. What a day for that.
new Are you as confused as I am yet? This dark cinnamon headed, erect necked duck with a scaup-like beak, gold eye and mottled tan, black and reddish throat, and that reddish area around, behind and above its beak like a female scaup, is a ... I dunno big time.
new The one on the left looks like the one at the top middle of the image two up. Here it's hanging out with a scaup. Does that make her a scaup? Definitely not. Anna says they are both Ring-necked Ducks. See Birdweb and Google Image Search results.
Anna counted five Canada Gooses. Unlike everybody else on the ponds, they let me come pretty close to take their pictures.
"What on earth is that weird-looking bird with the long black beak," I suspect it's wondering as I got even closer. I tried to stay in the shade to maybe hide me, but there's no hiding the Rocket Launcher when it does the big click.
We got close.
Left to right: male scaup, male scaup, male scaup, male Canvasback, male scaup, female scaup. If they are here, they are Lesser Scaups, because Greater Scaups hang out elsewhere. Mostly.
This photo just shows an assortment of some of the varieties we saw today. We don't really keep lists, but if we did, today's would have included: Canvasbacks, Hooded Mergansers, lots of different scaups, Redheads, American Wigeons, Canada Gooses, Northern Shovelers and Ring-necked Ducks and two Red-tailed Hawks.
Till the next day, I assumed all the red-headed ducks with white backs were Canvasbacks. Anna set me straight after finding several online sources.
new Now I know the red-headed ducks with white backs and light-colored, bluish beaks are Redheads. Thanks, Anna, again. And the red-headed ducks with (brighter) white backs and black beaks are Canvasbacks. So these two are cousins.
Photograph them together like this, and there's much less confusion.
Oh, and two gorgeous hawk flyovers, circling, circling, slow into the clouds.
What a wonderful afternoon of birds.
Little birds — mostly — today. Starting with this one, which I managed to get in sharp focus twice. This shot and the one below. If you think I may be avoiding naming it, you are correct. That always comes later. My old expert quit. I need a new expert to avoid misidentifying birds here. Or else not identify them, which I'm good at and is a policy I have been successfully implementing for the last couple months.
First word that came to mind when I saw it was "phoebe," though I had no idea why. Musta dredged some identification up from some far reach of my mind. The one other possibility is that I will gradually learn to pay enough attention to details — and be willing to turn enough pages — till I can recognize them myself.
Another alternative, not photograph birds I don't know who are, which is just stupid. Anyway, here's this bird with a yellow breast, splayed tail, black beak and eyes and top of its head, tiny little black feet and twitchy dark hairs behind its bill like flycatchers have to help catch flies — kinda like cowcatchers used to catch cows on the locomotive of trains. Should be easy to find in a bird book, but I've gone through four to no avail. Probably something very ordinary. I should check this time last year and the year before that for something that's been identified here before.
Except for the yellow, it looks a lot like the Esastern Phoebe I saw last November 29 and in a couple big books of bird pictures. But it is yellow, isn't it? Could it be a trick of light? The upper shot looks less yellow, and even this image doesn't look all that yellow.
Then this flew over me, and I'm utterly astounded I got it in this good focus. But what is it? Good question. I only ever saw it swoop. With my luck it's a mockinbird, but I don't think so. I'm wanting it to be a Blue Jay. It's got a chin strap like this, and just this morning I was asking the Universe for an opportunity to photograph one up close. Hadn't anticipated this close, but it's difficult to outguess the Universe.
I know this one. Hard to miss with those splotches of yellow and red on its upper wing. I've heard lots of them lately in the reeds along side of the lake, but this is the first one I've seen standing on top of something tall proclaiming itself and its territory. I've been expecting that sight for awhile, and I expect to see a lot more RWBBs doing that in the soon future.
Another one, With only the barest hint of yellow. Red wing out of sight. We got the blackbird part pretty well, however.
But look at those big, clunky feet on this dainty black bird.
Lot of these around today. They're everywhere; they're everywhere.
Oh, no. Another bird not in my very limited scope of avian experience. Probably common. Those are the ones that always throw me. I love them, but I don't know them all very well. Thus the A word at the top of the page. Aha! Some serious page-turning reveals this little bird as the one that fools me every autumn. It's a female Yellow-rumped Warbler in her fall plumage. Often called a "Butter Butt" for the splotch of yellow on top of her hind quarters that we can't see in this shot.
I finally found her in the big National Georgraphic Complete Birds of North America that has more intermediate colors and genders and morphs and plumages than any other book I've yet bought. On page 549 of more than 600.
American Coot swimming in a feeder creek somewhere along today's rout from the south edge of Parrot Bay, slowly along the western edge of the bay, and up into the tree and reed area at the big parking lot on top. Where I noticed that coot's backs sometime seem concave.
And as we all know by now, they sometimes run on the water.
Another bird I almost saw. Well, very clearly did see and photograph. A woodpecker. Pretty certain about that much. But which one? Let's see. Red on the top, or at least the back of the top. Ladder of white on a black back with a big white splotch between what would be our shoulder blades. Black stripe up the back of the head. White on the very front. Black mask around dark eyes.
Ah, it's a Downy Woodpecker. Only one with a white splotch in the middle of the back and red in back on top. And all that other stuff, too. They'll be around for awhile. Maybe I'll get a better shot. Like of the front or face. With birds this small, the Rocket Launcher is coming into its own, and with practice maybe I can catch up with the really fast-movers — like woodpeckers.
Meanwhile, out in Parrot (named after the parakeets) Bay, Cormorants hopping to fly...
Till all three join as one big ink blot. What do you see in this image?
Cormorant Bay (See map) has more than cormorants. I've been hoping for a Great Blue the last few days. I checked the this time last year link on top this page and seeing GBHs, so I knew they were out there. I've been hogging the pelicans in Sunset Bay too long, so I stayed on the west side of the lake today and probably will tomorrow. So nice now the road goes both ways. I'd been following this one in from the south edge of this bay, photographed it in the same old poses several times too many already. Nice to get different — even slightly — poses sometimes.
It's just dragged its toes in the water to lower flight speed for landing. I missed the toe-drag, since I've got my cam set on single shot. No sense wasting shutter flaps when I don't need hundreds of a gorgeous bird flying. I think that was that one, same Pied-billed Grebe under it in today's first shot one click above.
I've seen egrets and others land similarly, but never a GBH before.
After fishing in the reeds while I photographed other birds, it flew off behind some trees and into the heart of Cormorant Bay.
No telling what this duck is doing. I like the angles of head and tail. Beak still does not look blue. Anna says, "Our male Ruddy Buddies won't have those beautiful blue beaks until breeding season according to: enature.com/. Several other sites cite that the male's beak color ranges from dark blue gray to solid gray during non-breeding."
Plenty life going on in the ponds behind the reeds usually at the lake's edge. The GBH was hanging out on the other side of the reed wall.
Handsome little critter I wasted too many shutter claps and mirror flaps on today. This was was a little closer.
Another unusual pose in a photograph. Love that rim light along its belly. Halo all around.
Then huffing along comes this ponderous Muscovy Duck. I got two shots. This one's in focus.
Of course, what would Cormorant Bay be without cormorants, supposedly Double-crested variety, although I've never seen a single crest. Juveniles have light breasts. Adults are mostly black.
Love the feather detail and the aquamarine eyes. There were hundreds of cormorants in the trees rimming Cormorant Bay, swimming and fishing and hopping on the water to get airborne all around Cormorant Bay, but most of those shots were pretty pedestrian. Stuff I've shot too many times before. Nice these guys let me right up next to the low tree along Lawther they were perched in. Cormorant details pretty nice.
But I never expected six bright blazing white American White Pelicans on a log out from Tilley's Point on my way back deliciously down West Lawther. With the Bath House filling their background. Sweet telephoto compression.
Lots of different species this cool bright Sunday afternoon. Most off from shore, probably because of the many people there. We usually don't go when it's crowded, but we needed to walk, and the weather was wonderful — and why not drag the big lens along. These fisher-birds were a long way from shore, but not too far for the Rocket Launcher. The splashes are cormorants in various stages of diving under for fish, like the one in a cormorant's beak on the left front.
Others are diving down deep, disappearing for long seconds while others pop splashing to the surface, splattering lots of water. This armada is a very efficient fish-catching machine, and highlighted by the bright sun behind us, they looked magnificent.
Remarkably detailed image of a juvenile Pied-billed Grebe swimming in waves well out into the lake. Good old Rocket Launcher.
I'd never seen Ruddy Ducks do this. Much like coots, though I can't tell yet whether these guys alternate feet, left-right-left-right like coots or are hopping like the larger cormorants and pelicans. I had to shoot quickly for this shot, before they disappeared behind reeds.
Remarkably detailed shots of Ruddy males. I'm looking forward to photographing Buffleheads, who also have bright white spots on their heads. We've often seen both Ruddies and Buffles in the same area. We looked long and hard today, but we'll have to wait, I guess.
This is my only sharp shot of a female Ruddy Duck today. Well, nearly sharp.
I saw something a lot like this not long ago. She (I'm fairly sure of that, but I know what happens when I get that way.) has the beak length and shape for it, but it's the wrong color, so color me amateur again. I love them, but I just don't know them very well yet. I've only been birding seriously (We can call this serious, right?) for about two-and-a-half years. Barely enough time to get some momentum.
Still practicing aiming the Rocket Launcher (150-500mm lens, almost always used at 500mm, which is the 35mm equivalent of a 750mm lens — kinda like swinging the Hubble to an incoming metiorite. The lens weighs 4.2 pounds. The camera without a battery — why anyone would weigh this camera without its very necessary battery is beyond me — is 29 oz. So that's close to 6.2 pounds I usually heft with my right hand, steadying the lens with the left, which may be why the leather stripped right off the grip on my D200.) at fast-moving objects. Sometimes I get it right, but I can't do it consistently yet. Lots of blurs and near misses today. This was the best in a while. It's harder closer but so rewarding. Love all that feather detail.
Cormorants, Starlings, a Mockingbird and the usual Pelican subjects today. Wandering down the west side, which is possible now, for the first time in a long time since West Lawther is a two-way road again. These birds are out in the big middle of the lake and notable for not having either gulls or pelicans in their growing numbers, although I suspect if there were enough fish for that many cormorants, there's probably enough to attract gulls and our lake's biggest fisher birds, the American White Pelicans. More about them in a minute.
Trees around what I want to call Mockingbird Circle in front of the Winfrey Building were loud with the chirping of starlings. Took awhile to get close enough any photographs, but there was a lot of flocking back and forth among the hills and trees.
That was more difficult to follow with the Rocket Launcher, but I may be getting better at panning if I hardly ever zoom back from 500mm (=750 in 35mm film speak), and today's starlings provided ample practice. When I first got my D200, I was so enraptured with its 5 frames per second that I shot scads of rapid-fire photos of birds flying. Like computer hard drives, whose life-cycles are rated in MTBF (mean time between failure), digital cameras' life cycles are measured in how many times the shutter fires before the camera fails.
Like my D200 did last month. Which I at first attributed to my first copy of the Rocket Launcher. Then learned it was the camera, which apparently, I had fired more than enough times already. The D200 was rated at 100,000 shutter/mirror flaps. I think I read that the D300 was rated at 150,000, but I'm not sure. What I do know is that though I'm willing to fire off a couple hundred shots at compelling subjects like so-called European Starlings (that actually came from west Asia), I'm doing them one at a time, instead of full automatic.
Walking down the shore west of the pier in Sunset Bay, I saw a half dozen pelicans take off from the cloud of white east of the pier.
Slowly, gradually, they spiraled upward over the bay, circling back over me at least a dozen times, turning again out over Hidden Creek ,,,
toward Buckner, as they climbed.
Meanwhile, I'd got out onto the pier, hoping to figure which pelican would make the first giant leap into the air.
But I couldn't even guess which would hop — like their cousins the cormorants, pelicans either jump into a hefty oncoming wind or they hop, two feet together over the top of the water till they attain escape velocity.
Of course, they use their huge, nine-feet-long wingspans to reach higher for air.
Then lift their sixteen pounds up into it.
Attempting to gather shots of something besides my beloved pelicans, I drove around the lake to places I usually don't go. I got these cormorants on an upended log not far from a yacht slowly flopping around its tether, in this moment off to the left, so we could see the corms.
Today's episode is mostly about beaks and the pelicans who own one. But first a word or two of pathos.
This pelicans separated from the pack on the mud bard, walked toward me (standing on the pier), then slipped into the water between the bar and the shore. It was close, so I zoomed in. Which is how I discovered it'd been injured.
It looks like something with big teeth grabbed it by the back of the neck and took a bite out of it. I'm glad it got away when it did. Wonder what got it? I'm still in favor of banning dogs — on or off leashes — from the greater Sunset Bay area. I am also in favor of having coyotes, big cats, minks, beaver, nutria and anything else wild that wants to be there and to feed there, stay there.
In my experience, at least one pelican every year is murdered by something.
I kept noticing beaks. 'Course with pelicans it's hard not to. I've come to understand that most apparent color variations are tricks of light.
The pelicans in front's pouch has been perforated. Don't know whether it was by another one of those big, long orange things or something else. Hard to tell.
A little break from big beaks.
Nicest landing pelican photo in awhile. I had hoped to be learning my new telephoto lens. Instead, I'm learning my new camera. The one I was lusting after last month because I believed — who knows where I got that guff — that it would be nearly noiseless, even at high ISOs turned out to be a fairy tale. Wrong again, I'm using my DFine software to disappear all the noise in my new camera's images just like I had to all the time with my old camera. I had believed — it's important to believe, even when those hopes are dashed — I'd not have to use it anymore. But then why have it?
The greatest leap forward that my new camera offers is that it works. My old camera quit doing that. Luckily, the Rocket Launcher works great now — on my new camera. But my new camera is substantially better than the old one, I just have to learn how it's better and make best use of that betterness.
Here's a bunch of pelks really getting it on with their beaks, which seem to grow larger when they use them like swords.
This is about as aggressive as I've seen pelicans here.
An awful lot of this stuff going on today. Something in the air — or the water? Do you suppose they're all upset, because they saw the attack on the now-injured pelican? They are a tight-knit community.
Aha! Here we go with tonight's feature action. Pelicans using their beaks to get what they want. What the bookend pelicans wanted here was to get rid of the pelican in the middle.
Who tries to look formidable — flaps wings high. But...
Who egresses amid the barrage of being beaked at.
Here's some more beaking going on. Guess who's the target this time?
Another break from the action. This time it's a gull flying by and almost in focus.
And again. Guess who's getting it this time? He sure doesn't look very happy about it.
And there it goes.
While we ponder that stuff, let's take a look at one very pretty pigeon. I usually don't give them the time of day. Today, it was around 3:30 pm.
The end. Or at least the other end.
Walking around Winfrey Point I saw gobs of pelicans doing pelican things: flying magnificently, fishing, preening, floating around. I passed two fisher guys who wished they had rocks to throw at the pelicans who were gathering in front of them. I thought that rude, but didn't say anything. I would have if they had thrown anything. They did scare some away by casting over near them. The pelks were a skittish bunch around two cantankerous fishermen.
In the autumnal distance backdropped by the Hidden Creek area, the usual white mob scene on the far end of Sunset Bay was slowly disbursing.
I'd just passed a couple of Pied-billed Grebes, some distance out in the water. One of the many reasons I'd got the Rocket Launcher. Small, shy birds at some distance from shore may seem a little closer now. Some of their details may show.
Above a pattering rain of pelicans swirled slowly in the wind, rising higher and higher, and eventually disappearing off toward north.
One of several of the Ring-billeds that have arrived, so far. Gradually, their numbers will grow substantially, till there's way too many of them. Not my favorite birds, because they steal food from the coots. So far what I've seen the gulls steal from the coots has been bread — usually white bread — so maybe I shouldn't be upset. I haven't seen or photographed a vicious fight between them, but that too will come.
Top to bottom: Orange and white American White Pelicans; mostly black American Coots with white bills; and various flavors of gooses. All but the pelicans heading this way. Behind me a woman was throwing white bread, which they were all attracted toward.
Coots were going their usual crazy, running and splashing across the water. The gooses seemed curious more than panicked. Not really hungry, but what the hey, someone throwing free food, why not?
But nothing stops a panicked coot, and soon the gooses were getting a little tizzied, too.
By the time they regally swam me by, the gooses had calmed significantly, but were bee-lining it to the lady with bread.
Above, the air roiled with pelicans taking off.
Flying in my same general direction, or so it seemed.
While other pelicans landed out by the logs full of cormorants.
Got their skids in position.
And splashed down into the greenish-brownish, shallow water of Sunset Bay.
Where many pelicans were swimming back and forth. And about four gulls played.
Neither big white bird — gooses or pelicans — are unusual in Sunset Bay. Both hang out there much of the time. What may be more unusual is finding them swimming together in the same direction.
I was careful today, to dress in the muted greenish browns of my favorite "Walk on the Wild Side" T-shirt with a thin black line drawing of four bears walking in the woods Anna got me from Glacier Park over muted khaki hand-me-down shorts, black shoes, black Diabeti-sox, and my brownish flesh showing through in various places. I didn't join these folks, because my primary reason for being at the lake today — though I hauled my Rocket Launcher every step — was walking for exercise, and I had about 3/4 mile to go. It's just so much more fun and interesting if I can stop and smell the photographs along the way.
Whenever I get anxious or bored, I go birding. Even on a Sunday when I know there are way too many people at the lake. I always feel better afterwards. I thought the electric company had figured out how to rid themselves of the Monk Parakeet population by trashing the screaming greenies' homes during high-wind episodes. But I don't think we've had any winds in a while, and the now pristine substation has the smallest stacks of branchlets keet nests I've seen in many years.
Their hokey little sign is still up, but Parakeet homes are definitely down. I'd heard that a lot of the keets have been relocating, and I think I can see why. If someone claiming to work with the audubon society trashed my home repeatedly, I'd be a little nervous, too. I'd probably call the cops. I don't think they have parakeet cops.
A parakeet watched as I tried to put all the clues together.
A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, too.
Lots of other birds flew by. I even went into the Fitchery, where I realized I was running under seriously hypoglycemic conditions. Getting dizzy, having trouble seeing. No candy, it took awhile to figure out how to get out of there. I heard a very few birds in there, but I never saw a single one. Probably too late in the day. Eventually, I found my way back to Blue, stuffed some peppermint candies and stopped at the new gelato store in Lakewood.
Where I watched cavorting mockingbirds chasing each other across the gate, up, around, down, in and out the trees that line the old Safeway Store grounds across the street that they're turning into a Whole Foods store. I assume they finally bought the parking lot, too. Turns out they bought the store without their lawyers realizing that the parking lot wasn't in the parcel along with the building.
I kept wondering if they'd play as hard or pose as well if I trudged over to Blue, got out the Rocket Launcher and stood out on the street aiming in that direction.
The answer was a definite no. I got a few pretty good blurs that were recognizable as mockingbirds, but nothing showing them having fun, chasing, or any such. I'm not sure what bird this is. My luck, it could be a Northern Mockingbird. Or a Blue Jay or a blue and white stripey wing-stretcher. It's primary glory is that I got it in focus, and it looks wild. It's probably a mock.
I thought this was the same bird, and with this I might find a match in one of my bird books. But I'm not so sure anymore. I'll keep looking. Lately, identification is proving my weak point. Maybe I should stick to photographing birds whose first names I know.
Visited dear friends to get away from the office today. They like to show me things, and I've always enjoyed their choices. Today it was some birds owned by a woman who used to train animals — and cockroaches — for the movies, and a beautiful yard full of bamboo. My pictures of the bamboo are mediocre at best, but because I kept at the birds, I got some nice shots — even though I was fighting serious underexposure, because Nikon moved the button to set that on my new camera, and I didn't find it till I'd left Marty & Richard's.
I'd set it to under expose, then forgot where. New cameras, even succeeding models of pretty much the same camera can be confounding sometimes because they look so similar, till I have one in my hands. Then the confusion begins. Of course, it would help if I'd read the manual. I tried, but I thought I'd learn more if I just tried it. I may have been correct, but I've been paging the manual some, too.
I don't remember any of the birds' names, although they all had at least one, and I'm not any better at remembering humans' names, but it was a lovely down-the-street visit in a wonderful, big-tree neighborhood with lots of colorful animals to be seen.
I especially enjoyed talking with the parrot. I did the talking. He just stared and looked colorfully beautiful. But I engaged him directly, and got right up close. Close enough to see full feather textures.
I told him that and that his tail was gorgeous. I don't usually get that close to birds, so it was all a thrill for me.
I would love to have seen him fly, but his wings were clipped so he wouldn't, and he probably would have been too quick and quickly too far for my 50mm lens I'd brought to maybe photograph art.
This peacock's former residence was too small to keep a tail, but it will grow back in another couple years. There was, of course, a Pea Hen around, too. But she was much too quick for my short lens, and the Rocket Launcher would have been serious overkill for the situation. This is what a similarly colored Peacock looked like last April with a full tail. That shot's not the traditional peacock image, but his tail is nonethless gorgeous and prominent in it.
text and photographs copyright 2008 by J R Compton.
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without
specific written permission from the writer or photographer.
Thanks always to Anna.