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White Rock Lake
November 30 2012
I rarely shoot for a theme, but sometimes — like today — it happens. First comes a short shot from a too-long telephoto.
Then a blue-eyed beauty.
Then a bird with an itch and only enough feet to pull it off if it stretches the beak like this.
I got to Sunset Bay late today, with a different camera than I've used for awhile, although I still consider it my best, even if it is kinda old, and I haven't used it for awhile, and I don't remember all the details. More than anything else, today was a focus test. I know I talk about it too much here. But it's important. It was already well into sunset and getting dark.
I saw these pelicans heading west into the sunset of Sunset Bay. I figured they were going fishing, something I'm always drawn to photographing. So I did. I'm not sure that third one from the left has actually caught something. They often get sidetracked by a root or other piece of wood stuck in the mud out there. I did not see it tilt back its big beak, as if it were swallowing something it had caught.
They're pretty far away in this shot, but they're in it and so is a fragment of the skyline that looms over there most of the time, just so rarely have any reason to shoot it.
So I went back to shooting the usual suspects. I don't know the little guy on the right end, but I've seen those other three white birds standing on that log many many times.
As usual, I missed the pelicans deciding to fly off in more or less unison. This was not the first to hop across the water and take off, flying pretty low, to fly out across the lake to wherever they go every night. A lot of the flock stayed, but a bunch of them joined the early fliers. Focus isn't perfect, but considering the extremely low light and fast action, it ain't bad.
Very low light. Pelicans aren't really really fast, but it seems so when a bunch of them decide to take off for wherever they go. I assume they're going out toward the middle of the lake where the big fish swim, but I don't know much about fish or where they swim, or where pelicans catch them at it, except that I do pay attention in the daytime, and I have often captured them involved in those big fishing parties with gulls and cormorants. And those range all over the lake, wherever the fish lead them.
I set the slowest shutter speed at 1/500th second, which sometimes just isn't fast enough to stop action.
Too bad it's so dark, those pelican color contrasts are amazing. But for those, I'd have to arrive well before sunset.
Sometimes it seems like all the pelicans are leaving at one time, but usually, a half dozen or dozen of them leave and fly out a ways, then another bunch does the same thing. I kept getting caught between the bunch that just left and the bunch that was about to leave. This one has only just jumped into air, it's hop splashes still disrupted bubbles slowly flattening back into lake surface as it attains flight.
Until there's several bunches of them at differing distances from inner Sunset Bay and out across the lake.
Here the pelicans are a little fuzzy, the far side of the lake kinda lost in the visual noise that happens when we use very high ISOs. Tonight's episode started off at ISO 1600 and quickly shot up to 3200, which I had set as the maximum. This camera is several years old, from I think, 2008 or 9 or so, so it doesn't do high ISO particularly well. My Nikon D7000 does high ISO very well indeed, but I am caught in one of those time warps, when I can't get it to focus on fast flying birds, so I'm using its elder sibling the D300.
Of course, they're all fairly separated. Aerobatic teams like the Navy's Blue Angels and the Air Force's Thunderbirds and probably many others who fly airplanes sometimes fly them within inches of each other's wingtips, but pelicans — although they sometimes draft the bird in front of them — don't like slapping wings when they flying, especially this low, so they keep a healthy distance away.
So any appearance of them being jumbled up has more to do with angle of view and distance from the lens than anything else. If another telephoto focal length could get this same view and distance, it'd probably look like this.
Accompanied by a few American Coots. Gooses keep a relative amount of decorum when they go and come. Somebody's in charge. He's the leader. Usually, it's a he. Everybody lines up behind him. And this shot, which happens to be in focus, may not show the leaders in the long line of gooses that leaves the relatively dangerous — besides oblivious idiot humans who let their dogs off the leash, so they can go scare the poo out of all the birds in the bay, there are also natural enemies of birds, including coyotes, who are very active these nights, and probably several bobcats, one very large one has been seen wandering around the buildings lately. Etc.
So where the gooses go at night has to be safe from all those, and humans, too.
Maybe can't see its face, but it's distinctive blue bill, odd head shape and the rest of it is plain enough from this photo. I've mentioned scaups lately. Today I've got a little better pix of them and some other birds and even some autumn trees that thrill me. Scaups do. Gulls don't usually.
I upped the contrast and brightened this one that looks almost like it was shot at lake level, except that we can see the top of its back. I'm a big fan of scaups. In most of my photos of them, that blob of water dropping off its beak is usually on the end of it.
Remember when I told you the females wouldn't be dropping by for awhile yet? Well, I was wrong again. I saw this one over the weekend. It was pretty dark out already, and she was in deep shadow, but when I brought her out, she looked kinda like this. The tip-off is
Driving down along the lake past The Arboretum (the bunch that wants to turn White Rock Lake into a parking lot.
SAVE WHITE ROCK LAKE.
PAVE THE ARBORETUM.
When I saw these trees, and for awhile, red was all I could think or or see.
Sorry. I'll gingerly get down off my soap box now, and go back to birds.
I saw widely scattered yet somehow organized Ring-billed Gulls today as I drove down along The Arboretum\ toward Winfrey Point. I'm not at all sure what they were up to, but I think I've seen them doing it before, just last few times I saw it, I didn't think of it as subject for photography last time. Today, I stopped, got out the big gun, and shot several times.
Naturally, J R shoots the one gull he could see instead all those out-of-focus dots on into the horizon.
This last week or so has been so much fun. Hope it shows. Same old birds, really, and all at White Rock, and some of my cameras (or my interaction with them) ahs been iffy lately with focus. So I'm back to using my much elder and Nikon-refurbished cameras.
Birds from Paradise
Sunset Bay At White Rock Lake
Guess it's checking out the landing field, which is usually right into a big mess of fellow pelicans. They don't need much water to perform their short splash skid, then they join the others. Easy. If you're an American White Pelican and have been doing it this precision way all your life, it comes natural.
Its wings are not trimmed for speedy flying. More like it's just there, waiting for something to happen or a place to go. Looks ungainly, but so what. American White Pelicans do that a lot. Notice how comparatively short the white portion of its wings appear at this awkward juncture, as it's coming in close for a wet landing, skids down and flat, though not yet level with the surface.
I'm always in consternation about what people say to me while I'm wielding my 300mm lens (used with the doubler for all of today's shots, and for a change they were actually shot today as I type this). People often say things like "wow," or "what a _ _ _ _ ing cool camera," handily missing the fact that the camera itself is rather ordinary, but it's the lens that is the hulk.
Today, a photographer on the pier at Sunset Bay asked me what kind of lens I was using. I pointed the camera at him, so he could read the logo. Oh, he said, "Nikon," uttering a percussive put-down at one of the sharpest lenses ever made. I didn't talk with him after that.
I have a couple of those "sharpest lenses ever made." All three are Nikons. My just-over $100 50mm f1.8 standard lens that Anna gave me one Christmas is very very sharp. And not at all expensive. The first autofocus lens I ever bought, way back in the 1980s is slow to focus but is another of those sharpest lenses. I guess I could have told the dolt that I started gathering Nikon lenses in the 1960s, and they all still fit and work with all the latest Nikon digital cameras. Unlike most other brands, including his Canon. But why bother? I did not put him down for having whatever he had.
We have what we have, and we use it.
I tend to show up at Sunset Bay mid-afternoon these months, often just in time for a major — like today — fly-in, involving dozens of birds. I love watching and photographing American White Pelicans returning to earth. Before some of them landed, they flew so far up they were just these tiny, elegant specks soaring up there. It was gorgeous and pleasant today in Sunset Bay. Not overly warm. Short-sleeve weather, a slight breeze. Lots of pelicans and cormorants gathered inside the bay. Maybe a dozen Ring-billed Gulls, a few assorted ducks, and the usual winterish gob of coots.
The one thing American White Pelicans are probably best at is flying. They are refined flyers, and to do that, they have the second longest wingspans of any over-land flying birds in America. Note here the tailing feathers are black. So are the ones at each end. I've just found this fact in my favorite Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas: "A black pigment, melanin, makes this bird's flight feathers stronger and more resistant to wear." Just the other day I heard a woman ask her husband why the black feathers on white pelicans. I'd wondered that, myself.
As you can probably see, I shot whatever pelicans circled above then landed in Sunset Bay. I shot them low, and I shot them high, but the most fun I shot them today was coming in fast for a landing, which I managed to do nine ways from Sunday. Ain't bio diversity wonderful.
I briefly considered putting all today's best shots — these here — in some sort of obvious order. High in the sky, lower, lower still, coming in for a landing, landing, skidding and joining the flock of just over a hundred American White Pelicans. But I did these in random order. So much easier and quicker — and not nearly as corny or hackneyed.
This pelican seems to have extremely short wings. American White Pelican wings are extendible and retractable, but mostly, this one was photographed with an extremely long telephoto lens, which tends to foreshorten long things like 10-foot wingspans, although some books insist they are only nine feet. It also makes keeping the whole bird in the frame ar real trick. I threw away dozens of partial pelican pictures today.
Here, this pelican has nearly fully extended its wings, so it has maximum air contact so it can perfectly maneuver slipping in the stream, so it lands just where it wants to.
So concludes today's selection. Sure was gangbusters fun photographing my other favorite big white birds today.
White Rock Lake
Our Lesser Scaups are a species I watch for every mid-to-lake autumn. They're odd in that usually only males show up at first. These are my first shots from mid-November, when I captured them in late evening and dark of night around the pier at Sunset Bay, where they sometimes join the more raucous American Coots to try to get a little bread thrown by humans who think they are doing ducks a favor by feeding them white bread, even though it's not healthy for either them or us.
This looks much more like a Lesser Scaup than the strange beast in the image above. The Greater Scaups hang out mostly on the eastern and western edges of the U.S. in those big bodies of water they call oceans. And here in The South they are known to prefer salty water, but I guess White Rock's less or more pristine unsalty contents will do in a pinch. I don't think I've ever seen more than eight or nine of them here at one time.
Because they often hang close to the pier, they are difficult to capture with my great long lens that doesn't like to focus that close. So I was perversely pleased when they swam away, even though I could only really get one of them in focus at a time. I've since seen — and photographed — them in daylight, but they're still elusive. One, or maybe two, females will join the crew somewhat later in the winter, stay for a couple days, then split off somewhere else.
I waited a long time for this fishing flotilla of cormorants and pelicans to choose to cross the lake and get much closer to me, but they never did. So in case they didn't, I shot toward them, just this side of the dam on the far side of the lake, just in case.
Though they utilize somewhat different strategies to capture their food — or maybe because of those differences, Double-crested Cormorants and American White Pelicans, often also accompanied by Ring-billed Gulls, appear to work in something approximating cooperation. Both those species help drive great schools of food fish toward shallows. Cormorants often dive for their food. Pelicans scoop them up in the shallowest of shallows with their large, flexible pouches, tilt back and swallow. But there is often conflict with cormorants, pelicans and gulls competing for the exact same fish.
Apparently everybody helps find the fish, often with the larger and perhaps faster, pelicans racing to where they are — maybe because they stand taller in the water, they see fish quicker — then the cormorants swarm in, and if gulls are along for the ride, they swoop in, too.
November 23 2012
Mid-afternoon today I walked down to Cormorant Bay to once again attempt to photograph cormorants flying into and out of Cormorant Bay, nestled into the last open water way south of Mockingbird Lane. I see people walking through that area all the time, but I won't, because of all of what looks like hoarfrost in the trees along the edge of the bay. It's not ice, it's cormorant scat, and it stinks.
Last time I tried this I got zero shots worth showing you. This time, I got about 11% in adequate focus. Maybe only about 2% actually sharp. I promptly deleted 90% of today's shots because they were mostly blurs. This cormorant is not really green. It just looks sort green along its back, which is probably more likely black.
My big sport today was attempting to train 900mm of big, chunky telephoto lens on a dark bird flying fast into that bay I named after this very species. Occasionally, I succeeded. Far more often, however, I failed. If I'd kept them, I could show you dozens of partial-bird photographs. I prefer showing you full birds unless I'm doing close-ups. This one's not perfect, of course, I managed to crop its left wing slightly.
My level for these shots was standing up on what I call the Bent Bridge. Like most White Rock Lake bridges, it slops around somewhat whenever somebody walks, runs or rides a bike across its slatted wood surface. And I was not having an easy time of it holding up that heavy lens, but that's what it was all about. Practice. I needed practice. My favorite Nikon, the D300 has recently refused to focus in its "Whatever's closest out there" mode. What I used today was the D7000, which I consider strictly an amateur camera, because it won't shoot a lot of frames in rapid succession, and I haven't figured out how to get it to always focus, like my D300 used to. This shot it close, but not great focus.
These corms are sharp but can't be close because there's three of them flying, and they can't stay close to each other or they'd run into each other, and by now they know better than to attempt it.
This bird is not really sprawling. It's well into flight, just changing attitude in preparation to land on a branch, even if that means running whatever cormorant that's already on the branch off to fend for itself.
All the pictures in today's journal entry are a miracle. That I could have sighted it through the lens, got all of it in the frame when I shot it, and got it in focus. Hooray for miracles.
I guess I could have led with this shot. It's sharp and all those other aspects, and it looks good.
November 19 2012
Another lost stack of images. This bunch from way last week. November 15. I was all excited about taking them. Clickity-click as the flurry flew from out behind the reeds, left out into Sunset Bay proper. At first the flurry was rushed but not yet panicked. There's some panic creeping in by now. All today's shots are in strict chronological order, as if that helped.
Then the coots got panicked, as only they can, and the flurry got flurrier.
One goose. More panicked coots more panicked. The ducks still fly. I love these photographs. Wish I'd captured them with a higher shutter speed and more depth of field. Always we photographers wish for something. But nice. Abstract and wild. I love their abstract reality.
Now, even the gooses have joined the frey and fracas. Ducks flying and gooses flapping, everybody else going to fast to focus. Gotta wonder why.
More birds flapping and fleeing, running and flying. Click, click, click. Then we see the cause of it all.
A gig yellow dog with a collar but no leash. Busy scaring the bejesus out of all those shorebirds.
I saw the dog return to this woman, who petted it, tugged on it and talked with it. The only photo of them together is distinctive enough, but mostly out of focus. I have several shots of this woman talking animatedly on her phone. Almost completely ignoring the plight of the coots, ducks, gooses and other birds. When C approached her to tell her to put her dog back on its leash. When she saw him, she made a wide circle around him, so he wouldn't tell her. Again, we assume.
recently updated my Herons
page to include many more baby,
adolescent, juvenile and even some new adult varieties of herons.
Various Places and times Around White Rock Lake
November 19 2012
Sometimes some photos I take are too off-topic for what I'm up to on these journal entries, or I just forget them, then have them left over. Today's entry is all leftovers. I love leftovers.
For a big change, I took more than one camera to the lake this day. Primarily so I could photograph all, or all the near, pelicans in one shot. Generally, I think in telephoto, and that works out better for birds who can fly away any moment.
I liked the way I managed to render these feathers these pelicans are ruffling, soft-looking and a little off-white. I love feathers. This shot's also nice, because I've somehow managed to make these two birds look unlike their usual selves. Or at least unlike the way I usually think they look, because it's obviously them, and they are that species, etc.
There's some things really wrong here. It's off-balance as a composition. And again, it looks strange, showing feathers and parts we don't usually see. The reflection kinda gets in the way of seeing what we are seeing. You can probably tell why I didn't use this shot before. But There's a lot about it that I really like, too.
Hard to imagine me not using an in-focus shot of a Great Blue Heron, and I usually tend away from showing cormorants, although this one is showing itself off in a manner I usually am not close enough — or there's not enough light to show it off in such detail.
More big fluffy detail in a cormorant. I often give them short shrift, because some of them are always around and because they so thoroughly stink up Cormorant Bay, but many countries use these birds on their coins and in their coats of arms, thinking of them as magnificent beasts. I think what I most have against them is that they tend to stay far away from humans.
I shot this one, because those front two pelicans are showing off (more likely drying) those black feathers at the ends of their wings, that people who think of them primarily as big white birds, don't notice. This is probably a good example of a shot I didn't love enough to park into a daily journal entry, and thought I'd save it for another day, then I plumb forgot it. It's not that I don't really plan ahead, it's that by the time it comes to doing something with those plans, I'm on to something else, and those other plans seem so inconsequential.
White Rock Lake — The old boathouse lagoon
A Black-crown it its natural habitat, half invisible, staring out, hardly moving for minutes. Sometimes not a twitch. Disguised as a tree. Photographs in focus separates it out from the fore- and backgrounds, but staring up into that tree, I often could not see it. But I knew that gray patch had to be it. Camera rested on the new wood bridge's metal handrailing, tilted up the thickness of three layers of paper towel. Wait for the bikers, joggers and everybody else to quit shaking the span. And click.
This one's a little more exposed, still a challenge to pick out of its background. Took twenty or so shots to get it this sharp. Click.
Now is the meat of the matter. Here's a Black-crowned family out fishing. The juvenile — whom I'll show in a little more detail below — sleeping after a busy day fishing and learning and hunting.
I didn't see it catch anything, but this is a big blowup of a long telephoto shot, and my own far vision is pretty lousy. I shot a half dozen shots, and this one is the sharpest. Behind it are at least two Mallards. It's so nice to be photographing something besides pelicans. I went there just hoping. At first I couldn't see anything but one very bright Great Egret. Gradually, as I panned around the lagoon I picked out various familiar-looking lumps of feathers.
Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake
The pelicans left and right have been there long enough to consider where they are/were all their own. The pelican jumping up between them wants to make that spot its. The flanking pelicans could just move over. There's plenty room. But what's the fun in that?
Pelican A attempts a wing block
The usurper stands its ground ... er ... tree.
And it flaps its wings.
With a pelican that just stood there minding its own business all long. Go figure.
I was following the Great Egret, clicking, attempting to reacquire focus, and clicking again. Never saw the pelicans till later. Nice of the one on the rightish here give it a pelican salute as it flew by.
She knows it's not food. She tried chewing it first. Then she held it like this, and that, and the other. Right now, she (could as easily be a he) is trying the balancing act.
I sometimes stretch just one arm, too.
I've never seen a juvenile pelican of either the Coastal, brown variety, or our own American White Pelican varieties that I knew was a juvenile. I might have to go back to Idaho to see a bunch of them to see how they act, learn to fly, etc.
Whenever I see variations in our winter visitor's feathers,
I want to know why. For too long a time, I assumed that the fins they grow on
their beaks toward spring indicated a breeding male, but apparently there is
no obvious — i.e., visual — differentiation that indicates gender. The smaller
ones may be younger, but I don't yet know why some white pelicans have brown
The Spillway at White Rock Lake
I've been over flown by huge flocks of several large-bird species, and it's always a thrill to see that many birds in very close to one place under that one circumstance. I always think of it as a great privilege or blessing. Maybe an hour after seeing all those birds flying up and down again way out west of Sunset Bay in the journal entry below, while I was wandering around the rest of the lake looking for something else to maybe photograph, I happened to look up from the Lower Spillway and see this.
These were all shot with a zoom lens, so we can see various details as well as masses of birds. I never know which to concentrate upon — how many there are or what each one looks like.
When darker birds fly over closer, I can sometimes lighten up their darker undersides with an on-camera flash. But these guys were way up there, so I'm glad to have got this much detail.
If that lens zoomed out to much wider — this was shot with a 200-600mm zoom lens — I might have got the whole flock in one shot, but those things are ungainly, and I haven't afforded one yet. Like most owners of long zooms, I always prefer using the long end to shoot pictures. Which is all to say, there were many many more pelicans in this group. I remember counting them all, and finding that that number was very nearly the same as the pelicans who had flown the coop from Sunset Bay, so I assumed these were they, but I don't remember the number.
I waited till they were at some distance before I even thought about shooting them from such an angle. Who knows what the next time. Probably more pelicans. I've been getting closer lately, as well as so far away.
Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake
I may have been, but the pelicans definitely were not panicked. Their egress was express. I saw a couple of them suddenly hop across the water and take off, I shot whatever action I could find. For a change I didn't miss all the initial action, I got this. But honing in on any other segment showing beginnings proved fruitless — although just before this sudden mass exit, a couple other pelicans came back from somewhere, then the exodus began, so maybe that's how these things usually start.
I wish I knew what the two told them all about, and where they all went, but I was more than happy to follow them into the air and where they went then.
A lot of action pretty quick. I knew somebody was going to start hopping across the water.
Jump into the air with those big wings flapping.
The pelican on the right made the splash by the two gulls central left. The pelican on the left has been flying for awhile. They fly low, because flying is easier down there, because of the "ground effect."
More pelicans leaving.
And farther away.
Somewhat later that afternoon, I discovered a bunch of pelicans flying not terribly high over where I went after Sunset Bay, still looking for birds to photograph.
I'll show you those tomorrow, but I still don't know where
they went meantime, or where they flew off to then.
Ring-billed Gull flying close far away.
Simple, set off by that barest slender edge of light along the upper gull's wing.
A much better composition than I at first thought it would be.
Left to right, the ones I'm sure of are a turtle; a reddish bluish bird (remotely possible to be a Green Heron, but I don't give that much credence); two cormorants; a very small duck or something like that, and a pelican.
Difficult light to get just right, this is a compromise, so we can both see the birds, especially that partially back-lit Ring-billed Gull, who are lately back for the winter. They're not my favorite species of birds, but they're not as stupid as I sometimes think, and they do enjoy a game of drop-it from time to time. And sometimes, when light from the setting sun conspires with the day, they're beautiful.
No cute eyes looking up, but there are those cute little feet, one of which is not even close to the log it's on, and a cute little tail.
Or inside-out. Hard to tell.
The Old Boathouse Lagoon
One of the several ways grackles have of getting into flight is to start flapping and lean into it.
Maybe I need to investigate the several ways our Great-tailed Grackles have to get into flight. I've long wanted to pan them as they fly in toward me, but I haven't been quick enough for that yet. Catching them on the leading edge of flight is a step in that direction, but only a tentative step.
On the far side of the wood bridge by the old boat house was deep shade, carefully protected by a fierce glint of strong sunlight bright enough I had to hold my hands in front of my eyes, even when I was pointing the camera into the edge of all that. I only sighted the heron after I'd been looking around in there awhile, mostly blinded. Then just about when I'd finally got it in fairly secure focus —
It jumped into the air where I couldn't possibly follow focus — or even see it, that sun shine shone so brightly along that edge — and flew along the far side of the creek to the farther end of the lagoon. Where I got this and a couple much-smaller bits of it, before it disappeared altogether.
Standing on Top of Boyscout Hill Overlooking White Rock Lake
A little diversion from our usual path today. Still Nature. Just air and water with a little earth to frame it. No birds. We saw this sitting bright on the horizon when we came out of Bangkok City restaurant Saturday night. It was still light with bits of blue sky, but darkness was falling fast. I knew we'd never get to the lake before full black. So we started at the Water Department a little south and across Greenville, because there were fewer trees in the way.
Then we drove to White Rock, paying attention to all the cloud formations along the way. Anna suggested Boy Scout Hill, and it was almost perfect, except the little parking lot was nearly full. We found a slot on the back side and walked to the picnic shelter where The City eradicated the Cliff Swallows who'd settled there, buzzing picnickers on their way to their mud nests in the upper corners of the concrete shelter overlooking the northern part of the lake.
For more information and images of the Cliff Swallows who used to live there, see the June 5 entry near the bottom of the June 2009 Bird Journal.
The storm seemed to move in over Yacht Club Row, then settle there. Our trick was to capture lightning strikes, including the horizontal arrays we watched stretch across the sky, but we neither we nor our cameras were entirely up to the task. Except for little bits like the next one up. Massive strikes littered the sky before us as we slowly sifted from dark parking lot to dark lot overlooking the spectacular and slowly moving skyscapes.
I shot more than 200 times, but only really liked these four. I also shot long videos, but I still don't know how to show or play those things — or even find them on the memory card, and I've had this camera almost a year now. Eventually, I quit messing with the camera altogether, and just watched in awe as the sky boomed and burst with light..
The scream of a Red-tailed Hawk.
NOTE: I've been updating my very popular Herons and Egrets pages, which are in pretty good shape, with newer and bigger pictures and improved text, and I'm now working on the How to Tell Them Apart — Herons vs. Egrets page, which I'll link soon as it's finished.
Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake
Friday November 2 2012
There's probably a better name for what happens when two birds with long beaks use them like swordspsersons use swords, but I call it beaking. It's simpler. It took me years to find out that when a bird shakes all its feathers (or most of them) at one time, it was called rousing, and I have a whole page of different birds doing that. But "beaking" will have to do until some more professional birder tells me what it's called. The vast majority of beaking I've seen has had to do with location. Where to stand. Where to swim. Where to cozy down onto the ground and lay their beaks back among the warm fuzzies in their wing feathers.
What this pelican is doing makes it look like its wings are short, but they are not. They grow sometimes when they need them for a flanking flying movement, or landing, and probably other times when I haven't figured out what they were doing. Seemed almost like magic first couple dozen times I've seen them do that.
I loved the brilliant white of the pelicans contrasting the dark darks of the American Coots who always seem to be running around under those short, flat, duck-like feet American White Pelicans have.
I wonder whether it's the same pelicans who settle into the short length of rebar and log not so far off the peninsula that's been growing lately as more water is let over the dam on the far side of the lake.
Lakewood Preparatory School
Reader Melissa Carpenter, who sent pictures of a bobcat earlier this year, emailed me recently, saying she "now had a Red-tailed Hawk that I found on our deck at the ESC (Environmental Science Center), in the freezer. There is no visible damage." She asked if I was interested in looking at him. She closed, saying, "He is a beautiful specimen.
It took me awhile to determine whether I wanted to photograph another dead bird. The last few have been really stinky. Took me a couple weeks to decide, yes, of course, I did want to photograph a dead hawk.
Unfortunately, unlike the dead owls Anna & I found in South Texas one Christmas, this one really was frozen inside, although it was mostly just cold to the touch outside, though still soft like touching feathers often seems, and it would go back into the freezer when I finished shooting it. I brought three lenses and my best copying camera for things that don't move much, and my tripod. Melissa is Director of Environmental Education at Lakehill Preparatory School (LPC), and we still don't know what gender this hawk is.
I didn't try to force its wings open. And as many regular readers know, I'm not the best bird identifier around, but I didn't think the tail or breast looked like a Red-tailed or Red-shouldered hawk, both of which are common around here. LPC didn't have much in the way of bird I.D books, but from what they had, I thought it looked like a Cooper's Hawk. I'd seen them here before — usually identified by someone who knew — so that was possible.
The more I look, the more I'm pretty sure that's what it might be, perhaps a juvenile. The main identifiers are the tail, head, breast and claws, which seem to be about right for a Cooper's. If it were somewhat shorter, it could be a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but I haven't known that I've seen one of those yet, so it seems unlikely — one of the more important things I've learned about birding is that although we usually want each new yet-unidentified bird to be exotic, it almost never is.
I put it down on one of the tables in the large room with afternoon sun slanting in, we dragged it closer to the window, and I pushed it around on the tables and shot it from as many different angles as I could. When I started duplicating those, I stopped. She put it back in the freezer, we both washed our hands, and I promised to have the pictures ready by tomorrow, which is today.
If someone reading this know what it really is, tell me and I'll change the words around and give you credit, if you wish.
text and photographs copyright 2012 by J
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My favorite answer is, "I don't
am, after all, an amateur.
I'm not kidding. I've only been birding for six years,
although I've been photographing professionally since 1964.
Thanks always to Anna.
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