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Annette Abbot has added considerably to
the identifications of
the ducks in Sunset Bay. See her words below in this color.
Random Pelican Pix from the last week or so
With Cormorants closer and under.
They don't just stretch their wings outward for special maneuvers, sometimes they breadthen them up to catch more air to reduce landing speed.
Feathers are vaguely like fingers, because they are an extension of birds' wings/arms, and they have some movement with them, but no opposing thumbs to pick things up. And of course, once the flap the other way, the contact is lost again.
But note how those feathers are actually front and back of the feathers on the lower bird here.
Some feathers on this side of that wing; others on the other side. They are holding feathers during a glide.
Looks like I'm at great height looking down, but I just got the camera crooked and the pelican is banking to the left.
Gear down and rigid into skidding position. Splashes will follow.
Holding my Nikon sidewise is difficult enough with a stationary bird, but for one flying, it's sometimes nearly impossible. So I usually hold it horizontally.
I probably wasn't paying much attention to whom was behind them, but I like getting other species in to finish out the composition.
Low off the water and inside Sunset Bay. That's Dreyfuss Point behind them, all humaned up with a moving automobile, a trash bin and what looks like a postal box but is probably yet another trash bin. The non black & white birds are Double-crested Cormorants.
Thanksgiving birds at Sunset Bay
After dinner with old and new friends, I headed for Sunset Bay, where ducks had gathered for their own feed-fest. As usual, today's images are in chronological order, which mainly means, it got darker. Most of these ducks are going up the hill, with the lake on the right.
I was surprised to also see a pelican landing, though it did not show up on the beach.
I was just experimenting much of my stay there. Amazed so many of these even worked.
Loved all the splashing.
Ducks dawdled up the beach to where Charles poured grain corn for them, but at the least provocation they rushed back to the safety of the lake. Sometimes they walked.
Occasionally, they flew.
Including these guys on one of the few of these shots I got sharp, even though I could barely see, it was so dark. Yes, flash.
And here's the lone Pintail, complete with droplets of water on his undersides. Like water on a duck's belly.
And when coots get nervous of steal another coot's food, they rush across the water, running as fast as those strange, lobed feet will carry them, then to slow down they sploosh in the water like this. If I'd been quicker, I'd have got the running, not the coasting, but it was dark, but the on-camera flash equalizes.
So was this. When you can see everybody's eyes shining bright white like this, you know the intrepid photographer has used his on-camera flash to add illumination to the crowd of black American Coots.
And this was just pure simple luck. A pelican hopping two-footed into flight. Gradually, all the inner-bay pelicans left the area, but this was the only one I caught on silicon.
And most of my attempts to capture images of the fleeing flying ducks were rendered as deep, dark muck, but this one was sharp, colorful and stopped the action of speedily flapping away. For this and the couple others above, pre-focusing was the answer. Focus on something over there at about the same distance without quite knowing where they'd be when I finally clicked, then wait for the loud flutter of many ducks' wings exploding in fear, wait a few seconds, then click-flash.
Hawk Parked on a No-Parking Sign
I'd seen a Red-tailed Hawk fly over Garland Road toward the lake over the Arboretum, and I wondered if I could see it as it cruised toward the lake, if it did that, so I turned on East Lawther Drive and kept stopping The Slider, getting out — not nearly so cold as it's been — and looking up and up and up. But nothing.
So I was tooling along, looking up and out over the lake and even at the signs flowing by me, left and right — like this one, thus sighting this beautiful creature, who was probably hatched within a mile of where I found it.
And it didn't seem to mind at all. I crept the Slider closer, and got out, because I didn't want to shoot through its multi-bending windshield. Didn't want any distortion getting in my way. Closer and closer.
Till I passed the sign, hoping it would stay right there, where I loved the light from this side.
This is an enlargement of the upper portion of yet another shot from the far side of the sign. Luscious colors and details. These photographs are a great deal more detailed and higher resolution than most of them I post here. I couldn't help myself, but there's far fewer than I often post here, so it averages out.
It's not really an extreme close-up, it's an enlargement. A really good lens lets me do that. My old Nikon 70-300 wouldn't, and my Stigmata 150-500 would never. Looky how sharp that beak is. Oof!
When I first saw it on the sign and not fleeing at the first sight of something human getting out of the bright white car, I worried it might be ill. Not many birds let me get this close, although my lens was only 300mm. I kept worrying after I'd felt like I'd bothered this Red-Shouldered Hawk way plenty already and driven off, so I looped around again, past Barbec's, down Garland Road, and up the lake-side one-lane road again, and it was gone.
Usually photographing a hawk, any hawk, means a few seconds-only, and it's gone. Only other time I'd ever got this close to a real live hawk was at one of those traveling circuses a wildlife reserve or Audubon or somebody birdly puts on, and those birds are fidgety and almost never this calm, and besides, they're not really wild birds. I'm still not over how cool it was. Wow!
Later, I figured it was busy digesting its latest meal, and did not find it worth the effort to fly away, just because some guy wa pointing a long, black lens-looking thing at it.
Mostly Sunset Bay
Sometimes I get so tired of photographing the same thing over and over again — and sometimes I don't. It's almost as if anything a pelican does or attempts is something I want to photograph it doing. But when I do that for too long, I feel the need to attempt other things, other views, other photographing notions, other birds, to balance it. Oh, just about anything to spice it up.
I walk past these trees almost every day of my life. Except for the three or so branches that almost blocked the way onto the pier, it was perfect when it was almost blocked off from the rest of Sunset Bay Proper, so I was upset with The City for clearing out most of these trees, who are my friends, but I was enjoying the view of this little swamp and kinda glad it was possible to photograph through it. Which is probably why I didn't complain too much.
I guess everybody gets fierce from time to time. This shot of a Ring-billed Gull looks like it's pretending to be an eagle or hawk, but I suspect it would be more accurate to say it's just a gull being loud and aggressive. Not that surprising, really.
Yes, these are shots I didn't manage to fit in earlier this month. I guess I've been saving them up.
Sometimes I save them up because I wasn't sure I liked them enough to show them before.
Sometimes I save them, because they seem a little more somber than whatever tale I'm spinning at the moment.
Sometimes I'm not so sure I like them right after I shoot them. Very early in my photography career, after my newspaper days and on the verge of me showing pix in art shows, it might take me as long as a year or two to really figure out what I wanted to show.
In the last few years, I've had to decide almost immediately, and with guesses that quick, I sometimes pass on some fairly decent shots. Sometimes I throw them away, often I save them.
Today, I threw away (permanent delete) more than 12 gigabytes of bird pix that did not measure up to my exacting standards, and I haven't even begun to show you the good picks out of that large pile. But I likely will.
These are all pix I fully expected to have shown you already, but it just didn't happen.
And I especially wanted to show this duck with those other ducks
Odd that I feel a deep need to count American White Pelicans, but I rarely have that need to count cormorants. That just doesn't seem fair.
I read on Bird Chat yesterday that someone was claiming never to have photographed any domestic birds, only ever wild ones. I never though of grackles as domestic or wild, really. But on this journal, I'll photograph any bird, regardless of its pedigree. A bird is a bird is a bird, and I am overtly fond of all of them.
They're in a lovely disarray. I liked this shot, then I didn't, then I did, etc.
Just cormorants. I didn't see any gulls or pelicans among them.
I've come to believe that if a bird is on a sign, it's a Mockingbird, but this is definitely not a mocker.
I didn't see it, and I must have startled it, and as it flew it grumped at me for making it move from a perfectly decent place to find fish, to one that was not nearly so perfect.
Of course, as soon as I was finished photographing it, I apologized, although it may have been too far away by then to hear me.
Is there an app for knowing there's a Great Blue Heron hiding in the bushes who will be upset if it decides it has to fly off to the next perch down the shore, if I come a walking?
I did not scare these guys. They were just landing and flying and landing and ...
But every time I lined up a shot of them mostly on the ground, they suddenly weren't.
Just when I thought I was finally getting into the rhythm of their ebb and flow, they flowed away.
Or at least tall.
But it only looks that way. It was, in fact, a perfectly pleasant companion on a cool pier in a cold wind. We talked awhile, and it didn't get scared and fly off when I approached, and it had some perfectly pleasant things to say, even if we were both too cold to stand around.
With a well-placed drop of water on top.
The shore along the Hidden Creeks Area between Sunset Bay Proper and Dreyfuss Point.
And one of them appears to be doing an interesting kind of dance, although I believe what was actually happening was a leg and wing-stretch I just missed.
I think this would make a great pattern for a shirt. These days, I guess it would have to be a long-sleeved and maybe fleecy shirt.
A very cold day.
Probably all but the duck are looking for fish.
A big, white Mute Swan with what looks like a yellow neck — it's really white, too — and a little bitty American Coot, who is mostly black with a bright white bill most of the time. This is in sunlight, so you know if wasn't photographed this week.
Some Ducks in Sunset Bay
The bird behind this one looks more Mallard-like with its green head, but that one's body is dark brown. This one's a male, because it's tail feathers curl forward, a telltale sign. Its head looks like it's about to sprout a poof (gotta be real name for that). Nearly all of today's ducks are mallard hybrids, but then nearly all hybrid ducks come from mallard stock, because they'll mate with anybody, and the males are especially equipped to do that.
I think this is a more grown-up version of the six, so-called Black Ducks left off at the lake sometime last year or the year before. They've been around a long time, and it's been diverting to see what colors they've adopted each new season. I'm showing it here with a more or less standard male Mallard for comparison.
Pretty sure it's a duck, but maybe it's got some Muscovy in its heritage, but it's big as a goose. There are seasons or at least weeks when I think these big mottled gray ducks are beautiful. Not quite there now, but close.
A couple days later, I got an email from Annette Abbot saying, "Believe I can help you identify some of them. They are part of a group of domestic ducks someone has been dropping off at the lake in the last few months. According to domestic duck and goose experts, Chris and Mike Ashton, the gray and white one is a Blue Swedish duck. Pretty much any duck with a tuxedo is a Swedish duck or a Swedish duck hybrid. … The Ashton's have a website with this info also."
Ashton Waterfowl site links include Heavy Ducks Light Ducks Call Ducks (the smallest varieties) Bantam Ducks (the garden variety, make good pets.) Indian Runners (who stand upright).
Annette said, "Hard to identify the ducks with all the hybrids out there. Domestic ducks can be very big, as big as our geese!"
Despite what appears to be its balding face and immensity, this is one beautiful duck. Not the very Mallard-like beak and head (shape, at least). "The brown mottled ones are Appleyards … not real common and most of the ones dropped off didn't seem to be too healthy."
Note the size and the goose-like underhang, and here its head shows much more green, and the tell-tale blue, wing-bars showing through.
A lot like a female Mallard, except it's got an adult male Mallard's breast color and downy white feathers like a juvenile Mallard's underside, but yellow beak, what's left of it. Its upper mandible is broken, so it doesn't extend as far as the lower one, making it look a little mangled. I'm guessing this is a male Mallard.
And it's legs seem to be attached toward the rear of its body. I didn't see it on land, but it might be an Indian-runner-like bird who walks upright. I'd like to see it do that, if my surmise is accurate. If if. "Not sure what the light brown, tan, one is. Could possibly be an Orpington but don't know too much about that breed. Saxony females are also that color." And this is, according to the curly feather rule, at least, a female.
We have all kinds of white ducks, every once-in-a-while, one of the pops up with a new crown. All these others were photographed on one, gray day. This one was done on a not-so-long-ago day with sunshine. "The pouf of feathers is called a "crest" and is highly prized among duck breeders. However, since it is formed when the skull doesn't close fully when the duckling is forming, I am not as enamored with the cute little crests as I used to be. …"
Male, with dark brown head, very Mallard-like yellow beak, white-edged wings. Lovely mix of colors, but big.
And two poofs on the way. These, again, might have begun life as dark brown, almost black bodies, or else they've come along lately. I'm sure there are 'fancy' duck-growers out there working hard at confusing us all.
I'd have to call this one cute, and those middle-browns are gorgeous. The orange streak following it is its bright orange right foot, drag-steering it.
Most female Mallards have those bright white bars on their wings with the luscious blue stripes between them. I have to say 'most,' because I still haven't seen all female mallards. Down to this pic, I'd guess most of those ducks are not exactly wild, but this and the next two down certainly are.
And, of course, I need to mention our small but probably growing population of Scaups, which are, as should by now be obvious, a species of duck, although they tend to blend in with the coots, and from whom many people cannot distinguish them.
Talk about handsome, and dashing. Amazing markings with its herringbone suit, bright shirt whose white extends up its neck and along the back of its face, and those florid wings sweeping back towards its long, pointing pin tail. This wild duck has been hanging out in or around Sunset Bay and lagoon for several weeks. Not sure what he's waiting for. Maybe he lost his mate, although she looks enough like a female Mallard to blend in easily, but he's usually alone, even in a crowd.
As winter comes more upon us, there will be many more odd ducks joining the party, most of whom who have been seen in Sunset Bay, although they'll be visible all around the lake.
First, the Ruddy Ducks will settle into the notch of lake between the road around The Arboretum and Winfrey Point. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of Ruddies will float out well out from shore, and it will be a challenge to catch them a little closer, which they try not to do while photographers are around, but they, too, are beautiful ducks with lots of interesting details. And they'll get redder before they all fly away. Another species to watch out for are the Buffleheads, who will suddenly appear on the west side of the lake after it stays a little colder than this. No telling who all else will show up, but I'm looking forward to them all.
All Around White Rock Lake
'Bout time I paid attention to somebody besides pelicans, don't you think? Found these along The Big Thicket after failing to find anybody at two other places.
Didn't seem so at first, but soon it became obvious that the far end was really hoppin' with gulls and grackles. Two of the former, and one annoyed member of the latter here. That grackle chased that gull until they were both out of sight.
And when I aimed back into the thick of it, more gulls had arrived.
Then those few who did not already have its wings up, got their wings up, so they could …
Get up into the air and fly away.
Movie directors call this time "The Golden Hour," and it was beautiful. Warm enough to roll down the windows and playing music loud driving home. Felt good.
And eventually I snapped to the fact that I'd been photographing gulls on purpose, and having quite a challenge of it.
And getting some interesting pictures.
Having the setting sun on the far side of the lake helped.
As did having practiced with all those pelicans, so now I can almost catch up with faster moving birds.
Standing as usual on the pier in Sunset Bay talking with another photographer. Both of us having gangbusters fun. When the pelicans began materializing out past the logs. Lots of them materializing. Oodles.
A bit of a close-up. Actually, I just blew this up a bit more.
I love it when I get to see this many pelicans come flying home. Probably one of the reasons I go to the lake at different times.
And more keep coming.
This one ventured fairly close. This might be the only pelican who flew over the logs to go check out the inner-bay situation. It flew around both places where pelicans have been resting fairly close to the shore, saw none of his friends there, so he flew by the pier (Thank you!), then back out to the logs. Apparently a person in a kayak had cleared the scene. Later, I was told that a call to one of the police officers who patrol the area, might help stop paddlers intent on evil. It is against the law to molest shore birds.
We only have Scaups for a little while each year. They gather to four or six males usually, and those are visited once or twice by a couple of female, then the females fly off. Weeks or a month later, the males finally leave. Note the color of their bills. They are sometimes called "Blue Bills."
I still think coots are small, but note how very small bluebills must be.
Dad and one kid?
That same dull gray day. Highly imperfect lighting, but I managed anyway, and got these, which I could probably print huge, if I were of a mind to. Unfortunately, I don't have much wall space left, so I'm not sure where I'd put them if I did. This pelican's left wing is blurry in the wind, but it's amazing sharp, and boy does the lens focus faster without the doubler. It's probably a little sharper, too. And it offers an interesting new perspective. I've been wanting a wide angle lens, and I suppose compared to 600mm, 300mm is at leas wider an angle lens. I'm digging it.
Love, love, love watching them fly high, but for photographing, lower is better. Gotta fill that frame. I just aim, wait for focus and shoot in rapid bursts for these shirts, stopping either when I turn myself inside out or have aimed the camera up around and past my head, so I need to straighten out before I can shoot again.
Note the little splash by its right foot — just enough to keep it from crashing into the pelicans you can see one of at the bottom right of this frame.
I probably need to blow these up a lot more for you to see how sharp they are, but I guess those water drops dripping off them will have to do for now.
I wanted to show all seven birds in this flock, but the more I included, the smaller each one got, so I jettisoned a couple birds to get them this big. Note the gray sky beyond them looking the faintest, ever so light, blue. The weather guys promised warm and bright for today, but it never quite made it.
Up close from the bottom edge of the pier at Sunset Bay.
Been awhile since I've done one of these. Nice to have the whole sequence in one series, though there's not a prescribed order of these things. It's however the particular pelican wants to do these things. I shot one other series with an interesting twist at the beginning, but this one was closer, so I'll do it now, and maybe get around to the other sometime later.
The reason they stretch their lower mandible — or jaw — is so they can keep it malleable, so they can drag in a bunch of fish and it won't tear — and yes, I've seen pelicans with torn lower mandibles, and it must be pretty awful not to get to use it however they'd like to.
Perhaps the most oval-like jaw stretch I've seen. I'll likely post this one on the Strange Things Pelicans Do With the Beaks page.
I'm only recognizing that this pelican has not only stretched its beak here, it is also stretching it neck up here, and then down in the next shot down.
At least 'rounded' compared to how pointed its beak is in the next shot:
Its head and face is still there, just obscured by its stretched-tight lower mandible. This camera, when it gets going, goes at four frames a second, so I think this time I just held the button down. Meaning all this stretching only took a couple seconds, overall.
Which brings us back to a pretty normal looking American White Pelican. This day, I was joined by two — and for a little while, three — other photographers on the Pier At Sunset Bay, and two of them seemed knowledgeable about birds, so they were particularly fun to converse with. The other photographer never said a word.
I watched these guys for maybe five minutes. The healthy coot was picking something out of the other one's head feathers. I've never seen this behavior before, so I was careful to capture it. Could not have done it with my extender on my lens, but it's at the shop now and I hope they can fix it. Anyway, now I'm only using the 300mm lens itself, and everything is sharper, even on a dull, darkish, cloudy day.
Poppy Drive in Upper Sunset Bay
When there wasn't any traffic on Poppy Drive past the hospitals then right down into the park, these sparrow could have their way with the fast-food bag of jettisoned food. But when cars got with a couple dozen feet, the birds swooped away. I wasn't fast enough to catch them doing that, so I settled for trying to catch them eating between cars.
What they're eating looks like French Fries or popcorn or bun with mustard, but they were obviously enjoying, and they hardly seemed to notice that they had to fly away when cars approached, although they didn't mind The Slider sliding up slowly along the No Parking curb.
I guess I don't eat nearly enough fast food, because I don't recognize the bag.
Then just as I was leaving, I realized that if they could follow my motion, I could move the bag to the sidewalk on the other side of the road, and maybe they could have their way with it. But when I left, they were still not finding it, just hanging out in the trees almost directly over where I dropped the bag, food tears up. Guess I should have left it in the middle of traffic.
Back to Pelicans Sunday or Monday.
All Around the Lake
The most exciting moments of my bird photographing today's was when a total of maybe seven American White Pelicans left the clatch of pelicans closest to the pier in Sunset Bay, where I stood in the cold, to fly out across the lake where other pelicans, cormorants and gulls had already been swimming back and forth across the lake for fish.
But I noticed that they were leaving, two at a time, splash-hopping across the very shallow water of Sunset Bay to get up flight speed, then flying out to the fishing fleet. Photographing them hopping and flying off was comparatively easy. These images are of several birds doing that.
I'd seen them as I drove along Arboretum Drive toward Winfrey Point and Sunset Bay just beyond. I still don't know how the word gets from those birds way across the lake, back to the klatches of pelicans in Sunset Bay.
But catching them, especially more than one of them, actually getting ready and looking like they were next, was next to impossible.
I watched carefully, and I paid my full attention, but I did not recognize which pelicans were going to do that, so I'm lucky I got these.
I kept hoping to catch them, and they kept surprising me. As usual.
This and one other hawk flew high over Sunset Bay, and I wondered if my lens would separate them from the sky. It did spectacularly well.
Between 'important shots,' I did what I always do, photograph anything that looks interesting. I'd been trying to capture coots for awhile. They're dark-feathered and bright, white faced, so they're always a challenge to get the exposure so their overall black bodies to show dark and that brilliant white beak to show bright, in the same picture. Kinda like this. Noble little beasts.
Fishing in a fleet of birds is often a competitive event, even if everybody is collaborating to drive the fish into a smaller and more accessible area.
Whoever gets to the fish first, eats. Everybody else hopes there's more fish for them.
It can get pretty exciting, or it can be just plain boring.
Sunset Bay, My Favorite Place to test a lens
I don't think I've ever got this sharp a pic of a TV (Turkey Vulture), which is all the more wonderful, because today was my first test of just my camera and telephoto lens — no telextender, and I quickly learned that unit caused the out-of-focus issue that plagued me the last couple days. I woke up with the notion of taking it off, took it off, and was amazed.
Compare any of today's images with yesterday's attempts, which were taken last week, and you might get some glimmer of how glad I am.
And it's sharp, sharp, sharp as it flies nearly directly over my head. This thrills me. It always thrills me when I manage to render some hapless bird this remarkably sharp. Yippee! the lens works, and the camera works. I only need to get the 2X telextender fixed. Sigh.
I'm always at a disadvantage when I'm shooting straight up into the sky at something flying over, because I'm generally panning along with it, which means by the time it's straight up over me, I'm pointing a heavy lens (and camera) in about the most distorted position I've got for cameras. No wonder my back hurts, it's a wholly unnatural position. Nice, sharp bird, though.
Weren't nearly as many pelicans in Sunset Bay this morning as there were yesterday at nearly the same time, so there wasn't as much activity or birds flying thither and yon, but a few obliged me by flying by.
These last two shots would have been nearly impossible with the teleXtender on. Almost perfect for a lens with half the number of millimeters. Superb.
Same bird as above, but with very slightly differing angle of view.
Jonathan Livingston Turkey Vulture. Amazing beautiful birds, considering where they stick their long, pointed faces and bald heads.
How sharp is this — Bird Pix for Today's Entry
I'm either frummed or beeked — a cross between freaked and bummed. I shot 305 images this morning — mostly of Pelicans coming back from across the lake. We rarely see them before they reach the outer limits of Sunset Bay. Then, suddenly they materialize right at the logs farthest out. But I was SO excited to be photographing them. I did notice that I was getting less focus than usual, and I wondered why, but I figured surely some of those shots would be in sharp focus. Surely enough to show them here.
But I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Not a single one of the photographs I thought I was making this morning were in focus. Not even one.
You may be wondering what I'm going on about. These look fine, sharp and a little better than just decent. Certainly acceptable. What's the deal, J R?
Well, the deal is I shot these last Friday — the same day I also photographed the Great Egrets Aerial Dancing. These are acceptably sharp, and now they even feel a little rub-it-in-my-face sharp.
Looking good. Looking very good.
Today's pictures are way different. They're soft, not worth posting. So I didn't.
I won't be showing today's photographs, because something bad is the matter with either my lens or my camera.
One or the other — lens or camera — is bunged. I've run a series of tests, with other cameras and other lenses, and I'm just not sure what the deal is. What is it gone bad?
I love the tonalities and gentle colors of this one. The eye is sharp, which leads us to believe that the whole thing is, though its legs are a tad soft. Long telephoto lenses do that.
Exactly what my long telephoto is doing now, today, Monday, Veteran's Day, I really don't know. I'll probably break out one of my elder cameras for tomorrow, and hope to get to photograph more pelicans flying in. Meanwhile, I'll worry and fret, and run more tests when I'm sure I know what I'm doing. The mount seems too loose. I seem too tight. I just don't know.
Well, I retested with my intelligence turned on this time, and it's not the lens. Thank the goodnesses for that, because I've learned to think with that chunk of metal and glass. But I've grown fond of the camera, too. Hmmm.
More Aerial Dancing
Stretch neck as far as it will go, lean head back, then hold that pose a while — maybe 20 or so seconds or longer. If the challengee assumes the same pose, the competition begins, although sometimes this step seems unnecessary. Then comes The Chase, which may be followed by The Aerial Ballet.
And the chase was on.
Ballet dancers only dream of flying. It seems easy for these Great Egrets. They often get to it fast, then it's over. I assume one of them won. I just don't know which. They seem to decide that themselves. But almost as soon as I got into this one, it was over.
Seven minutes later, two more egrets go at it. One of them has a fish, so the issue for the mock battle that I call Egret Dancing is a little more clear. Since their main game in the spillway is fishing, it seems entirely likely that they are competing either for position — the best place to find and catch more fish — or the fish itself.
It's sure not for mating rights, about which they also 'fight' like this sometimes, but usually closer to next spring, not this late autumn, with winter between. I'm never sure what's up in their minds. I saw — and photographed them air dancing yesterday, and I hoped they'd do it again today, and that I could capture some of it. And they did, and I managed to catch more of the action today.
This picture marks the beginning of a new, much longer and more ornate story. I'm following a flying egret with no idea where it was headed, just that it was comparatively close through my telephoto lens.
Then it flew up the dam.
And from this frame to several following, I have no idea what's going on, I was just in it for the action. I assume one of these is the egret who just flew up the dam, and the other was just standing there, maybe even looking for fish it could grab and eat.
And the chase was on.
Then they engage as only egrets do — far as I know. Although I saw some Willets doing something very similar once, only they were flying higher and over a field, not water. I'm pretty sure they were displaying for mating.
I especially like this one, at least partially because I don't know what's going on, but I can tell that something interesting is happening. The one on the left is floating in place with its wings outstretched. The lower egret is whipping around, its wingtips blurring but its feet sharp and still in all the movement and implied movement. It is clearly the secondary actor here. It is reacting. The upper bird is the upper bird, the actor.
And this was a long way off, but a good lens renders it very well, even as a smaller portion of the frame, and there's good action going. Lots of action and wings splayed.
Am I'm always amazed how they seem to be standing on air doing whatever is going on here. Looks like a quick double-take with the bird on the right.
I also love the fact that with all this flying and/or floating action, nobody ever rends flesh or tears feathers. No blood was spilled in the creation of this story. It's all symbolic or visual, very visual. And it happens quick. Way quicker than showing you all these images.
They're so elegant in their motion.
And it's gangbusters fun to try to keep up with. Then, suddenly...
,,, a little quicker than it started, this largely symbolic show of aggression stopped, and though I hung around awhile longer, the aerial dance action was over for the evening, apparently.
Catching Fish on the Dam &
Egrets Dancing over the Spillway
Egrets lined up along the top edge of the dam. I assumed they were there for fish, but for most of the time I watched and photographed, nobody dipped down to catch something. I wondered about that but kept watching.
When this happened. The third Great Egret from the left stooped down …
… buried beak in fluid for a fraction of a second or so.
Then pulled its catch up, still dripping.
Chomps down on the fish.
Bounces around in there to get it aligned with its throat, so it would go down easy.
And either decides to open its throat, so it'd go down — or the throat just opened.
A few minutes later, this fracas erupts. No telling why.
Which, a fraction of a second later, leads to this excitement.
The egret on the right has its neck and head extended about as far up as it'll go. That's usually a sign of a challenge of some sort. I rarely know what they're fighting about. The egret on the left appears to have something in its beak. Looks like a fish. More than that I'd probably have to be an egret to understand.
But I think the neck-stretched egret near the right of this image is the same one as before. Who these other egrets are, and why they are scampering and flying in such a hurry, is a mystery to me.
This guy was sitting on the easter more edge of the moorings for the walking bridge directly adjacent and parallel to the car bridge on Garland Road over the lower steps, somewhat down from The Spillway, which itself is down from the dam. This is the only Franklin's Gull I've see this year, and I don't know if it was ailing or not. I saw it, decided to walk on by. Did a double-take, kept walking; then did a third look back and down, and decided, oh, why not. I photographed it four times to make sure I got a good one.
Another Cold, Wet Afternoon, this time a Tuesday
We'd gone to a movie we'd both wanted to see but got mixed results. It was gray, wet and raining medium-hard when we got out of the flicks, and when I suggested the lake, that was easy. I counted 102 pelicans in Sunset Bay. No telling where the other 16 were; the ones in the bay weren't doing much. It was kinda a not-doing-much kinda day, but some pelicans were very close into shore, so I took advantage, since my cam and lens are fully weather-sealed, meaning the rain probably wouldn't do much harm.
If you're a pelican, sometimes you just have to flap. I caught this one starting to do that, and the sequence follows all the way through to when it stopped. This is my favorite frame among those.
The closer I get, the sharper the focus can be. A lot of people avoid photographing anything in the rain, but the lowered contrast makes colors pop, even if the pop is rather subtle sometimes.
We — me, too — think of American White Pelicans as mostly white, but they've got all kinds of colors going, depending upon how they have their feathers deployed and how wet they are, age, etc.
All the other mallards landing pix from today were me being too slow or they going too fast. This head-on shot was by far best and most focused.
More detail and more wet, dark feathers, not even counting their black primaries that are that color, so they're hardier.
I'm surprised I even recognized it, it was
so comparatively small and here blown up more than usual and looking
like a sponge. Waiting for something worth eating — usually insects and
small vertebrates — to swoop down on. We waited but it didn't swoop while
we watched. Maybe it was busy digesting what it caught awhile ago.
Cold, Wet Monday Afternoon in Sunset Bay with
118 American White Pelicans and some other guys
I shot 18 pictures this cold, wet Monday afternoon in Sunset Bay. I was kinda surprised I could even find that many times to photograph anything, since not much was going on. The pelicans were settled in and hunkered down, not moving around much, mostly intent on staying warm and dry, even if most of them were standing on the shallow bottom of the lake.
The Neotropic Cormorant was standing there with its head tucked down into its feathers when I stopped The Slider while driving past where the arboretum chopped down all those real trees, so they could replace them with big, metal fake trees for kids to climb and play on. I clicked, and it moved slightly. I clicked again, and again and again, and each time it moved closer toward its head being up like this.
It was raining, and if this photo were about five times larger, you could see each individual blob of rain falling. When I first saw them, I though where'd all that dust come from, only it wasn't dust on the picture, it was raindrops in the picture. I could feel them, too. These white birds look high and dry, but they're really wet and happy the lanolin on their feathers is letting the rain drip off like water off a duck's back.
Not certain which variety of cormorants those are back there — they one with its head of in the rain, and the one with its head down from the rain, but those others are a Great Egret and female Mallard. The egret is hunting for food. The duck is swimming along minding her own business, and nobody knows what all those cormorants are up to.
Sometimes one would stretch neck, beak, leg, wing or something, but mostly they stayed hunkered and waited and rested and got a little wet.
First it came up to the pier I stood on and looked up expectedly as if I would feed it some white bread like all those other bird-feeders might, but I don't. I talked for awhile, told it how handsome and/or beautiful it was, and surely it must have something to say, and did it miss having a mate. Then it swam off far enough that I could almost get it all into my telephoto frame. Always quiet. Always, when I've seen it, at least, very well behaved, if not entirely gentle, always mute is our Mute Swan.
Our Trip to Ennis, east and
around on highway 85,
Bardwell Lake, Waxahachie and back to Dallas
Anna wanted to see Pinky Diablo's show in Waxahachie — and apparently so did a lot of other people, so we planned a trip to end up there, but wander around down and around thereabouts and maybe find some birds worth photographing. And we did. Boy! Did we.
I'm really too tired to track this guy and tonight's other unsubs down now. An olive something or 'nother maybe. I'll figure it out eventually, but I don't know yet. You'd think it'd be enough just to get one in focus.
I remember pulling over to the side of the road — Highway 85, that I'd seen identified as the place where lots and lots of birds were identified on some site. So we had to go down 85, but Highway 85 didn't have shoulder enough to park along where we started out looking for birds there. Eventually there was some shoulder, , and by the time there was, we were pretty tired of parking on the slanted shoulder along a narrow, two-lane-blacktop.
Oh, yeah, I was gonna tell you, where this bird was overlooking was a big swamp that looked like it'd be delicious for birds, but there were only a very few birds close, and there was a ditch and a fence between us and the swamp, so even bird-crazed I did not go over or through into somebody's private farm-space though we could hear other birds, just not see them. Eventually, I tracked sound to one far-a-way bunch that would rise when we weren't ready to photo them, then disappear when we were. We're thinking we might try this highway 85 some other time. Maybe mid-autumn is not the right time. Or something.
We kept thinking the pickings were slim, but I got plenty of birds for today's journal. I keep telling me to limit journal entries to a dozen or less photos, just to cut down on the time it takes while upping the quality, but I just don't always listen.
So it and its friends, who were nearby watching, could get into the skunk.
And watching us carefully. I think perhaps in the country human beings get into Turkey and Black Vulture's business and disrupt them. We just wanted to watch and photograph them doing it, but they didn't want us that close to their prey, and this bunch stayed away till we left.
Again, identification later. And I'm really surprised I got this one sharp in focus. That's always a minor miracle, especially with small birds.
This is lake Bardwell, in which we were mostly disappointed as a birding location, but it looked like it was going to rain, so was dark gray and getting darker, and kinda cold, to boot. This bird was walking and flapping along in the shallow water along the edge of the lake sticking its head into the surf and pulling out, well, I couldn't really see what. But when I got the pic up full-screen, I could see the moving, barest sliver of a silver little fish. One would not make much of a meal, but the bunch that it caught while I watched and tried to photograph it doing that, probably sustained it for another day.
I have taken so many photographs of Great Blue Herons, I often wonder whether it's really worthwhile to take yet another one, but I still do it every chance I get. I love GBHs, and though I hope I can someday catch them at something I've never captured their images doing before, I will continue photographing them whatever they might do. They're just too special not to. Isn't this bird gorgeous?
Pretty much the same deal here. Red-tailed Hawks are the most common hawk in America, but I'll shoot and keep shooting till I can't photograph any more. What an awful thought. Oh, yeah, as usual, all of today's photographs are presented in strict chronological order. It's just easier that way. Except that today, I used two cameras, each with a different numbering system, and I might have got the murdered vultures out of order.
This time there were two vultures. Either both TVs, or one a Black Vulture and the other a Turkey Vulture. Turkey Vultures have red heads, and Black Vultures have gray heads. We suspect the Black Vulture got hit first, then when a TV stopped to eat out its insides, it got hit. Again, I suspect some people find what vultures do to be evil. It's not. It's natural and good for the planet, unlike people who purposely hit them with their cars and trucks.
Anna and I think TVs rock. They don't flap so much up there, although they pretty much have do sometimes, but they are most identifiable when they rock back and forth horizontally as they soar. I always believed that Turkey Vultures are the real Jonathan Livingston aerialist bird species. Gulls do a good enough job, but Turkey Vultures are the best fliers anywhere. That I know of. Oh, them and pelicans...
Too many people think Turkey Vultures are ugly, because they have smooth, red heads very well adapted to sticking their heads into the rotting insides of carrion. The City of Austin a few years ago passed an ordinance allowing Turkey and Black Vultures the right to clean up carrion in the streets of Austin. A truly noble notion and an amazing accomplishment in a world that looks down on vultures.
Please don't let friends drive their vehicles into vultures.
Well, enough of that. I'd much rather watch them fly.
Near Mockingbird Bridge at the North End
of White Rock Lake
Posted November 3
First thing I saw flying along the arboretum drive I was driving on was a big, light-colored bird flying really fast. I'd read about somebody spotting watching a Bald Eagle hunt up by Mockingbird Bridge, so when I was unable to stop the car and still see or photograph the really big, fast bird, I lit out for there, where I did not see the big bird, but there were a bunch of gulls playing Jonathan Livingston Seagull all over the place around and over Mockingbird and the Walking bridge there that no longer sings.
These. Which I think might just be Herring Gulls. But I know I'm lousy at identifying birds, but more than adequate good at photographing them, so I'll call these them until I find out different. Our usual majority gull species — I know better than to call them sea gulls, since they are obviously lake gulls — are Ring-billed Gulls, and these gulls don't have rings around their beaks, their whole end of their beak is dark.
I did not see the big, fast bird again, but it's always nice to have a subject that keeps coming back close, so I photographed these guys for awhile till I'd got every angle a couple times.
I love the pelicans, but it's really fun to photograph somebody else every once in a while.
Oh, and I've gone back to dating the time I post the pix and words rather than when I shot them, even if that other was more accurate, this is less confusing. I photographed these early on November 2
Birds at the State Fair of Texas
sometime last month
This stuff will end
up at the bottom of a long page of bird pictures, but I've got them, and I sorta
like them, and I haven't really shot any bird pix this month yet, so they'll
do for the moment.
This is one of those birds that can be adequately photographed with a wide-angle lens. I should remember what it is, since I see more of them every year we go to the fair, but I don't. Usually there's a big sign I photograph that tells me, but I was in a blur at the Fair this year.
Cuteness is the chief criterion for animals and birds in the petting zoo, where we go every year. There's giraffes and big ole' fat pigs, piglets galore, and littles of everything. I've seen them all, and pet all that'll have us do that, gotta touch the animals to know what they feel like.
Just gotta get my cute animal pet in every year.
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text and photographs Copyright 2013 by J
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission from and payment to the writer or photographer. My favorite answer is, "I don't know." I am, after all, an amateur. I've only birded for seven years as of June 2013, although I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally and almost always amateurishly since at least 1964. Thanks always to Anna.
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