Adding New Images Three Times Most Weeks
The Current Bird Journal is always here. All Contents Copyright 2014 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. Cameras Used Ethics Feedback Bird Rescue Advice Herons Egrets Herons vs Egrets Books & Links Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch Rouses Courtship Displays Duck Love Birding Galveston 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds & the 1st Bald Eagle Coyotes 800e Journal G5 Journal JRCompton.com Links resume Contact Me DallasArtsRevue How to Photograph Birds by J R Compton So you want to use one of my photographs? Newest Page: Anthropomorphizing Birds: Right or Wrong?
Eagle Flying in Sunset Bay last month and Eagle perching there a couple weeks or so ago.
Why J R hurts — the story of a fall.
Best Pix: Pelican jumping another pelican feet first Pelican Dismount Coot Skootin' Pelican Resting Heaon on Pelican Northern Pintail A Sychronized Pelican Group Fishing & more recent Northern Pintail B Solo Male Lesser Scaup Cormorant Mob across the lake Red-tailed Hawk Over Sunset Bay Beaking Pelicans Racing Gooses Landing Pelican Up Close Vising John Bunker Sands Wetlands
panic report of a bleeding Pelican
November 29 2014
At 7:32 ayem Saturday — well before I got up, I received an email from Kelley Murphy: "Omg there's a hurt pelican it's bleeding horribly from its throat area!,." but no other information. So when I got up and eventually checked my email, I was concerned enough to visit Sunset Bay, which is where I usually see Kelley and her dog when I do get up early. There, I also saw Erin and Tony, who were checking out the same email. All three of us went over to the pier to look around.
Right then, a helicopter flew over, and the pelicans on the mud shore just north of the pier stood up, ready to flee, if necessary, and we could see more body parts of more pelicans, and using his small binoculars, Tony picked one out that looked to have been bloodied, described its exact location, and I got twenty shots, of which this is by far the best.
As you can see, the pelican is holding its beak close to its breast. What you can't see is that it kept it there all the time I photographed it, and probably before and since. I don't know if it hurts less with that in place or it bleeds less or what. And I don't know whether it is in mortal danger now. I am concerned, but I have no net, and I wouldn't dare attempt to capture a bird that big and strong, for fear I'd break its bones trying to save it. I've thought it through before.
Tony and Erin stayed to watch it more, and they have delivered other birds to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation, so they know what to do, if they decide, and it's up to them. I do not know how to safely capture an injured pelican, but I think a large net would be of great value. Later, Kelley told me Ben thinks someone shot it. I know there are evil people out there. I wish we could stop them.
See Ben's thorough review of the situation and many detailed images on Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat. You don't have to regiser to read, just to post, and it's free and always very informative of birds in North Texas.
The day after the day after the pelican was injured, Kelley says, "What a "coincidence", Ben said it turns out there was a man arrested on Saturday in the woods over by the dog park who had a scoped rifle!"
I sure hope, if he shot a pelican, he will be found guilty of interfering with shorebirds, and lots of people will find out it's illegal, and they won't be scaring pelicans and other shorebirds away — and trying to murder them.
The Other Side of the Lake, For A Change
Except for this one Autumnal View of Sunset Bay
Shot this yesterday, when I was struck with the autumn colors. I don't usually drive this stretch, so it felt amazing, had to turn around and park on the side during evening traffic. Spectacular view. I keep thinking I should take my little cam there instead of the Blunderbuss, just to capture the colors that never seem to stay around long enough.
I think this is the usual place where I photograph coots and can still see their large, lobed feet in the murky water illuminated by a bright sun, and especially visible because of my height on the new wood bridge over the Old Boat House Lagoon.
I think the turtle is a Red-eared Slider, after whose species, I named my sliding automobile. I was surprised to see the Wood Ducks there.
The Monk Parakeets are much larger than the little budgies people put in cages and call pets.
In the White Rock Lake Journal, which preceded this mostly bird journal, I used to hang around the Old Boathouse most of the time. I love that dank old building and all its abstract shapes, and, oh yeah, those multicolored and -shaped birds that hung out there. I was always framing abstract shapes through those windows that, back then, were still unlocked, so I could wander around inside, too.
The darker birds with bright light stripes are starlings, brought to American back before it became important only to introduce species with natural enemies here, so they wouldn't eventually take over the continent. I don't know who are the other, perhaps two, varieties in this shot.
I'd added a few birds and reworded some awkward text on my Bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake a couple days ago, so I was attentive when I saw this spectacular mini-view. I had assumed that was a stuffed dog, but now I'm not sure. Several months ago, I finally settled on calling the point directly across the lake from the Bath House Cultural Center Free Advice Point, after having gone through several other, much more obscure, names. Nice to see the sign back.
Especially noticeable for their reddish (ruddy) breasts and stiff tails at half mast. The white-faced ones are males.
I'm thinking female, female, male, male, male, but I'm never sure, until I can see their beaks.
But whom I was especially seeking were Buffleheads, because, to somebody, some time ago, these ducks looked like they had buffalo heads to whoever got to name them, but it's a resemblance that fails me utterly, although it's the males — of whom I saw and photographed none today, whose heads are more buffalo-esque, if that's even an apt description. They are far more distinctive, but I'll drive down that side of the lake a couple times a week for awhile, till I find the males, too. They are much more spectacular. I've also seen buffleheads toward Sunset Bay from Dreyfuss Point in the last few years.
Hope I can get much closer to them when the sun shines on those gorgeous green eyes. This is just a hint.
I've no idea why these grebes are called pied-billed. How does one pie a bill, anyway. And I keep wondering why I should be calling them non-breeding, when they area all nonbreeding till about February through September. But I like saying the whole thing, I guess. I've been so wrong about identifying so many birds over the life of this journal, that I get a little prideful when I actually know a species on sight.
A little closer than today's others, but not quite as sharp, either. Might be just as far, but more enlarged. I like this shot, because we can see his eye. Later in the season, they'll wander closer to shore when I'm around, and I'll get much more detail. I hope.
Both Buffles and Ruddies have white markings on their cheeks, but Ruddies nearly always hold their tails at 45-degree angles, and Buffles just drag theirs in the water behind them. Ruddies are called Ruddies, because of the males' reddish breasts.
On Leaving Well-enough Alone…
I wondered how much a male Mute Swan would cost, so I Yahooed the question, and I found: prices online at Exotic Bird Breeders — $850-$1,750/pair; Purely Poultry — $1,260 with free shipping; A Summary of Information prepared by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' Mute Swan Task Force from January 2001; a FAQ list in Michigan that offers even more excellent reasons (besides cost) not to pair up Katy, Sunset Bay's resident female Mute Swan, with a male mate; The Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries' Mute Swan Management Plan has scads of official info; a species-specific info page at Mallard Lane Farms; and Groen's Wildlife Services, that offers swans for sale or rent and has a really cute pic of an adult with eight (!) downy young — but no prices.
Ignoring the cute pix, I'd have to suggest that — if any of the government-gathered information is true — ignoring the issue is probably our best solution, so unless Katy finds her own mate, we won't have to start our own Mute Swan Task Force. She's just as non-native and/or invasive here as in Michigan or Virginia, but that's been said about many species — including our own.
Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all.
J R Compton
Corms, 'Grets, Coots, Pelks, Ducks & a Skyline
November 26 2014
On the day before Thanksgiving, I tried to do birds other than pelicans, and mostly succeeded.
I wish this corm was facing this way instead of out where the wind comes from.
Trying to include a little autumn leaves atmosphere here.
And another one up Dixon Creek, but a little less autumn color.
Just standing there.
Very laxed out, and the squinty eyes make it look a little uh …
Not sure why they sometimes extend the feathers on their heads and usually not.
I bet Kala King knows what brand of ducks these were just this side up over the dam and heading vaguely east. She did. They are a mix of male, female and maybe juvenile Gadwalls. I looked in three different books, and did not figure them out. Kala knew. I waited in vain for them all to turn this way, so we could see their faces. Thanks, Kala.
Then I looked up and saw these guys way off in the distance well down Garland Road about at the Arborectum, but they quickly gyred up and flew west, toward the Trinity River, I assume.
And over the dam.
I always think, when I'm walking down to the dam and spillway, that I should take a pic like this one. Good ole' Sam R.
Left-Leaning Slant Shots I Didn't think were gooD enough
All of this instance of leftover images from the last several days. I'm dating it today, because today's when I'm posting it. I went to the lake today (Tuesday). I waited till I didn't hurt, and that happened briefly in the afternoon, when Sunset Bay was mobbed by loud little kids and some parents, all of whom were feeding the duckies — a swan, buncha coots, some gooses and, well, no ducks.
I waited for something interesting to happen, and I didn't see any.
This guys seemed unordinary the first twenty times I looked at this image. Then last night, I thought, hey! That looks like it's surfing. Uh. Sorta.
Another curious aspect of all of today's shots is that they were all shot crooked, usually — as most of my life since my stay at, oddly enough, the University of Dallas — leftish.
Big news! Pelicans fight over perch. It's not what it first appeared. It looks like the pelican on the right has thrown the pelk on the left by holding onto its neck with Righty's beak. Maybe. Lefty's head is twisted on its neck, with its chin upper.
Lefty's not really surprised. But that body attitude of Righty is saying something. I just don't know what that is. Yet. Maybe tomorrow I'll get up early, before the kiddie mobs.
Attack of the Perchless Pelican & Island Relaxation
I'd watched this same pelican (on the right) approach another pleasantly perched other pelican, then decide not to try to take that pelican's perch away — or try. That one was higher than this one, and as you shall see, height maters. I photographed that ill-thought-out assault, so when it started looking like it was going to make another attempt, I watched and photographed. I've been watching pelicans for a long time, but I still never know quite what they're thinking.
Sorta the pelican on the right feeling out the pelican on the left. It is, however, unlikely that the swimming pelican will suddenly stop and turn tail. Perhaps a tell-tale sign is that the crown on the Right pelk is up and out.
So, warning given and understood. But still the pelk on the left seems off balance, yet still willing to put up a fight.
So Lefty never did regain its balance, and Righty is all in to the battle, streaming water from both feet.
Lefty's leaving and Righty is fully balance and adding that right foot to tail just as a reminder who just won. Lefty's crown had briefly been up. Righty's is mostly down, also.
It was not always easy to tell before, but both birds seem right about the same size, so it's not a big guy picking on a littler one or anything. Not sure I'd consider it a fair fight, but pelicans seem to have a different way of looking at these little skirmishes for perches. Over the years, I've watched Great Blue Herons, Cormorants and Great Egrets just fly up full-force to where another of the same species — almost always — was standing, and just replace them.
There's animosity that led one to do that to the other, but once the formerly perched bird becomes the unperched bird, there seems to continuing animosity. It's just the way of the world. Cormorants do it flying, and that seems altogether more aggressive, but still it's always just a brief skirmish, then the vanquished flies off and the new bird stays there till another one comes along to challenge it. Righty's crown is still somewhat up.
Oh, and I have been using the date of taking these photographs as the date of posting, so next year or two, when I look back, I can tell more precisely when something happened. Posting date makes everything look orderly, but life is not.
When its crown goes down, we'll know it's actually relaxed.
Charles F is the first whom I heard calling the sandbar-ish island down this side of the lagoon "the island," which it is, though a long and slender one. I have previously referred to it as the other side, but it's not other, it'd middlish, maybe mostly this side of middle. As a name, "the Island" makes perfect sense.
I walked a little farther up Dixon Creek, realizing the lagoon must be on the other side of the island, not both sides.
Coots Scoot, Gulls Steal Food, And Pelicans Preen.
Late November 24
Coots scoot, and they do it fast. It's how they get up speed to take flight. They fast.
One of the ways Ring-billed Gulls feed themselves is to steal it from coots. It looks easy. Usually, coot food gulls steal is gone in a flash. I did not set out to catch that moment. I was just killing time.
Reason I was in Sunset Bay the second time that Sunday was I needed some Vitamin D. Sunshine, and as you can see, there was lots of that there then.
There were also people merrily feeding pieces of whatever that orange stuff is than coots could swallow quickly — pieces so big the coot had to run away to eat it all — or share it, which doesn't seem likely.
Coots are little birds. Their beaks are small. Feeding them big flapping slices of bread — or big clunks of whatever this orange stuff is — is evil. But very entertaining to watch. I don't feed wild birds. I think it's wrong. But some people think it's a great way to introduce humans — including kids — to birds and birding. Well, maybe. I believe people who feed wild birds should feed them stuff that's good for them, in sizes they can bite and swallow easily.
I'm not a huge fan of gulls. They fly good. And they have fun. I've watched them entertain themselves dropping something down, then catching it before it gets wet, and take it back up and drop it again. I've even photographed that action many times. There's lots of examples in this journal.
But the only times I've ever seen gulls interfere in the lives of American Coots is when they're stealing food that's been fed to coots in public. Rest of the time, coots eat what coots can find, and gulls don't interfere. Seems like there's a lesson in there, but it is entertaining to see them not get to eat the food idiot humans "feed" them.
But it happens any time there's crowds of people at the lake, like on a Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Coots don't always lose.
But they usually do.
But after awhile of that, I settled back into the less controversial bird actions there's always lots of, but there's rarely this much or that nice of light.
But I like this photograph.
It's Early November 24
And It's Too Cyan
Not a lot of cyan (greenish blue) in this shot, but there's too much in the follow pix, and I don't yet understand why. There was a lot of fog this early Sunday morning. And that may be the cause of it. I don't know, and although I could have eliminated it, it was more trouble than it was worth.
Not much cyan in this shot, either, except in the shadowy area on the left of the mount of wood this pelican is standing on.
And the only other cyan I see is on the edges of this pelican once it's in the air.
Less cyan here, but it's there.
As our mostly white friend impact the water — with me still holding the camera at a silly angle — it gets a snoot full of slightly cyan water. It's not the light or white balance. It's not exposure, I think. It's not all the things I tried on the scene and in photoplop since. It's just there.
Cyan wake, cyan water, cyan splash.
I just know June Mattingly won't appreciate the cyan in this wake.
Bird is remarkable white. Beak is remarkably orange and pink.
But the wake is still slightly cyan.
And this wake is ever more cyan.
I was more successful at stamping out the cyan in this image than any of those above, but it's still too cyan. Let's just call it Cyan Sunday, and home the rest of the week and month and year and century are not so cyan.
A one-legged Grackle, a head-leaning pelican, a headless swan
and a bunch of Pelicans who are hungry enough to do this:
I've noticed this bird at Sunset Bay before. In addition to parking on one of the posts by the head-in parking closest to the pier, she can often be seen on the pier. She seems to do alright, and she looks great. Very attractive for a grackle or anybody else. Took me awhile to recognize her, because it's hard to imagine a one-legged grackle getting along so well without that leg. But she does. I talked someone out of "rescuing" her.
On a car in the same head-in parking lot.
Without that other pelican raising a fuss, so it could be that lamed pelicans you've seen here before, but I didn't think of that till after one or both of them had gone off.
This particular mute swan has been called many names. I tried to Google why it's wrong to name wild birds, but all I got was fifty different answers to questions that did not involve calling, wild birds or names, so I gave up. I think I've heard real birders, whoever those are, say that giving them names like a pet gets us off track, but I don't know how to measure off track or why that's bad. Its name is Katy, although many people call her something else. Her head's underwater, because she's found something worth putting it underwater to get to eat something that she likes that's down there.
In the 1970s and 80s, there was a fictional mostly human character in Austin-based comics called Oat Willie whose lower legs disappeared into a two-wheeled wheelbarrow-like conveyance. This is simply a cormorant perched on the two wheel that are still sticking up of a grocery cart that's made its way out into Sunset Bay, although I didn't think any of these thoughts while I was looking at it and trying to get the exposure right, so the water still showed the least little bit gray, while the bird's details still showed, and we could tell what it's standing on.
The caption says it all.
American White Pelicans fish by chasing fish along into shallower and shallower water, then dredging them up with their stretchable lower mandibles.
Third pelican from the left is tilting back to swallow its catch. The second pelican from the right is stretching its lower mandible to scoop fish up, and the two in the middle are dredging or clamping mandibles to get hold of other fish.
If you see white pelicans swimming around as if they were engaging in the official Olympus Summer Sport of Synchronized Swimming, you could probably guess that they are hungry and gone fishing in the manner of American White Pelicans. Once they're used to fishing with all the other birds in their party, it's amazing how well-synchronized they become — and how many fish they catch.
These birds were fishing in the middle afternoon. I've seen them do it in the morning, the evening, at night and, oh, what else is there? Whenever they're hungry is the only right answer. They each need four pounds of fish a day, so it could be any time. I'd guess that evenings are the usual time, but if they're not hungry, they're not going fishing. And if you see just a few pelicans left in Sunset Bay, it's probably because everybody else — all 70 or so of them — are hungry enough to go fishing, either here in White Rock Lake, down on the Trinity River or somewhere else not too far to fly from here.
I'd got the notion that perhaps the pelicans, whom I've never before seen cowed by some other species — besides us humans or The City's various Habitat Destruction Machines, or dogs or — okay, there's a lot of critters pelicans are afraid of — and should be. But I couldn't figure out why they'd let the cormorants take over the outer logs like they have this year, for the first time in my memory.
Or maybe they're just too kind to raise a fuss. Kind to everybody else but each other, that is. One of the photo sequences I've been hanging back on showing here — not because they're particularly violent, but because So What? — another pelican beaking incident, ho hum...
Obsessions: That Adult Male Breeding Northern Pintail
Again — and a Pied-billed Grebe in Sunset Bay
Yep. I'm still obsessing about that one male Northern Pintail (duck) that I just went through this month's text changing from Pintail Duck, which is not what this guy is properly called by species, to Northern Pintail, which is accurate and correct. I like this shot, because it shows him in a little bit different pose, which makes the pair of vertical pinstripes on the back of his head look very different from any other of my — yes, it's true, obsessive — photographs of him these last few weeks.
Posh-looking duck exposed almost perfectly. Even his tan sidewalls are not overexposed. White is white, tan is tan, and the rest of him is ever so subtly yet perfectly pin-striped body. There's even some texture in the white on his breast. I try to do that every time, but usually I fail, or my camera fails, or something.
Like many birds, in different lighting, Northern Pintails show different colors. Here we see dark blue wings and greenish on the back of his head. And the scalloped look of his wing feathers here appears to blend with the rest of his body every so subtly.
First off, there's only one pintail in Sunset Bay these days. Perhaps more important today, is that he's become more accustomed to being right where he is, and he's swimming closer than I've seen him, although Charles says he's been eating dinner with all the other ducks and gooses and who know who all else.
Here, his right side was in deep shadow before I raised my on-camera flash to fill in that darkness. We can almost see his smallish eye on this side, and for a change, his beak is not overexposed. He's less concerned by photographers, which is a major plus for me.
This image was facilitated by use of an on-camera flash, and luckily I don't have any cameras that are not so-equipped. Sometimes, like when a Northern Pintail insists upon swimming by me with its sunny side on the other side, it's wonderful to be able to fill in the dark side with a flash, although flash synchronization shutter speeds sometimes play hell with those exposures. My Nikon D800, however, just does it, so I don't have to juggle numbers in my mind. Either it works or it doesn't. This time it did.
I shot and shot at this bird easily as often as I did the pintail today, and of all those images, this is the best, actually, the only good one. The Pied-billed Grebes have been around awhile, just this is the first one I've seen in Sunset Bay proper (the wet part). This may be the most beautiful pied-billed I've ever photographed, but I've photographed a lot of them. Handsome little critter.
Every time I got it lined up, he'd dive, leaving only a curled blur down.
Yeah, It's cold, and I hurt, but I hurt
wherever I go, so I mize well Bird
This is my favorite photograph today. It took long enough to follow his slow circles, paddling with his face in his wing feathers — to keep warm? I must have shot him a couple dozen times, each time hoping the next time I'd capture those feathers just in front of his eyes sharp and that glaring golden eye staring, too. I mighta got it twice, and this is the better.
I do believe that rather than the patience I am often accused of, what I really am is obsessed.
Even with my favorite pain pills, my hip that I fell on last Weddy night then spent the next eight hours writhing in pain in the VA ER hurts too much. And I still need to rest and alternately cook and freeze my pain, but it's plenty cold outside, and there was sunlight today, so why not take advantage? I won't be able to do it every day, but I did it today, and I was so much happier out in the wind and sun than hiding at home.
It was just like this last time I came to Sunset Bay to play, too. Gobs of Cormorants, and darned few Pelicans. Then, I assumed the pelicans were off fishing somewhere. They don't just stay in White Rock Lake all the time. They continue to make cameo appearances all around the town, county and probably state.
Waiting till all their faces are visible can take a lot more patience than I have, but sometimes the stars just all line up, as do the corms. On the whole, I'd rather photograph pelicans and strange new birds or old friends, but when I got gobs of corms, why not? I wasn't as quick as I'd have been if I'd been practising photographing birds these last five days, but if they held still, I might well get 'em.
Like most humans, I'm not a huge fan of cormorants, but we're getting more and more and more of them, so I might as well photograph some. Wish they'd come in even closer, so I could do my annual pix of them landing and taking off (hop, hop, hopping), then get back to those other birds.
Just a few Ring-billed Gulls are flying over the lake and Sunset Bay now, but soon they all will. One or two looks elegant and nice. Soon that will be a distant memory. I like the challenge of photographing them, but I've never been enamored of Ring-bills. Probably because I like American Coots — from whom they steal food and with whom they constantly battle.
That's not its species, it's its eye color.
And speaking of gooses, some people, like my friend Erin, like to get in close and personal with a few of the domestic gooses of Sunset Bay. Or rather, she likes this goose, whom she calls by a human-ish name I always forget — Mr. somebody-or-'nother. If I'm around, that goose gets possessive of her and likes me to stand farther away from them, which I usually do. With me, the goose likes to bite my shoes and pant cuffs.
Erin reminds me she calls the goose, "Mr. Merry-Mack."
Not like I keep birds objectified, however. I really really wanted to get close enough to Katy, our resident Mute Swan today, even though she was "talking" some of the time, attempting to prove she's not mute. Hoarse, kinda like a Great Blue Heron who's been frightened by a photographer, only quieter and not so ornery. I bet her feathers are every bit as soft as goose down.
What's got All those Cormorants Racing across the lake?
A Story with Pelicans, a Couple killdeer and one Duck
Lawther, not Poppy Drive. Two of about eighteen I saw just inside the park. They were polite to traffic (me, mostly, on that cold day)
At first, at least, I didn't know why they were moving.
Out, first toward Dreyfuss, then to the other side of the lake.
Looks like (musta been) large white birds on the far side of the lake. Must be pelicans that far away, surely bigger than gulls. The one in middle distance in the middle left about a third in appears to be white with black wing tips, like our pelicans. I can see stuff in photographs, I never could in real life, thanks to my lousy far vision.
What cormorants and pelicans are known to do together, sometimes even with those gulls, is fishing parties, sometimes involving hundreds of cormorants, dozens of pelicans and a bunch of gulls thrown in for good measure. And I've often seen pelicans fly out to the other side of the lake to engage in one of those. When they do that, they look a lot like this except in mostly white, not mostly black.
Of course, I didn't know any of this when I was making these photographs. I just saw something massive happening and looked around for an eagle or big hawk. What are these guys flying away from? I wondered.
But it took till later tonight to figure out they were racing toward not away from.
But I decided nope. Too little a bird. Too late. And I've seen lots of Red-tailed Hawks ride the wind over the bay, without anybody running away. Though there's sometimes a lot of peeping among the really small birds.
Heads down and into fellow members of the flock, keeping warm as they can be.
When I first encountered one of these groupings back in the first year of my doing this brrrd jrrrrnl, I named this a cloud of pelicans. It still is, but now the cloud is farther out, because
Except for that one largish adult deep pelican with the deep need to preen, even if it's nearly freezing.
The darkish coloration on its neck may mark it as a juvenile. The tepid colors of its beak may mark it as juvenile. But I don't know what to think about that pinkish skirt of feathers. I nver saw it till I worked it up. Always just looked like a nice, lone pelican, close enough up to lure me into photographing all that close-up detail.
I assume both are not hungry, or they'd be out on the far side of the lake fishing. When I first sighted them, I assumed the dark one was a duck — it was head-down and near prone, like a duck. So I walked down Sunset Beach to get a better view of the dark duck, who turned out to be this handsome bird.
I've seen several varieites of heron do this with aplomb. Mostly the long, thin ones like Great Egrets do it elegantly. I kept thinking I'd get to photograph a duck falling in the water, then, thinking that, I turned and walked away. Still, that's a long stretch. Note the duck almost directly below the orange-beaked white duck leaning way far over, is the Pintail Male, with male and female mallards and Mallard mixes — apparently Mallards mix with almost any duck..
That One Male Northern Pintail and all those Beaking Pelicans
When you don't have hands or particularly articulative feet, you use that big, long pink and orange protrusion on the front of your head when somebody wants to scoot in between you on a log. Not sure why we think of pelicans as a gregarious lot, but they do get testy often when someone wants to share their space, and you don't want to let them. Later in the season, when you notice holes in some American White Pelican's beaks, you'll know where they came from.
The vanquished pelican floated around this side of the log for a long time, eventually swam to the left end of it, and climbed onto a branch without any pelicans already on it, and settled it. Still, it looked upset that those other pelicans wouldn't accept it.
I've watched them for hundreds of hours, but I've never go anywhere close to understanding what was going on with all that seemingly malicious beaking.
Then they's go at it again.
I didn't see any beak penetration in another beak, but they seemed serious.
Here we zoom into the action. My lens is not a zoom, however, even if most of the people who comment on the blunderbuss assume it is. Instead, I have to blow them up a bit, to get that zoomability. Works rather well. Since the lens is what they call a prime lens, as opposed to a zoom, it's sharper, so I can blow them up with more quality results than if I zoomed another lens.
Everybody's got their dander up.
The one I've been looking for. Just suddenly after I'd dealt with excessively beaking pelicans, this lovely specimen showed up just this side of the island — a long, so skinny it's barely there, line of trees with clumps of grass that extends up Dixon Creek (the one creek that's not Hidden. Beauty, ain't he? Several fellow photographers have lately told me of his presence — again. I assume it's the same one that hung out with us a year or so ago.
For awhile I'd convinced myself that those drops of water beading up on his head were part of his camouflage, then they dried off.
I saw them coming together and thought nothing of it. Then suddenly, they were lunging heads and beaks at each other. I don't think either the Male Mallard on the left or the male Pintail on the right landed any blows or strikes, but they thrust at each other about three times after threatening each other, and the somewhat smaller Pintail won. The whole encounter surprised me. Apparently surprised the mallard, too.
Are out perching on an extended log with their backs to us.
The predominant species in Sunset Bay.
The duck in the middle is our Pintail buddy, he of sharp-appearing black pin-like tail feathers and white pin-striped feather formation on the back of his head. Altogether distinctive outfit. Very stylish.
Mostly gray on mostly white.
Every time I drive down Poppy Lane past the Hospital toward Sunset Bay — which some days I manage to do several times lately, I see the gorgeous colors of Sunset Bay Leaves between the trees I have seen many other birds in, including Barred owls. It's a lovely part of the year, even if tonight is dreadful cold.
Late Evening Pelicans Flying Past Winfrey Point
I was in the parking lot behind (or on the side of) the Winfrey Building. Somebody had their blinkers on in a car parked on the far side of the no-parking loop, which I love to drive around any time of day or night, but for a change, I didn't want to cause a ruckus, so I was sitting in the parking lot overlooking the lake to see what I could see. And what I could see was, every few minutes, a couple or several pelicans flying by as tiny white dots with trailing bits of black feathers, whom I know as American White Pelicans of the inland variety. The coastal pelicans are brown.
The White Rock Lake Water Theater is a very controversial sculpture that has acquired a certain patina over the years since it was designed and installed behind the Bath House (that used to be a bathhouse) Cultural Center. See my story in DallasArtsRevue (that other site I've been publishing all of this century — and on paper back to 1979) for full particulars about the controversy.
The closer to the point of Winfrey Point, which is the whole of that area, not just one point like many "points," the closer the pelicans flew to shore — and me. It was already darkish and I kept following them with a step-by-step experimentally arrived-at notion of what the settings should be, so they would render about like this. I'm always amazed when my effective f5 lens wide open with a 1.7X telextender acquires and holds focus even in the semi-dark
I had already experimented with exposure, stopped, reset the iso and experimented with the EV (exposure value adjustment), carefully enlarging the birds in my LCD each time, till I got some detail and was able to pan along with them. The last couple times I got three pelicans instead of just two, and that was just fine. People ask me where the pelicans sleep. Obviously not as close to shore as they perch and preen much of the day in Sunset Bay. I've seen a few of them flying north past the Yacht Clubs (see my map of White Rock Lake) and northward, and I've seen them in other parts of White Rock in the early morning, but I also suspect some go off to other, less dangerous ponds, lakes and rivers for the night.
Cormorants, Pelicans, Wigeons, Kayaker, Northern
shovelers and some Unidentified Other Birds
It just looks like this bird is in command. Mostly, though, it just stood there.
Wigeons are lovely. Male above; female below.
Interfering with shorebirds is a federal offence —
Woman in a red kayak.
— and apparently one of the policemen who patrols White Rock has been trained as a game warden, and he can investigate and perhaps arrest persons who seem to take great joy in scaring the cormorants, who are shorebirds. And yes, my lens, resolves boat names out there well enough to see and read those words. Anybody know this person?
She's one of several kayakers who seem to enjoy scaring our avian visitors. Only reason there's no pelicans out there, and that's because there's so many cormorants taking up space there now.
Maybe you can tell more with this blowup.
I watched this pelican, not more than ten feet into the lake from Sunset Beach, for a long time, and eventually, I just had to take its photograph. Easier when they're close to get the exposure and focus and tones just right. Something else I read recently is that juveniles have brown eyes. Usually, we can't see what color their eyes are, but this close, and it become obvious.
I had wanted to photograph Northern Shovelers today (got some a day or so ago; I just wanted to get them better.) I've seen them this week and even photographed them in the lake, but I want to get them in more detail. This is much less detail, but it's not just Shovelers. There's a couple other duck varieties, which seems a little odd. One's variety has red heads, just I can't find them in my i.d books. The shovelers are in the middle and off to the end.
Racing & Other Goose Action & A Couple a Shovelers
They're not racing each other. I've not seen our resident African Geese (according to The Goose Breed Selector) race on purpose. These have been frightened by something, and though I've rarely seen them actually fly, I have seen them run across the water like this till they become airborne briefly. Then 'land' and settle back down awhile.
It's exciting to watch, but the action usually does not last long. Here the front and back ones are skid landing while the middle one is still running and flapping.
This is the outer view of two gooses having sex. Usually once that happens, they separate and calm down.
Maybe not exactly when I snapped this, but before and after, they were biting each other.
I often call this the Victory Flap, because it often follows sex or a fight — hard to tell which with gooses. They seem to mix it up when they have sex and/or fight.
Not sure what's happening here, although they seem to both like being close, and the water-splashing looks fun.
The back one may be biting or just standing there. They both look comfy and keeping close.
This one's a little fuzzy, like I got the focus on the male and the water behind them.
Then I got them both sharp this time. At first I didn't know which to use, so I decided to use both pix. It was Saturday when I shot these, and they stayed on the far side of Sunset Lagoon. The usual ratio was one male to two or three females.
American White Pelicans?
I think I understand that our varieties of pelicans who are brown or brownish are juveniles until they are all white. I'm still a little unclear about those distinctions, and I have seen AWPs who were dirty, and they look similar, so I'm never certain. Some experts and non-experts also say that females are slightly smaller. And/or you can tell their age or sex by the colors of the beaks. You may, but I can't. Yet. But I've been paying attention.
Not so much white on its head, but a lot more dark showing on its upper wings and lower body and neck. This one's brown does not seem to be herringboned...
I think that pelicans with brown haircuts are juveniles. Not so sure about those wings though. Its brown wings seem to have their colors arranged in a herringbone pattern, so perhaps they are not dirty, and the haircut probably indicates it's a juvenile.
I'm still going to the lake at least once a day, Just
these have been piling up, and I've got Lots More
Just I been busy writing about art lately, and that takes all my concentration — even if I go to the lake one or two or even three times a day trying to escape from that and other issues, like fixing my elderly home and my camera doesn't always seem to be focusing. Etc. You know...
These, at least, are my most recent photographs, taken during these last couple days of rain rain rain.
Today was one of those when I just had to tear myself away from Sunset Bay, so after working out at my North Dallas Y, I drove down the west side for a change, just looking.
Frankly, I don't remember which. I keep shooting every day or nearly every day, but sometimes I let them pile up some, then I forget the details. I really like this pic.
I've been using the blunderbuss without a telextender lately, because it's been seeming difficult. I can't prove anything, so I keep checking, and what I learn is that sometimes I get the focus just right, and perhaps a little more often, I don't. Now, if every shot was ruined by lousy focus, I'd know for sure that something was malfunctioning, but all I learn when I only have the problem sometimes is that it's probably me who's malfunctioning.
Same bird having achieve some minor additional altitude.
So just when I think my tests are doing good, and I'm actually learning something, I learn that I'm not. I guess that's how life works and doesn't work.
Maybe even that same one we saw working on it just above. Maybe not. It's still really difficult to tell them apart, but I keep trying.
That is a few seconds and three frames later.
So this definitely is the very same pelican. And this one, like the last couple, is doing that flying thing amazingly beautiful.
We've been seeing and photographing that eagle
About once a week for the last couple months
Special Thanks to Forest for pointing me to this big bird's latest repeat appearance in Sunset Bay, in a little closer and to the right from its usual perch. Even when Forest told me about it and where exactly it was twice, I couldn't see it through the blunderbuss, which I've been shooting with lately without a telextender, thinking the focus was really slow and often wrong. And it's hardly perfect here, but good enough to identify it as an American (!) Bald Eagle. I'll work up more pix from today and yesterday's shoots, but first I gotta do a couple things I've already promised I would.
I may be beginning to understand the usefulness of a bin- or mon-ocular, I generally prefer just one ocular, because although both my eyes work, I only use one at a time, so it seems silly to get binocs when an monoc would do.
There's one more eagle shot just down today's journal entry.
This is a American White Pelican fishing party who's not quite synchronized with everybody in the group. But they are catching lots of fish, so who needs synchronicity?
I watched and occasionally photographed as the group serenely swam out from far right from the pier, out and out and around some inner logs, look like they were breaking up and going back wherever they came from, then somebody would find some more fish, and they'd rejoin the effort.
Out, around and back, and the other way, then back out off on the left.
Gaping mandibles is usually a sign that they're catching something. Usually really need a bright, blazing sun back-lighting them to see what's in their pouches. And today was gray, gray, gray.
If today was a focus test — and it was, then this is a strong indication that that camera and that lens works just fine. And when that's the case, focus issues are almost always at least partly due to settings. Somewhere along today, I drastically changed some key setting back to where I thought they had been before. Which is about as scientific as my methods get. Later, I reset them again. If it hadn't have been that eagle, this would probably have been the lead shot in today's journal entry. Focus nailed. Composition just about perfect — I cropped slightly left, right, top and bottom. But nice.
Sometimes a particularly smooth pelican landing just seems to go on and on forever.
It looks like a white duck, except it's yellowish unto an almost Easter ducky shade, so I'm wondering if the lanolin they rub from a gland out all over themselves to keep their feathers waterproof is, at least for awhile, yellowish.
I remember this happening and wondering what caused it. I saw no boats; heard no habitat destruction machines. I looked all around, and even photographed out there from whence they seemed to be fleeing.
Sure enough, under the Copy of Copyright just above it, so I wouldn't obliterate it with my copyright notice, was an eagle. A bald eagle. I don't think I'd seen such a panic during any of the other eagle sightings these last few months of irregular eagle visits. I guess it looked hungry.
But I didn't notice the actual eagle till many minutes later. So I continued perusing landing pelicans, one of my longtime favorite sports activities.
And looking sharp doing it. I mean high-acuity sharp, as in focus and then some.
They mostly seemed to be coming in from well out into the lake. Couple a times they seemed to materialize well within the far perimeter of logs. Just suddenly they're there, after being not there for a much longer time. Then I'd pan across following wherever they were going, always hoping they'd come a lot closer to us on the pier, so I'd get much better detail, but being plenty happy enough when they went sidewise across my field of vision.
Guess I'll be doing some more settings adjustments. The lens focuses well when the idiot behind the buttons is paying attention and setting the camera just right. Can't ask for anything more.
There's always already plenty of birds at John Bunker Sands Wetland Center near Seagoville, Texas. Lots of grackles today, all over the front lawn.
And Eastern Bluebird families on the picnic table out back, overlooking the wetlands. Took awhile to gather the supposedly ten individuals for our Birder's bird walk, when a nice woman told me I was the tenth and last, although when I counted, there were 15 of us on the tour., including three drivers.
When I called after they decided I'd be the tenth and last person accepted for that tour, they asked if I was a birder. Yup. But I think what they should have asked is was I a scope or binocular birder, which I'm not. That's why I lug the 7.5 or so pounds of The Blunderbuss when I go birding, even if it's no match for the visual enhancements available from a good — and expensive — binocular or scope. But more to the point, I'm a birder who enjoys talking with other birders and who, like several others on this tour, can't always even see the birds they were talking about seeing through their scopes.
What I'm suggesting is a third category for John Bunker Sands' bird tours.
They now have the more or less advanced tour via cars, an amateur walking tour, and I think there ought to be an Intermediate Amateur driving tour with a really affable tour leader who knows birds and is friendly and talkative about it — and some sort of WiFi or other immediate and audible communications among the cars while we are driving around. So we know why we're stopping each time, and what we should expect or look for and where — before we disperse.
The center is only open to the public twice a month — on the first and third Saturdays each month. 9:00am - 4:00pm $5 Adults; $4 Seniors 60+; $3 Children 5-12; 4 and under Free — so it'll take some time to figure out and organize and implement, but it seems an obvious improvement.
Clear, sharp and with very specific wing patterns. I ought to be able to track down these guys, but I haven't yet. But I'll hazard a guess, Least Sandpipers...
I never even saw this bird or the several others on the far side of the creek at one of the early stops on our three-car tour of the vast John Bunker Sands Wetlands. And I wasn't the only one. Those with scopes and binocs could see them and discuss their identities and markings. I just shot where they said birds were and hoped I'd get a couple in focus, and this is close.
I don't even remember the leaders or scopers or binockers talking about Wilson's Snipes — other, really bad pix of mine show at least three of them — but I was so confused then, they might have been talking about a condor (America's largest bird) over there. I've always wanted to see and photograph a North American Condor…
I knew these guys, and nobody else even bothered to mention them, and I agree, but I wasn't convinced at this point that I'd get many other birds, so I shot whatever flew.
Various small birds were flitting about the area — one of several places we stopped at, because they had proven bounteous on tours before. I went on one such tour last year and found it an overall positive experience, even if I was often confused about what the scopers and binockers were seeing that I was not.
Our tour was obviously directed at the binockers and scopers, who had all the advantages. They could at least see the birds the leader, Dan, was talking about. I got to look through a scope briefly, and I could make out details in birds way far, far away. And that was nice, but I couldn't photograph through it — and all the digiscope (digital camera + scope) pix I've seen have been less-than. I didn't see anybody on this bird walk with a digiscope, and it's been awhile since I've seen one anywhere, although there was lots of chatter online about it a couple years ago.
If I do another one of these tours, I'll take a tripod, so I won't feel out of place lining up with the other scopers…
Plenty birds were visible on our cold, cold tour the Saturday morning after Halloween, but most of them were far. And I love near birds, which is one of the many reasons I so dearly love birding at White Rock Lake in Dallas. There, even exotic strangers come in and stay close to humans, far fewer of whom gather there on non-holiday week days.
I often photograph the landscape around the places I go beyond White Rock for birds, so readers will have a better idea what it's like, and I'll remember. This cross on the hill serves as a landmark for one of the entrances to JBS, although we came in a different way. Apparently, different GPS systems use different entrances to these wetlands.
I don't remember photographing these, but I'm glad I did. Wigeons are not rare, but it's always nice to see anything a little different. One woman on the tour said she really wanted to see some Wood Ducks. And I kept telling her to come visit Sunset Bay, because we still have a few left from summer's bounty.
Probably too often on today's tour when someone complained about how far the pelicans, ducks or whoever were far from where we were, I'd suggest they visit White Rock Lake. I gave precise driving instructions to at least four, and I sometimes wonder if there are already too many people who know about Sunset Bay and White Rock Lake, but it really is a birder's paradise, entirely within the City Limits.
And it's less than a couple miles from my front door. Who could ask for more?
Of course, I told them how the pelicans are often less than thirty feet away, scads of them — and about the many species who visit during migrations and other times. Oh, and there's that eagle in last month's journal who has been visiting White Rock about once a week for the last couple months.
For the longest time I thought that white bird upper right was landing, and I looked in vain for a yellow-headed bird with an orange tail. Eventually, looking at it at great magnification, I realized it was taking off, and what I saw as head and tail were, instead, tail and head. Well, the biggest word on this page is always Amateur. I love birding and I'm still new at it, after eight years. Some of the folks on the tour had been birding for decades — many of them at least these last two centuries.
That's a highway on the far horizon before the trees, and those people closer are on their own tour of the grounds, and they probably can't see the busy highway or its cars.
Dan stopped the caravan to explore a long walking trail down past what I later learned was a hunting area, complete with the metal targets just below. I practically ran down the trail with him, careful with each step, because I'd had ankle issues lately. The rest of the pack were pretty far back down the trail when he stopped to note this bird and a thrasher and at least one other bird I never even saw move.
This scene was considerably darker than it appears here. I've brightened it so you can see there's a bird. All I saw was the silhouette of something that might be a bird. I overexposed several shots at differing exposures, so at least one of them (this one) could be seen as an identifiable (to Kala King — thanks, Kala) bird.
At three farther stops, I didn't see a single bird or silhouette or motion in the dense brambles, so I gave up and walked back. A lovely, slowly paced, walk down a country path. Delicious. Then I saw a table with a couple chairs, where apparently shooters sit and do something about these targets. I thought it ironic that the shape on the right was once a bird that looks a lot like an ostrich. Man, it would sure be hard to miss an ostrich.
I liked the shape of these. No idea what they are, but I bet someone knows. So I photographed them an as abstract composition. When you got lemons, make lemonade.
Another fine, detailed example of probably this part of Texas' most populous gull. There's jillions of them who'll be showing up soon at White Rock.
And our more populous species of cormorants are the Double-cresteds, but these are common at White Rock Lake, also.
We got lots of these, too. But while the rest of the tour toured invisible birds down the dark pathway surrounded by bright, open meadows and bodies of water, I was willing to photograph anything.
But I always love photographing American White Pelicans, no matter how close or far they are, if they make a compelling photograph. I am compelled with this one.
People either on the not-yet Birders' walking tour or just people out for a lovely autumn walk on a sunny but cold Saturday morning.
That path was in sight of the JBS center, and I hope I can remember which direction, although I took pix to help. These last four shots are all taken from the John Bunker Sands center's expansive back porch.
This is the farthest body of water I could still see from the JBS center's back porch, but I know there are more in the distance. Oh, and out on the tour, someone asked and someone else answered that the family who donated the land visits about every week "to do some fishing."
I know there's a stirring online video story about moving the eagles' nest to another tower for their safety, away from the sometimes shocking and often in-the-way power lines, but as you can see here, there are no power lines leading to or from this tower. And that lump on the right side looks a lot like an eagle's nest, which I photographed a little closer on our last visit there.
I sure hope Oncor is a better partner to the much more popular Bald Eagle than it has been to the Monk Parakeets at what I call The Big Hum, a electrical substation, located up the hill from the Old Pump House at White Rock Lake, where signs all around the thoroughly fenced-in structure guarantee that the parakeets will be left alone, but every time the 'keet nests get a little unruly, they are seriously diminished. By somebody with keyed access to the secured area.
Meanwhile back where the eagles used to nest, these two towers still have the dangerous power lines, but now they're sporting various structures to remind the eagles not to go back there again.
All text and photographs Copyright 2014 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission from and payment to the writer or photographer.
I am an amateur. I've only been birding since 2006 — most of my birding anywhere is documented in this Bird Journal, and indexed on the Index page. Lately I've been indexing the better or more interesting images for that month on the top of each new page.
I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964.
counter stays with monthly content.