This Month's Best images: Wild Turkeys, Egyptian Gooses & Free-range Chickens Traffic-stopping Goose The River Otter and the Egret Egrets in mock battle Ruddy Ducks slowly turning redder sunset Pelican almost catching a fish Pelicans flying Pelican beak full of fish Pelicans battling over a perch Goose Flap-A-Thon Grebe Leaving former pet ducks off at the lake is murder — and illegal Ducklings that didn't last a day. Great Egret Flying Flat-out Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron by Egret Island Wing-drying Pelican Pelicans driving fish into the shallows The best pix from last month If you assume I am a bird I.D expert, you will be disappointed The Current Bird Journal is always here Cameras Used Ethics Feedback Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat forum Bird Rescue Herons Egrets Herons or Egrets? Books & Links Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelks Playing Catch Rouses Courtship Displays Birding Galveston 2015 & 2013 The 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds & the 1st Bald Eagles here Banding Info Coyotes 800e Journal G5 Journal JRCompton.com: Links resumé Contact DallasArtsRevue So you want to use my photos to make your project look better? Bird-annotated map of the Med School Rookery Even I use Site Search to find anything here, but that also gets art-related finds.
328 photos this month
Wet, Very Wet
November 30, 2015
This was earlier. In what I call morning, even if I didn't get there till after noon. I was concentrating on the birds, so I hardly even noticed the rich autumn colors in The Fitchery under the dam (on the other side), and only now as I type this, realizing how utterly ugly our dam has become. I hope some City Idiot (is that redundant?) doesn't plan to have a bunch of kids who aren't artists paint all over it? Or even people who are. I like it all plain brown, like on the right and left — unless somebody can do some pretty home-grown art on it. Scribbled names don't count.
All day — three trips I think — I kept seeing ponds that were not ponds there last time I looked. I'm not sure where this is, but it's a little closer than most of my new-pond photos today.
This is north of the parking lot on Winstead, at the bottom of the Spillways, looking in the general direction of The Pump House and after that, The Old Boat House.
That's Loop 12 — Buckner Boulevard — in the background, going up the hill to Garland Road and Casa Linda shopping center.
Called that because it's behind the old and locked-tight rest room on Lawther toward Buckner Boulevard — in what I call Greater Sunset Bay — usually not much water, but plenty of land. Stone Tables is on theother side of that line of trees, which hides a creek. Several trees on this side were freshly cut and stacked in nearly neat piles. There's long been rumors that the rest rooms in Greater Sunset Bay and Greater Stone Tables will be refurbished. There's something nicer smelling about toilets that flush.
Took them awhile to gather up the hill, but they were intent on finding a safe place to settle for awhile. Little did they know.
They quickly settled in and did what pelicans do when they have something solid to stand on. Most of their more recent perching places are under too much water these days.
Eventually, they settled.
Little did they know.
Then, while my attention drifted elsewhere, including to The Pier at Sunset Bay and talking with a friend, we heard serious screaming.
From right about where the pelicans had just settled in. Looked like someone was running, screaming toward them, so I started shouting, "Don't chase the birds," assuming it was one or more kids. But it was, instead, an adult (I hope non-breeding) human with her hands in the air and heading right for the pelicans, who were alert, and quickly in the water and swimming away.
I guess I was more intent on stopping her chasing the pelicans than taking photographs of it. I went into my own loud and repetitive rant about it being against federal law to interfere with pelicans, which seemed to calm the screaming woman only slightly.
But by the time she got back to her car, she seemed just a little bemused and ever so slightly more sane. I understand the need to take one's frustrations out on inanimate objects, but not living wild birds. And especially not on our pelicans.
Meanwhile, my all-time favorite place was inundated, with more water visible in what I have been calling 'The Spice Garden' — because it's where some people pick something that grows there. I don't know what that is or what they use it for, but I am, as usual, very curious.
I'm just not used to it looking this wet. Usually, it's dense with growing things, in which we can barely see the ground. Now it's significantly less dense and much more, well, wet. Oh, and last time I saw the pelicans on Sunset Beach, they were back at preening and stretching. I wonder whether that woman is still batshit.
& Some Birds
November 29, 2015
DeGolyer Drive looked a little messier than usual lately after rains. Everything that was in the water when it lapped over the shore — sometimes half-way across the one-lane Lawther Drive — was left when the water receded. No problem for cars, who had the curb to protect them, but walkers and runners had to skirt the extended trash heap.
In dry seasons, there's grass in dirt down to the shoreline just past the trees. The lake surface moves up the hill in flood. I saw almost nobody walking and only a few runners today. No bikelers at all.
Mallards and water covered the low areas in the great field on the right where Poppy Drive meets Lawther Boulevard in Greater Sunset Bay after the rains. Now, I see someone in dark — blue or black — arms akimbo out on the second concrete bridge toward Buckner Boulevard from Inner Sunset Bay. Then I only saw the birds, the water and the trees. I've been watching that field switch back and forth much of this year.
This is Dixon Branch as it enters into Inner Sunset Bay at the spit where all sorts of birds gather when there's land over the water there. I'd hoped to see something besides Mallards, but they're common hereabouts. Surely the most common ducks here.
The Spice Garden was, as it often is in The Rainy Season, largely under water. Gooses, Mallards, Pelicans and Coots floated and swam in the new pools that lapped way past where the shoreline was last week. Entry to the pier was only available to some guy in slick, black hip boots. I didn't even get out of the car once I got past Sunset Beach. Though I'd sopped into the vastly expanded creek along the tall trees leading into Sunset Bay along Lawther Drive — as in the photo one click up.
In a phrase you will probably see here again, "The City in its Infinite Stupidity," will probably destroy this log — Because that's what The City & The Parks Department does after each new flood, so next flood, the pelicans and other perching birds will have no place to go, so they'll eventually go someplace else like the Egyptian Gooses [below] did.
We see crows as black, but like Great-tailed Grackles, they really reflect whatever color that bounces off of them. I could take the color luminosity out of this image, but that wouldn't be a correction. It would be a distortion. I saw black, but my camera saw blue.
November 28, 2015
We didn't really go down there looking for birds. But we found a few here and there, and we didn't mind that. We drove to Austin to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family, then we drove back to Jay and Joyce's — thank you all so much. Then, before returning to Dallas, we drove River Road along the Guadalupe, where we found the Wild Turkeys and Egyptian Gooses. Then we skirted Canyon Lake, around which we just loved the landscape, even if there wasn't much in the way of birds. It was lovely in the low clouds and light rain.
I'm guessing there were two varieties — those above and these, but maybe it's just the light that's different. Sibley doesn't go into any varieties but Eastern and Southwestern, but neither of those look like these handsome critters.
I always consider Texas to be Southwestern, but birder books don't think The Southwest really starts till west of here. I shot this to show the long line of Wild Turkeys up and down the rock wall behind them here, but those were all out of focus, and this one was so sharp, I just cropped out most of the blurs.
They took their sweet time going across — reminding us of Sunset Bay gooses [below on this page] — then they took another while coming back, then they went back across the road, all of which left them in the best light long enough to photograph.
Egyptian Gooses used to visit Sunset Bay yearly since I started doing this Birder's Journal in 2006. Then they stopped. I'm guessing they found a better place to hang out. Like this dark green world with a river running through it. When I saw and recognized it, I stopped The Slider, parked it as close to the edge of the road as I could — still often checking back and forth from either direction — and photographed it with my little Panasonic Lumix G5 mirrorless that I had handy. Lotta signs, but nobody was toobing [sic] in late November..
Then I got out my my much higher-resolution Nikon for these shots and the wild turkeys. This shows why I miss seeing these birds closer to home. They're so odd-looking yet beautiful, and they didn't seem to mind our gawking and pointing dark doohickeys at them.
About a minute later I saw this one doing this, but I'm not sure what. I was still behind the wheel, so much of my consciousness may have centered on the not-at-all busy River Road we'd gone down about ten years ago when Jennifer and Jared got married, and we really wanted to explore it again. From every direction I photographed the Egyptian Gooses, they showed different colors.
I just happened upon this art bird, so I took its pictures. Like so many other birds, it had a drop of water on its beak, so it fit right in.
Because we were going to be there when the people who usually live there were not, we got to let the chickens out in the mornings and put them back in the evenings, so they didn't get predated by raccoons, possums, foxes or whatever. Not that they minded. They were always right where they needed to be. I made sure they could be in or out any time they wanted. I wanted them to feel safe.
I think. I am often confused when hens have combs, which I learned in grade school somewhere only roosters had.
I wasn't paying attention when Joyce told Anna why the golf balls were in the nest, but the Internet says they are there, so the eggs will be laid there. Seems to work. We had wonderful, fresh eggs with yolks that remind me of this yellow ball's vivid hue — very unlike grocery store-bought eggs.
No telling where — or what exactly. I must not have been driving.
Pelicans In & After Flight
with 6 Mallards & a Coot
November 25, 2015
Monday November 23, for the first time, I think, this year — or at least this pelican season (September 15 through April 15 is when the American White Pelicans 'stay' at White Rock Lake. I put quotes around stay, because even when they're here, they go off and visit other places.), I was able to photograph repeated groups of AWPs flying in from north and west directions. Getting to photograph bunches of pelicans flying in is a real treat. They're a little goofy(inelegant) on land, but in the air, they are amazing.
Of course when the first one flew in, we had no notion that there'd be so many repeats of singles, doubles, triples and quadruplets of pelicans flying into Sunset Bay. But we were ready. And by by we, I mean about a half dozen photographers, only some of whose names I know.
Luckily, I photographed some pelicans coming in from afar.
And two sets of wings. And different shaped beaks.
Eventually, I realized I was wasting too many clicks when they were far away, so I began to wait till they almost filled the frame. But I still followed focus on them coming in, so I'd have it when I needed it.
Wings cupped to catch air to slow it down, water dripping from its beak
For just a little more color relief from all those big black & white birds with bright yellow beaks and feet.
While I was shooting, I was just shooting. Not trying for any variety of pose or position. Now that I'm putting each shot on this page and filling text between I wonder if I managed to vary the poses of the incoming.
I was shooting from the left wing (Natch!!) of the Pier at Sunset Bay. My camera is on a tripod (because my hands sometimes shake; and it's so wonderful to point it somewhere, look away, then back and find it still pointed there. That hardly ever works when I hand-hold it.
I could not have planned it better, and at that speed, I could not have planned it at all.
Few of these shots are art of a series, but these two are.
The trick when a well-posed (for photographic purposes) pelican comes flying in, is to keep shooting till parts of the pelk are cropped off. That's not exactly what I was paying most attention to just then, but here only the end one primary feather was cropped off.
While other shots not showing here were seriously cropped when I was just taken away by their elegance and speed.
Just to prove to you that my photographs ain't always perfectly framed. But I still like this shot, even if — or especially because — it is cropped top and bottom, left and right.
There are many techniques birds use to slow air speed. I have also seen them dip one or both wings in the water as they are flying to slow down. This one is just cupping as it banks slightly.
It seemed a prize for a slow progression of birds. Gulls had it first. Quite a coup for a coot to get something a gull once prized. Gulls like red plastic balls, because they are red, and they can drop them, then catch them before they hit water. Over and over again. This coot likes the red ball, because some poor gull has lost it. I don't think this coot has thought it through much more than that. It certainly looks good in its beak — matches its own red eyes…
And it still troubles me to say "land" when the surface involved is water, but that's what it is doing. And right about here in the flight, it needs a lot of braking, so its wings are nearly perfect, down and against the wind as it readies its feet for a skid landing.
Looks like a whole different pelican — colors are softer; lighting differs, but this pelican's wings were probably longer and wider a few seconds ago.
Whereas these last two shots look to have been photographed at just the same places.
The photograph may not be perfect, but this pelican's positioning is. The number one photographic 'trick' when photographing bright, white birds is that since you do not want to render them as bright white objects in your image, you have to slightly underexpose them, so their white feathers don't 'go' all white. In differing light, the amount of underexposure is different, so you have to photograph it, look at your LCD, adjust exposure and try, try again. I usually use a standing, sitting or swimming pelican in the same light for this, since it's impractical to do it while the object of your desire is still barreling in on you — although on a long run, I may stop and check it out while it's getting closer.
I like to say they're elegant in the air and clunky on land, but not always. Sometimes they're clunky up there and down here. But there's still an elegance to them.
A boat full of fishermen had entered the area to the left, and the pelicans were all (not just the closer ones) standing tall and watching the situation unfold. Not a pelican in the bay was still at rest. They were paying rapt attention. The cormorants had ALL already left the area.
A fraction of a second later the skids hit the water, rapidly followed by the pelican body. I'm still amazed how much control over the size, shape and attitude of its wings a pelican has. All birds have.
November 24, 2015
All today's photographs were made of pelicans in one or the other of two white pelican clouds standing just off the Pier and Sunset Bay on the afternoon of Sunday November 22, 2015.
Then there's my page of Pelican Beak Weirdness.
Pelican Perch Challengers
November 23, 2015
We've talked before about American White Pelican's deep-seated need to gain the best perch around, especially if another American White Pelican is already occupying it. This is another photo series about that principle.
Two pelicans — maybe even a pair — have already ascended The Lower Step of The Lower Steps and have managed to stay there, despite an onslaught of rushing water. But other pelicans seeing those wonderful perches just barely above the water level they're swimming against, quickly develop a need to be there, maybe even instead.
So, one challenger after another attempts the deed.
But was quickly discouraged by a beaking cohort. Meanwhile another mount attempt is being attempted behind.
The challenger below drops back even farther, and the Challenger above falters and begins to fall. That's a lot of water rushing down those steps.
It's not getting any traction, and it needs air or land traction to get wing lift.
As I keep mentioning, that's a lot of water pressure working against each new challenger. Although it should be pointed out that this northeastern-most of those steps have the least water pressure pushing them off, and in less rainy times is often completely dry.
Who keeps trying till he gains semi-permanent purchase on that lower concrete step. While more challengers gang up behind. While more volunteers bring up the rear.
The upper pelicans doesn't have a pal or mate to discourage newcomers.
So they gang up and when it looks like they will succeed, they fail.
But a new challenger attempts from farther this side.
While the ones on the perch attempt to close ranks — as if there weren't miles of room available. Note also that the new birds attempting to climb up have not noticed that the other challengers failed on their first attempt, because of the sweep of the water, which they also did not take into account. So each new challenger or set of challengers fail to learn from the previous attempts. Interesting, huh?
Another pelican has gained the perch behind, and the newest challenger has attained a perch position in front. Note that pelican on this side in the back is now fending off other challengers. How long will they last? Who knows, I gave up all this and went on to photograph other birds, other times.
Pelicans & Gadwalls
November 22, 2015
One of the several hundred cormorants in Sunset Bay. Maybe a dozen American White Pelicans and a bunch of coots.
As my usual, I found this kestrel on the wire overlooking Sunset Bay and points north up Yacht Club Row, etc. First time I photographed it, it had already eaten whatever it had caught. The second time, it was clutching whatever it had caught in both feet, but it would not turn around and look my way. I used the shot from the last time I photographed a kestrel here in the bunch of pix leftover from last month at the bottom of this page. But the kestrel in these two shots not only look a lot alike, they are very likely the same bird, hunting the same territory. Erik photographed the pair of them, this guy and a female in the same place a week or so ago.
From the fence around the parking lot on Winstead Drive, I could sometimes see some pelicans synchronized swimming for fish over the edge of The Lowest Steps. Sometimes I couldn't see anybody down there. Of course, I moved closer, shot some along Winstead Fence and got more pix I'll show you later this busy holiday week.
While I walked around the parking lot on Winstead, I kept looking up — I've got myself in the habit of looking up, down and all around
Gadwalls are ducks. Says my treasured and out-of-print, Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, "Since the 1950s, this duck has expanded its range throughout North America. The majority of Gadwalls winter along the Gulf Coast and in Mexico, although increasing numbers overwinter on inland lakes across the country." So these guys are on their way south, just stopping at White Rock for food and rest.
Well, not all that close. Closer than those pelicans two clicks up, but this is a 500mm lens I'm using, so it's in the sky.
Pelks Under Garland
November 21, 2015
I took these yesterday, but saved them for today, because today Anna and I went to look at art instead of birds, for a change. I keep wondering if our winter (mid-September till mid-April) population of American White Pelicans might move permanently to this last pan of water down the long, descending stairway of the Spillway, after it takes a precipitous left turn tumbling over the Bottom Steps, flows under The Walking Bridge, The Garland Road auto bridge, then becomes yet another White Rock Creek through the municipal golf course and down a couple low waterfalls, then out east under I-30.
Because it still actually does rain here, I doubt there's much chance they'll stay in a place that occasionally turns into Storm Water Central, so that's pretty much out of the question. So, no, they'll come back to Sunset Bay and all the other places they visit from time to time at White Rock Lake and points beyond. In other years, I've seen them spend nights in The Old Boat House Lagoon, in front of The Bath House Cultural Center, and I bet they've got other places that yet remain secret from us lowly humans.
The number of pelicans in Sunset Bay have ranged from one or two to three or more hundred in the time they are here. But lately I've rarely counted more than about fifty in Sunset Bay proper, so the 108 I counted in the sweep of storm water sweeping over those lowest steps and under the bridges is just some of them, and I suspect there's a bunch more that don't rightly live at Sunset Bay or even White Rock Lake.
I still wonder how the word gets out to all them when there's a fishing party that's not in plain sight, but there must be an even stronger ESP-like signal going out to neighboring — in flight distance — cadres of pelicans when a really big trove of fish or fishing is discovered. Meanwhile, I guess some things are meant to be a mystery.
Corms, Pelks & gulls
November 20, 2015
I've always just thrown cormorant pix in when I get a particularly good one. Now I'm going out of my way to get close up and personal with them. This was shot from Winfrey Point, I think. I don't have a GPS attached (or unattached), so I'm never sure where they are or I was.
I would like to have shown these birds in greater detail, but I also wanted this side of Yacht Club Row (tall white masts at left) included — and especially the white vehicle I thought might be a pickup on the Mockingbird car bridge. Too bad we can't see who's walking on the walking bridge I used to call "The Singing Bridge." But then it stopped singing not long after they built it — it was rather annoying, though unique.
Of course, I really have no idea why these three pelicans took to the sky just when they did. I'd guess that they were looking around, and that the fishing party I'd seen beginning to form from west of the pier was what they were looking for. They were either looking for fish close enough to the surface for pelicans to pouch or a fishing party, and awhile later, three pelicans came back and joined the party across the lake, though I don't know if they were these same three.
This shot is of the west side of Sunset Island, where pelicans once perched, but lately mostly cormorants do. I guess the next shot could be the east side of that island that lately seems to be sinking.
When cormorants make sounds it is more like the braying of donkeys than any celestial or earth-based choir, I just thought those not busy preening, might be singing.
Like most of today' detail shots, this is a very tiny crop from a much larger full frame image of mostly sky and trees and water. Nice that it can still happen with a 1.7 telextender attached. Just imagine how detailed the image would be if I took it off, which I usually only do when it's nearly dark out.
All the time I was photographing this fishing party, I stood on the west end of the pier at Sunset Bay. At its center were a group of loud-talking guys, whom I'd heard from my previous perch west of there along the lake's edge. I wondered who those might be, then as I approached the entrance to the pier through the Spice Garden, I saw Erik leaving, but I was too far to say hello.
They talked photography but I never saw them doing any. They were too excited about finding a Pied-billed Grebe, meek and mild and unremarkable a bird as it really is, although they are another species I am fond of — gentle, nondescript birds who could be right in front of you, and you would only have to focus on it, but if you don't — or cannot — you could entirely miss them.
The brayers also spoke of Horned Grebes but kept mistaking cormorants for them. I've photographed Horned Grebes along DeGoyler Drive in Decembers, 2008 and much better in 2012, so it's possible they're already around, although I thought they might just be more names those guys were dropping.
I continued to photograph the fishing party two-thirds across the lake, camera & lens on tripod, but at one point, after dropping other names, the loudest guy loudly dropped mine, "J R," he repeated three times talking loudly but not to me, forgetting my last name. I turned to him and stated clearly, "My name is J R Compton," and he repeated my last name thrice, but ignored me and my other words. He'd already misquoted me twice, and I just wanted him to know I knew.
The Loudniks continued their monversations, talking alternately rude and racist about other White Rock Lake photographers. Sometimes, the people I meet on that pier are the treat of the day — if not the week. Not this time. I suppose I could have kept photographing the bay and its birds, but I began to feel a deep need to escape my favorite place in the known universe, like I do when the bread-feeders take it over. I was probably paying too much attention to their braying and not enough to my exposure of bright white birds on the other side of the lake.
Nice thing that sometimes happens when I try to photograph fishing parties on the other side, is that the birds chasing the fish length-wise up and down the lake will turn and chase them back across. I've several times driven all the way around, only to find them again on the far side. Generally better to wait and hope.
But right about then, the long string of hungry birds headed back north …
… and the pelicans and cormorants stayed on the surface and waited and hoped for more fish..
Sunset Bay in flood
November 19, 2015
I really got myself confused by combining one long day's shooting into two different daily journal entries, and it took so much longer than usual, I'll probably avoid doing that again — unless I can manage to organize them better next time, but I just didn't want to work up all the good shots from this shoot at one time. So I procrastinated.
I've even added a couple more shots to yesterday's journal entry.
I think it's the same pelican as in the two pix above, but I really can't tell most of them apart. Erin says she can tell four of our 100+ — at one time or another — pelicans. We all pay attention in our own ways, I suppose.
Not sure which of the next couple Mallards this one was, but it was one of them. I guess probably the second one. Sometimes I amaze myself just practicing photographing Mallards landing, which I often do just because they're there; they're fast; and I always need the practice.
The sun kept peeking from behind the many clouds, which really helped this shot. Note that the lead duck is in the big middle of its autumn molt, so the back of its head seems gray, not green, and the following duck just is brilliantly hued.
One is drying its wings after a splash bath; the other is just tagging along — both floating serenely.
As is this American Coot.
This seemed a nice-enough shot on a mostly cloudy day — until the clouds parted and the sun shone through:
I usually attempt to put all of one day's pics in chronological order, but I spread out yesterday's pix onto two "daily" journal entries, since I knew I'd be dead tired after Wednesday's workout at the Y — and boy! was I. So I've thoroughly confused any sense of continuity in these last two journal entries.
One of Sunset Bay's domestic geese's favorite tricks is to line up in spaced-out single-file and walk slowly and majestically across East Lawther Drive along the lake edge of the Sunset Bay area. They seem to make even a single goose crossing take f o r e v e r , as cars sometimes line up behind a particularly careful driver. Other times gooses queue up on whichever side, then slowly walk across when there's more traffic than this. It's really hilarious to watch. I've photographed the event many times over the years, but this goose is showing the best form ever. Nice, too, that its colors so nearly match the car's.
I hadn't seen them out there in awhile, so I snapped this just so I could prove to myself they were still out there — sometimes. Usually lately, it's been all cormorants all the time.
First I drove up Williamson to where Chuck saw the eagle, and of course, it wasn't still there, but I needed to figure out exactly where it was. Kala responded to his message on Bird Chat that "I know that doesn't mean it will ever be at that exact spot again but still nice to have a visual exactly where you saw it," but I believe birds often visit the same perches — again and again — especially ones like this that are really high up, affording it a great view of a wide swath of the lake, so I wanted to know just where it was. Then I drove up West Lawther, crossed over to Yacht Club Row and found these.
Which, more or less, provided a little different viewpoint from the Lower Steps and Sunset Bay. I think this is a boat that's been dotted with camouflage until it's almost invisible.
Ritzy houses overlooking the lake with the Dallas skyline a little blue in the distance.
I've always liked photographing these sorts of things, especially bright in the afternoon sun. Before I started The Addlepated Birder's Journal, which became this Amateur Birder's Journal, I used to do a journal of photographs of people and things and only occasionally birds around the lake. I think there's a remnant of that still up somewhere.
Making these sorts of photographs puts me in mind of making more of these sorts of photographs till I quickly ran out of pretty fall scenes.
Then I went back to Sunset Bay and was surprised to see several dozen pelicans, so I photographed them. First off Sunset Beach — with the Spice Garden behind them.
I kept looking for birds, so I kept finding birds, every time I turned around.
Then as they headed this way and that, a little farther from out.
And as I was walking toward the pier at Sunset Bay, which was not flooded over, but the low spots all were, and the lake was high all around the pier, and Tricolored Heron Inlet was almost totally inundated, I saw something flash above and set my exposure to make some pix of my favorite vultures. Black Vultures have less smell sense, which is why we often see them trailing after Turkey Vultures, but I think they're smarter.
High over Sunset Bay. After messing with exposure — shooting straight up toward the sun puts the under-side of birds in their own, portable dark shadows, so it can be difficult — I eventually got it about right while still rendering the sky that soft powder blue.
Not sure why the pelicans had come into the area off Sunset Beach, but they didn't stay long.
And were soon lining loosely up to swim out to Sunset Beach.
• Chuck on Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat saw an Eagle west of the lake.
Great Egret Action & an Otter
Charging right at an Egret
November 17, 2015
I'd been taking unexciting pictures at Sunset Bay, where today were more varieties of birds than most of last week. Only one pelican, but a variety of ducks and gooses and coots and cormorants and stuff. It was mildly interesting but hardly exciting. This, here in The Lower Steps of The Spillway started out interesting, then quickly got pretty exciting, partly because there were no pelicans — perhaps because the water, after last night's rains, was gushing through much faster than recently, so the egrets were back and in action.
I didn't see any pelicans but Ron told me there were a few on the island on the other side of the Garland Road and Walking Bridges. I didn't check them out, but it was not surprising. I'd photographed them there often lately. I love photographing American White Pelicans, and I love photographing Great Egrets, but if I've been photographing one or the other too much lately, I'm probably ready to photograph the other, and today I was ready and eager and delighted to be photographing Great Egrets.
I was delighted and excited to see the Great Egrets flying in their unique attack-mode style, which is great fun to watch and an exciting challenge to photograph. So I did.
Since my lens is not a zoom, I didn't zoom in, I just enlarged more, and I really liked the foggish smear of muted colors and textures when I did that.
Seems like it's been a long time since I've photographed Great Egrets, and that a lone was greatly entertaining. I'm calling this piece of slant concrete a "jut."
Panning along with egrets is fundamentally different from doing that with pelicans, but I can't explain how or why.
Not a lot of my photographs qualify as art, but I think this one might.
It startled me to notice how different the bottom and most of the middle and top of this shot are.
Why I like this one has a lot to do with the light and dark aspects of its wings in the storm-cloud lighting.
I realize our star here is a little too bright, but I'd never noticed before how colorful that concrete behind it is, nor how rich, rusty orange the carpet (err… concrete) the bright one is about to land into. Little bluish spots in the windowless wall that looks a lot like a wall of windows against that rust orange sure sets off this GE and that other Great Egret balances it by not being nearly as bright.
I followed this Great Egret up past Egret Island on the left and up, flying low, over the Middle Stairs.
From the top: the dam; The Upper Steps; The Middle Steps and a Great Egret
Meanwhile, back under the Walking Bridge, we got more Egret Action.
Lots of egrets flying today.
Then I noticed two of them engaging in mock battle, which is one of my most favorite sorts of egret action to photograph.
I've never seen blood drawn or feathers ripped, but they go through all the other actions. I don't know who decides who has won, but this faux warfare never lasts long.
When they're not fighting, they are chasing.
Sometimes it's really difficult to tell when a chase sequence is over.
When they do stuff like this, it ain't over yet.
I walked back toward the parking lot after I thought the egret "battles" were over. Then I saw more egret action down there, so I came back to the Winstead fence [parallel to and close to Winstead Drive — across from the 7-11] just in time to catch this chase. My first thought was that it was an otter — something about the elegance of it loping across the slanted concrete; then I changed my mind, thinking it had to be a Nutria, because we have lots of those at White Rock; I've seen them there often; and until yesterday I'd never heard of an otter at the lake.
Kala King who often identifies birds here that I cannot, emailed that she thought it was an otter, and apparently a River Otter had been seen in The Spillway by Dallas Bird Guide and long-time Symphony Orchestra Bass Clarinetist Chris Runk. I posted the picture below on Bird Chat, and it was quickly and definitely identified as a North American River Otter.
I and everybody else seems to agree that it wasn't planning on eating the egret it happened to have run toward it and past, and for a few seconds the egret was not all that sure, and it flew up immediately, but the otter just streamed on by toward the relative safety of water deep enough to hide in.
My confusion wasn't helped by learning the word "nutria" means "otter," even if Nutrias and Otters are substantially — though not entirely visually — different. Nutrias have more blunt heads, more hair and really nasty teeth, which I couldn't see from my perch on the west side of the lowest spillway steps, so I called it a Nutria till I just couldn't anymore — even if my first though when I saw it lope so elegantly quick across the concrete apron, it felt like I was seeing an otter. Now I know it was.
I assumed it was after the Great Egret on the end of the slant in the second pic up, but probably it was just making a mad long-way-around dash to the water, where it probably knew it was deeper. I only got these two shots, one out-of-focus pic and the last of the splash as it jumped in and disappeared. [My Nutria link takes you to its big smiling face with its TechniColor rust orange teeth, then the nutria cleaning itself.] In a previous rewrite of this story I'd mentioned that nutrias have been called "river rats," because they look like giant rats, and that I tend to think of them as big rats.
Ken on Bird Chat said, "As far as attacking the egret, probably not, fish are its natural prey. They are by nature very playful, though, and would probably find it great fun to chase an egret just to see it fly. And your "big rat" label [I didn't call it a big rat, just mentioned that nutrias look like big rats, and that's how I remember who they are.] … doesn't apply, otters are proud members of the order of carnivores, not lowly rodents like the nutria."
Now I'm all proud I had quick enough reflexes to photograph it in focus. Many of that day's egret shots were not that lucky.
Egrets are beautiful standing, sitting (rarely) and especially flying.
High Fashion & Low
Budgets at Sunset Bay
November 16, 2015
When I saw this ensemble carrying toward the end of my favorite pier, I had to take its pictures.
This shot seemed to go with. It was a tad cool out there. Note the warmness of the adult clothes. The kids were cute enough, but they didn't seem all that professional as models. I'm surprised we can't see goose bumps.
I've been seeing more and more pro or semi-pro or really amateur shoots at White Rock Lake lately. Most places fashion shoots are done at charge money just to stand around trying to convince the kids to behave, let alone get the lights just right. Because it's a Public Park, however, White Rock Lake Park is free for all of us. And because it is legally public, anybody can take photographs of anybody or anything there. But I'm really careful about photographing children.
And one I hadn't noticed before. Love the racing-striped beak.
Eventually, my attention got up off the pier to the birds who are always out there, even if some people are just now beginning to notice them, because the cormorants are becoming much more populous lately.
/back to all birds all the time soon, I hope.
Not Much at Lake Ray Hubbard
November 16, 2015
We wanted to go to Hagerman up near the Oklahoma border, but it's really too far to drive that morning and still get there on time, so we compromised by going to Lake Ray Hubbard, where we've rarely found any birds worth photographing. Then, of course, it happened again.
I liked this shot, though far. I guess I'm about as good at identifying gulls as I am other birds.
More landscape than birds. I doubt we'll go back there unless it's on the way past it to somewhere else that has birds.
Over that hill is a grande view of Lake Ray Hubbard. Behind the parking lot I shot this from was a buncha trees, some of whom were identified by a large sign as a "Nature Area." But it was only about a hundred feet long, ended abruptly at a park bench, and all we saw that was nature-ish were the trees. In about the middle of the "Nature Walk" was an extended and carpeted (We kid you not) mud puddle, the first carpeted mud puddle we'd ever seen.
So I took a little local color at this renta-boat-slot that had taken over the place we had always before wandered free with lots of wild birds everywhere, but this time was all behind tall fences along the road and completely empty of free, wild birds. Very disappointing, but it looks like the few places we'd ever found of lake front property were about to be turned into much more expensive lake front property.
I doubt we'll ever go back. We should have gone to John Bunker Sands and just walked around on the boardwalk, like I'd wanted to.
Or go ahead on to Hagerman, or just visited White Rock Lake.
When I first saw it from some distance, I assumed it was art.
Love me some Great Blue Herons anytime I can find them. Here was Garland, Texas, just a few short miles from the intersection of Rowlette and Rockwall.
And the same exact bird from another angle. It's got one white feather standing straight up on its head, but otherwise seemed normal.
One Pelican & a Buncha Ruddies GETTING REDDER
November 15, 2015
There were two or three others, up close to the pier, and several hundred cormorants. One guy acting like he knew, called the corms "Fisher birds," and said they usually weren't there. I don't know if anyone was listening to him, but he was as wrong as he could be. They do go fishing, but then so do most of the other wild birds in Sunset Bay.
Oddly enough, West Lawther runs the full North - South length of the west side of White Rock Lake, where the speed limit is 25 MPH; it's 20 on East Lather. I keep hoping for Buffleheads and Canvasback ducks, too, but I think I'll have to keep hoping till at least it freezes a couple times. Ruddies are called that, because they get pretty reddish when they are in breeding mode, but if we look closely, we can see the beginnings of reddish feathers on some of these.
In breeding season, Ruddy Ducks are reddish. To again quote the now out-of-print Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas: "In his resplendent breeding plumage, the male has a bright rusty body and vivid azure bill. Sacs in his neck are inflated with air as part of his courtship display, which also involves tilting his head backward and emitting a series of notes." I've seen them do that but not heard them yet.
That same book describes the "Breeding male: white cheek; chestnut red body; blue bill; black tail and crown." Can't see his beak in most of these pix, since he's got it in among his wing feathers while he's sleeping.
But we can see several places on his body where his feathers have already turned that deep chestnut reddish that gave this species their name.
I can't see the other duck well enough to know its sex (not gender); I've argued with people who are apparently afraid of that word. There may be lesbian, gay, bisexual and even transgender birds, but it's usually their sex we are concerned about when identifying them.
More other birds & Pelicans, Too
November 15, 2015
Gulls like fish, too. I remember watching in amazement as a gull (Ring-bills are our usual variety here, but I may not have known that then.) pulled a very large fish out of the water and flew off with it and another gull who seemed desperate to share the fish.
According to my now out-of-print Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, Ring-billed Gulls "glean[s] the ground for human food waste, spiders, insects, rodents, earthworms, grubs and some waste grain; scavenges for carrion; surface-tips for aquatic invertebrates and fish."
The Lower Steps are under ground level across the street from the 7-11 at Garland Road and Winstead Drive, well down the hill from the dam. Park in the lot just east of that intersection, then walk back toward the bridge, which is usually visible over the black, iron fence between the lot and Garland Road.
I haven't been there today yet, but yesterday there were a dozen or more cormorants (many often diving), maybe half that many gulls and by my count more than 108 American White Pelicans, so egrets, who usually fish there, were in the definite minority.
Elegant and thin compared to pelicans, brown (coastal) or white (inland).
Oh, why not another quote from my trusty Lone Pine Birds of Texas: "The porous, bucketlike bill [lower mandible of their] is dramatically adapted for feeding. As a pelican lifts its bill from the water, the fish are held within its flexible pouch while the water drains out. The bill can hold over 3 gallons of water and fish, which is about two to three times the stomach capacity." But they rarely 'catch' a pouch full of fish. Sometimes what they dredge up seems downright paltry, but it adds up.
Egrets pull one — and sometimes two or three (!) fish at a time, but pelicans need more food than the svelte egrets do.
All the books say pelicans are awkward on the ground but elegant in the sky. Egrets tend to be elegant in both environments.
Drag that flexible lower mandible across the slant bottom of the wall at the end of the Spillway and hope to fill it with little — or big — fish.
I have actually seen birds in mid-flight reach back with their beaks to preen an errant feather, but this one is floating, not on air but on murky, stinky dark water.
When they are synchronized, their line-fishing (of which this is a distant cousin) is spectacular to watch, and everybody always asks, "Who is calling the shots?"
Sometimes all American White Pelicans (USA's usual variety of inland pelicans) look like all their beaks are the same color. Other times, not at all.
I love this photo!
… over the top of The Lower Steps.
I'm So Tired of Photographing & smelling Pelicans
November 14, 2015
I'm really tired of photographing American White Pelicans. Never thought that would happen, but it did. I counted 108 pelicans in the lower trough of the Lower Steps way down the concrete hill from the dam at White Rock Lake today. And I think I can still smell their peculiar stink, even though I just took a scrubby bath and thoroughly washed and scrubbed every surface. We watched those nasty white clouds scintillate in the dark water, disappear then add to the stink. I wasn't sure the reek was pelk-related, but Erin knew.
Compare this bristly look with the all-tucked-in neatly and so compact it looks like a juvenile look of the image down today's journal entry a bit.
And probably a little out of focus. Sometimes the camera just does that. Sometimes it just won't, but you get the drift here. First hop down was so perfectly neat, in the middle it got wobbly, by the bottom, it was neat but sharp again.
While the pelicans are scooping up as many as a dozen little fishes per scoop, Great Egrets are pulling them out one at a time. Poor babies looked lost there these last few days.
Lots of cormorants flew over, as usual at The Spillway. Almost every one of the egrets who flew over, circled back down into the Lower Steps area. And the only Great Blue Heron I saw — and photographed — stayed down there a long time.
Like Great Egrets, I think of Great Blue Herons as large birds, but as you can see here, this one looks small, meek and mild compared to this juvenile (left) and burly adult American White Pelicans. I didn't see any birds but other pelicans challenge any of the pelicans.
There appeared to be two separate groups of Pelicans under the Walking and Garland Road Auto bridges — Fed Enough Already and Hungry. Whom I surmised were hungry were actively fishing along the front and side edges of that concrete delimited body of water; these fed pelks preened on these islands under the auto bridge and other fed-pelks hung out on the cement sand bar just under the Lower Steps.
Of course, I got lots more pelican fishing shots, but I'm going to dole them out slowly, because right now, I'm sick of pelicans.
Sometimes I just need
To See a Sunset
November 13, 2015
I thought I was posting these shots in chronological order, but I just don't know chron or logical after spending five hours at the VA today. After and during that, nothing really makes any sense, and my clock ticks me to sleep every time I try to think it through.
Didn't make it to the lake before, because I was dead to the world, but to revive, one sometimes needs a sunset, and they have a lot of those in Sunset Bay.
Where slowly the colors dissolve.
And were only a few of these around.
And those were busy flying away.
I know the direction is probably west, but I don't recognize anything over there but clouds.
Later I photographed feeding the birds, but nearly none of those were ever in focus.
More than a hundred
Pelicans Fishing Under
the Lower Steps
November 12, 2015
As often, today [Wednesday] I decided to show my day's pix in chronological order. This one surprised me, but I did it anyway.
The body color was familiar for birds fishing here, but that many of those beaks was a surprise, even if I'd photographed pelicans fishing there the last few days. Just not this many. I carefully counted more than a hundred, which is well more than our usual contingent of American White Pelicans in Sunset Bay, which was nearly empty of them. There might have been five amid hundreds of cormorants.
I guess that's what we get when The City in its infinite stupidity picks up and destroys all the logs that come to shore after all those rain storms we had earlier — and still. Fewer logs floating around means fewer birds who stay here to perch on them. Wonder if the Parks Department will ever figure out that one.
With more apparently down in the gullet — at least there's that lump down there.
I assume each bulges is at leas one fish.
That seems to be what American White Pelicans do. Fill the mailable lower mandible, then drain it as it comes up, then hope there's fish in there, too.
I have no idea if the last two shots are of the same bird.
A shape for every purpose.
And it's hard to tell what shape is on the left.
I counted a total of just at 100 American White Pelicans under there and around and under the bridges, too.
At the top of this shot is where the water action is fastest and strongest — and I suspect where there's the most fish. Before the massive re-concretization of the Spillway a few years ago, after water was allowed to seep in between the dirt and the supposed "retaining" walls, which neatly toppled away from the soaked-through earth that was supposedly retained, the 'engineers' evened out the flow between there, which used to be generally dry after rainstorms like those that created today's flow, and the other end, which is usually dry now.
I still have trouble calling those idiots engineers, but then look whom they're working for. I tried to explain why the 'retaining walls fell to one of our City Council Persons with a cute nickname, but he only asked, "Are you an engineer?" I should know it takes an engineer — or a rich homeowner — to talk to a City Council person, but an engineer to change the sides of the dry spot on the Lower Steps. Better engineering might have evened them out, but we don't get better engineering.
The egrets seemed a little confused. Every other time I've photographed them there over the last nine years, they were the cocks of the walk and could do anything they wanted. Today, they seemed baffled by all the Pelicans..
I assume These pelicans got their fill of fishes, or they'd still be fishing. When I started this bird journal, the floating island under Mockingbird auto bridge at the north end of the lake used to be called "Pelican Island." Now maybe this one will be called that.
Note how comparatively dry the dam-side end is now. We can thank Great City Engineering for that.
The most water sluices down the steps on this side, and that fast-moving water spins the little islands of pelicans. And though there are fewer fish coming down the steps on the upper, dam-side of the spillway, those pelicans are still catching plenty of fish, just not as fast.
Yesterday, Jennifer L "saw all the pelicans fishing off the lower steps. Then they all started flying off to home base at Sunset Bay, so [she] followed them over there about 3:30 PM," and I didn't stay that long, but I drove around to Sunset anyway. I would love to have seen the en masse lifting and flying away, especially with my little Panasonic camera with its wide-zoom lens, which took these.
More Rain Means More Fish
I often check out the birds along DeGoyler Drive on the east side of the lake, then up Winfrey Point to overlook Sunset Bay. While listening to a MP3 CD mix, and driving happily down DeGoyler, I noticed my hand in the rear-view, so I stopped and photographed it, but I didn't see the same hand in the wide-angle mirror till now.
I only noticed the rain falling when I worked up these images. When I shot them, they were just interesting cloud formations, but I still like rain, though we've had a lot of it lately.
But no rain yet. This was shot from the upper parking lot before the Stop sign on Sunset Inn Drive.
To get from DeGoyler Drive to Sunset Bay, I drove back up to Garland Road, turned left on Buckner/Loop 12, then in on Poppy Drive past the hospitals, right down the road to Lawther, then the opposite way on Lawther from the directions shown above.
I quit saying "posted" on each journal entry's title, because I usually posted it before that. Now it just states a date that I more-or-less want to be the date of that entry, even if I post it the evening or night before.
My How to Photograph Birds tells the basics.
They hop two-footed, rather than run across the water to get airspeed — that is when they don't just rise up from wherever they are — on land or lake.
When they gyre up, they often do it — like everything else they do — in groups.
Shooting with telephoto lenses often visually excludes the others rising, but it gives more details. You know I'm going to point out that this one's left wing is much longer than it's right one, don't you?
Pelicans often gyre. They swim out into the air till they feel a thermal rising under the sun, then they follow it in tightening circles.
As they rise, they get farther, and more of them fit into a single frame.
Then they appear smaller and smaller and sometimes disappear when they turn their white bodies out of the sun.
Pelicans “Having Fun”
at the Lower Steps
November 10, 2015
Warren told me at Sunset Bay Monday that he'd seen American White Pelicans "having fun" under the Spillway's lower steps. I wondered what exactly that meant, so after taking the usual Sunset Bay shots today [that you might see here later], I stopped by there. I saw but did not get to photograph one pelican visible just over those steps from the fence around Winstead parking, so I walked closer.
Once past the pool down the slant walls, I noticed some pelicans on the under-steps island. They definitely looked like they were having fun. But others were busy fishing while these took a break. Besides the beaking action, looks kinda like they're busy digesting.
… then photographed the thirty-odd pelks lolling on the island under beyond both bridges. But how were these guys having fun? Turned out it wasn't them, but American White Pelicans actually in the strong wash of the lower steps.
Usually, when I photograph American White Pelicans line-dance fishing, I see them from only the front or side and way farther away, so this was a chance to cover the action right down into them … where we can see their beak parts apart down there hoping to trap some fish.
… so this was a photo opportunity. Usually, the pelicans provide the power as they swim a bit, dunk down and feel around down there, then pull their heads back up, breathe air awhile, then go back down for more. Here they stayed in place as the water sluiced all around past them, though the action was just the same.
The water looks like it's just sitting there, but it was moving fast from down to up.
They almost look like different species.
The place itself is not all that strange, just I've never noticed pelicans down there before this week, so I've been documenting them carefully.
I doubt I ever even saw this one miniscule fish, so I'm guessing it was falling out an otherwise full mandible, and now I see something white maybe peeking out the far side of that pouch.
Note that the pelicans on the right edge are being shoved back and around the two in the rush from the torrent. They kept swimming back up, however, because they were having so much fun catching little fish after little fish while they were flood-impelled. Let's take a little closer look at the one on the left who's caught a fish.
Seems like the fish is embedded in the partly inverted lower mandible, but it may be folded to try to get out.
Meanwhile, other pelicans were catching bunches.
After Kala saw my photo above, she photographed a pelk pouch fulla fish even better. I just got the above one by accident, when I was photographing the pelicans fishing. Kala's was on purpose, closer and sharper. I never even thought about it, but she did.
But it looks like it has more company back into the pelican's craw.
Egret Island on the left and the vertical and slanted, stained concrete walls of the abutment on the Garland Road side of The Lower Spillway. I hadn't noticed how neatly the reflections continued the wall, since I was concentrating on the autumn colors.
November X, 2015
I wanted to go through all 757 of those images I made a couple days ago. I've been going through them all. I knew I wanted to parcel them up thematically, but I didn't know what the themes might be till I'd gone through them a couple times. Now, a theme is resolving.
These pelicans seemed to be going across the lake, rather than just up. But some of them continued upper.
More Pelicans, But Not
in Sunset Bay
November 9, 2015
I used to call photos looking nearly straight up "fly overs," but really, how else could they have got up there but fly. So that title's a little redundant. The GBH part is for Great Blue Heron, still my favorite birds, although I haven't seen a lot of them lately, even if there's usually one pretty much everywhere I go. Just they don't always stand out. Or fly over, and I don't always get to render them in such magnificent detail.
This bird was way too far away. Kelly Murphy saw it and pointed it to me, because my telephoto lens was longer, and it was just a dot in the full frame in my camera, but it blew up halfway decent, and we could — maybe — figure out who it was. Robert insisted that it was a Hooded Merganser, to which I'd add Adult Male, thanks to its essentially similar pix in the 2nd Edition of Sibley's Guide to Birds. Kelly and I watched it fly across the outer outskirts of Sunset Bay about even with the far end of Dreyfuss Point, back and forth, left and right out there, as if it were trying to decide whether to drop down to earth or water here, but instead, it flew off from whence it came, somewhere west of there.
Back in November 2008, we saw both males and females in Irving, where they're fairly common this time of year, so this is not my first Hoodie ever. Follow that link down the page to see lots of males and female Mergansers. They're quite a visual treat.
Doing the same thing. It's mallards that I usually practice my fly over photo techniques on, just because there's usually so many of them available, and seems like they're always flying in or out of Sunset Lagoon. Early morning light was just right on them.
Not nearly as many pelicans as there had been the day before, although a few more piddled in while we — Kelly, me, Robert, Anna, Alice, Phyllis and Bill — watched and hoped.
Most of the action was in the sky, by the regulars.
This image makes the male seem rather drab and the female vivid, which only seems fair. This is the last image from Sunset Bay today.
Back Up Loop 12 + Down Garland Road
I saw pelicans under the walking bridge as I drove southeast past The Spillway, although I hadn't seen much from across the dam. Finding pelicans settled in anywhere but Sunset Bay seemed like fun so I turned at Winstead, parked in the not-yet-filled parking lot, and set out to see me some pelicans somewhere newish, although I had seen them south past the bridges (Walking Bridge over the Lowest Steps and the Car Bridge along Garland Road parallel the walking bridge and not far from it). I don't see those pix below, so I must not have used them yet. I rarely use every shot I shoot on any one day…
Like the ones I'd seen before, these were scattered among the trees closer than this to the bridges and out and down the creek east of there. I counted them, but I don't remember how many. Plenty.
An admirable boot worth photographing, I thought. Looks like it's just set up on some concrete somewhere, but it's on about a 45-degree down ramp to the water, with nothing to grab onto should one stumble. And those ramps scare me, although there have been times, when I was younger and even stupider, when I have walked them, but never with a more than a handful of camera. This is nearly a full-frame shot at considerable telephoto, so though it looks within reach, it verily was not. And what would I do with one short boot? Target practice?
A parting shot of the whole lot of them (though there were many more) south of The Spillway.
And these were on the north side of both of the bridges. This shot makes it look like they were high and dry, but they weren't. Shown here and down a bit are three different viewpoints.
They were pretty close to the still-roaring water falling down The Lowest Steps at the Winstead end of The Spillway.
A Jillion Pelicans
Flying In & Out
November 8, 2015
From coasting down Winfrey Hill I saw through the trees a lot of pelicans descending into Sunset Bay. Couldn't photograph them. I tried. Obscured by trees and leaves.. I drove around Garland Road, Buckner Blvd, Poppy and Lawther, they were settled by the time I got there, then they all started flying and flying and flying.
These are but a tiny portion of them, but it'll give me some time to slow down and think, because I can whip these out pretty quickly, since the exposure so close to right and the focus is mostly sharp.
I exposed 757 frames of silicon today, having the time of my life, joined by good friends Tom, Tony and Erin and others. Most of my real social circle.
It was a hoot.
And I could not stop shooting.
But I was having so much fun.
These are mostly pretty tame, but leaning a little more leftward toward the bottom of today's journal entry.
But mostly four-square normal.
With just this one little hint of not so, so far.
A Pelican's Perch:
Mine — No, Mine!
November 7, 2015
Pelicans prefer the higher, better perch, approach and start fighting for it. The invader usually wins, but only sometimes without much of a fight.
Who has it already defends it.
New Pelican jumps up there anyway.
Wing to Face
Like a slug, as it departs to make space for the aggressor.
Who takes advantage.
Does a Victory Flap.
Then Enjoys His New Perch Until Another Usurper Approaches…
Two thoughts before we get this thing really going. One: Yeah, it's ironic that I managed to capture this many gooses flapping after my brouhaha about the "wingless goslings" who were ducklings all along. And B: gooses flapping is a really funny thing, especially considering most of them can't fly. I ignored the first four or five, but after they all kept doing it, first out on the water out from the Pier at Sunset Bay, then on the land up and over Sunset Beach, I just kept shooting. I am, after all, fascinated by feathers, which is how I got into this birding thing.
Of course, I missed a bunch of them, and no, I couldn't think of anything else to call each but what I'm calling them. I think these are the only times I photographed the same goose in two flaps.
And it's entirely possible, if not entirely probable that more than one goose flapped photogenically more than once. I used to know a couple of the names the Bird Squad gave some, but I neither care nor have I made any attempt to keep up with human names for these gooses.
Many of the flappers had just bathed, and flapping helps the drying process.
I'm not sure which is which anymore, but I have previously seen and photographed brown/gray gooses either fly or fail to while white gooses did. Helpful, huh? I could probably look it up, but it might take hours, and I just don't care. I just wanted to show you the flapping photographs.
When I saw these birds, I assumed they were ducks that had got their wings cut off, but Kala King, who often helps me identify birds by species, insisted they were goslings, with nothing wrong with their wings, "I believe they are goslings, not ducklings, and they are young, still getting their feathers coming in. One of my photos shows one stretching its wings," she said. "I don't think they have been cut off, I think they are not fully developed yet. They seem to be in the middle of molting out of their down and getting their adult feathers coming in."
The next day she told me that they were, indeed, ducklings. So excuse me going on about little gooses and/or goslings. I'm way too tired of changing the whole story as "the facts change under me."
While I was still wallowing in ignorance, I learned a lot about "clipping" and "pinioning" birds' wings. I can see the need to clip ducklings' wings if someone will keep and protect and take care of them till their primary feathers grow back "in about a year."
Clipping Means to Remove a Small Part of a Bird's Primary Feathers [feathers farthest out on their wings] to Prevent Lift Flight but still enable them to 'coast' down from heights, where birds love to be.
Pinioning means to excise the Bone in the Outer Part of a Bird's Wings, which can easily be botched and cause pain to the bird, which then cannot fly at all.
Our gooses have laid quite a few eggs in Sunset Bay over the years, but the only one I've ever known to hatch was Charles' first pet goose, Lucky, who hatched from an egg that Charles very carefully incubated in an incubator. But Lucky died. Charles' current goose is called Goosey.
Now I'm wondering where these little gooses came from. Except, of course, they're not goslings anymore, and people often leave ducklings off at Sunset Bay. They're so cute at first. But they grow up and adopt bad habits, then the idiot humans who thought they could raise them, learn they cannot, so they dump them at the lake. When I was a kid, my parents got us some Easter chicks to raise, and we were warned not to name them. Then Grandma Compton came to visit us, and she killed and we ate them, long knowing each one's name.
After I posted the photo below on Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat Internet Forum [Free to lurk or browse, but you have to register to post], hoping someone would explain what has happened to these birds, so I could describe and explain here. Nearly nobody noticed they were ducks, not gooses, then Kala King did, after she'd previously insisted they were goslings. I thought I could tell a duck from a goose, but then I wasn't so sure.
These ducklings sure looked to me to have had all of their wings surgically removed, and not just clipped, which does not damage their bodies, or pinioned, which does. But once again, I was wrong — don't worry; I'm used to it. Despite the bloody look and apparently deeply cut backs (and the much-disputed "fact" that Nature abhors a straight line), there's nothing wrong, Kala assures me.
Except for the part of their bodies that still appear raw and slightly bleeding, they seemed not to be in pain but caught up in a new, strange world with an uncertain future as they huddled together.
A small boy seemed intent on chasing them when I — as I often do as Sunset Bay — shouted at him, "Don't chase the birds," and his mother repeated my demand, and eventually, the boy stopped. I figure they have enough problems without being run down by something much larger, faster and meaner.
Cute little fellers, huh? By the next day, I couldn't find them in Sunset Bay. Either some human took pity on them and took them home, or they got eaten by a larger, faster predator. Or something else.
UPTDATE: Nobody's seen the ducklings lately. Erin Smith reports she took the larger white one to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation, but no one reports having seen the other three. Not surprising. Many birds left off at the lake are eaten or die from predation. People who leave birds at the lake are idiots.
And, besides, it's illegal to dump animals or birds at the lake.
Sunset Island From
Both Sides & a Grebe
November 5 2015
These first few shots are of the logs out in Sunset Bay — as photographed from Dreyfuss Point, which is on the far side of the land mass that is also known as Sunset Bay. Several people have told me that the logs [on the right side above and below] had been strewn away by the flood, which is why the pelicans don't roost there anymore. I think it's more likely that the flood waters simply covered them awhile, and by the time the water subsided, the cormorants had taken over.
The only time I've ever seen a pelican fight with a cormorant, is when the cormorant got a fish the pelican had assumed was its.
This is one of those few times when I almost wished I had a zoom, so I could show more birds and more landscape, even if zoom lenses are usually less sharp than Prime Lenses with their fixed focal lengths. The place shown in this and the photo above has one of my favorite alternate views of Sunset Bay, and it's the first place west of the pier where one can see through all the plants that are helping hold the soil in place along that edge of the lake.
I think my favorite few square inches of this photograph are where the two egrets are in the trees. I know they are birds, and I have often seen them in trees, but it always seems incongruous when large birds perch in trees, especially smaller ones like these.
The log looks different from the pier at Sunset Bay, because these two views are not from the same angles..
I saw Erin photographing some bird, came up behind her, where I could hold my cam/lens against The City's stupid Don't Feed the Birds sign, and photographed it about a half dozen times till I finally got it with its face in sunlight.
The big bonus in the shot above this one is the strange way the swirling water shows, and how much the light on its face helps make it look sharper.
Everywhere but Sunset Bay
November 4 2015
Even the Dallas Audubon Society has accepted Sunset Bay as a place where you can find a wide variety of bird species. One of their next tours is there, and I kinda thought about being there then, too, but I didn't want to miss the one earlier at The Spillway, which — as often here — is also included in today's journal entry. But this shot was not taken at Sunset Bay. In fact, none of today's photos were made there. I did go there later, but every once in a while, I just have to go somewhere else.
These first few pix were all shot in, around and over The Lower Steps at the bottom of The Spillway all down the hill from the dam. I walked up the hill, but I didn't see any birds up there past Egret Island, so I came back and found plenty.
I love the thatch of errant feathers behind its head and neck, the various tufts showing near the top of its body, and the fact that it is smoothing out a feather on its body with its beak, and for a change, I captured just that detailed moment.
At least I think it's a big truck with a red top and mostly white, but maybe it's just a big red stripe on something else in a parking lot near the top and a fence and some cars in at the bottom of the top area past the dark silhouette of a tree behind these birds. I really like the Great Egrets all lined up on top.
I was concentrating on the bird and didn't even notice the colors. It's autumn, J R.
Someone asked me today if Snowy Egrets were still around. Yep.
Notice its tail floating behind it. It had been diving for fish. Seemed to be being rather successful.
Rather common but still pretty.
Yesterday, or whenever that was, I assumed all our new gulls were Ring-bills. This one is not. What it is is I'm not so sure. Yet. I may have to carefully study the bird I.D books, one page at a time. But till then I'm just posting this picture.
Not exactly sure where they are, but I'm not sure that matters. I didn't see them catch anything, but I didn't stay wherever that was for very long. I drove all the way around the lake and back to go, which is usually SSB.
This is the best shot I've got in a long time of a Red-tailed Hawk's beak.
They're also gathering on the east side of the lake. Gradually over the winter, they'll float and/or sleep closer to shore, and their colors will turn much more vivid.
I know the telephone company behind it, but I'm not sure about that white building. Might it be The Winfrey Building? I always think of Winfrey Hill as way bigger.
Black & White
November 3 2015
One of the First of Several Gulls in Sunset Bay. soon there will again be way too many, if you are not a fan of them. Or just enough, if you're a gull. I am amazed this shot is in focus. I assumed it wasn't till I saw it. Under-wing details are one of the better ways to determine which gull it is.
SSB = Sunset Bay. This too, is a Ring-billed Gull, our usual, predominant gull variety.
They're beautiful when the land or skid on water to stop, and they are amazing in the air. Some people insist that they are ugly on land, but I'd rather think of it as a little clumsy and awkward.
This one saw the pelican on this burl of wood and landed into it, forcing it off the wood bump, so it could be there. There will be a lot of that. I've seen Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets do much the same thing. All three of those species just let the 'attacker' have the space, although they may fight about another one. American White Pelicans engage in a lot of bickering and bumping of whoever is occupying the same space before them, so they can occupy it in pretty much the same manner. Beaks often get into the melee.
Most birders call pelicans "pellies." I call them Pelks. Neither is correct. Correct is Pelicanus erythrorhynchos, but only a few ever call them that.
Lyrics to a song I sang when I was much younger. Still do sometimes when putting foot in or out is called for. American Coot feet are anything, however, but little.
Those large, lobed feet allow them to stand in mud without sinking very far and to run on water. That later behavior is properly called "skittering," or more colloquially called "scooting," as in Coot Scooting.
Pelks at rest. Human waiting for a photograph to present itself.
Oddly enough, I'm starting this new month's photos with the best of my pictures from last month that never made it to last month's page. I've never done this before in the 9+ years I've done this journal, but I'm doing it now, and if I remember, I might even do it next month, too. But as my late father told us every time we complained about some minor infirmity of growing old, "It gets worse."
I'm often going on about how pelicans (and all the other birds) can adjust the size and shape of their wings at their whim. Here we finally have an example of one pelican with two different sizes and shapes of wing. Notice how close it is to splashing down for a landing on the water. Notice also how much longer and larger its left wing compared with its right wing.
It could be foreshortening, although shooting at approximately 510mm tends to even out such effects, but I think this one's fright wing (upper, left) is considerably shorter than the it's left wing. And I assume they're constantly changing wing size and shape.
I was really surprised I didn't use this shot last month when I shot it. I guess I thought I was too busy with other photographs of other birds. But GBHs are my favorites.
Then grabbing them with those big long beaks and eating them.
I'm sure some idiot at the City of Dallas Parks & Recreation Department told this guy to take his blower and blow all the trash out of the parking lots along Lawther Drive as it wends through the succession of curves toward Sunset Bay, but this has got to be incredibly stupid. I rolled my window down and turned on the AC, to try to filter it out, till I settled down the hill in a parking lot big enough to turn around in and photograph this idiocy.
I guess it's City Policy that even if someone can blow enough dust and dirt into the air to obscure great swaths of ground, trees, birds and air, they shouldn't have to contend with any sort of protective gear. God forbid this guy be able to protect his lungs. Both photos taken October 21, 2015 in the woods by the apartments on the end of Poppy Drive.
I photographed him on the same day as I photographed the hapless City worker running the big blower, October 21, 2015.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2015 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission from and payment to Writer and Photographer J R Compton. I am an amateur. I've only been birding since June 2006, and most of that is documented in this Journal, all the pages of which continue online. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964.
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