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White Rock Lake
One of my goals is to catch this Kingfisher up close and in sharp focus. Someday. This was an extremely lucky shot. Followed by a half dozen less lucky shots as I panned with it across Sunset Bay. This one is almost sharp. Almost.
She flies fast and low across Sunset Bay, chattering all the way. A couple times in the last few years I've caught him resting on the pier or flying closer, but she's elusive. You'd think a critter that makes as much noise as she (and her mate) do, could never catch anything at all. That they'd wither up and fade away. But they're present and doing that staccato screaming at least a third of the time I'm at Sunset Bay. But I usually never catch up with them visually. It's just a flashing of that sound and they're gone.
I like this shot, because this is what it always looks like to me, speed-demoning over the waves, blurring the background behind him. Amazing birds
Great wings cupping into the surface, splashing water ever-whicha-way. Hilarious and useful. Usually it's freezing when they do that, this time there was a cool breeze, but still shorts weather.
Pelicans do a lot of strange things, but when they are flying — especially close enough to get fuzzy feather details like this — they are at their most photogenic and wonderful.
We were taking turns calling out, "here comes
one." or "another flyer," and we'd all look. I keep wanting to say bogie
at 10 o'clock low, but I'm barely able to say, "another flyer from the left."
And as dainty a tiny webbed foot landing as you'd ever want to see.
Ah, the lowly coot. I've been photographing them almost every time I'm at the left, and this is the best shot yet. Shows their real colors, even managing some tiny amount of detail on its beak.
We all know gulls just gotta have fun, but I've never seen American White Pelicans have so much fun before. I counted just more than 50 pelicans in Sunset Bay. Maybe they were tired of traveling and needed some fun in their lives.
Took awhile to figure out what the object being flung about with such abandon was.
Said object seems to be protruding from both left-most pelican's beaks in this photograph that seems to indicate at least three pelicans would like to partake in the od object of fun.
Here, we finally get a view of the floppy bottle they're playing such energetic games with.
This is something altogether else, although it, too, follows the general topic of birds having fun. This one bounced the Whiffle Ball out and in its beak for a couple minutes. It startled me.
Back we are to the soft water bottle games in Sunset Bay today. Reminds me of 'Who's Got The Ball' when I was in Middle School.
A lot of the game involves dropping it in the water then slinging it up.
Then spitting it up again, so somebody else can play awhile.
Each new pelican seems to take the same and differing joys in the woggy bottle.
Then somebody grabs it, sticks it in their pouch and races off with it.
Tosses it around.
Or battles it out with somebody else who seems to want it almost as much as they did.
Flipping it is always fun.
Unless somebody else who wants it is too close.
When I shot this, I assumed this nearly translucent object was the same as in all those other of today's shots. But I'm just not sure of that. It sure looks like a fish, but it does seem to have the same texture and general shape as the deflated bottle. I assume part of the fun of playing with the fish-sized and approximately fish-colored and fish-shaped soggy bottle has a lot to do with why it was such fun to play with it this afternoon.
This was the last I saw it, and yes, that very definitely is the soggy bottle this winner is carrying off.
There are a few things that, far as this amateur birder knows, only pelicans can do. These are the several I managed to photograph this busy day at the lake. It took some waiting, but eventually, every pelican on that log went into the routine. Like a yawn, I thought at the time. Highly contagious.
I used to think there was a prescribed sequence of motions, but I've seen them do it any which way, but these are mostly different birds. I was not quick enough to get the whole sequence with just one bird.
Although some of these are of the same birds. I just don't know which.
The exercise has to do with keeping their already flexible lower mandible as flexible as possibly possible. So they can dredge fish off the shallow bottoms with that saggy bag of a beak, and fill it up.
Note the remarkable contrast between the beak at left and the beak right.
This portion of the sequence often concludes the sequence. A quick flippity-flip of that supple lower beak. It's often audible and sounds like what it says under the photo above.
For a long time I thought nothing was going to happen in Sunset Bay this evening, but I showed up anyway. Brought my Rocket Launcher and stood on the pier mostly photographing big white birds. 27 American White Pelicans (ten fewer than the last time).
Had dearly hoped some pelicans would gang together and fish the shallows of Sunset Bay proper, but only this one did. It looked like what it found was a waterlogged sheet (bag?) of white plastic. Might have been a fish hiding there, but it didn't look like the pelican got it.
Maybe I should have titled this one "New Haircut." Looks like this Pelican just got one.
I'm always in awe how skinny Great Egrets' necks are.
Farther out than the farthest pelicans — out on the logs — were a gathering storm of Great Egrets.
Playing against the landscape and ...
Flying low over the setting sun and ...
Playing flying games with other egrets.
A little after the time the gooses noisily gathered by the pier and wend their circuitous way out west past the logs and ...
great looping in the lake beyond the logs, around Dreyfuss Point and on toward the Bath House, where Charles feeds them good corn grain and wheat bread.
And what evening at Sunset Bay would be complete with a nearly anonymous low-altitude flyby by a Great Blue Heron?
Yesterday and this morning there were 22 pelicans in Sunset Bay. This afternoon, suddenly, there were 37, meaning 15 more flew in today. They're probably tired, so they won't be doing much flying till they've rested. But all those feathers out of place will have to be soothed, zipped back together, separated and/or fluffed. It takes time.
When American White Pelicans swim in this position, I always think of a big white, flowered float, like in a parade, all covered with white flower petals. I also like how they slink down carrying their beaks fractions of an inch off the surface. So glad they're back.
Preening, preening, preening.
I heard their calls streoscoping back and forth from way out in the bay. Peterson's describes them as kyar. I tuned in, then followed a smallish flock back and forth across the bay, then it would disappear into the sky or trees on shore. These were a long way away.
Another time I noticed something flying over the Bay that looked unlike the other things I'd been watching flying over the bay. This was my seventh shot in rapid succession, and the only one to show any symptoms of being in focus.
First I saw long tails and shortish wings as silhouettes against the bright sky, eventually I got this lovely cloud and this bird.
Much later, across the bay, I watched this guy fly over to the wire over the upper parking lot atop Dreyfuss Point, drove Blue underneath and shot up at it and into the sun. Nice detail. Notice, please, how sharp the focus is on its facial hair.
I photographed the resident Great Egret in Sunset Bay, slowly, methodically, working the shallows from the Hidden Creek area across almost to the pier. This is the bigger of two fish I saw it catch and swallow in less than about three minutes. I suspect it found others, too, while I wasn't looking.
Amazing variety in Sunset today, and I suspect there were at least this many more birds that I either didn't see or could not identify that quickly.
State Fair of Texas
If it seems I've been avoiding White Rock Lake lately, that notion is not off the mark. White Rock is home, and like home, sometimes we don't see the obvious or anything else there. It becomes background, everything begins to look the same. So we've been exploring other places and other birds.
Then after awhile, the exciting, different, new starts getting old, mild and not so different, so we go back home and take some new looks around. So we go off to Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge or John Bunker Sands Wetlands Center hoping for new and different birds. That same reasoning twists into our insistence upon seeing "The World of Birds" at the state fair every year, although by now we should know some of these birds' middle names.
We've done this show so many times I generally think of it as "practice" instead of birding. Birds trained to what I worry might be within an inch of their lives, are tossed out of the top of The Texas Star (a tie for the World's Largest Ferris Wheel — with one in Canada), or from perches at the back of The Bandshell.
Unlike actually wild birds in reality, I know where they're coming in, pretty close to what their trajectory will be, and just how close they'll fly over us — this day, three different birds flew close enough over me to drag wings or other speedy feathers across the top of my head, ear and shoulders. I love the feeling — though brief.
This year I used my wide-angle zoom, assuming — wrongly it turned out — that it would keep more in focus. But because the field (everything in the shot) is so wide, it's difficult for the camera to figure out what exactly to focus on. Those birds come in so fast, we all have difficulty following them.
And that's why we arrive early and sit in the middle of the front row. Where I'll be closer to where the fast birds fly low. I probably should have borrowed back my short zoom. The Rocket Launcher is too big and slow to focus to use that close, but my 70~300mm Nikkor has proven itself over the years. That's what I shot that owl with in 2005.
He's going after more cash. Money raised for "good uses" that we just gotta believe in, I suppose. The show is free, then having a swift-flying bird land on you to take a $20 bill is a thrill I've never experienced. I remember the M.C. saying rather unconvincingly that they don't keep any of the money raised, but if that's true, who pays for this traveling show.
But the birds are beautiful and nobody gets enough experience watching them fly over us that close, so we keep coming back, hoping for more feather touches and bird photographs — what compels us to keep photographing birds anywhere else.
I shoot this almost exact same photograph every year, and I may well keep doing it the rest of my life.
John Bunker Sands Wetland Center
More from the It Flies Over, I Photograph It file: The white one is clearly an adult White Ibis — white body with red bill and red feet and legs. The other one appears to be a bird of another feather, but I suspect it is instead a juvenile White Ibis, except that its rump does not appear to be white. Juvenile White Ibises do have those brown and black and white coverts when seen from above, which this is not quite.
It's more likely to be two birds of the same species than two different species just happening to be flying along together. It might be that the darker — shadow one — is farther from the camera, but it looks smaller, too.
Well, once again, I was baffled. I know the reddish front edges is an optical illusion, and I wished I had some notion of relative size. It looks hawkish except for its rounded, gullish beak, but that's probably more reddish Chromatic Aberrations (color shadows at harsh contrast transitions" according to my favorite lens-testing site, Photozone.) hiding the true shape of the beak, which I want to be more hawkish. I was stymied — there for awhile.
This is not perfectly focused, but nonetheless, this shot gives a lot more identification detail. Boy! that helps. This is an Osprey, and it's only the third time I've ever photographed one, although when I photographed the Bald Eagle at White Rock Lake last winter — days after photographing my first Osprey, I thought the eagle was an Osprey. A lot of seasoned birders made fun of me, and the local Audubon Chat refused to believe I didn't know a Bald Eagle when I saw one, but it didn't look much like the U.S. Postal Services version.
This particular one isn't, but some of today's shots of that Osprey are better than that first sighting, although that one was closer. None, however, are as sharp and detailed as the Osprey nest we saw and photographed at Glacier National Park a little more than a month ago. It's a long, slow page of Montana vacation photos, so give it time to load.
For awhile I though maybe this was not even the same bird. It seems to have very large eyes and was photographed seven seconds after the first shot in this series — two image above. But since it was only six seconds later, it's likely the same bird. And the same fish. Lots going on up there that day.
In my defense, I may not have snapped to the fact that I was photographing something quite different up there, but I did keep photographing it as it got farther and farther out over John Bunker Sands.
My guess, and by now you realize I really am guessing, is a Greater Yellowlegs. They have the longish straight beaks white underbody and fly with their legs trailing their tails, just like Lesser Yellowlegs ... Plus Greater Yellowlegs maps show them hanging around here in the winter. May even be an educated guess, but not as well educated as I'd like or should be by now. The two species must look an awful lot alike. Peterson's does not even bother to show both birds flying. Greaters have longer beaks, although both are proportionate.
We watched them turn shades depending upon which side — up or down — of them showed to us at the time. Back and forth, back and forth, flying very quickly, as they gradually reduced altitude.
They look like they've changed into something else entirely, but wait, there's more.
Now they're looking more like birds, somewhat familiar little shore birds. We kept watching.
Recognizable as Sandpipers, but which of those twenty-some-odd species of Sandpipers. Anna again saved me. She says they were Least Sandpipers. And I agree. But our Least Sandpiper watching was not yet at an end. They landed within about sixty feet of the two of us standing there quietly amazed.
Then the whole Peep — Peterson's Field Guide to Birds of North America notes that "Collectively, the three common small sandpipers resident in N. America are nicknamed "peeps." — mob walked back and forth (left and right to us, standing quietly with little movement but a lot of photograph-snapping) as they crisscrossed the gravel eating tiny (too tiny for us to discern) bugs between and under the pebbles., getting closer and closer till they were just a few meters away.
The Lone Pine Birds of Texas to the rescue: "Probes or pecks for insects, crustaceans, small mollusks and occasional seed."
Though we may have walked too far — out well beyond the crisscrossing boardwalks, on out to the gravel roads and occasionally into the brush, we loved every minute of discovering the Sands Wetland Center on that cool, crisp morning that rapidly transitioned into a warmish October noon.
Birders generally are, but everybody seemed friendly and adventuresome. And there were so many so varied, birds to watch and nature to enjoy. We will go back. Perhaps when it's cooler still.
Yet another interesting bird flying us over. A juvenile Night-Heron. I'm assuming, with those red eyes, it's a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.
The fourth shot I made that morning, standing on the new center's back porch was this. They just looked odd. I doubt I even saw the color. I don't remember it. I do remember a lot of people speaking proudly that they had Roseate Spoonbills. That some had been seen there recently. Very proud. Yet when these flew over the assembling crowd, nobody said anything about them. I just shot, as I so often do when something flies over.
Much better, more detailed images of Roseate Spoonbills flying closer to the ground and on it are on our South Padre Island trip, in this August 10 2009 journal entry (and down that long, slow-loading page) and my first-ever, albeit somewhat distant, but very obviously Roseate Spoonbill sighting in May 2009.
There were several very experienced birders there, even people we knew by name. I'd heard them calling out species they'd sighted with their tripod-mounted telescopes. But nobody said anything loud enough to hear when this pair flew over us. Roseate, by the way, is correctly pronounced "rose ate," although I, like so many others I heard there today, like to put another eee in the middle of the big pink birds' name.
Not that I had any idea who they were when I photographed them. They just looked odd, so I clicked at them. My far vision is lousy. Why, I suppose, I have such a long, image-stabilized tele zoom, so I can see into the blurs that usually inhabit my far vision.
I knew this one. One of our — and their — more common flyovers, although there was a lot of flying over there this morning. I tilted my long zoom up often today, and I'm so glad I did. I had amazing luck shooting up.
Here we have American White Pelicans — the lighter birds with black edges — and cormorants — the darker ones, nearly filling the sky, far, far away from wherever we stood. We walked all the way out the boardwalks and well out into the far trails. I'm sure we walked more than a mile, maybe a mile and a half or two. I needed it, but it plumb tired me out. I need to do a lot more. I think that's what White Rock Lake is for. It's a lot closer than the 24 point something miles we drove in somewhat under 27 minutes past Seagoville.
Pelicans are bigger than cormorants, but they're often seen together. Especially in massive fishing armadas out in the middle of White Rock Lake, and I'm sure, other wheres, but I hadn't seen them flying together till these shots. This is a detail of the shot above. For awhile, the whole far distant sky was filled with corms and pelks.
We can see both species better in this detail shot.
Everybody's a little clearer when there's trees in the background. American White Pelicans and probably Double-crested Cormorants flying a little lower.
This too, is a common site, although at White Rock, I can often wait them out till they come closer to shore for more detailed shots. This was several bodies of water away, and then some.
No pelicans flew us over anywhere near close enough to get any details, but we're hoping to do a lot of pelicanography at White Rock Lake this coming seasons till April 15th.
Here's the back porch where we started today's visit at the grand opening of the John Bunker Sands Wildlife Refuge outside of Seagoville, east of Dallas off I75. With those scopes, they could see birds I could only find a flutter for in the distance.
I was able to photograph some Bluebirds on a stump just at the edge of the swamp, but I could barely identify them, and I would not even have shot there, if they hadn't said the magic word, "bluebird." More information about the Wetland Center is online at http://www.wetlandcenter.com/newhome.html
Stay tuned Wednesday for more birds and other lucky flyovers from John Bunker Sands Wildlife Refuge. Meanwhile, Happy Birding, Ya'all.
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge
Back we are to the Hagerman saga, and today, it's all Great Blue Herons all the time. I hope you can tell I've put some effort into showing GBH pix that don't look like all my other GBH pix over the last several years here on the Brrrrd Jrrrrrrnl.
It's not that I set out to take new and different shots of my favorite bird, the one who's on my business card for this suite of pages, the one bird of all those available that I'd like to be one of. Just that once I got my photos from Hagerman home and up on my monitor, I noticed a dissimilarity with many of the GBH shots I've taken over the years. Not this one, so much. But some of the following are strange, and at first I wasn't sure I wanted to show them.
But I did. This one cuddles in close to being over that line, without actually moving the line. And the next one is dead, solid, ordinary up and down the scale.
But it's the logical end to this flying in and landing (Do they still call it "landing" if it "lands" in the water? Even if it's shallow?
We all have our Aaaak! moments. Here's this heron's. I was actually photographing the log of cormorants, all four or five of them — all very dull, none of them pointing in any direction but away — and only accidentally, or through providence, got this action in. So glad I did. I don't think I've ever photographed a GBH Aaaaking before. I've heard and seen my cat do it often. Deep down I feel it, because I've done some serious Aaaaking myself. I guess we all have.
We've seen this action before, but I just never tire of a Great Blue Heron speeding across a landscape with its feathers in near focus.
This is a bit odd. Doesn't look like a GBH, except, of course, that it does. I usually don't show silhouettes, because they're seriously underexposed. But I like the scene here, all green and sparkly. No idea why its head is tilted back, but it's very dramatic.
We've seen them flat-out flying lots of times, but this one appears so very dark, almost black. And it's not just shadows.
Until the wings come down and obscure his long beak and beady eyes. I've shot this shot many, many times. But I usually don't show them unless there's a head and face we can identify with.
And it flies away.
This one is peculiar with a capital P. It's just standing there blending in, but it looks so funky, almost cold. It was cool, certainly not cold, even if it was standing in the water. Great coat fluff. And that spiky cap almost looks Mohawky.
This is a classic fly-by shot. Perfect, because the bird shows off its rust-colored epaulets, black primaries and secondary feathers, long legs stuck out behind, silhouetted into darkness, and lush brown-blue-gray secondary coverlets, and long, it looks like black beak, or at least gray here, but it's really mostly orange-yellow. Pointing the way. Gorgeous birds, at least half of why I so identify with them.
Another reason I identify, is that they are usually solitary, aloof, off by themselves doing something, though I'd never have the patience to wait for a fish to swim by, so I could have lunch.
I like this shot because it shows why it's called a great BLUE Heron, even though it's usually so obviously not-blue. In deep shade — illuminated by the bright blue sky, they often appear blue. This is an odd angle, as the bird moves its stabber down nearly to the surface, waiting, waiting.
I like, too, that we can see its vivid (here) black and white stripes down its breast. And that rusty orange epaulet. And, for that matter, the big smile under its eyes right at its long, blue (here) beak. Even if the shot is pretty grainy from being blown-up so much from a small portion of the whole frame.
Another far, fuzzy shot, showing a little more distinctly that white line from eye to eye, the long vertical black and white breast feathers, and even more down the front of its body. These birds look so different from differing angles. Nice to capture some for a change.
When we first saw it way up there, we weren't sure it was a Great Blue. Heron, of course, with that squatty body and long, pointy beak. But GBH? Not that obvious — I thought it could have been a Green Heron or a Little Blue Heron, till I caught sight of its white chin and ...
... bright orange feathers sticking out here and there high up on its perch.
Anna and I both photographed this Great Blue Heron only a few dozen feet down the narrow road between the water pans at Hagerman from the floating swan. He stayed there a long time as Anna carefully drove closer and closer.
Then sploosh! After a fish. Neither of us saw or photographed anything in its beak after this sudden splash down, but I got a slightly more pronounced white ring of splash of two otherwise nearly identical photographs. A mere matter of luck. Notice its bright white peritoneum, exposed when it leaned over this far.
We wandered around a lot of Hagerman, although we still haven't seen more than a fraction of the refuge. But almost everywhere there are the sharp and clinging remains of fisherpersons. Every one of them must leave dozens of hooks and lines and sinkers wherever they go.
Makes for cute pictures, I suppose, and it would be difficult for a bird to get snagged on this one, but most of the barbs, scattered on ground and shore and lake, are all too likely to snag curious but unsuspecting birds. Maybe fishing equipment manufacturers should be required to make them of biodegradable materials.
White Rock Lake
We interrupt this regularly-scheduled program to bring you breaking news. The pelicans are back at White Rock Lake. Well, two of them are. I photographed these American White Pelicans this evening after sundown in Sunset Bay. I almost never use flash, but this time I did. It was just too dark. Then I doubled the ISO.
Last year, they were first seen on September 15. The couple years before that, they arrived on or very close to October 15. I'd been expecting and actively seeking them out the last several weeks. Tonight, when I was so tired I was thinking seriously about taking a nap, Annette called Anna to tell her they were back. Anna was shortly due at an EASL meeting, so she called me. I went off to Sunset anyway, and got these images.
Coots (small, mostly black with big honking feet) run right-left-right-left across the water. Pelicans (large, white with comparatively small, webbed duck-like feet) hop the two-footed hop up to speed while filling flapping wings with air, then follow the flow into it. I think this was the last hop.
If this winter visit by our favorite local Pelecanus erythrorhynchos runs true to course, in a week or so, maybe less, more and more pelicans will dribble in, in ones and twos and threes at first, then more. I have seen as many as 150 pelks crowding into Sunset Bay's limited residential space — although fully half of them do not stay. I count things, and after the initial mass arrivals, the most I've ever seen at White Rock Lake at once was 74.
These two scouts may be reporting back to the crowd hid off somewhere else, or just flying off to the north. Hard to say. Probably, there will be about 70 pelicans in residence at White Rock — and more specifically Sunset Bay — in a matter of days or short weeks.
I can wait, but just barely..
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge
When we first saw this white lump floating about 25 feet from shore, we worried it might be a dead egret floating. As we got closer, we considered other possibilities. Eventually, when we finally got parallel with it, we could see it was a big, white bird. Not moving or twitching.
Turned out it was sleeping.
But what was it? It's not listed in my favorite, Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, so it's not a certified resident in Texas. In Peterson's Field Guide to the Birds of North America, its map shows it stays around the eastern Great Lakes and along the upper Atlantic seaboard, with not a dot in the North Texas area close to Oklahoma.
Such swans, however, are often kept and sometimes escape from cush jobs as ornaments for private ponds, creeks or lakes. An example is our July '08 sightning of a male Mute Swan in North Dallas.
Does this white lady look liberated?
One website says they "are a widespread species and permanent residents in many areas.... Mute swans are the most common swans in the wild, in parks or on country estates in their native range. In winter, they are more common on marine waters. They live in well-sheltered bays, open marshes, lakes, and ponds." (like Hagerman)
Wikipedia says "it is ... an introduced species in North America." They are 49 ~ 67 inches long with a wingspan of 79 ~ 94 inches and stand about 47 inches tall on land. "Males are larger than females and have a larger knob on their bill," which means this is probably a female. They average about 26 pounds and sometimes grow to 50.
Wide awake and neck almost straight.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology tells us, "A native of northern and central Eurasia, the Mute Swan was introduced into North America to grace the ponds of parks and estates. Escaped individuals have established breeding populations in several areas, where their aggressive behavior threatens native waterfowl."
They are called mute because they are less vocal than Whooper and Bewick's Swans, although they do grunt, whistle hoarsely, snort, and hiss at predators. And when they fly, their wings make a unique throbbing sound that can be heard up to a mile away. If you see a Mute Swan with its wings half raised and neck curved back, beware. This pose, called "busking," is an overt threat display.
They will, Wikipedia asserts, "attack land animals in defense of their families during the period before fledging their offspring, which at six months, is longer than most other birds."
There's always cormorants. Though they're getting thicker lately.
We saw lots of TVs all day. They are everywhere, doing their dada duty. This was the only time I got one really close to being in focus, even though they mostly just hang on the wind, and one flew directly over me, so close I could barely keep all of it in my zoom lens frame.
This one's a little more dramatic, though somewhat out of focus. Oh, well.
Unless I have photos of both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs together, which I don't think has ever happened, the only way I can tell Greater Yellowlegs and Lesser Yellowlegs apart is to look at their habitation maps. This is almost winter — feels more so every day; it was very cool at Hagerman — and only Greater Yellowlegs are here in blue weather — winter. I think ...
The Yellowlegs on the left is looking for food. The one on the right has found some in the classic yellowlegs posture.
Friday comes the Great Blue Heron extravaganza with some very different sorts of photographs of that elusive and varied species.
Finally, showing a difference of perspective and alertness and maybe even style, here are two shots of three Blue-winged Teal (ducks). Anna snapped to them quicker and shot with her (my) 70~300 mm Nikon zoom, catching enough detail to track down their identity.
And me picking up on them somewhat later with
my much-longer zoom, getting almost no detail whatsoever, yet capturing a
lyrical shot of a wildish, green green green area with sharp ducks and a
lovely soft-focus background.
Anna gave me this fascinating link to a lecture about bird songs and sex.
We saw geese in a backwater pond at some distance from the road. I'd seen geese before, so I wasn't excited, but when they took to the air, Anna got excited (her eyes are better than mine; my telephoto is longer, so I often photograph what I can't really see, then finally see it on the monitor the next day or late that night).
We thought they'd just fly away, but they flew us over on their way off. Not really flying right over us. Anna said she was just too in-awe to photograph, and we agreed some pictures are best left in our minds, not in pixels. For me, though, it's by now a long-since acquired semi-automatic response, raise big lens with big cam attached, attempt to focus, click, click, click ...
But close enough for telephoto work.
Until they disappeared into the sky, V-ing away. Anna was impressed how they got into a big V as they were rising off the pond, and stayed that way all along. I never saw the V for the birds.
I'm still developing images for Thursday's great Great Blue Heron exposition, so we'll get a hint of the size and shapes with this series of Great Egrets, of which there are always plenty around here, north and south of Dallas, including Hagerman.
The big ones are Great Egrets, the fast and fierce and aggressive littler ones are Snowy Egrets. Greats have black legs, feet and orange beaks. Snowies have black beaks and legs and yellow feet. These egrets are all fishing — as usual — racing across the shallow water after what must have been a school of fish.
Of course, these egrets are not really dancing, either. In fact, here, they are just landing, either their usual skittishness from there being two photographers in their close-enough-to-a midst, or because they'd planned this landing maneuver all along.
If the previous picture was them dancing, this then has to be three-dimensional ballet, each making the near-identical moves, one after the other, after the other, in a long waddish line of then, here truncated and compressed by cropping my already long telephoto zoom view. Very much like Picasso's Nudes Descending a Staircase, all aclutter of legs and differing views of the same or only slightly altering shapes.
Until their individual characteristics and wind variances take over, they break ranks and flap further up, widening their gyre.
To me, they always look just so very elegant. Lining them up to repeat those patterns only makes them more distinguished. Yep, all that flash and circumstance, and this is how far they went. This time.
Next time they broke rank and took off, they went far.
Tomorrow or Thursday (probably Thursday), we'll have a special guest in the large form of a much more massive white bird, and some other species we spied at Hagerman this weekend. After that, by maybe by the weekend or Friday, I'll show off my Great Blue Heron extravaganza of several sorts of photographs of them I usually wouldn't take or show. Different angles of my favorite bird.
Actually, this first day of our mini-trip to Anna, Sherman and Dennison, Texas and the nearby Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge was spent at a bedbug-free (I checked very carefully) motel in Sherman, and that's where these shots were taken while Anna checked us in. It's going to take some serious time to PP (post-production, i.e., Photoshop) up the ones actually shot at Hagerman the next day, but I've already selected more than 80 to choose from.
We were lucky enough to discover a motley diversity of bird species, including more Great Blue Herons than anywhere we've ever been for birds. I won't have time to work all those up Monday, but I can begin to get at it Tuesday and Wednesday and will probably begin to post them piecemeal then.
Usually, I try not to shoot through windows and especially not through the compoundly convex glass of car windshields, because they tend to defocus things, like this bird that Anna thought was cute. But she wanted me to "get" it sitting in the bushes right in front of the car. I obliged. Identifying its species is more difficult.
I want to call it a Harris's Sparrow ... Well, actually, I wanted to call it a House Sparrow, except I'm pretty sure it's not. Just calling it something I thought I recognized would be easier than leaving it open to speculation, which already way too many of my I.Ds are.
These may be the same or a closely related (they were bathing together down there) species as the windshield close-up above. Sigh. I seem to be getting worse at bird identifications, and it's always so very odd that people send their photographs of birds for me to identify, much as I try to squirm out of that task. As if.
I'm pretty sure about the sparrow part. And I've photographed Harris'ses around here before, so that might be it. If so, then these are too. If not, as so often is the case, I do not know. Maybe after I've finally got some sleep.
What they were doing was bathing in public. Splashing and having a good old time doing it. Splashing water all over the place and each other. Also participating were these larger, darker, European Starlings. Everybody's was getting along just fine.
When a car unceremoniously drove right up into the parking slot most of them were bathing in, they flew up here till they thought it was safe to return to the several splats of water. See yez on Tuesday, probably late, knowing me.
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My favorite answer is, "I don't
am, after all, an amateur.
I'm not kidding. I've only been birding for three years,
although I've been photographing professionally since 1964.
Thanks always to Anna.