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The Amateur Birder's Journal - Stories & Photographs by J R Compton
All Contents Copyright 2011 and before by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.   Cameras & Lenses Used.
DON'T USE photos without permission.   Bird Rescue Advice from Rogers Rehab   White Rock Map
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The fort worth solids waste Drying Beds

October 26

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Elegant Turn - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Executing Elegant Turn

The birds who met us on top of the hill as we arrived at the Arlington Drying Beds this afternoon were Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. In fact, they were some of the few birds who were at the Drying Beds today. Slim pickings, otherwise. While watching the flycatchers, we were amazed by the elegant way they sometimes turned around on the wire. Hop, twist all that tail and wing and body pivoting on one leg, then land just like an Olympian.

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers Chasing Bugs - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers Chasing Bugs

According to my treasured Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas by Keith A. Arnold and Gregory Kennedy, scissor-tailed flycatcher's favored habitat is perching "on power lines over pastures, fields and other open habitats," including drying beds.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Who's Caught A Bug - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

According to that same source, they feed by sallying (their word) for "insects (especially grasshoppers) in the air or on the ground; also eats fruit." This looks like a wasp — though I'm no expert.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Straight Out - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Straight Out

Red-winged Blackbirds flying away - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-winged Blackbirds Flying Away

There weren't as many red-winged blackbirds as I expected with winter coming on.

Hawk Up Into A Tree - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Hawk Up Into a Tree

Anna saw this hawk, pointed at it, and I started shooting. A couple of blurs and this.

Hawk Up Into A Tree - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-tailed Hawk Flies Up into the Tree

Which, upon closer examinations, is this. My book, Hawks from Every Angle doesn't really do this angle. Of course, I wanted it to be something a little more exotic than the United State's most common hawk, but still, from this distance and crop, not bad a rendition, thanks to my new Nikon D7000, which I cursed almost all the time we were at the Drying beds, because it failed me so many other times. Still, not bad.

Here's another hawk - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Here's Another Hawk

Pretty much the same circumstances. Anna sights it, tells me where, and I start shooting. Looks like the same species, too. Hmmm.

Black Vulture ie on a pole - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission. n the

Black Vulture on a Street Light

Oh, I almost forgot these guys. I saw them while driving The Slider toward the Drying Beds. Didn't know exactly who they were at first, but once I stopped the vehicle and drew bead on them it became clear. I'm calling this bunch whom we've seen before in that neighborhood, "The Purple Gang," because the Black Gang just sounds wrong.

Another Black Vulture on Another Street Light - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Another Black Vulture on Another Street Light

The first one looked regal. This one looks one of my old friends, a Black Vulture. I've visited several over the years in cages at Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation. Nice thing about the Purple Gang (term stolen from a movie about old people into stealing) is they are wild and active. The City of Austin has decreed that vultures are a part of their clean-up effort. I doubt Arlington has done likewise, but we've seen the Purples clean up a site faster that anyone could even contact The City.

Black Vulture with Fire Plug - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black Vulture with Fireplug

Handsome birds, huh? I really like them. This one seems particularly clean. Only a couple of splashes of scat on it.

Vulture in a Tree - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black Vulture in a Tree

I'm astonished this shot turned out this well. All I saw up there was darkness.

Killdeer in Flight - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Killdeer in Flight

This has nothing to do with vultures. It's a killdeer, and it's the only shot I got of them that's in any kind of focus, and it's flying. That's pretty amazing. One other thing about the beds today, it stunk worse than we can ever remember it stinking.

 

White Rock Lake

October 25

Juvenile Great Blue Heron - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile Great Blue Heron on the Lower Steps

Still testing my new camera, remembering when I first got (about the first full year) my Nikon D200 struggling with focus modes. Today, about half the shots I made were out of focus, probably because I was relying on the camera to do my thinking for me. Warning, Will Rogers, warning, warning. What say I don't show you those pix this time, and we'll settle on the sharp ones, and I won't mention it again.

Juvenile Great Blue Heron - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile Great Blue Heron

When I first saw this bird, driving back from pelican country today, I wasn't sure which bird it was. That's because I was driving down hill on Garland Road and only had a fraction of a second to check out any bird action going on under the walking bridge, saw this, turned right and walked up from the parking lot. You've probably noticed by now how different these two shots of the same exact bird are. Surprises me, too.

My One Other GBH Shot Today - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

My One Other Great Blue Heron Shot Today

Actually, I shot a lot of other shots of this bird, but we promised not to discuss that issue here today. Not only does it look like yet again another bird, it looks a lot younger. To me, at least.

Egret Gacking - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Egret Gacking

It seemed to be having trouble forcing what it must have eaten earlier down that long neck. At times I could even see a strange shape jutting out its long curving neck. Then it would gack and stretch its neck up and down, in and out, then do it again and again and again. Finally, the strange shape smoothed out into an more or less ordinary Egret neck shape, and it quit gagging and gacking.

As the Crow Flies - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

As The Crow Flies

I can usually expect a certain crow to be perching in a certain tree up from the lower steps toward the spillway and the dam. This is the crow.

Crow in its same old perch - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Crow in its Same Old Perch

First time I noticed it over there, I thought it might be a hawk, and I tried shooting from several differing angles and distances — me leaning out from the fenced-in area that only recently got put back after they just left it, and a big fence around it, so I couldn't hang-out from my favorite lake perch, after it got washed away by another one of our 100-year floods. But it wasn't a hawk, it was this very crow. Now that the Rocket Launcher is back in business, I can get in so much closer and more detail.

Cormorant with Two Turtles - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Neotropic Cormorant with Two Turtles

Out in Sunset Bay. If I'd looked carefully and noticed that it was either a Neotropic Cormorant (tip off being the sideways white V aligned with the back of the orange part of its bill, and not the usual Double-crested Cormorant we are inundated by from here to January. As usual, any identification here is very possibly wrong.

Three Marshmallow Pelicans - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Three Marshmallow Pelicans Just This Side of Sleep

The same 18 pelicans in Sunset Bay today as there has been since five of the 23 then-current residents took wing to join the 50 or so pelicans that flew me over while I was glued into photographing the five, so I missed the 50 altogether, and they seem to have flown off somewhere else. I keep wondering whether the eight pelicans that Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation released last May just one month after our usual contingent of 70 pelicans flew off toward the northwest last April, may be throwing off other pelicans who might otherwise decide to settle here for the winter.

Major Marshmallow - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

"Major Marshmallow"

Usually, by now, mid to late October, we would have seen 150 or so pelicans in Sunset Bay at one evening or another, then half of them fly off somewhere else, leaving us with about 70. This time we have about 18. I do not know why the difference.

grebe - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pied-billed Grebe Bathing in Sunset Bay

First I saw this one among the coots, noticed the difference, followed it through the terrible sunshine reflected in the water and over to the right of where the Bird Squad sits in evenings. I think this is the first time I've ever photographed a grebe bathing. Maybe not as spectacular as a pelicans bathing [below], but sorta spikily interesting.

Egret Landing - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Egret Landing on the Far Side of Sunset Bay

Shot this a couple days ago. Really did not like it for a long time, because there's no details in its nearly all white body, but it is in focus, and the Hidden Creek area woods behind it are gorgeous this time of year. So here it is.

 

Back in California

October 22

The Beach in a Box with Lights - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Beach in a Glass Box with Lights

Nope, not the real beach, with an ocean. This is a large artificial beach inside the Monterey Aquarium. With rehabilitating birds instead of wild ones, so they couldn't get away if they wanted to, although they didn't seem intent on leaving. Plenty of perches and lots of human attention. I think this is a Heermann's Gull, and I found it by sorting through a lot of really bad I.Ds from amateurs online by looking for "Gull with Red Beak." Till a nice lady who knows what she's doing identified it.

Birds Found in California also helped ID today's birds, despite my initial lack of understanding of its orderr, and I had to blow it up to even see the pix or read the text. I'm coming to understand that if I can come up with potential identifications, all I really have to do is search for that species name in Google Image Search, and look at a large variety of images of differing angles, sizes and aspects of that bird to see if it matches one of my unsub photos. Coming up with a potential name is, however, still a challenge.

And Birds of Orange County, wherever that is. But the most useful was What Bird dot Com's Visual Search.

Oyster-catcher with a broken beak - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Oyster-catcher with a Broken Beak

We liked it, because it was considerably easier to get close to the birds, to show lots of detail that might otherwise escape us. Good variety, too. We'd never seen an Oyster Catcher before. Even if this one's beak is broken. Makes it look a little more distinguished.

Black-necked Stilt - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black-necked Stilt

We've telephotoed many Black-necked Stilts in Texas, both well south of here as well as in the neighborhood. But none of them have ever posed up on one foot for us like this. Or looked us straight in the face like this one did before I got it in focus. Usually, they're shy around people, don't let us get in very close unless we're very stealthy.

Another Blue Bird - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Adult Breeding Male Brewer's Blackbird.

At least it looks a lot like this one in Sibley's. That iridescent blue makes it almost glow. Gorgeous, hun?

Brown Bird with Blue Sheen - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female Brewer's Blackbird

There were several varieties of larger birds to see and photograph and get close to, but perhaps even more exciting were the myriad small birds we could close enough to to show big, like this handsome unsub.

I had pegged this one as possibly a female Indigo Bunting, but I was wrong, again, which is why I ask others who know bird identifications better than I do, to help.

Sophia Christel has been helping me I.D birds. She says this is a female Brewer's Blackbird.

And now that I've moved all the Brewer's Blackbird pix together, we can more easily compare the male, just above, to this shot of a female in almost the exact same pose and angle, and it become obvious who he and she are.

Undrab Olive Bird - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female Brewer's Blackbird

Then this shot of another female confused me for awhile till Sophia pointed out the obvious. Is it olive green, dark tan, brown or something else? Dappled gray with twinges of black. Not outrageously dissimilar from the handsome blue bird two pix up. May be just a matter of the light it's photographed in, so what color it's showing. Same beak, eyes, feet, white edges showin on wings. Hmmm.

Sophia Christel says, "The blue feathers [of the first female just above] definitely had me stumped for a while, but when I saw the male blackbird, I realized the blue iridescence on the male matched the blue on the other bird exactly! The dark eye means it's a female and not a juvenile. The bird directly after the male Brewer's is also a female."

Spotted Shorebird - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile Black-billed Plover

Anybody know who this is? Any educated guesses? At first I called it a "Spotted Shorebird," knowing it was, but that couldn't be its correct species name.

Sophia to the rescue: "Peeps are not my specialty, but I think the spotted shorebird is a juvenile black-bellied plover."

Aging Avocet - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Adult Nonbreeding American Avocet

Those whiskers make it look elderly. Never seen one with whiskers before.

Wing-broke Killdeer - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wing-broke Killdeer

I've seen many Killdeers protecting their nests by dropping a wing to make it seem like it's wounded then fly off when I get close enough to photograph it in any detail, but this one is wounded for real. Can't make it in the wild without a working pair of wings.

Puffy Little Shorebird - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Western Sandpiper

Sanderling? If it's not a Sanderling, it sure looks a lot like a Sanderling. I'm calling it a Sanderling. Unless it's a Least Sandpiper. No. no. I got it. It's a Western Sandpiper. That same scalloped shaped wing feathers and hat and front and beak (This one's beak is damaged.) It's a Western Sandpiper. I got it. I got it.

Bigger Brown Shorebird - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Marbled Godwit

Very very much like the one we saw in the wild there (California). [below]

Puffy Gray Shorebird - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Adult Nonbreeding Willet

Adult Nonbreeding Willet? Pretty. Gray bird with white feather edges. I captioned it "Puffy Gray Shorebird."

Sophia says, "I can also confirm that the grey, fluffy one is indeed a willet. The black primaries are a pretty solid indicator."

Scraggley Brown Shorebird - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

A Damaged Whimbrel

That's my best guess. It was rehabilitated, but it still looks pretty scraggly, like it had gone through a disposal or had a significant interface with some other dreadful machine. I'm taking the question mark off this photo's caption.

Yet Another Brownish Shorebird - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Either a Short-billed or Long-billed Dowitcher

I originally captioned this one as "Yet Another Brownish Shorebird."

Sophia Christel, who is much better at identifying birds than I am says, "The last brownish shorebird is a dowitcher. Whether it is long-billed or short-billed I cannot say. But it is a dowitcher of some sort, in any case.

Over the years I have continued, sometimes sporadically, this journal (Some call it a bird blog.), many people have helped me identify birds. I'm getting pretty good at photographing them, and with the right help, I can often get pretty close to accurately I.Ding them, my mind still does not wrap itself around that task as well as I wish I could.

Thank you, readers who help me identify birds.

My first I.D guru was Betsy Baker. Then for a long time Jason Hogle helped. Lately, Sophia Christel has been helping so much I named a CSS style Sophie, A lot of other people have helped along the way. I thoroughly appreciate everyone who helps. I still struggle with it. I have nearly 20 hand- and field-bookes  and bird encyclopedias — and I am getting better at it, but I still need help.

It would probably be okay — has been okayish — to not identify every bird, but I so much prefer to do this right. So thanks mightily to those who help.

White Rock Lake

October 21

Lot of Excitement - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Lot of Excitement

'Course I've been watching pelicans carefully for the last five or so years, so I could tell something was going on. The excitement, as they say, was palpable. I just didn't know what the deal was. Why were they so excited. I watched and waited and photographed.

Even the Blue Goose Was All Het Up - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Even Our Blue Goose was All Het Up

Off on the far edge of the pelican cloud our solo Blue Goose (Dark Morph Snow Goose) was flapping its wings and hopping all around. Wish I had video of it bouncing about. The pelican excitement was catching, and this goose was flopping around with its little pink legs dangling as it flapped up and down and up and down.

Excited Blue Goose - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ready to Go

He didn't go anywhere, just stayed right there, but our many banded Blue Goose was clearly ready to go. Before the pelicans calmed down and started off into the wild blue yonder, this goose was ready.

Beak Stretch - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Beak Stretch

Twenty-four American White Pelicans — the eight who spent all summer here and sixteen more from up north — were huddled near the far end of the peninsula, preening and awakened and stretching their wings or their beaks. Lotta flapping, too.

Peak Beak Stretch - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Peak Beak Stretch

I was a little excited myself. So nice to photographing my stout white friends with the Rocket Launcher again, and being able to place focus anywhere I wanted. Apparently I'm learning exposure with the new camera, too. Catching this guy stretch its lower mandible in great detail is wonderful again. I missed it.

Who's First? - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Who's First?

They were nearly all pointed in the same direction, west. When one brave soul leaned into it with its wings stretched out to catch some air.

Splash-splash - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Splash-splash Hopping

And jumped into the air, wings not fully extended but the black bits at the ends out. Coots run and pelicans hop two-footed.

In the air - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

In the air

And in sharp focus and carefully composing, I was in awe of the opportunity, and excited as well. Almost could count the feathers.

Gear Going Up - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wings Down and Gear Going Up

As it passed me I got nearly a full frame of full-feathered pelican detail all amazingly Nikon sharp. Whoo-hoo!

Two Pelicans Up - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Pelicans Up

First two in fairly rapid succession, then a third, fourth, and eventually even a fifth took off toward the other side of the lake, banked around, and …

Came Back Over - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Close Order Flyover

Flew back over the flock and me and Sunset Bay. About this time I heard a loud voice from near where the Bird Squad meets every evening urging me to turn around, where there were, the voice said, at least twice as many as were on the ground. I was too excited to be able to photograph my great flying friends flying over to look around for more, and I missed the flock these guys, no doubt, were flying up to join.

Pelicans Heading North - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Squad of Five Heading North

I really wanted to keep shooting the five who flew up to meet the bigger flock up there. The voice, joining me on the pier in Sunset Bay, described the greater flock as at least doubling what we had already and being shy and careful about coming down. That would have made them numbering more than 70, counting them all. I saw these guys disappear into the west, but I never caught glimpse of the others.

I imagined the five scouts going up and telling the others how good the fishing was here in White Rock Lake, telling about the cushy conditions in Sunset Bay, and some of the neighboring bodies of water, where certain specialties could be enjoyed.

 

October 20

First good Pelican Flying photo with my new Nikon D7000 camera - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

First Good Pelican Flying photo with my New Camera

Maybe the best thing I've discovered about my new camera besides that it actually focuses on moving birds is that it seems to work with the Rocket Launcher that never got along very well with either my Nikon D200 or the decrepit D300. Makes me wonder why I wanted a D400…

Maybe it's because the Rocket Launcher (my aging and often despised Sigma — I usually call it Stigma or Stigmata — 150~500mm that looks and carries like a rocket launcher). Said lens does not resolve with the best of them. It's nothing near as sharp and contrasty as a $7-12,000 Nikon super lens, but it reaches out and grabs birds in flight. It's got the focal length, and I've got the photoshop skills to make birds photographed through it look pretty good.

Same Pelk Near Landing - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Same Pelican Near Landing

Not like I've got everything figured out on the new camera. These shots were all taken over-exposing by one stop. Soon as I figured that out, my pelicans got the right tones as well as the right colors, but me and Photoshop got these toned down a bit toward good exposure. The Nd7k nailed the focus. Maybe I'm figuring that one out, too.

Hydroplaning Pelicans - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Landing Pelicans Hydroplaning

There's a lot I don't have a clue about this new camera. But it focuses like a dream. Fast. While the bird's still flying — or landing. I have great hopes for it. But first I have to learn a lot more about this camera. It took 415 shots today to get this many good ones. Usually I average one in thirty or better.

Skid to Stop Pelican - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Skid to Stop Pelicans

The really worst flaw on the Nd7k (Nikon D7000) is that its buffer is tiny. I can shoot one dozen shots in rapid succession, then further shots stutter out in fits and starts as I continue to mash down on the shutter. So I don't hold my finger on the silly button any more. I always thought doing the Monster Mash was cool, until I had to sort through hundreds of shots of essentially the same thing.

A big, fast buffer allows one to keep shooting even though all the images have not been processed yet. The shot but unprocessed images go into the buffer. One of the ways Nikon distinguishes its amateur / enthusiast cameras from its professional ones is by putting better, bigger buffers on the pro models and stiffing the less expensive cams with tiny brains.

More California birds coming soon.
 

October 19

Fly Low Egret - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Fly Low Egret

I've been experiencing lots of focus errors with birds in flight with my Panasonic G2, so I'm pushing the issue. Not perfect here, and flying low, and something of a crop, and yeah, the bird appears blue because it's flying through open shade (illuminated by the blue sky above instead of the sun even further up.

Mostly Mallards - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mostly Mallards

Not sure about those littler guys in the back, but the eight ducks in front are definitely Mallards.

Female Grackle and Two Parakeets - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female Grackle and Two Monk Parakeets

The Grackle was easy, but getting two parakeets this close and this in focus has been a challenge. Because I was using my Panasonic Lumix G2, I was able to look through the EVF (electronic viewfinder) and actually see how much bird color showed as I opened up (brightened) the exposure. Can't do that with my new Nikon. Have to shoot, chimp the LCD (like a monkey with a new toy) change the exposure, over and over and over.

 

October 19

Dip Flight Adjustment - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Dip Flight Adjustment

I don't usually get flying any kind of bird in focus, but here, it so very nearly worked, the details don't matter. Yet.

Three Eegs in Trees - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Three Eegs in Trees

That egret and a friend land in the trees on the island across from the walking bridge over the lower spillway.

Sidewalk Snake - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Sidewalk Snake

Texas Garter Snake, Schott's Whipsnake, Thamnophis sirtalis annectens, Red-striped Ribbon Snake, Texas Patchnose Snake? Can you tell I'm much worse at snake I.Ds than I am with birds? I looked at the LCD, which was dark, and while I adjusted settings (They were already perfect.), the snake disappeared into the grass. I walked all over, careful not to step on it, but could not rediscover it. It were fast.

Pelican Cloud - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Cloud

Of course, a couple of them just have to preen a little, otherwise they'd all be a tight circle of pelicans watching.

Many Beaks - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Many Beaks

Synchronized Fishing.

Bundle of Baby Ducks - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Tight Bundle of Baby Ducks

Tightly wound solid circle of baby ducks, probably siblings, keeping warm.

 

Back in California

October 18

White-tailed Kite - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

White-tailed Kite A

A slough, we have come to understand, is a chunk of land with a water feature. My Mac dictionary calls it a swamp. Maybe. But this one was situated between and among apartment buildings in a small city on our way to somewhere. We stopped. I got out and needed to photograph some birds, which of course, were fairly readily available.

White-tailed Kite - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

White-tailed Kite B

First Anna sighted one, then we found another. Both at about the same height, in tall trees overlooking the water. Thankfully, they did not move around much long enough for us to focus carefully and get a bunch of exposures. At first, we thought they might be owls, but upon closer scrutiny, we decided hawks. They are, in fact, kites.

White-tailed Kite B - Flying - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

White-tailed Kite B Flying nearer Kite A

We have them along the Texas Coast, but we'd never seen any before. My treasured volume of Arnold & Kennedy's Lone Pine Birds of Texas, says they forage for small mammals like cotton rats, shrews and small rabbits, and they fly "slowly over grassland, often hovering; drops to ground feet first to capture prey. Anna later saw one of them hovering. I would have been happy to stay there an hour or so longer, but we were in a hurry to go somewhere else.

 

meanwhile, back at White rock lake

October 17

Pelicans Being Pelicans - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Pelicans Being Pelicans

I think I counted 17 American White Pelicans on the peninsula at Sunset Bay today. Well, I know I counted 17, but I might have been counting some of them more than once, or including the egrets, some of whom were very close, or I was just confused. Something like that. It excited me till much later when I only counted 15, after two more had joined the group. Before that, three left. I'm not sure why it counts. It's not important. Except after some previously undefined number, they're all here for the winter again.

Pelican Bathing - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Bathing 1

Here's a wonderful series of pelicans doing one of the many intriguing things that pelicans do.

Pelican Bathing - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Bathing 2

Presented here not so much for their wonderfulness, although that definitely obtains, but for the fun I had shooting them. Gangbusters fun.

Pelican Bathing - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Bathing 3

Note the perfect fountain scatter of water in the middle. Superb. 9.5

Pelican Bathing - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Bathing 4

Pelican Bathing - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Bathing 5x

Pelican Flapping Dry - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Flapping Dry

Pelican Preening - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Preening

Unless they're sleeping or trying to be asleep or flying or battling it out with another pelican, pelicans preen. Helps them with their greatest art form, flying.

Coots Scootin - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Coot Scootin'   (a.k.a. skittering)

I still prefer calling it running on water. I like the partial rhyme, rhythm, alliteration and silliness of coots scootin', but say "running on water," and everybody knows what you're talking about. Every year I hope and hope and hope I have the opportunity to shoot one of these pix of coots doing this. Today, a woman and her child asked if it was okay to feet the ducks. Like it was up to me, but I said sure, and they threw bread at the coots, who seemed to appreciate it.

Then the mom wanted "the big ones" (meaning the pelicans) to come over. I explained they ate fish, not bread, so they probably would not be interested. She insisted she still wanted them to come over. "Too bad," I told her. I guess it's not enough to simply encounter Nature, we gotta control it, too.

Coots Wet Portrait - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Coots Wet Portrait

Coots looking far nobler than they really are.
 

Somewhere in California

October 16

Hawk and Raven(s) - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk and Raven(s)

It wasn't then and it's not now clear whether these quite different, often warring species were just flying along together like one, big, happy family, or if they were feuding up there. At home, I perk up when I hear crows cawing, because what they often caw at are juvenile hawks, and that means at least a potential opportunity to photograph a hawk.

Hawk and Ravens - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Same Juvie Red-tailed Hawk and Ravens

I didn't see any clutching of one another, or grabbing, or attempts to escape. Maybe crows and ravens have entirely differing relations with hawks. What I don't know is legion. What I do know is that it was fun watching and photograph these guys in the high desert gold (with occasional dots of green) in the foothills.

Little Brown Bird in the Rain - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Little Brown Bird in the Rain

Somewhere near Mariposa, California. I'm not claiming these shots are among my best from the trip, but the fact that they are rendered in any focus at all is some sort of miracle. Big birds are a lot easier.

This one makes reader Sophia Cristel "want to say it's either a willow flycatcher or maybe a Hammond's," but she recommends getting a second, third or fourth opinion.

Little Gray Bird with Stripes - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Little Gray Bird

Except for the white wing stripes this looks a lot like a Black Phoebe, but those stripes and the bushy feathers underneath are not consistent. But the head and bill shape are right on. Let me check The Crossley I.D Guide. Nah, that didn't help, either. It's a gray bird with fluffy unders and a short, pointed black beak and black eyes and black head. I'll find it. But not yet. I'd followed it around a churchyard a long time, before I finally got the G2 to commit to focus.

Reader Sophia Cristel agrees that it's probably a Black Phoebe, despite its white-edged wings. Neither of us could find anything else it could be. And, as she noted, "As far as the fluffy under-feathers go, I'd guess he was just chilly."

Sudden Surge of Pigeons - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Sudden Surge of Pigeons

I was photographing seaside architecture less than a couple blocks from the ocean, when these guys swooped up and I clicked.

 

October 14

Car Commercial Bird - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Car Commercial Bird — to be identified — See just below.

I'm moving way too slow when I move at all. Eventually, I'll catch up with previous sleep cycle and Dallas reality, although  Cal if or Nye A  was amazing. I found more bird pix scattered among my other CA pix. Now there's more than a thousand. Not that you were worried. Just that I like it, when I tell it, to be true.

It's a Whimbrel. 17.5 inches long with a wingspan of 32 inches. I wanted to impart lifestyle details but my details book, Arnold & Kennedy's Birds of Texas only notes that, east or west in Texas, there's darned few of them around, ever. Always wanted to see one of those, and now I even photographed one and got it in focus. Pretty amazing.

More Than Half a Pelican - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

More than Half a Brown Pelican

I so wanted to have a great pelican photo, and here I got most of one. I expected them everywhere I looked along the coast, but they were far and few, and generally startled me by suddenly materializing right in front of me. Or gradually disappearing altogether way out in The Bay. I counted 14 American White Pelicans in Sunset Bay on my three visits to White Rock Lake's Sunset Bay yesterday. This, however, is a Brown, now a White Pelican, like we have here.

Cormorant Over the Waves - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cormorant Over the Waves

This common-appearing bird is also not the variety we have here in Dallas. Well, neither of the varieties. Mostly we have Double-crested Cormorants around Dallas. Sometimes we get Neotropic Cormorants. We almost never get what California has mostly … yada yada … then I look up that   what I thought was one variety, and I see by the maps, they got three other varieties along their coast, and I don't know which this might be. Nice and dramatic, though, with splashing and sudsing waves, and this bird (TB Identified) is remarkably sharp. Maybe I should have got more sleep.

Big SF Gull - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Big San Francisco Gull Waiting for Somebody to Feed It

Ah! Now this makes sense. This big bird … well, I started to say this was a California Gull, and that made all the sense in the world. Except it doesn't match any of the pictures, and its duckish feet aren't yellow. Sibley really is more clear about these things, despite Peterson's bigger images. Okay, it's not a lot of birds it definitely is not, but it looks a lot like a Western Gull, which makes about as much sense as I can stand right now.

Gulls and Boats - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Forster's Terns and Boats

My eyes glaze over again as I gradually register that there are as many different varieties of gulls as there are ducks. Used to be I just called ducks "ducks" and left it at that. Now I have best favorites (currently Wood Ducks, although I'd be willing to be swayed by maybe a Black-bellied Whistling variety) and least favorite (generally what we have the most of here in the off-season., Mallards — although female Mallards are often gorgeous. In the On season, we have darned few gulls.) Of course, these are terns — not gulls, but I know the other entities, besides rocks, ocean and parking lot and tree, are boats. Not ships.

I like this picture, but I've changed the title to terns and boats, and leave it at that for awhile. As stated near the top of this page, I'm a truly mediocre bird-identifier, but I sure love doing the rest of this.

Marbled Codwit - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Marbled Godwit in the Wild

I'm ending today's foray into bird absurd-ities with this Marbled Godwit I saw down a brushy slope to a place I think I remember as the Mouth of the Salina(s) River. It may or may not have been the Salinas River, but it was a Marbled Godwit. This shows enough detail to be pretty sure about that, although I haven't checked the "real-world" images in The Crossley Guide. We saw some birds in an un wild condition, and we'll get into that later. I had read about the river's mouth having lots of variety of birds, and after we visited this place, I wondered if it might have been there.

Really, Anna's and my best — and it is very good, indeed — bird luck, has been to wander around to interesting places and just find birds there. Following birder instructions or much we find on the internet about where to go for what — except Audubon Dallas' excellent Bird Chat — has been very unlikely to utterly impossible for us.

I read about the Salinas Mouth, salivated at the possibilities, then forgot it, because I hardly ever know exactly where I am (I think somebody stole my wonderful GPS unit that used to tell me those things, or I would have brought it and saved oodles of time looking at other interesting things and places. Except us getting ourselves lost, has been extraordinarily fortuitous for finding fun and different birds.

A Century ago, I remember Buffalo Bob (of TV's The Howdy Doody Show fame) explaining what serendipity was. He was looking for something by holding a magnifying glass behind his head where he couldn't see through it, and altogether mangled the actual definition, but I understood the concept there and then — very early 1950s — staring up at a black & white, more roundy than rectangular screen. Best way to find elusive things is to look for something else. That's how Anna and I find such wonderful birds. Now, I'm going back to sleep. See ya in a couple days.

 

October 2011

Red-Shouldered Hawk in Flight - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-shouldered Hawk in Flight

We're just back from vacation in northern California — Yosemite, that ocean they have there, cable cars, the big red bridge, and many other wonderful sites of beauty. I shot more than a thousand photographs of birds. These are about the very best. I'll drib and drabble more of them on this page as the month wears on and I get some much-needed sleep.

Red-shouldered Hawk - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-shouldered Hawk on Thick Wire

Anna sighted this one on a wire overlooking the highway we were were traveling down, or up or over. I suspect it was waiting for a car to blap it some dinner. I got out and photographed, even got some in focus for a change. Whoo-hoo! We didn't want it to be a Red-shouldered Hawk, since we've often seen them around White Rock Lake, and we really wanted it to be something a lot more exotic. But it's not, even if it looks like it.

Northern Flicker - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Northern Flicker on a Pole in a Vineyard

Wandering off the highway up to we were looking at trees along the road, and Anna saw this, and I photographed it. For a change, I know just what it was, having photographed another one several years ago as I rested in the Fitchery.

Acorn Woodpecker Storing Food in Holes in Our Least Favorite Motel - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Acorn Woodpecker Storing Food in Holes It's Pecked in Our Least Favorite Motel

And here's something we don't have here in Dallas. My theory is that if I'm somewhere — almost anywhere — and I wait long enough, birds will be there already, and I can photograph them. I was waiting in the parking lot hoping to get that theory to work and found several of these guys. Anna explained what they were up to. We both loved that it was putting all those holes in the motel and filling it with food for winter.

Lots more birds coming soon to a space near me.

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All text and photographs copyright 2011 by J R Compton.
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without
specific written permission from and payment to
the writer or photographer.

My favorite answer is, "I don't know." I am, after all, an amateur.
I'm not kidding. I've only been birding for three years,
although I've been photographing professionally since 1964.

Thanks always to Anna.

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