200 photos this month. The current Bird Journal is always here Cameras Used Ethics Feedback My Other Bird Pages: Herons Egrets Heron or Egrets Links & Bird Books Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch Rouses Courtship Behaviors Banding Birding Galveston 2015 & 2013 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds page & the 1st Bald Eagles at White Rock Coyotes JR's resumé Contact Area Bird Resources: Dallas Bird Chat Bird Rescue Info Want to use my photos? How to Photograph Birds Birding Places: Bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake & Dam & Spillway & Med School Rookery & Village Creek Drying Beds October's Better Pix: My photo of the first-ever Brown Pelican at White Rock Lake & Beak-stretching American White Pelican. Cartoon Balloon Vulture Kelly Murphy's American White Pelican Splash Bathing, Two Pelicans Flying Far Out, Flocks A Flying, My F.O.S. pelican flying pic, White Ibis family at Drying Beds, detailed photos of a Juvenile Female Belted Kingfisher in Sunset Bay My new map of the Old Fish Hatchery Area & Spillway Email me. On my other job, I'm an art critic and I review movies. I am not a bird I.D expert.
Stopping at The Drying Beds on the Way Back from Fort Worth
Photographed October 29 & Posted October 30
My first couple of shots at these guys coming down were flat-out out of focus. Buncha blurs. Gradually I, my camera and my lens — without the security of the tripod I usually employ — acquired focus for some of them and followed them down.
As they descended, they got closer together, so I could show them larger and in more detail here.
Adult Non-breeding Glossy Ibises, what Kala King says may well be Long-billed Dowitchers, and Green-winged Teal across the bottom pool with birds, with Killdeers here and there. I did not actually post the warning, "I am not a bird I.D expert." at the top left of the text on this page to keep people from contacting me. Just to warn readers that in the more than ten years I've been doing this journal / blog I haven't got perfect at identifying birds yet. Though I am getting better. Sometimes I amaze myself. Often I do not.
The avocet is the most obvious bird here, stark in its brilliant white and blacks — and located in the lower left with its beak in the water.
Shovelers look somewhat like Mallards, only their beaks are way bigger.
And yet another Killdeer in the lower right.
Canada Gooses step pretty much like everybody else steps, one foot at a time. I've watched them walking for years, and I've never seen them step like Nazis. Wikipedia says of Goose-stepping, it "originated in Prussian millitary drill in the mid-18th Century; and the term "goose step" originally referred to a British military drill in which one leg at a time was swung back and forth without bending the knee.
Apparently, standing on only one leg reminded soldiers of how geese often stand. The term was later applied to the German march step during World War II and to the Soviet march step durin the Cold War. As a result, the tern has acquired a pejorative meaning in some English-speaking countries."
With another on the ground and another shorebird in the water.
But I've got good images of its wings, face, beak and tail, so I should be able to I.D it.
Unfortunately, this bird doesn't look much like the above image that I used to set my Greater Yellowlegs i.d. So, it's probably something else entirely. I remember attending what I thought was going to be a professionally led bird walk at John Bunker Sands, but instead of walking, we were trundled up in autos and at each stop, everybody saw a Yellowlegs, who usually turned out to be something else.
I know the feeling.
I was surprised to see avocets at the Drying beds, but it was a pleasant surprise. The Ruddy Duck is at the top. Note the long-beaked bird at the bottom left:
According to my treasured Lone Pine Birds of Texas, "While in Texas, the well-camouflaged Wilson's Snipe is shy and secretive, often remaining concealed in vegetation. Only when an intruder approaches too closely, does the snipe flush from cover, performing a series of aerial zigzags — an evasive maneuver designed to confuse predators. Hunters skilled enough to shoot a snipe came to be known as "snipers," a term later adopted by the military."
Turkey Vultures have a great sense of smell, so Black Vultures, who though smarter, do not, follow TVs around to find dead things to eat.
I love watching and photographing Scissor-tails, and right about now, this late in the season, I love seeing them again.
I looked it up, and surprise, surprise! It may actually be a Loggerhead Shrike, whose numbers Kala King tells me, are decreasing. Last Loggerhead we saw was at Galveston Island State Park, I think. The bird down on the wire is another European Starling.
See also my other, most recent visit to the Fort Worth Drying Beds in Alrington, Texas.
Erin Smith saw it first and pointed it out to me out in Sunset Bay, just left and under what I sometimes call the Y Log [on the right below]. I just photographed it with a longer lens and a tripod (because my hands often shake).
Betsy, who is administrator of Bird Chat, Dallas Audubon's free online bird forum, confirms it is a Brown Pelican, and that
"The plumage colors and the non-yellow bill, plus the fact that it's so much smaller than the American White Pelican in the second photo [just below] confirms that Id. Congratulations — excellent find for White Rock Lake, which has no reports of a Brown Pelican in eBird. There have been a few reports of a Brown Pelican at other area lakes in the past (see the eBird map), but they're quite rare."
I have seen many Brown Pelicans on the Texas Coast, but they usually look brown. This one threw me, because it looks more gray than anything. I thought maybe it was leucistic (having whitish fur, plumage, or skin due to a lack of pigment). I posted this and some others of these photograph on Dallas Audubon's very often informative Bird Chat.
Including this photo that shows just how small the new Brown Pelican is compared to our usual American White Pelicans [at lower right]. Note that the newbie is engaging in a lower mandible inversion.
American White Pelicans tend to invert their lower mandibles on their chests, but apparently — I've seen pelicans do it beside the ferrys going across the bay in Galveston, but I had not sucessfully photographed one doing this routine — Brown Pelicans invert over their necks). Just below the Brown Pelican photos and a late-season Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in today's journal entry is a full set of a much-closer and more colorful Ameican White Pelican doing the inversion routine.
But a normal continuance of the tilt and stretch.
When pelicans fish, they like to keep a loose lower mandible (either of the upper and lower parts of a bird's beak). Also called its gular, but that word comes from gula, meaning "throat," which I don't think this quite is. I was surprised that this photo shows this bird's bright orange (when stretched, at least) lower mandible.
As usual, I didn't catch our first Brown Pelican hopping up to speed, but I got it as it flew low past the next pelican log on the left (west) of where it had been standing. Then smaller and smaller till it pased the trees on Winfrey Point and was gone.
On the line behind The Winfrey Building but probably available in many of the places we've seen scissortails earlier spring.
There's not really just one prescribed procedure American White Pelicans use to stretch their lower mandible (a.k.a. gular).
While it's common to invert the upper, fleshy throat, this one is a little extreme.
Extreme enough to call attention to what I've heard some people call a tongue and others a drain.
During what I call a woggle, a pelican shakes up and down the lower mandible that makes a sound that sorta sounds like "woggle-woggle."
This one must have felt that it's lower mandible needed a little extra woggle.
And another stretch up.
More Pelicans Up Close
Photographed & Posted October 26
Erin was talking about Pelicans bowing in some circumstances to a pelican wanting to get up on a log next to them while we were photographing the pelicans from the pier at Sunset Bay this early afternoon. Unfortunately, I do not remember the circumstances for such a bow, nor what would happen next. But I was on the alert for a bow, which I could not remember having seen before, so naturally, a few minutes later:
I saw a pelican wanting to get up on the log with others, and the third pelican from the left is obviously bowing here. And it continued the extended bow through the next shot, which looks a lot like, but not quite as good, as this one. Now I'm wondering whether the bird with its beak in the air is responding to the bow.
She didn't mention the possibility of another pelican next to the bowing pelican grabbing the bowing pelican by the head with its beak.
Yes, this is the same pelican who was bowing. Now it's flapping its wings.
Yesterday [below], all my shots were taken with my 300mm lens without the usual 1.7X Telextender. Today, I put it back on, yielding a focal length of 500mm. So, we were close, and that extension made the birds appear even closer.
And I liked taking advantage of the closeness and all that magnification. And I didn't mind cropping off parts of the birds to get into the details more than usual.
I just love having pelicans close and using a slightly longer telephoto to get more detail.
I was struck by the detail of the middle pelican's pouch hanging at such an angle when I made this photograph. Then, when I got the photo up on the screen, I noticed all the out-of-focus beak action in the background, and it all just seemed to flow purposely. Took me awhile to figure it out, but I'm usually so careful to allow lots of space around the birds in photographs, that these shots look abrupt and unserene.
I liked the differences between them and my usual cool, calm and collectedness, but I'm really curious why the bird bowed to that other bird that swam away and did not attempt to mount the log [above]. And why did the pelican next to the one that bowed, bit its head?
Finally Found My First Pelican Fishing Party of the Season,
And a Little Landing Action Back in Sunset Bay
Photographed & Posted October 24
Of course, there's probably a bunch of cormorants not visible, because they are diving under the pelicans and catching fish — or attempting to — down there.
They kept coming in in ones and five and threes. It was the first fishing party I've seen our 2016 pelican newbies participate in. It's possible, but not particularly likely that this bunch had not participated in a White Rock Lake Fishing Party previous to this one, because though they were hungry, and though they had probably individually participated in group fish chases before , these guys did not seem particularly ept at doing it.
Whereas, the dozen or so pelicans I watched fishing under the Mockingbird Auto Bridge last week, did seem significantly more organized. But even then, they were too much in the dark, for me to have seen individual fish, although I saw a lot of dunking and tilting back afterwards.
I didn't see any of the synchronized swimming, dipping or leaning back and swallowing fish I usually see in large fishing, what I usually call "armadas." In fact, through very careful inspection of all 186 of today's photographs, I still didn't see a single fish in evidence. Not to say there weren't any, just that I didn't see any, and I usually do. Nor did I see full lower mandibles.
I stayed over there at least forty minutes, and more pelicans kept joining the event.
Watching pelicans fly and land is one of my great annual thrills. After awhile, it does get a little tedious, but we're not there yet. This is still great fun and exciting.
And some serious landings right in front of us.
I do so love to watch them landing on water.
Skidding seems to be the preferred landing technique, although I have, some few times seen them just land on land by putting down their feet, and there they were.
Gradually, eventually, maybe a dozen pelicans flew back, but I only stayed a little while this time. Their flying and landings were nowhere near as spectacular as I would have liked, but it was a pleasant beginning …
American White Pelicans don't always fly or land with their wings fully extended — unless they need that additional bit of control, in which case, they extend their primaries.
Same pelican, looking up instead of straight-on.
Note how short its wings appear, compared with the pelican above.
Probably not the same bird as the next one up or down this page, but it is inches away from a water touch-down.
I've been talking to people who have come to see the pelicans a lot lately. Probably I should be paying more attention to my exposure, but I love talking with other people who love birds.
Lately, they've been standing on the sand bar that's pretty close to the pier at Sunset Bay, so I haven't been using my usual 1.7X telextender, just my 300mm lens. When the pelicans stand on those submerged sandbars, only their feet — and sometimes their tails — are underwater.
I'm never sure exactly why they flap their wings in place. I stretch my arms sometimes, and I'm not so sure why I do that, either. But it feels good.
A pelican splash bath gets a lot of water on on their wing feathers.
Often, after a splash bath, pelicans will swim around with their wet wings raised up over their body, so they will dry. It's difficult to fly with wet wings, so after a thorough bath, it's important that pelicans get their wings dry. And this is how they do it. It probably also helps to flap their wings. Flap then showboat, and their wings are dry within a few minutes. And they really look great doing it.
Sibley says they have 108-inch wingspans, which is huge — 12 feet. Only California Condors have longer wingspans in the U.S. of A.
Gradually, one after another, with no big rush, drifted out to join the pelicans out at the outer logs, where some of them hopped to flying speed and took off. I managed to miss most of that action, though it was really heartening to know they were doing it. We bird photogs have been waiting a while for that kind of action. I suspect, as it gets colder, we'll see more and more of it.Any chance they get to annoy each other, they will take it. Never quite sure what starts these little fracases, but they happen often, then are over in seconds sometimes. I think this one got started, because both birds were stretching their wings in too close proximity to quite allow. So the beaking began. Unfortunately, this time, they did it behind the one on the right's wing.
Pelicans at Night from the Mockingbird Walking Bridge
Photographed October 20 & posted mid-day October 21
Through the masts of the boats in the Corinthian boat club and just on the top of the water line are little white specs of American White Pelicans on what we call "the logs" around the outer parts of Sunset Bay. I know I didn't see them when I photographed this scene pretty far away from the Mock Walk, what I've been calling The Mockingbird Walking Bridge (some years back we called it "The Singing Bridge," but the City pulled off the board along both sides that vibrated loudly when any kind of wind blew through it.
This was earlier, when there was still light in the sky and on the landscape. As it got darker, I increased the iso for that photo in its caption, from 800 to 12,800 and eventually, all the way up to Hi3 (iso 102,400). For today's journal entry, I only note the numerical iso when it changes. In bright sunlight, I usually keep it in Auto mode that yields iso 200 – 800.
There was already one pelican fishing alone around what has been called for at least the ten or so years I've been doing The Amateur Birder's Journal, "Pelican Island." People tell me that's where our annual autumn influx of American white Pelicans used to stay. But over the years, that island has diminished in size till now it's just a semi-floating bunch of weeds and reeds. But I remember — well before I started this birder's journal wondering how I could get myself onto that island, back when it still had substance.
I had seen American White Pelicans — like this one swimming just under the Mock Walk bridge Anna and I were standing on — swimming and flying away from the logs in Sunset Bay the other night [below], and I wanted to know where they went and what they did. This series of photographs partially answers some of those questions, but but these comprised only a few of the pelicans I saw swimming and flying out of Sunset Bay that night, so I'm still curious.
There was at least one pelican already fishing around Pelican Island under the Mockingbird Car Bridge, but I never managed to photograph it well. This could be it.
The lights between the sailboats on the right are people and cars. The four specks of dark in the sky are large-ish birds.
Most of the fewer than a dozen pelicans who arrived at the Mock Walk Thursday night, swam. I followed and photographed them until neither I nor my camera could even see them to focus. I had sugarplum dreams of photographing great hoards of American White Pelicans flying over the Mock Walk and continuing north to places unknown. But there never was much flying in the areas near the Mock Bridges Thursday night.
Guess I'll have to post myself in Cormorant Bay to see what all these guys — and probably more — do when the sun is gone.
At one of those small parking lots. With one heron (egret, probably) on a short log with two small somethings. Later, I drove down West Lawther, and the first little parking lot down from Mockingbird — this one — offered a clear view of the middle of the Mock Walk Bridge. There isn't a parking lot near Cormorant Bay, so this is not that.
Looking south toward the mass of the lake — as the sky and lake got darker. These look brighter than they were. I didn't even see the ducks. I kept upping my iso to keep up with the falling light.
It's got its lower mandible stretched, so there's likely some water in there and possibly even a fish or two.
One's caught something that sticks out slightly at the bottom of its stretched-out pouch. Maybe.
When you see pelicans this close begin to blur even using a tripod and an astronomical numbered iso, you know it's dark. Thank the Universe, they are bright white and close. I could see them, but not nearly as bright as they show here.
The dog park had no dogs by this time, but there were several colors of light reflecting in the water, and sometimes I and my camera, both, could see the birds swimming and dipping and catching fish. But, again, they were actually darker than this.
Those columns ghosting on the right are helping hold up the Mockingbird Ave. Car Bridge.
The trash is really ugly under there. I suspect it comes from humans. I don't think I've ever seen a bird littering.
These are a little closer to the bridge I'm standing on here, so this area is this side of the Mockingbird Car Bridge, and the Dog Park is a few yards off to the left. There appears to be a concrete ring around the dog park swimming area, so the dogs don't go after the birds. A great idea that's been added since last time I was there. I'm a cat person.
Those columns again. And only three or four pelicans still in the fishing party. Heading up toward NW Hwy.
Pelicans Far Up and Pelicans & Close In
— photographed & posted October 19
I guess sooner or later it had to happen. I visit White Rock Lake at least once every day. Sometimes twice or thrice. Often, it's okay if I don't see any birds worth photographing just then. Sometimes I just need the peace of looking at a large body of water all calm and surrounded with green. It soothes my soul. But boy! it was a joyous surprise this afternoon when I was looking for something, anything to photograph, and I noticed this bird about a quarter of the way up into the sky over western Sunset Bay.
Yee-haw! Clickety click.
Yeah, I know there's only one pelican in this photograph. But he had a bunch of friends up there with him. Sometimes a 500mm lens is just too much. But great for showing little details.
But none of my usual dictionaries explained kettling in the context of birds, but eventually, I found that my pal Wikipedia did:
"A kettle is a term that birders use to describe a group of birds wheeling and circling in the air. The kettle may be composed of several different species at the same time. Nature photographer M. Timothy O'Keefe theorizes that the word derives from the appearance of birds circling tightly in a thermal updraft "like something boiling in a cauldron."
Ornithologist Donald Heintzelman has done more than anyone to popularize the term kettle, using the term at least as early as 1970 in his book Hawks of New Jersey to describe raptor flight, followed by uses in print over four decades. The related terms "caldron" and "boil" are also heard to describe the same sorts of raptor behavior. Osprey-watcher David Gessner, however, claims a Pennsylvania lowland called the Kettle ("der Kessel" in Pennsylvania Dutch), near Hawk Mountain, is the source of the term.
In some species — e.g., the terns of Nantucket — kettling behavior is evidently a way of "staging" a flock in readiness for migration. Pre-migrational turkey vultures kettle by the hundreds in the thermals that rise over Vancouver Island before they venture across the Strait of Juan de Fuca toward Washington State. At Hawk Mountain, broad-winged hawks form kettles in September before flying south. Kettling apparently serves as a form of avian communication — an announcement of imminent departure — as well as a way of gaining altitude and conserving strength."
When I got to the pier at Sunset Bay today at about noon-forty, I saw a cloud of about 65 pelicans close in. They were standing on the sandbar just in front of the pier, so they were marvelously close-enough for photographing with detail. Gradually, as I and one other photographer kept clicking pix, many of them moved back to the outer logs again, but while they were there, they did many pelican actions — preening, splash-bathing, stretching various parts, etc. — so it was grande fun photographing them that close again.
This pelican's grayish head may be explained in the journal entry just below. If you're going to have a long beak, it's handy to also have a long neck, so you can preen the top of your breast.
Primaries are discussed a little more in yesterday's bird journal entry. Essentially, they're darker and harder, so they can make pelicans fly in the elegant way they do.
There are several ways to accomplish this stretch. This is one of the more extreme examples of a lower mandible inversion. Sorry I couldn't manage to get the mandible owner's head, which is behind and below the out of focus pelican, but I take mandible inversions when I can, especially with this much detail, because it was so close.
They stretch those things to keep them malleable, so they can scoop and hold fish in them, slosh out the water through a special tube, then swallow. It's important for pelicans to have especially pliable lower mandibles.
These are not in chronological order exactly, but they do show the usual step-by-step progression of a single pelican stretching. Although there are many variations and exceptions.
Some Real, Some Art, Some Goofy …
birds photographed the last week; posted October 17
A bird's Flight feathers are those along the trailing edges of its wings in flight. What pushes them through the air comprises primaries and secondaries. Primaries are on the outside; secondaries on the inside. American White Pelicans have the second largest average wingspans of any North American bird, after the California Condor.
As Wikipedia says on their American white pelican (tonight, at least), "The plumage is almost entirely bright white, except the black primary and secondary remiges [flight feathers], which are hardly visible except in flight." Or if the bird has been preening them and is tired of stretching that way, but needs to do preen them more when it rests those parts. Which probably explains this comparatively rare sight.
The texts I often consulted before used to talk about how stiff those black feathers are and what they were made of, but none of tonight's references say anything that substance. Wikipedia's paragraph continues: "From early spring until after breeding has finished in mid-late summer, the breast feathers have a yellowish hue. After moulting into the eclipse plumage, the upper head often has a grey hue, as blackish feathers grow between the small wispy white crest"
This corner seems to celebrate odd occasions with odd objects. Today, we have a metal rooster and other odd birds:
I've seen this species before, but it's been awhile. They usually inhabit American Cartoons of the 40-70s. They may be extinct, except individuals keep popping up.
One the East Side of Abrams somewhat north of Mockingbird Road.
Anna G and I were standing on the pier at Sunset Bay talking about all the Monarch Butterflies we'd been seeing lately, when I remembered that Eric had seen numbers of them on that flowering plant right over there, and we found these. This is my best shot of at least two dozen attempts.
Way sharper and in focus and closer than I've been able to capture a real one lately. [below]
The sign in the foreground that I don't remember seeing when I lined up this photograph, says "No Thanks; We Already Ate," and I know it was placed right there, because that's where Charles feeds the ducks, gooses and whoever else shows up a couple times a day the best food a wild bird or not-so-wile goose could ever get.
Unfortunately, the sign is not a joke. It's just stupid. And it is entirely worthless, because it has never, in the years it's been suck there — before that, it was stuck at the land end of the pier — stopped any person who feeds white bread or sugar cookies or other bizarre notions of bird food to the birds there.
The chances of me identifying either of the two hawks that flew me over the other day were nearly nill, except today the postman left me a soft package of a new copy of The Crossley ID Guide Raptors.
Which helped significantly, although I knew the odds were that this was either a Red-tailed Hawk — America's and these very neighborhood's most common hawks. Or Red-shouldered Hawks, who were hatched and raised in this very neighborhood.
The next bird to fly over me standing on Sunset Beach looked different. I looked at the pix in my new book and quickly identified this as a Red-shouldered Hawk. And by then I'd opened up the aperture a bit, so we can see the colors of its dark underside.
We Dare The Spillway, then Explored the Fitchery &
Then I altered a Google Map to show where all this stuff is.
photographed & posted Thursday October 13 & 14
Anna P and I have been wanting to visit what she calls "The Fitchery" — The Old Fish Hatchery Area, but I thought it was way too dark in there early, and I worried we wouldn't see many birds. So we put that visit off while we checked out the birds along the Spillway, then hoped it'd be brighter when we went into The Fitchery.
Near the bottom middle of this photo is a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron. On the lower level of the Upper Spillway are four Adult Canada Geese. Beyond, are ducks, coots and peeps.
Stuff doesn't just magically appear on the Spillway's Lower Steps, they tumble down there with the humongous force of gravity- and storm-driven hydraulics. Amazing things get washed down that sluice sometimes.
Glad I got the Canada Geese on the ledge atop today's journal entry, though it was hard to miss them flying by from there to somewhere. I assume they'll be visiting Sunset Beach this evening for corn grain handouts and piles from Charles Fussell.
I love photographs of the sploosh at full tilt a splashin'. What I was most intrigued by here were the two Snowy Egrets in face-off mode. Well, other than the Sploosh over the dam.
Lovely blue skies. Cool day.
Look like terns to me. The usual varieties I've photographed at White Rock Lake previously are Common, Least, Forster's, so it's likely one of those. Or something entirely else.
The back of their wings proves they're all one species, and should help significantly in determining what species these peeps are. And though I haven't managed yet, there's always the possibility …
Whenever you can see the top of a bird's head in a photo, you can guess the shot was taken from somewhere above. I was up along the black, wrought-iron fence along the Spillway, and this example of my favorite species was looking down into the water for food near the bottom where the water is.
Usually cormorants stay pretty far out on Sunset Bay. But here, at the pool above and between The Lower Steps and the Winstead Parking Lot, they were comparatively close, well-fed and so very handsome.
Or at least that's what we took it to be when I rested briefly at the first park bench straight inside The Fitchery. I guess it could also be a long-nosed guy running with bags of groceries, but my first gawk said owl, and I'm sticking with it. Graffiti inside City Parks usually seems low-down, but while I thought of it as an owl, I liked it. Not so sure now.
No idea, as usual, what this is.
We actually did see a couple birds in that thick woods platted with narrow pathways, the main ones of which are always, eventually blocked by felled trees (to keep the turkeys who insist upon racing bicycles through there and thereby destroying paths and earth) where we have to step over a tree trunk. I used to think it'd be fairly easy to remove those trees, but then the dirt-bike destroyers would have their way with the paths, making them difficult for us normals.
"Not good for the trees," Anna pointed out as we passed this, "but beautiful." Click. And we saw nearly no birds. We did see a high-pitched and thoroughly pissed-off Great Blue Heron almost directly above us over the path and behind leaves where we hadn't noticed it at all, suddenly take off and croak what we took to be caustic remarks aimed at us. And some crows. Anna wanted Fish Crows, but we only got the regular kind.My New Map (on Google's) of The Fitchery & The Spillway
Till today I never thought of actually using a map to show you where the Fitchery and the Spillway are, but I agree, it may be the only intelligent way to get this info across. But I blotched out store names and some other stuff I didn't want to see off to the bottom left and was sorely tempted to blotch out the fancy houses at lower right.
Under "Middle Spillway," what Google calls White Rock Creek is the dark blue area under the title. And that part of that White Rock Creek (There are many quite different White Rock Creeks in Dallas), seriously comingles with water coming down off the dam after rains. But essentially, this map is more accurate now. I might diddle with it more, but it will probably end up on the bottom of my very popular, Bird-Annotated Map of White Rock Lake page.
Not doing Every Day Anymore, But Today, I Went Twice
photographed & posted Wednesday October 12
First time I visited Sunset Bay today it was earlier and a lot brighter. I may show you some of those shots later. Or I may not. I'm not sure yet. Second visit just at Sunset. I wanted to photograph the Pelicans going off wherever they go at night. And now that I kinda know at least one major direction that is, I hope to head them off at the pass later this week. Photographically, only. I'm no rope wrangler or shoot-em-up.
ISO 2200 like most of the evening's shooting until is got pretty dark, and by then I went whole hog to letters Nikon uses after it uses up all the numbers. We can tell what these birds are, but just barely. It helps a lot that the adult has bent-down beaks and black wing tips. Enough, I figure.
What we have here is a willingness to fail miserably. J R experimenting in the near-dark. I realize it doesn't look dark, but that's because I greatly overexposed them, so they'd show white. But I was hoping they wouldn't look like they each had two beaks. Still, it's a much better-looking shot than the one before it.
And this is two adult White Ibises and one Juvenile White Ibis landing among pelicans and egrets. I was just guessing at pretty much everything. But we can see and tell. I wish there'd been tone where here only white is. Which is to say, I seriously overexposed the water. But what I really like is the wing in the pelican's face on the left and the adult Ibis flying in from the right. What I really don't like is that dark log at the top left-ish with the egrets on top it.
All these shots were shot using my tripod. Sometimes I got the right exposure (as above). But often I was just guessing:
More willingness to fail, but I like the fluffiness of of this egret's wings.
This is the brightest of the Pelicans Flying Away series, but I got bored with the gray background.
So I managed to get this one darker and more colorful, but still give us an adequate notion of what they look like flying that-a-way.
From iso 6400 my camera goes to iso 9000; 12800; Hi 0.5; Hi 1 and Hi2, which this is.
There's 107 Pelicans in Sunset Bay Today, But None of These Pix Are Of Them
photographed & posted Tuesday October 11
I heard its high-pitched rattling from the other side of the bay from Sunset Beach while I was standing — as usual — with my cam on a sturdy tripod on The sometimes-shaky Pier at Sunset Bay. I didn't manage to catch focus up with it till it was right in front of the mass of trees in the so-called "Hidden Creeks Area" across the lagoon.
I don't think I've ever got so much detail from this bird's full wingspan from the back before. These are all 100% crops from my full-frame Nikon [as shown below]. Enlarging more than 100% usually nets visual noise and distortion, and this image is plenty big enough for this page.
I included the 'hole' in the tree that lets in the sky from the other side, so when I show you the full-frame image, you (and I) can find where the Kingfisher perched in the complex maze of limbs and leaves over there.
I really couldn't tell from my view through the viewfinder, but thanks to the tripod, I could see where it was as I kept clicking. Female Belted Kingfishers are more colorful with two belts showing in front. Upper is kinda a rusty blue, and the lower belt fully rust-colored. Juveniles show rusty protrusions from the upper and lower areas of the wing, kinda like this. But Davild Allen Sibley shows that Juvenile Kingfishers do not show a shaggy crest like this one, supposedly making it an adult. Sibley dates juveniles as (May through September) but I'm not sure anybody has counted in Global Warming yet, so I've called this a definite female, a male, and probably a juvenile, and I just didn't know.
Then I found a very similar photo in The Crossley ID Guide — Eastern Birds, calling this Kingfisher with a ragged crest (that Sibley's Guide says is the sign that it is an Adult) a juvenile female, so I'm going with that (Though I'm still not convinced), because this one's lower belt does not go all the way across her belly (yet, maybe). The Crossley Guide uses photographs, and usually shows more varieties and details. At first I worried it wasn't right for Texas, because we think we're in The West, but it has been invaluable.
Today was not the first time this season I've captured a Belted Kingfisher, but at least this time, we can see its front from a couple of these views, which should help us identify it. Ha!. That other time was on top of last month's journal.
This image is several times larger than my view of it through my 500mm lens. I kept using the hole above it, which is included near the top of this circle, to show you what it looked like to me, and why I kept having so much difficultly finding it shot to shot, even if my tripod held the cam and lens still. The Kingfisher is about two-fifths up from the bottom of the circle.
I cropped off the top of the sky in this shot, but the bird and focus point was in the exact center of the full composition.
I'm pretty sure I've photographed this bird and showed it here before. Always nice to see it again.
I often practice photographing birds in flight with ducks, since they are so often present and flying into and out of Sunset Bay.
Swimming near the Pier at Sunset Bay.
My first-of-season (FOS) American Kestrel. Pretty little bird in he same place I kept photographing the Red-shouldered Hawk last month. He's much smaller than the hawk. Only 9 inches, compared with the Red-shouldered's 17-inch length.
Probably the most ubiquitous bird at the lake, although Red-winged Blackbirds would probably give them a run for the money.
Unclear On The Concept: Inexperienced Pelicans Make a Stab at Cooperative Fishing
photographed Friday & posted Sunday October 9
It's a beautiful, amazing, serene sight to see pelicans carefully lining up to do some cooperative fishing. These pelicans, however, are unclear on the concept, and they are not getting many fish and they are not cooperating.
When it does work, all the pelicans in the fishing party cooperate. All together, the drive the fish into the shallows, then all together, they all dip their heads and beaks into the water at the same time, and they travel in the same direction.
Cooperative Fishing works for American White Pelicans when they all work together, swim in the same direction, and drive the fish closer and closer together, not farther apart.
We're all happy that the one pelican on the far left has found a chunk of wood, but what we were hoping for was fish. What the pelicans were hoping for was fish.
These birds are probably hungry, and sometimes, when they are not catching fish, hungry pelicans get irate.
It'll take some time for the flock elders to show these upstarts how it is done. How as few as a half dozen to as many as fifty or sixty American White Pelicans can round up and drive fish into the shallows so every one can partake. But these guys are, as I keep noting, unclear on the concept. But they will learn by fishing with smarter, more experienced pelicans.
Sooner or later, all 70 (now) or so pelicans in Sunset Bay will learn how to do this neat trick. But they'll have to work together to accomplish it.
And they will. And it will be amazing to watch and grande fun to photograph. And I will.
Cormorants & Pelicans & Logs, Patches of Sunset, Panicked Pelicans & Other Adventures
photographed Thursday & Friday & posted very early Saturday October 8
I was sorta surprised how well the cormorants (Double-crested) and the pelicans (American White) were getting along out of on the logs. The light faced and necked and breasted cormorants are juvenile. It's harder to tell juvenile pelicans, especially from a distance. But the light was lovely, and the color perfect.
In general, however, pelicans hardly even notice cormorants. And cormorants seem like they don't notice pelicans are around.
I've seen coots (American) and ducks (mostly Mallards) and herons (all) do this. It may be universal among birds who have wings and necks. But pelicans have wingspans of nine feet.
Great Egret wingspans are only about four feet.
As often, today's bird journal is presented in pretty strict chronological order.
This inaction is over on the right side of the Bay facing out from the Pier At Sunset Bay
It really was just a smallish portion of the lake toward the west that sparkled gold like this, but it was beautiful, and I could plainly see why a photographer might want it in their pictures. I wanted it in mine. There was a commercial photographer on the pier at when I returned this evening who was just standing there with the couple she was going to photograph waiting for her posing suggestions a little further toward the lake down the entrance to the pier. I'd already seen a couple people go out on the entry way, then come back, even though that photographer wasn't doing any photography yet, so I barged in with my opened tripod (easier to carry on my shoulders and head while my fairly heavy camera dangled from its strap on my right hip).
"Out of my way!" I said, and she moved to the side immediately, complaining that "These people were paying a lot of money for these photographs," so we should stay out of her way. Which cut no ice with me. The pier and the park are public places, and people with cameras, don't automatically get the best spots. I'm pretty sure of that.
It is a public space. You take what you can get, but blocking entry to the pier is just plain wrong. Behind me came several others who had wanted to stand out on the pier and watch the sunset, by which time the wedding photographer had moved to the west end of the pier front. Which is where sunset-time wedding photogs usually settle, though she continued to complain about my rudeness.
I have spent many hours on that pier, which is my favorite place on earth — except home. I know I get to share it with anyone who comes along. It belongs to us all, and I am careful to always share. Last week there were two small kids jumping on the opposite end. Adults are usually more cooperative.
Now, what's got them agitated? Note the photographer in the next pic down. She's not noticing anything …
… but whatever she's photographing, but the birds closest to her don't seem concerned.
It's getting later (6:32 p.m.) and a tad darker, but this pelican still needs to stretch foot, leg and wing, while carefully counterbalancing all that mass.
Juxtaposing the pelicans onto the small area of bright orange water out there with the sun's reflection was a challenge, but a worthwhile one.
Except in the sky where it stayed the longest.
When all the pelicans stand up and face the direction of their probable escape, pelicans are likely doing some contingency planning in that direction. They're not stupid, they are careful — unless they're busy sleeping.
I wasn't aware at the moments of their freak-out what was causing it. I was glued-in to where the action was. And capturing American White Pelicans in Freak-Out City just then was highest on my list.
For what seemed like forever, I wasn't even thinking about what caused the ruckus. But I'd carefully set the camera up for mostly still subjects whose colors I wanted to show vividly, not capturing fast action like this. So some of these pix are a tad on the blurry side.
Eventually, I noticed, then I set the shutter speed faster and spent enough time to get much better focus.
But there was still lots of freak-out action.
And though some pelicans (like the one flying just behind another pelican at the far left of this photo) were still freaked out and getting out of there fast as they could, others were settling into the water to let the offender and his dog paddle by.
Eventually, it was almost as if nothing had happened, except many of the pelicans had to gently swim back to where they were before the paddler in red, with his faithful pooch, nonchalantly paddled out of the area.
It was just standing there with its wings going up and down, back and forth, on and on and on. This is the best one out of about a dozen shots.
And tranquility settled over everything.
While the sunset darkened more and more into the sky.
Common Green Darners Courting, Blue-ring Dancers having sex,
and a Wolf Spider with Egg Sac by Kala King, all posted October 6
Kala King told me, "With the dragonflies, they are in the position called tandem linkage. Not actual sex yet. He attaches to her, right behind her head, and they fly around for awhile like that before the actual mating. When actually having sex, they are attached in two places."
To show the differences, this is a photo of two damselflies having sex. More info about it.
Then Kala asked me, "Wanna see a couple of cool spider shots? I got a new species Saturday at John Bunker Sands Wetland Center. A new type of wolf spider with an egg sack she is hiding under her body. She is Hogna antelucana.
When I told Kala that this shot was amazing, she replied, "Thanks, it was great getting a new species and a great shot at the same time. I used bugguide.net to get it identified. They answered my question about the red dot on it. It is part of its anatomy and is called a boss. I also found this article that mentioned the boss." When I told Kala "Wow! You're really getting good at the insects and spiders, I'm impressed," she replied, "Lol, always been into bugs, as a 10-year-old, I used to throw Daddy Long Legs (Pholcus phalangioides) on my boy cousins to scare them. "
Yes! I love to publish good photographs of nature by other photographers in Texas. Send small versions of them to my email on my Contact page. If I like it/them, I'll ask for full-frame, full-resolution images straight out of your camera that you have not edited, so I can prepare them for this page. I don't make any money on The Amateur Birders' Journal, so I can't pay, but I will label your pix the same as I label mine, as in the image above by Kala King..
All except this first pelican by Kelly Murphy were shot
by me October 5th & all were posted that night.
First, I wanna show you this really great shot by Kelly Murphy, one of the bird photographers I sometimes see at Sunset Bay and other places. She lives over there somewhere close, and walks her dog in the park, so she often sees birds that elude the rest of us, and she's happy to tell us what's going on. I'm pretty sure I've posted others of her bird pix here, but this is the best one yet. She's really getting to be a good bird photographer. And I just love that single-feather wing extension on the left — and, of course, all that water splashing in bright sunlight.
These were shot under cloudy skies earlier this morning before I took The Slider in to Get Inspected. Brighter light woulda helped. That rusted metal object on the right probably came down the whole Spillway from up over the dam, to rest there for awhile.
I just love all those subtle shades of white when I get the exposure just right. Even if we can't see much else.
Juvie BCNHs tend to wait for fishes much longer than almost anybody else. Eventually they learn the ropes, but by then they usually look a lot different.
By their fluffy white breasts I think I know the top two as juveniles. By my Lone Pine Birds of Texas, I know them as First-year Juvenile Double-crested Cormorants, and the one on the left is a particularly handsome example of that. The ducks at the bottom are a female, male and female Mallard.
I assumed the bird at the bottom [above] was a Spotted Sandpiper but it was not. It was a a Least Sandpiper, and Kala did tell me I was wrong for originally calling it a Spotted Sandpiper.
Sure enough, and within a few short hours, Kala King tells me, "Least sandpipers have dark bills and spotted have lighter, more yellow bills. I believe all the birds in your photo [above] are Leasts.
Least Sandpipers are 5 – 6.5 inches long with Wingspans of 13 inches. So just slightly smaller than Spotteds:
It sure would be nice to get one right, for a change. But I only got one of these two right. Kala adds: "Your next photo, with the one bird, is a spotted. It has those wavy lines on its wings, whereas the leasts markings look more marbled. The line behind the spotted eye is dark and the line behind the leasts is lighter."
Spotted Sandpipers are 7 – 8 inches long with wingspans of 15 inches. Small.
I still remember the years I couldn't tell that a grackle was a grackle.
I've shown pix of various other species lined-up along the top of the dam, why not the Mallards, too? They are present more often, I think, than any other bird. It's their turn.
Down to this shot, today's entry — after Kelly's great bath scene — is purely geographically arranged from the Lower Spillway, through the Middle Spillway, and on up to the dam. Below, I go back down to The Lower Steps.
Kinda boring shot of the GE, but very nice of the juvie BCNH in the Middle Spillway.
At Last! Pelicans in Serious Flight
shot & posted October 4th.
Ungainly a take-off, but a serious lift-up — significantly longer than the last pelican flight photo I posted below. The two very close on the left went all the way across the lake. I lost track of the third one, still in the water here.
The front two still flying very close.
Although the front two spread out significantly, then got closer, I lost track of the third one, closer in this photo.
The lower one is closer than the upper one, but both are well across the lake.
I was guessing about here, and I was even more convinced that they were just out there to see what was out there. Probably looking in the water for fish and maybe somewhere better to hang out. Other pelicans flew farther north and came back later. I counted fifty-something pelicans left after the several exploratory pairs flew off, so there's probably still sixty-something pelicans in Sunset Bay.
I'm not at all sure how close they two pelicans are to building 8750 on, I assume Central Expressway. There's no reflection of them in the glass, so maybe not nearly as close to the building as they seem. There were several more pix of them flying there and back, but these are the best of the bunch. On the ground on the far side is what I call Green Heron Park noted in my bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake.
The second pelican from the left is stretching its lower mandible, because it wants to keep it malleable, so it can drag it through the water to net fish or chunks of wood they want to investigate or plastic cups [below]. I watched the fisherman very closely, and at no time did he get too close to the birds out there. If he had, I'd probably show my much more detailed photos of the guy in the boat. Unlike many others, he was very well-behaved around all those pelicans.
Just because a pelican is flapping its wings, doesn't necessarily mean that bird is about to fly away. Pelicans and other birds like to keep their wings eminently mobile, so they often stretch them by flapping. If you watch birds carefully, you can probably tell when they are ready to fly, but we're often wrong about that.
Sunset in Sunset Bay with Pelicans,
Gooses & Ducks shot late October 3 &
Posted very early October 4.
… with egrets, coots and pelicans and nearly no clouds.
I was shooting with my little Panasonic tonight with its 24–70mm equivalent lens on a micro fourthirds sensor instead of my huge, 300mm Nikon telephoto.
Doesn't take much to scatter the various flocks who participate in eating corn grain put down by Charles Fussell. Any dog besides Roy barking (by now everybody expects Roy to bark at any dog walking by), or any sudden sound or movement. They do this fly-up-and-scatter 4-7 times each evening. Maybe more.
Very unusual for me to get a coot eye visible and sharp, plus render its bright white beak with tonality.
With only the water in sharp focus. Oh, well …
Pelican Flying in Sunset Bay — But Not Far
Photographs shot & posted October 2nd
All us Sunset Bay bird photographers have been hoping and hoping for flight pictures of the now 51 American White Pelicans, and today I hoped and hoped, then finally saw one pelican take-off.
The only problem was that the pelican in question only flew a few dozen feet …
… before it landed. But flight is flight, and I was very happy to have seen one go that far. Many of the others are still tired from flying all the way from B.C. Canada, SE Idaho, Utah or Minnesota, so I'm hoping to catch much longer flights soon.
Another pelican came in close to Sunset Bay while I waited, and I got this frame-filling shot of it and its reflection in the very shallow water in front of the pier.
Probably the same bird as above, only a little farther out. Nice to get to photograph them up close and pelicano. Love all that detail.
Then that pelican and another one who'd come over from the swarm of them out on the logs, swam over near where the Great Blue Heron and ducks usually park themselves, and they found a bright red drink cup, which this one was careful to keep away from the other pelican. I've played that same game in grade school, and unless you're the one that cannot ever get what's being kept from you, it's a fun game.
The two species are very close. They may even both be sliders. I just don't remember. But without that red "ear" back behind its bulging eyes, this cannot be a Red-eared Slider.
The Great Egret was out in the shallow water off Sunset Beach, while the Snowy was resting or digesting the food it had caught earlier — before I got there. I'm still hoping to catch a Snowy Dancing, but that particular joy continues to elude me.I couldn't see what because of the tree tops in my way, but it watched it carefully for about a half minute, then went back to doing not much. Its right foot is us in the feathers of its breast in resting position as it stand one-footed.
There wasn't much water in 'the swamp' area leading back to the drying beds, and the only beds with water in them were on the right front, but I couldn't see beyond the first gridded road, and I didn't walk very far into the beds. The ones I could see on the left of the road in were dry.
This is a different bunch of White Ibises. The white ones with long, down-curving orange beaks are adults, some of whom appear to be transitioning from darkish necks to lighter white ones. The dark one on the far left is probably a juvenile, but Kala King, who is usually correct about these things, believes it is "a White-faced ibis in non-breeding plumage." And the bird behind the second ibis from the right is a duck.
Back to a closer — and better focused — White Ibis family. They are, Left to Right: A juvenile, an adult whose neck isn't quite all the way white yet, another juvenile, the two spotty ones in front of the third juvenile are First Summer Ibises, even if it is autumn already. And the one on the far right is an adult.
I don't know who any of these are yet, but I will endeavor to find out or remove this picture, which I am not yet ready to do.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2016 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.