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Anna gave me this fascinating link to this lecture about bird songs and sex.
White Rock Lake in Dallas, Texas, USA
Dark day early Friday. No sleep before. I'm not a morning person, but if I stay up, it's still night, and there's no hint of sleep. Till later. Kept testing high ISOs to maybe capture these guys without all the blurs, but dark we had, and blurs aplenty.
I'm pretty sure this is a Yellow-crown. Was happy about seeing them there. Used to lots more along the far side of the lagoon, but I'll take any now. Usually there's far more Black-crowns, but I only saw one today. But then only one adult Yellow-crown, too.
I probably shot thirty times at this one, once I saw him fly into this branch. It was still very difficult to find. In light this soft and dark, everything blurs together at that distance, and each time I tried a different exposure, then came back to try to find the bird in all those trees again, it was a serious challenge.
Standing on one foot, also lost in all those trees.
Another of a very familiar cast of characters. Handsome bird with rusty red pants.
Walking low in the murky water. Waiting. Waiting.
Till it sees something, then it goes after it. Love that flaring wad of feathers on top. Crown.
Most of the time I was at the Boathouse Lagoon this morning, I could hear the chatter of Monk Parakeets far on the far side of the lagoon, up the hill toward The Hum, the electric substation. Lotta flying back and forth and a lot of chatter.
Usually I see the soft flutter of feathers first, then — if I'm very lucky — a Green Heron standing still. Another example of hiding in plain sight. My usual method of finding birds in the soft, dark fuzz (my eyes and the whole landscape today) is to scan carefully and hope something moves. This and others of these shots looks like anybody would have seen it, plain and simple. But those colors, like most heron colors blend in amazing well in the swampy lagoon.
Then when I was ready to try more shots, it jumped into flight well before my lens and camera caught up with focus.
Often, when I'm following a flying bird, I just keep shooting, hoping sooner or later, the cam & lens would catch up with focus. But not this time. More light might have helped.
Everything was lush green and relatively dark.
Here's a family I followed most of the morning, them swimming back and forth, finally close enough.
Eventually, by following carefully, and paying more than the usual attention, I saw the whole family gathered around a log. More light and I might have got them all in focus. I think the farthest left and farthest right ones were the kids.
Still itching. Still paranoid about finding bugs. Itching slows when I get busy, so I got busy this lovely, comparatively cool summer (still) day. Nice breeze, darkish. I kept thinking I should sleep-in another hour or two. Instead, I drove directly to the lake, meandered down Aroboretum Drive, back up past Barry & Becky's, then down Garland Road and around to Buckner, up Poppy, down and into Sunset Bay, where I settled for the next hour and a half finding and photographing old and new feathered friends.
I almost didn't see the green heron hurtling toward Sunset shore. I clicked several times at it and netted all but one total blurs. Especially when there's a complex background of vegetation, my Sigma 150~500mm lens (affectionately called "the rocket launcher") has trouble picking the subject I'm panning along with from the background.
Finally, on one shot, but not the next and none from before, it got dead-on focus. I felt lucky and got better at it when it landed and began looking for food.
Lucky, not just for seeing it coming like a big, soft wad of moth, low over the water, toward the shore. But for seeing one at all, this late in the season. I expect the bulk of my green heron sightings in the high temperatures of summer, July, maybe August. This being almost autumn, seemed odds-against. But I'm always pleased to see one of my little (15~22-inches long) buddies.
Lucky also, because when the Green Heron came in from 'out there,' I had all but decided I was leaving. I stayed long enough to watch it slowly merge into the lush green along the shore, go long and lean, watch some things it could see but I couldn't, and pause awhile moving its beak as if chewing — like here. I could not see what it caught, but it looked like it might be food. Of course, most of the times, it wasn't anything. This is something, but I don't know what. Maybe a dragonfly.
Earlier, I'd been careful to try photographing anything. Like this grackle on top of a telephone pole, visible from the back parking lot at Winfrey Point. I never know what I'll find later, so earlier, I'm game for any attempt. Even a grackle.
Great Egrets are the easiest birds to see at White Rock — at least until the pelicans arrive, usually around mid-October, although last year they got here mid-September. Mostly because they are biggish and brilliant white. That white part makes them difficult for many people to photograph. They either blot out white in photographs or they go gray, because light meters (in cameras) look at white and try to turn them gray.
The trick is usually to underexpose them about a full stop, so there's some detail in all that near solid white — and hope the background will help define them. Then, when they move into brighter light or darker, everything changes.
Even with my rocket launcher, I'm rarely close enough to take direct readings off the bird with Nikon D300, so like everybody else, I just guess, look at the LCD, adjust something, then guess again.
I'm almost always up for a little landing shot of whatever's close enough and interesting. Like this. Nice thing about Sunset Bay is there's usually a variety of birds around, landing, taking off, swimming, fishing or flying by. When there are any birds, at all. This early morning, there were plenty.
Great Blue Herons just standing there are comparatively easy to photograph well, except that they tend to stay at significant distance from humans, especially humans with big cameras and lenses. But this morning, for a change, I wanted something different. I had to wait, of course. Great Blue Herons just stand there most of the time. They're looking for food, not posing, and they take their time and ours doing it.
My Lone Pine Birds of Texas, calls them a "patient stand-and-wait predator" who "spears fish, snakes, amphibians, even rodents, then swallows prey whole." I suspect this one is following a fish sluicing through the shallow water, all bent-down and twisted around.
When it finally decided not to pose for me any more, it took flight. Again I and my Rocket Launcher had great difficulty focusing against all that green detail. I kept clicking away at the shutter, hoping against hope the lens and camera would eventually lock the bird into focus, and eventually, it did. I got one more sharp image of parts of it showing though the dark green trees in the background here against the sky. Exit, stage right.
There actually is a bird in this image. One I panned along with into this gorgeous autumnal scene at Dreyfuss Point. I thought it might be the Kingfisher whose stacatto screams I kept hearing across the bay. But when I blew it up — follow the line of the trunk of the tree in the middle, down to the reeds along the shore to see it and its white trailing feathers — I discovered I'd been panning just another duck.
Great Egret high atop a tree stretching its great neck to the max. After checking out food possibilities, it quickly settles back into sitting position.
J R is under the weather, or something near that. Afraid to go outside and get bit by more bugs, itching too much already.
Then I realized the beg bugs that got me in Montana aren't here — I checked very carefully — so they probably won't gang up on me again, so I should go birding. Probably need the Vitamin D.
Went, got two almost adequate photos. Both
out of focus, both boring. I'll try again in the morning.
Birth of a Hummingbird - suggested by David Donovan. Keep clicking NEXT PAGE to a total of five.
Up early this ayem for a change. Been so busy this week I could hardly turn around 'thout bumpin' into sumpin'. Anna and I were in Sunset Bay very early — before the sun was up there. Course there's all these trees... We were hoping for some Pelicanos. This is when last year, we already had some big white birds with pouches. But all we saw in the bay were a couple cormorants drying their wings and ducks and this.
We'd seen lots of big white dots on the trees in the island by the Lower Steps of The Spillway earlier, before the sun got high enough to enlighten that area (8:30 am), so this was our next step. And a fruitful one at that.
A little late in the season for a betrothal gift, but this Snowy had this bent twig, and it brought it down the trough of spillway to the lower steps.
I saw it almost land, then lost track of that Snowy and its twig. There were so many white birds in the vicinity, and one nearly invisible dark one we didn't notice till we saw it slip through the trees and fly away away.
I hadn't brought my little stool, to poke my head up above the Walking Bridge, so I could follow flying birds with my big lens, so I was lucky to catch some pieces of their flying.
I know they are birds and that egrets are known to stand in trees, but I'm always surprised to see one in one of those. This one was remarkably close and easy to focus on and photograph as we all three looked down at The Spillway proper.
And this is just a telephoto full of them, probably several times this number scattered up and down The Spillway and in the trees on the island by the Walking Bridge near the bottom of the hill across from the 7-11.
Either it or I was not nearly close enough, but when I bring my stool, we both will be, except it always frightens them for awhile when I stick my head and my big long lens up over the bridge fence.
Landing in the rushing water under the sluicing juicy steps under the Walking Bridge.
The usual suspects is who I found on my first trip back to my beloved White Rock Lake after spending time in Montana late last month. I drove all the way around the lake looking, with only sporadic finding. Next time I'll walk one area, and as usual, I have an idea which one that will be. Whether I'll find birds is an interesting question.
Soon, we'll be overrun with cormorants perching along Cormorant Bay, flying low over the area and defalcating what will look like snow all over the area, perhaps why it is almost always so green there. Coming soon will be their cousins, the American White Pelicans, who arrived en masse mid-September last year.
Muscovies used to be found all around the lake, but lately, for the last few years, they've mostly settled along the Big Thicket and Yacht Club areas along the north and east coasts. Friendly, gentle, company for lonely fisher persons and photographers, what's not to like about the distinctive Muscovies, although this hen seems to have fewer warts than most.
He was plenty comfortable when I first saw him, but once I pointed my long telephoto lens at him from not very far away, he began to look like he was hunched over and ready to do something else. I continued clicking.
And of course, he flew away. I did not see a single egret or heron today. I did see a mob of crows chasing a young hawk near the Bath House, but I couldn't stop in the middle of the road to step out and photograph the event, and when I did stop and stand waiting for them to do their aerobatics again, they didn't.
Arlington, Texas Drying Beds
When I shot these photographs, I could only see the two on the left. A white Ibis and either its own juvenile (most likely) or a Juvenile White-faced Ibis. The feathers sticking out of the bushes on the far right could be anybody, but they belong to another White Ibis.
Here's closer of the black and the white, yielding few tell-tale details to base an intelligent identification on. The white one has to be a White Ibis, even though no dark wingtip feathers show. We initially thought the dark one could be a Glossy Ibis, and I suppose it could, but it's map shows it along the coast eastward from Louisiana around Florida and up to nearly Newfoundland. Not likely somebody who'd like our weather. Nope, I strongly suspect they are all in the same family, as in parents and kids.
The brown Ibis on the left are Juvenile Whites. The white one is an adult White Ibis. The dark Ibis on the right is probably a juvenile White Ibis or somebody else entirely.
This is definitely a Little Blue Heron, and getting it sharp among so many trees and branches was a challenge.
We heard this one chattering from the thick vegetation just inside The Swamp area along the road leading into the Drying Beds. When I got out to investigate, it jumped into flight and got away before my long lens could catch up. We saw it twice more later, each time escaping our prying eyes and lenses.
I "printed up" this image to try to help me identify the blur it was. I still don't know.
I think I know this one, standing warily on this edge of a far-back pan, ready — and it did moments late — to fly away to the relative safety of distance from slow-moving cars on the road around the beds.
Classic stance for many shorebirds, which is why this shot is here.
This one, too, though I don't think they are both Yellowlegs.
This is definitely a Scissor-tail.
Probably conflicting over a place to rest, although they may have deep-seated and ongoing issues they've nurtured for years.
Clash with lots of Swallow wings showing.
It's a shorebird. Could be a Lesser Yellowlegs or any of a large number of other, various sized shorebirds at the beds this morning, most of whom I am unable to identify, like this one.
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks line up with a bunch of other birds.
Sometimes they are gorgeous in the air, with their various browns and pinks showing, but not particularly so here. When Whistlers flock up and fly around, it's difficult to click just when the right colors are showing, so I just hold the button down with the cam set on High-Speed and hope.
Almost didn't see it. They always look large in correctly focused photographs, but they are really quite tiny. At first it was just another bump on that dead tree out in the water. Phenomenal creatures, some of my favorites.
They are usually, according to my favorite, Lone Star edition of the Birds of Texas, 15-22 inches long with an extended wingspan of about 26 inches. The numbers for the Great Blue Heron, for contrast, are 54 inches long with a wingspan of 60 inches.
Maybe, if I lived on the Gulf Coast instead of this far inland, I could photograph birds with names like Greater Yellowlegs and other greaters. But no. I look deep into bird books and find, time after time, that I've discovered yet another Least, Little, Lesser or Common variety of a really much more exotic other variety. Oh well.
I'm more certain about the identification above — although I won't mind a bit changing that in a flash if I find out or discover a better identification — than this one, and they may well be exactly the same bird.
Probably, if we'd got there earlier, instead of running errands like sending off a CD of 1976 photo documentation for a show at a pop culture museum in Austin, we could have got better and closer shots of some Black-necked Stilts and the elusive Ibis, whom we saw and photographed, but I cannot find the images from. Terrible pix, with the birds in a confusion of shore weeds, but shots. Now disappeared.
Then I found another hundred shots in another folder. Have to do them tomorrow or Tuesday ...
Somewhere In Montana
One day last week in Montana we went to a body of water called Duck Lake. Later, we found out they called it that, because on a map, it looked like a duck. Still, it was close and we already had acquired very low expectations, so it couldn't hurt. We were amazed to find the largest cache of birds on our trip. Close enough for us to do anything about, at least.
We'd never seen this particular chickadee before, and we almost didn't see this one, because it moved much faster than we could / did. There are Dallas chickadees that we have seen, but this one lives up north, which is where we found it.
But it could be a Pterodactyl for all we know. Ravens are, we think, black, and this bird appears to be reddish with white spots. Then again, maybe it's been packed at in some sort of ritual battle. Perhaps you can understand why I do not seek out birds to identify for readers anymore. I can barely I.D common, everyday birds like a raven.
I'm more certain about this one, except my exposure was so bad it looks like an experimental photograph, which is of course, what it became. Nice job, huh?
We started with one, so I shall end with a bird that is bright and beautiful and in focus. I don't know what it is, but that's not so unusual here lately. I used to have someone identify my birds, but that probably got pretty old for him, and he probably thought I was just lazy. Normally he'd be right.
Just now, though, I'm really tired. I've worked at this photography stuff all day on three separate projects, and I plan to photograph some more tomorrow, and what I really need now is some sleep. I'm hoping this bird and the one above it are related. I'm guessing the older is this one.
I seem to be getting much better at much smaller birds — and not so great with medium birds like the wily raven. But small birds are very so much more difficult to render. I'm too tired to go on.
Anna saw and realized it first. With her her sudden gush of surprise and delight I looked up. Wow. These were the same Osprey Family I followed for several weeks before our trip to Montana. I knew they were in the park somewhere, but I didn't know where, and I kept wondering whom I should ask.
Not only is this the best shot, but the second- and third-best shots are so similar it'd be silly to show them here. When the Bald Eagle showed itself to me at White Rock Lake last year (or was it the year before?), I assumed it was an Osprey. Apparently it's a common mistake. I can see why.
This link takes you to a page. The Osprey Web cam link is in the first box under the text. It shows this very nest high over one of the park center parking lots. The kids (not visible above) are, as the link notes, spending most of the day now fishing and learning to fly lately, so they may not be in the nest during the day like before. The web cam is a stop-action one, so keep it on your desktop to discern any changes.
I suspect the birds in my photo are the dad and the mom. Or versa visa.
When I first looked down from pretty far up, I thought these large white hulks were kayaks. Until they moved, but only slowly. In a pond or river or creek some distance from where we were previous. I only remember seeing, being amazed, then photographing abut thirty shots, of which these are the very best.
They were way far away, and these shots are tiny portion of much larger frames.
Echo Lake in Montana
We just got back from Montana, and I'm slowly preparing my bird shots from there, starting with these regal birds we found quite by accident — if we ever actually targeted specific birds, I guess we'd be dangerous, but we're just lucky. This time good lucky. Most of the trip, not.
Prodigious chunks of duck. Now I want to see them fly. Too bad. They don't hang out around here in the summer — like it will be here till what most people call winter. I remember it being higher than a hundred degrees Fahrenheit in early December before — before we knew about Global Warming, when we just thought it was hot here. But there's always a chance we can find them — and maybe even their males — some winter hereabouts.
I've gone back through all 60 shots I so excitedly shot when I saw these remarkable birds swimming up and down along the bridge-like road through the lake, and there's not a single shot of a male. We didn't know what we were photographing, we just knew they were different. Some show a little white, but apparently those birds are holding their wings slightly differently.
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My favorite answer is, "I don't
am, after all, an amateur.
I'm not kidding. I've only been birding for three years,
although I've been photographing professionally since 1964.
Thanks always to Anna.