DO NOT USE photos without permissionBird Rescue Advice:D7000 G2
Read these 3 before you ask me to I.D your birds: Herons Egrets Herons v Egrets Feedback Rouses
White Rock Lake
September 29 2012
It was raining dogs and cats, and I was headed for the Bath House on the other side, so naturally I veered off Garland Road at the Arboretum (Save White Rock Lake; Pave the Arboretum!) thinking about photographing birds but seeing only rain, and liking that plenty. I saw this at the top of Winfrey Knob, at first disappointed because I couldn't drive around the circle, where people often park, assuming I suppose, that they'd be the only ones ever interested in being there, let alone circling around the circle.
At the Sunset Bay end of Winfrey I angled The Slider to keep me the least wet when I opened the window and photographed the pelicans out on the logs in Sunset Bay.
This is the same logs full of pelicans, this time viewed from Sunset Bay shore proper. That batch of green on this side seemed way too big by comparison, but though I often viewed it from about there. I usually concentrate on the logs and their pelks, but this view — still telephoto — still looked wrong. I can count at least 13 pelicans, probably more.
I assume it was hungry enough to stand there hoping to find food so it could go wherever herons go in the rain. That's something I often wonder about. Where do all those birds go when it rains?
I spent a lot of time today photographing what I then thought was this one, odd duck. At first I thought it was a Wood Duck, then I decided it was something rare, then I thought maybe it was a transitional plumage Wood Duck, then I thought about it being some sort of Muscovy Duck hybrid.
Then I shot this one for awhile, assuming it was the same bird as above. But, of course, it is not.
Notice how comparatively small these guys are. Muscovies are bigger than that.
These are real Wood Ducks. The big similarity is the two-tone yellow-orange bill.
Lots of egrets gathering in the bay as the sun went down.
So I photographed some of them in action after I walked over to the pier at Sunset Bay, which is divided by a nasty fence and Do Not Enter sign, so I cannot photograph birds on that side till they fix it, which does not seem like a high priority.
Egret landing near a pelican on a log.
For the first time in a long time — ever since the pelicans started arriving again — I didn't count them. Well, I counted these …
It's always a challenge to get their feet and their face
and their dark, two-tone black bodies all exposed close to correct. Sometimes
I went hoping to see more pelicans, and I did, but the fun big white birds today were Great Egrets, little and big.
Headlong egret in the act of swinging forward to land.
And landing near our growing population of American White Pelican.
Besides preening, which is what they do most of their lives. It's important. They need to be able to fly anytime anywhere, no matter what. Tends to be a little boring for photographers, so we relish any different sort of pelican action we can photograph. Preening can be interesting, but not often.
It may be an optical dilution, but the egret on the right looks smaller than the one on the left. They tend to hang out in families, so they may be related.
Yup, two of my favorite big white birds.
Last time I visited Sunset Bay, there were 13 pelicans.
Today, there were seventeen. Sooner or later, there could be — as there have
been before — as many as 70, although the normal population at White Rock in
the autumn through spring are usually about fifty, give or take. I need to spend
even more time there, as the flock grows.
Rained Sunday again, so we went for a drive instead of a walk, each of us with a nice, long lens.
I saw for just a fraction of a second what I thought looked like a wet, brown heron land, sifting quickly into the weeds at the edge of the lake at Green Haron Park, where we were watching a colorful family fishing on the other end. I drove out, north, and around the park, slid The Slider (finally out of the shop, but still with issues) back into the northern edge entrance to it, situating the driver side, so I could photograph it, if I could find it. We were still on the west side of the lake, where the speed limit is five miles per hour faster and we rarely go.
By this time it knew I was photographing it at the equivalent or a very long telephoto, so we were not anywhere close enough to spook an egret. But GBHs are different, many times more spook-able.
And spook it did. Maybe as long as a long second later, the GBH jumped up into flight. straight out over the lake, still close enough to more than fill the frame and, amazing me, staying in focus.
Fast flaps off its accumulated supply of rain.
In remarkably good focus for any of my Nikons, especially this D7000. Nice.
Finally got the whole bird in the picture, this the first shot in the series that did.
This one's very nearly sharp. Most of the rest actually are. A few magnificent moments in time and rain. We love our Great Blue Heron moments.
Both on only one leg.
Has to be. It's almost autumn.
Sometimes the females are far more beautiful.
And, especially in the early fall, sometimes the males are really plain.
Apparently, most duck mutants arise from pairings with Mallard, perhaps the most adventuresome of duck species and likely the most populous.
I had hoped to get to Sunset Bay by even's light, which is to say, mostly dark, with the sky still glowing from a very recent sunset. I was actually hoping for more pelicans, but one big one bird will do as well as the other in these experimental times.
I figured I was there to capture whatever I could manage. It was awfully dark. The camera was not doing what I set it to do — render shots at high speed with even higher ISO. Instead it set slow shutter speeds at very high ISO, and even then only just barely managed to capture birds. But these, at least, and most tonight, were in sharp focus. But by being there then, I got to see a lot of those bird behaviors I so cherish capturing, even though most of the time it was a lot of action I barely understood.
I guess that's a start.
I think I almost prefer them to be blue. So much more dynamic and dramatic a color than white. Not sure which way they'd vote, however.
I watched and photographed a whole lotta flying back and forth tonight. Often, as one egret came flying in, another would jump off its perch, so the other could land there. I was hoping to photograph something like that, and here, I pretty much did.
I say I was experimenting — and I was; that much is true — but I was also testing focus, because I had not quite believed that I had that focus issue solved. I guess if a camera would focus at night in nearly no light, then it works. I'd say it works. I was following the upper egret, and it is plenty sharp indeed.
The egrets seem exuberant. The pelicans are just there.
Landing sequence #1 - Egret slows air speed by dragging feet in the water.
Landing sequence #2 - Egret angles in and stretches its very toes out to grab the small perch.
Landing sequence #3 - Egret allows wings to swoop forward.
It was dark on the other side, so I'm a little surprised there's any tree detail to be seen on the far side.
Took awhile to turn this BlEgret (too-blue egret) back to almost white, but doing that makes it look so ordinary.
If this was a focus test — and it was — then my old camera passed it with flying colors. Even if the color was usually blue. Blue-ribbon fantasies.
Blue Egret flies past another blue egret on a background of sunset pink.
More testing today. I brought my less-than tripod, which though not light, worked well enough for my purposes. To test the focus of the Nikon D300 camera. I thought I had it resolved down to that one. Then did some other stuff — photographing art and stuff on my walls — and determined it wasn't. Struggled with that notion awhile, then noticed I'd accidentally set it to something I never use, and that solved all my current camera and lens issues. As you can see, they work pretty well now.
I watched this Snowy Egret for quite a while today. Perhaps mostly, because it was willing to come in a little closer than all the other white birds in Sunset Bay today. It seemed a little scraggly, but I needed details to try to focus in on, so it worked well.
A lot of the reason birds attend White Rock Lake is that they are hoping they'll find food. By now, it's almost a sure thing.
I saw the bird and the fish. I did not see the dragonfly.
I've seen and probably photographed this sort of action before, but I don't remember there being water involved.
It looks like somebody constructed this thing. Perhaps more interesting than the White Rock Water Theatre behind the Bath House Cultural Center. I've never telephotoed this place before, although I've noticed it several times recently, it just never occurred to me to photograph it before, and it didn't occur today, either. Just this Snowy Egret I'd been photographing, walked over there.
Cormorants have much less involved environments.
I noticed that it was so much cooler lately than in the months before, but I didn't expect American White Pelicans this early. They usually wait till mid-October. Two years ago, they cam mid-September. Maybe they like it so much here, they're coming earlier. Maybe this Global Warming hubbub makes sense to them, if not to all humans.
Testing, testing, testing. So I took off the doubler that may be messing with my focus — although it could just be my unsteady hand-holding that heavy lunk of a camera and lens — and I only used the 300mm lens tonight. First time I got to Sunset Bay, there was still sun in the sky, glaring in over the water, but I'd forgot to put in the memory card, so I drove home, got it, and came back.
That took maybe a total of 23 minutes. By then the sun was gone, but the sunset was still omnipresent. I kept taking pictures. This afternoon I'd noticed five or six pelicans were present, that means three or four newcomers and the two who stay here year-round.
By the time I got back with the card, there were nine American White Pelicans in Sunset Bay, and they had begun to cooperatively fish the way American White Pelicans do, here with nine pelicans chasing fish into the shallows, where they could all gang up on them and eat and eat and eat.
Meanwhile, the herons — including egrets — have set up their usual September temporary settlement, with several species camping out on the trees out in Sunset Bay.
Here we see ducks, cormorants, maybe a coot or two, and some other guys, settling in for the night.
And here some of those birds are flying away.
I'm struggling with focus issues. My telephoto lens works great without the doubler, and though they worked together very well last week, this week they do not. And I'm not figuring out what I can do about it. So I keep trying.
Sometimes, it's okay, and sometimes it's just not.
I got the tree sharp, does that mean I'm just misplacing focus? Or my vision is going to Canada?
It might help if I got more sleep, although every time I think I've finally got enough of that stuff, it turns out that I'm nowhere close. I kinda like being close to nowhere, but I'm in the big middle of a big, smog-filled city in the new American desert. And yet, there's all these gorgeous birds all over the place.
Are they all females? Or do they all just look like that?
Did not get a single shot of them flying around — and they did that over and over while I watched — in focus. Not once. Then again, maybe my camera and lens are fine, and it's just me who's out of focus. I'm beginning to think that's the deal here.
I guess I should start posting these on Facebook, where
they don't even notice that photographs aren't in focus. It doesn't matter there.
Here, it should matter, but I'm not sure what I can do about it. Get more sleep?
Seems cool today, but, musta been Thursday or Friday when I shot this, it was mighty hot. This mock is not saying or singing anything, it's just panting in the oppressive heat. I don't blame it. I stayed in my ACed renta car, easing it closer with each shot, till I got good detail in the bird.
I go back to the somewhere at the lake at least every day, but lately I haven't seen many birds. They're hot, too. We all are. So I've been photographing bugs and signs. This one finally appeared on the pier at Sunset Bay yesterday, whichever yesterday that was — more than a month after we notified the Park Department that the pier at Sunset Bay was dangerous, and the eastern wing of that pier, was tipping and bending under even little people's steps.
So, instead of fixing it, which we admit would take some
serious time and effort, they put up this fence, which of course, also took some
serious time and effort. And though the condition of the pier has not changed
radically since we first informed them that it was squishing back and forth,
somebody more important than us must have noted it to them. I walk on that sucker
every day, but now I cannot, and it's not like the rest of the pier is in tip-top
condition, you understand. Just that even a park worker could tell that end was
not... So now we'll have to crowd onto the rest of the pier, till it falls into
Murder of Crows, an episode of PBS's Nature,
shows just how smart birds can be.
It's not like I haven't been going to the lake at least once every day lately, it's more like it's been too hot even for birds when I do go, usually sometime in the afternoon after I swim or work out — between 2:30 and 5 pm. Of course, I avoided birding on the Labor Days. Too many people mostly, not necessarily ergo too few birds, but mostly.
I thought I was still photographing the Killdeer on the beach — and it's off to the left in this same image, albeit cropped out to show this much more interesting bird with a long beak. Which I didn't see, because the image in the electronic viewfinder when I was shooting was so small, mostly because I was so far away — I was just guessing at the focus (Luckily, the camera was doing its job remarkably well.)
All these shots were taken with my Panasonic Lumix G2 and the nominal 100-300mm zoom (effective 200-600mm 35mm equivalency, supposedly)
Reader Simon Tickle, who found out about this journal from Redgannet says, "Solitary Sandpiper. The white eye-ring is quite a compelling characteristic. The legs look dull enough to rule out either of the Yellow-legs and they are too long toallow the Spotted Sandpiper."
Trouble is, I don't know what bird this is. Seems like it should be easily identifiable with that long beak, but I'm having my usual difficulties with identifying it. That long beak throws me. So I'm including this truncated — I chopped and channeled it lengthwise to include only the bird parts of the wide, horizontal shot that includes the one just above. Which is to say, it's a large enlargement, which is also to say that that lens on the G2 renders remarkable apparent sharpness, at least for this low-res Internet medium.
The chopped image above is simply truncated horizontally. I didn't mess with its size, so it correctly shows the size comparison with the Killdeer and other, similar birds, so maybe with this variety of views I or one of you will be able to track its identity down.
I've been seeing these guys around Sunset Bay for the last couple weeks. Just they never alight long enough to focus in on. But they are getting slower (Or so it seems.), so I was able to capture this one at a 600mm zoom equivalence today. Finally. And if I could find my insects book, I could probably tell you what it is with greater certainty than I usually can with birds...
Reader Simon Tickle suggests Common White-tail.
They're always so pretty.
As always, if you can help identify the birds I cannot,
I'd greatly appreciate your help. I'll credit you with the i.D, if you don't
mind. Use my latest email address always on my Contact
I don't know if it was taking off or landing. I was still a little confused. We went to Sunset Bay after watching great jazz at Times Ten Cellars in Lakewood, during which Anna showed me a photo of a bunch of pelicans at White Rock Lake that had just been posted by a Bird squad friend today, so we decided to go there after the music. And we did, but we didn't see any pelicans except the two who live here all year long, because one or both of them can't fly.
When we asked, whom we asked responded they were around here somewhere. Later, I realized that since there were still only the two, he was talking about them, not the imaginary pelks we'd hoped to photograph. Took awhile to suss out that the FB poster posted a shot that was at least 5.5 months old, probably older, although they have been known to arive as early as mid-September. So I struck out for the busy pier to see what I could see from there. Mostly egrets and a few cormorants and many ducks.
I had my G2 with me and the long lens, so I began playing with it, shooting whatever looked interesting. Some of these are pretty crooked, because in the darkness I have even less concept of 'straight' or level than I do in full daylight. And in several of these images, I like that they are crooked, although I almost never shoot that way on purpose.
Only much later did I realize I was actively engaged in photographing birds in flight with my Panasonic camera, which I'd recently pronounced was definitely not up to that task, even though it acquitted itself rather well tonight — in both low, and nearly no, light. And I am only just now realizing this American White Pelican has to be one of the pelicans I've repeatedly told you could not fly. Maybe like the proverbial bumblebee, it does not know that it cannot fly, so sometimes it does. Did I mention that I was already confused?
The two on the left are Great Egrets. The one with the even longer beak on the right is an American White Pelican. I don't know who that is behind the pelican, but it might be the other pelican. They tend to hang together most of the time. This is not necessarily earlier (more daylight) than these other shots. Part of my experimentation mode is to change settings whenever I think about it, which is hardly ever a consistent flow.
More crooked. More it's okay.
My G2's latest new little sister, the G5, which I'm only in the early stages of thinking I want but willing to wait to see how the online forums evaluate the new cam in this series, has something that supposedly helps photographers keep the camera level, but I don't yet know how that works, because I only in a rather vague way, pay much attention to what's going on in this camera's various viewfinders. I am careful about composition, but levelity rarely enters into my consideration. I assume it's always level, though it sometimes isn't.
A guy I met on the pier earlier this afternoon asked me where all the birds had gone. I replied, "What birds?" because I was paying special attention to several members of at least two species of egrets, a Great Blue Heron and somebody else I forget now. I thought there were plenty birds in the vicinity. He replied "ducks." And I was kinda surprised I hadn't even missed them. When I was photographing these guys I wondered if he normally visits here in the evening, when ducks fly in from all over the lake to get the healthiest of food, corn grain, that Charles pours out in long lines along the shore.
Plainly then, tonight there were plenty of ducks in almost every direction, including up and coming down. Sometimes ducks are docile, gentle and quiet, but usually they're up to something, if not a lot of somethings.
I suppose you should accept as experimental everything I
shot today, including the jazz.
The one really nice shot of smoke at the picnic grounds in Sunset Bay will probably
show up in Thed Blog, when I write something new there. That pic shows a playful
attitude of focus and sharp subject matter that I appreciate.
If I hadn't been standing on the pier in Sunset Bay attempting to make my Panasonic G2 with 200-600mm tele lens behave like a Nikon when this gorgeous bird decided to fly across my field of vision, I would not have captured this elegant flight. If I had had my Nikon set-up instead, however, I would have got many more in-focus shots and the image quality would have been better. And when it was out of focus, I would have known instantly.
It was the continuation of my experiment to use my small, light Pany G2 for birding, including, as shown here, the elusive birds in flight. It worked. This time. Briefly. But only for the first few shots. As the bird got farther away — it ended up landing on one of the logs some distance from shore, and may still be there about an hour later, staring into the water, hoping to find more food. I wonder where it goes when it's had enough food.
Despite these very good (though not outstanding) images, I consider the experiment a failure. This shot is not as good as it would have been on the Nikon camera and lens. Probably good enough for Internet work, but not as good as I would have liked. And after these first few shots, the camera did not maintain focus. The G2 is just not smart enough. E
Even my elderly (2009) Nikon D300 camera has computer smarts enough to track focus on an object I'm panning along with. And Nikon D300 images enlarge better. The GBH images above did not fill the frame, so they had to be enlarged somewhat. Looks great here at 72dpi with lots of PP (post-production finagling). These pelicans were much closer, and they still did not fill the frame of the 600mm lens.
At least one of which, probably both, cannot fly.
I loved seeing swooping sailboats fill the tiny horizon.
text and photographs copyright 2011 by J
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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.