257 photos this month
Sunset Bay = Bird Cornucopia
September 30 2015
I actually got 8 hours sleep last night, so I was 'late' to arrive at Sunset Bay, but so were some others, including these birds we called sandpipers, presupposing they were all one species, but I now kinda doubt that. Nice thing about Sunset Bay is that there are generally a buncha birds around. Today was no exception.
I was hoping to identify these guys, but my usual sandpiper luck is holding me back from that.
Besides, I think there's more than one variety involved.
And I don't know who they are.
I guess they could be several ages and sexes in one bird family or whole different species.
And somewhere back there, there's a Killdeer who was there when all these other birds arrived.
It was gang busters fun to try to photograph them all.
Sometimes in a crowd, it's nice to just focus on one bird.
Or another. I think these last two are not the same bird(s). While I was photographing them, I assumed they were all Least Sandpipers, but I'm less certain of that, so I haven't labeled them by that species name.
Birders seem inordinately fond of Blue-winged Teal, although I have not yet understood why exactly. People in general, just don't like cormorants. I hope it's not just because they're black, but people are weird.
I don't know, as usual, who these are.
There were still lots of shorebirds left on the island to the left of these birds testing out a log.
If there are Great Blue Herons around, and it seems like nearly there always is/are in Sunset Bay, sooner or later, I will photograph them.
But who? It's not a Least Sandpiper. For awhile I thought it was a Killdeer, but I don't think so anymore. Okay, I assume it's a shorebird, and I have a shorebird book, The Shorebird Guide by Michael O'Brien, Richard Crossley, and Kevin Karlson. I know one of those names, because I assume he does The Crossley ID Guide that's all photographs of most varieties and ages and sex availability of each bird. I use that often, but I've never got around to fully reading or ingesting The Shorebird Guide, though I'm really lousy with them. Like here. Wonder if it has a front view of this bird.
Guess I can skip the pages that map to Alaska or the East or West coasts, but probably look a little more carefully at those that frequent the South Texas Coast, since that's not so far from here, and we get a lot of visitors from there, here. Darn! My photos in front of and after this one are no help. I sure do like looking at bird pix. Except for the leg-length, it looks a little like a Lesser Yellowlegs. Sorta. I think Eric mentioned Solitary Sandpipers this morning.
So nice that this book shows each species at differing times and months and ages and seasons and featherations (Not sure that's a word.) Guess I'm going to have to learn this one. Some of the taller birds in the next pic down might be a Solitary, but most of our 'sandpipers' have much shorter legs. After another - oh - hundred pages, I ran out of pages, and never saw it. Or didn't recognize it. Oh, foo! I may have to ask Bird Chat, and I may have to ask about more than one bird.
But it sure doesn't look like it. Except, of course, for that Killdeer who was out there all along. He's centered vertically and near the left edge of Sandpipers — or whom I thought were sandpipers. The top left bird here, sure doesn't look like most of the others, not that all the others, besides the Killdeer, are the same.
I know this one pretty well. Should. I've photographed these longer this year than ever before. Green Heron pauses for photographs before proceeding to find some food.
Hoping for food.
Right about here, there was a long, Snowy Egret Chase involving these two Snowy Egrets. They flew and chased all around the wetter portions of Sunset Bay.
Unfortunately, except for these few instance of that long, involved chase all over the place, most of my shots were seriously overexposed, so I'm not showing you them, just like I don't show you most of my many mistakes, but I really should have checked my exposures somewhere along the way of the Snowy Chase. If I'd been using my little Panasonic that is not a single-lens reflex like my Nikon, it would have shown me the exposure every step of the way, and I would have adjusted the exposure as I was shooting. Nikon don't allow that sort of adjusting. Yet.
There are ways to save overly overexposed photographs of white birds, but few of those methods worked this morning..
Or so it seemed.
After the debacle with the seriously overexposed Snow Egrets flying all over Sunset Bay, it was nice to correctly expose just one.
I love it when I get them right and show all their fluffy parts.
September 29 2015
First the results from shooting my little camera at pelicans a little earlier. A micro 4/3rds camera sensor is 225mm square, and my full-frame Nikon's sensor is 884mm square, or 3.92 times the size and/or resolution. So why do I get what I perceive as very sharp images on the little sensor? Well, because I was careful, I guess. I was trying to photograph the pelicans from west of the pier at Sunset Bay with my little camera's 100-300mm zoom, because I'd got such good detail the day before (especially with the kids rowing [below] the long boat the time before.
Way TMI on this subject is covered in my page from earlier this century about Cameras and Lenses, which I have not updated in years.
I also brought my big tripod. Which was stupid, because there's no way to attach my little camera to a tripod, because it doesn't have a built-in tripod foot like my Nikon telephoto lens does. Oh, well, it was better than nothing, but a little ungainly. Slick metal on slick metal meant it moved around way too much, and there was no security, but many of today's early shots were done that way.
But the details are not always evident. This is still fairly early in the morning, and I'm not sure why it's rendered brown, orange or yellowish, but it is. Probably has to do with the sun through the clouds that time of day.
And at the time I thought they were, but now I'm not at all sure. Kala King says they're Common Grackles, and she's usually right.
This shot is not sharp but was still shot with the little camera. I made the image smaller, so it might look a little sharper. Eventually, I tired of pelican photographing with the slip (!) shod camera held on the tripod, and I walked over to the pier at Sunset Bay, then later took my little camera back and got my big camera and big tripod.
The following photographs were taken with my Nikon firmly attached to my tripod. By then, there was also much more light.
So if they're sharp, that's probably why.
I've read that birds sometimes parallel each other when they're feeling similar. Humans do it, too. We either knowingly or quite unaware (which may be more usual) copy each other's gestures and positions when we're trying to get close or trying to mimic each other. Etc. etc.
These Great Egrets often had their heads up in a position that sometimes mean a challenge to fight has been issued, but they did not fight, they just hung out together making interesting fascinating photographic opportunities, which I took advantage of. It helped that they were not far from us, so they fairly easily filled the frame. Anytime we can fill or nearly fill the frame with an image, we are taking best advantage of our camera-and-lens' ability to render detail.
I didn't see it catch the fish, but Eric did, so I turned my camera on it with the fish in its beak.
I assume the bird has the power to widen its throat. It doesn't just happen. It's ready to swallow, throat opens. And swallowing occurs. Egrets and other Herons swallow their food whole, bones and all, which is why their scat, which is easily visible on the slant concrete slabs at the Lower Spillway — is bright white from all the calcium in bones.
Then there's this.
September 29 2015
I don't know if this pelican is just coming in from the frozen north or just around the block, but I watched it land from somewhat west of the pier at Sunset Bay. It did not seem dead-tired like new arrivals tend to be. More like some bird who'd just gone to the deli and got its energy resupplied. Like perhaps it'd discovered the Spillway's many charms or a decent place to fish alone or with some other birds. In today's only other pelican-in-flight pic, the pelk on the right is blurring by the ones on the log on the left, but I'll be keeping my eyes out for more pelicans-in-flight picture opportunities. In a couple weeks, photogs from all over north central Texas will be joining us on the pier to photograph pelicans in flight, which sport will continue till they fly back north by Tax Day.
The pelican at the far left is the one who just landed, looking very perky indeed. Note the difference in swimming mode. I suspect the other swimming pelican, somewhat more prone, is likely still tired from much-farther travel. Note also, the slight gathering of cormorants, which will soon flood Sunset Bay and inundate Cormorant Bay, across the lake and to the left.
And various other entities entering from the west. Used to be a rumor that some of the boating yellers were annoying neighbors with their four-letter yells. I try not to listen.
It's not a big log, and only seven pelicans are on it at this moment. All of today's pictures were shot with my elderly and partially crippled (the once-tilt-and-swingable LCD that's now blue-painters-tape taped permanently to the body, so it doesn't disconnect again) Panasonic Lumix G5 with 100-300mm (approximately 200-600mm equivalent) zoom, all of which feels like a feather compared with the Rocket Launcher Nikon. All this clarity, and I still haven't attempted tripodal enhancement.
The just-landed pelican found another place to park for awhile. I think I counted eleven pelicans, total, so far. I expect a lot more in the next few days, when I dearly hope to document a massive cloud of them overhead, many of whom may well spend the night in the bay.
Meanwhile, a smattering of cormorants are parking themselves in the outer, wet portions of Sunset Bay.
And off the pier, there was this one Killdeer, peeping up a storm.
With various aircraft overhead. Some-when this month, I photographed a Barnstormer doing barrel rolls over Sunset Bay, but I can't find the images now in all those I've shot and not used. Gotta gotta gotta do some house-keeping, my least favorite sport.
Nine Pelicans by Sunday
& We Miss the Water Theatre
September 28 2015
Shooting my elderly Panasonic Lumix G5, because it's so much lighter to walk around the lake with than the Rocket Launcher. Well, I don't remember now what I used to call my big Nikon camera with 300mm lens and 1.7X telextender (more or less = 510mm). I know I called the cam and lens before the one before that was "the Rocket Launcher," and it ain't hardly no "Blunderbuss," which mighta been what I called that 8 or so-pound conglomeration of cam and lens, but now I'm liking calling it Blunderbuss again. This one weighs well less than a pound with the 100-300mm, which supposedly equates to a 200-600mm lens on the Pany, 'cuz it's a micro 4/3 camera, yada yada. Nice pic.
Anna and I continued our walk this morning around the lake, and it were lovely and even cold, though we warmed up somewhat walking from Stone Tables to the southernmost Yacht Club (See my bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake) and back. Such a beautiful landscape to walk through.
Not sure why they didn't take the tall sticks at the far edges of what once was a concrete-floored swimming area (hence, the "bath house"), even though those poles are rotted on the bottom, which was the idiot reason for removing the other bird perches called Tom Orr and Frances Bagley's White Rock Water Theatre by the stupid residence of the neighborhood around the bath house who found it objectionable that birds perch there.
Nice to get past the Big Nothing, but then we had to go back by it on our way back to cars in Stone Tables.
These things are supposed to be revamped, so the natural portion of our program here — if it ever happens again — will be elucidated upon the public.
Such a beautiful place when the morning light slants across the landscape.
If we'd continued round the bend to the left of here and around on the road that's barely visible at the left and right of this shot, we'd be in Greater Sunset Bay, even though there wouldn't be any lake visible for a while yet. Like Sunset Bay, which is more than that one, wet place and incorporates all the trees and land and ponds and streams and birds and birds and birds on either side of Lawther Drive from Poppy Drive past the hospitals and land past the stone tables west to Dreyfuss Hill, Stone Tables incorporates places all around the actual site of the Stone Tables' actual stone tables and recently re-roofed building.
Then we drove to the lake portion of Greater Sunset Bay to see the pelicans a little closer. The ones closer to the water surface are probably who just flew in from parts northern US or Canada, and they're probably still pretty tired. In the not to distant future (days, maybe a week), there'll be 70-300 pelicans in Sunset Bay (lake portion) for awhile, then the number will settle down to more or less 70 American White Pelicans, who will settle in wet Sunset Bay till just before Tax Day 2016.
We will probably see the males with their equally-large beaks. Soon.
These two Ibises also flew us over on September 13, and probably several times since and probably some before. And that shot is much better than this. Nikon trumps Panasonic again.
with a turtle. My best pic yet of the Kingfisher. The lens on the G5 is supposedly equivalent to a 600mm lens, and that little bit more magnification shows here. ¡Muy Beueno detail! I guess the next step is to photograph her with the little Panasonic Lumix G5 on a tripod. Females have that lower, red or rusty-colored band that males do not.
One More Pelican on Satty
September 27 2015
And more by the next day, but since this is a journal, we're only going one day at a time.
It was a bird. It was far away and small. I didn't know what it was. Then I did.
We never know for why, exactly, they get shook up and splashed over, but we can expect it often.
I can't help myself. I see a Great Egret flapping, I try to focus, and clickety-click away.
Lotta GEs around the Bay these days.
September 26 2015
Big News when I got to the lake after ten this ayem was that some big, white, gulls had visited. Okay, I thought, and watched what might happen next: these five avocets.
Turned out, these avocets were the big white gulls in question. Nice of them to return for my arrival, ten minutes later.
I and camera and Eric and his camera followed them around the Great Circle in front of us.
A couple landed.
Stood there briefly.
Then took off again.
They flew past Sunset Island, around and …
They flew back higher and northward.
And they flew away, although I wouldn't be terribly surprised if they didn't fly back again, later. We've had visits by a flock of breeding adults in May 2014, five others (?) in May 2008 and September 2008, and several other times here or there or somewhere else.
Right about then, after carefully scrutinizing who was on all the logs out at the far perimeter of Sunset Bay, I found this Kingfisher of indeterminate sex. Then I found not much at all else, and so I went home.
Eleven varied wood ducks,
one Great Egret & One GBH
September 25 2015
With something stuck to her beak.
Most of these shots are not from Sunset Bay, although that place creeps into everywhere else I shoot. Sometimes I just get tired of going to the same old place every morning to photograph the same birds. So this is somewhere else, but in my top five places at White Rock Lake. With any luck there'll be some sort of landmark to show you where.
A reader keeps insisting that I tell her exactly where to go and when to see a Great Blue Heron, which she calls a very large bird. It's not. GBHs are 4-4.5 feet long with wingspans around 6 feet. American White Pelicans, which look kinda squat, are also 4.5 – six feet long but with wingspans of 9 feet, which makes this beautiful gray bird short and smallish. I find GBHs often at White Rock Lake, but guaranteeing when someone can see one is a fool's game, and one I'm not very good at.
Wood Duck males are not the more beautiful of the sexes. Females are much more comely.
It is male. It is a wood duck. I'd reckon it's of recent vintage, probably hatched and raised earlier last summer. Pretty. I think this and the four male wood ducks that follow down this page are in chronological order, with this being the youngest, so we can see a step-by-step maturity of its colors and form.
Or whom I'd consider a barely grown-up recent vintage wood duck, of whom I found several at the Old Boathouse Lagoon this day. Lots of Wood duck variety there. And a GBH, too.
Possibly just barely an adult.
Look at all those colors along the edges of its wings. Gorgeous, even if its head and beak is a little gaudy.
Every Adult Male Wood Duck I saw this day seemed to have a quivering lower mandible. No sound emitted, but that obvious quivering. Maybe he was observing the female of the species.
Probably because it feels like doing it.
I probably should do a step-by-step of the female Wood duck in today's journal entry, too, but I don't know their chronology that well. I.e., it's not obvious which comes first.
Green Heron Interlude Almost too close
with Katy, a Killdeer & Kingfisher Pair
September 24 2015
I had stood on the pier at Sunset Bay photographing the usual birds and talking with several friends for long enough. Parting, I told them I was going to look for birds, and then, at the other end of the pier, I had the notion that I might find some of those on Sunset Beach, just the other side of the spice forest that surrounds the pier. When birding — and sometimes other times in my life, too — I try to pay attention to such fleeting notions, and there I found this guy, most of whose body is actually so close not all of it is in focus. But enough of it is sharp, I knew who it was immediately.
I'd slept in a whole hour this morning, felt guilty, then felt good about it, and I still got to photograph two of my favorite birds lately this summer. Plus a couple others, too.
That it was just within the near focus distance of my 300mm lens amplified by my 1.7X telextender (= 510mm) was utterly amazing. Focus continues — always — to be an issue, but this bird was being oh-so careful to stay with in my focus range, and not getting too close for me to keep photographing it. Really can't ask for that, let alone better than that. Woo-hoo!
I could have fit its feet in the image, but then my preferred focus point would have been off his body, and I wanted it inside my focus range, so I cropped off its feet in camera. At that moment, I really did not have a choice.
Which was helpful, because it just kept getting closer. I really don't think it even saw me, and I worked at the impression that I was not there by being ever so careful not to move or make any sounds until a woman who had been photographing with us on the pier, started walking towards me. Not usually a problem, but I was really, this close to this bird, that we had already, previously established that she could not see. Maybe it was too close.
Maybe, like many beginning bird photographers, she had not yet learned that what we actually look for in a bird we want to photograph, is motion, not some distinctive markings pattern. And I didn't want her to scare it away by continuing her current path. So I pleaded, "Please stop." And she did, gradually grokking that I was photographing a bird she probably should not scare away, even if at the moment, she could not see it.
Once she stopped, the heron posed for me again, and eventually, she saw what I was photographing, was properly amazed how close it was — I think I heard that gasp of amazement, and she walked behind me till she got the view she wanted. I could hear her camera clicking.
Where I attempted to photograph the bird and its shadow under the log, where it seemed to have found several morsels worth picking up with its beak and eating / swallowing.
Right about here in today's false chronology, I realized that the chronology I am offering wasn't as it was as I saw it, but was, instead, in some other kind of order, and since I did not want to rewrite the kind of exciting intro to this picture story, I just stuck with it.
I didn't know it at this time, but later I realized that the Kingfisher dot I followed between shooting the Green Heron was a female — as indicated by the red-orange, rust-like band below her other bands. And the Kingfishers I'd photographed this and last week were all males, who only have the one, upper blue band. I.e., not all males are more colorful than female birds.
I couldn't prove this one's sex, because I can't see her bands, but it's sharper than any of my Kingfisher shots, so far lately. Even though I'd been honing in on the Green Heron, when I saw a tiny dot flitting across the bay toward the pier, I followed focus and clicked three times. The third shot was useless, but I tried.
Others of today's shots also included Katy sleeping with her lock neck bent back up over her shoulder in a big white lump somewhere off the pier.
If you haven't heard a Killdeer Peeping, you should. They're the loudest of White Rock Lake's many peepers, often sounding more machine electronic than avian acoustic.
Just one bird today & Some landscapes
September 23 2015
I took some landscape pix today on Anna's and my walk from Winfrey Point to almost round the bend to Stone Tables, but this is the only bird shot of the day, and I can't remember the name of the store, and I don't think I ever knew the name of the bird, but I can tell you it's green and yellow, and it was inquisitive but shy.
It's not a house, but it's a home where birds probably live. It's in what I call "Greater Sunset Bay." Not, obviously the lake portion, but in the area known as Sunset Bay, where we walked today up to and back from Winfrey Bay's parking lot, on our slow journey around the lake. I don't think one gets a sign claiming you are in Sunset Bay on this side of Stone Tables, which may be confusing to some folks, but there's a huge area of trees and birds and people and their pooping dogs who inhabit Sunset Bay without ever getting wet in the lake portion of Sunset Bay, where the actual bay is.
This stone bridge and the bridge from which the following view was taken from the Wood Bridge over closer to the apartments that used to be called one name and are now called another name, neither of which I know for sure anymore were taken from bridges that parallel each other. Nor am I altogether sure what street that is over their that such a lovely view is of.
Yes, it's a land mass named after the water body (mass) known as Greater Sunset Bay. Over at the street that comes into the Stone Tables Area, there's a sign that says Sunset Bay one way and Stone Tables the other way. Stone tables does not have a water mass like Sunset Bay does, but Sunset Bay does have a land mass, and this is a part of it.
Big Buncha Bird Pix
September 23 2015
Not sure what I had in mind here.
Two on the big, bright "log" front and right. One on the littler log on the left, and I'm pretty sure that's another one above the taller, lower night-heron. And if there's that many plainly visible in one place, there's probably a bunch more hidden in the trees. That's how it works on the far side of the lagoon by the Old Boat House that used to have water in it but in the last few years has got clogged with vegetable growth, so we can't watch the BCNHs there anymore, unless we have a thousand or two worth of focal-length lenses, which really nobody does.
Lots of GBH action this early morning.
I guess I was hoping for the GBH to continue to cup its wings over the duck. But no…
Today must be long, low and lean GBH Day.
Not sure which, but lotsa birds flying over.
Not flying high nor low, jut flying.
Who else could they be with honkers that long and large. According to Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, "bill color variable."
And if you look carefully at this and the previous photo, and scroll down past the Snowy, you'll see these two once again, but soft, blurry and at the bottom left of the frame.
Up the lagoon.
And I think those are the two female Northern Shovelers.
Long, low and lean.
Once a domestic duck, now, though it gets fed morning, noon and night, it might almost qualify as wild.
We have yet to see more pelicans. Same thing happened last year, so I guess it's normal.
In crisp, morning light.
The Nine-banded Armadillo
September 22 2015
Twenty-two years before I started this online journal of birds, I wrote two books about armadillos. The Nine-banded Armadillo in specific, but all the others, too, in general with accurate drawings and photos of each, all the way back to the prehistoric Glyptodon, who were significantly larger than this one. I got the gig to do the second book, because Victoria, Texas 'leaders' had seen my first book about armadillos, called armadilla, and that is the correct spelling and alphabetization. Its copyright was registered with the United States Government in 1974, and a copy was in The Library of Congress until someone stole their only copy.
It had a song, a game, a dance, recipes, folklore, history, science, comix and both factional and fictional stories about them and the people who knew and loved or hated or painted or drew them. I knew a bunch of the Armadillo World Headquarters poster artists in Austin then, so their work was in there, too. I didn't have to look up its scientific name this time, because that's still lodged in my brain. I still have virgin copies of that newsprint book, and I may just have to post it to the internet, since it still contains good — and goofy — information. I think it would look good here.
Somewhere along then, I realized that the Nine-banded Armadillo edentata (toothless)'s natural habitat was Dead by the Side of the Road, like this large example of the species.
A couple years later, I was contacted by the guys (all men) in Victoria to do The Official Souvenir Program for the First Fifth International Armadillo Confab and Exposition in Victoria, Texas. And so I did it again but different. I think I retained copyright to that, too. If so, I'll put it up, also. About time.
As you may be able to tell, this was a particularly large example of the species, probably nearing its fourth year of life, either perhaps or probably in the woods up toward Buckner Boulevard from The Big Thicket area of White Rock Lake, which would have been just about perfect, except an armadillo's got to do what an armadillo's got to do — cross the nearest road. Most dillos would be safely driven over, unless crushed by automobile tires, except their millenia-old escape technique of jumping when in danger, which puts their most delicate parts just at the level of the most destructive portions of automobile anatomy.
I may have seen dillos this large before, but only rarely. That it had lived this long is a testament to its home in the Big Thicket, if that's where it has lived this long. Dillos only live about four years.
I also visited Sunset Bay today, but all I saw there were the exact same birds I photographed the day before and the day before that, so I am leaving you with the remains of this very large armadillo.
Kingfisher Closer, Mallards, Coots, Swan,
A prancing Snowy Egret & Three Pelicans
September 21 2015
Only just maybe a little closer, but not much more detail yet, but I'll keep at it. I got this shot from scanning the area where I'd seen him before. That chattering I expected to proceed each of his forays across the bay, didn't happen this time. The big diff 'tween these and yesterday's [below] is the cam/lens was on a tripod. That helps if the bird is still, but not if it's flying.
The white spot behind his beak is a beauty spot, his eye is jet-black behind that white spot.
Not entirely in focus, either.
Looks like she's been divesting little white feathers.
An elegant crew.
To save the day…
And Snowies always put on a little show. This one put on a continuing one.
I doubt that one, white feather came from a coot.
But it could have come form this zipping doo-dah.
So elegant, so fierce, so amazing to watch.
What everybody's wondering about is when the rest of the pelicans arrive, where will they gather. There's that huge log that got flooded up the creek, that they've stayed on before, when it was a couple places around Sunset Bay, but where it is not is not particularly good for photographers of pelicans.
Jennifer, who's from England where are many swans, says this is definitely a female. We've come to understand that, regardless of what Kathy Rogers of Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation has told us, because we've seen her mating with Patches, a much more domestic, goose.
Crows Chasing A Kingfisher
September 20 2015
I heard the high-pitched chattering as soon as I arrived on the pier at Sunset Bay. A grandmother and grand-daughter were filling the water around the pier with slightly torn-open white bread buns. There were no birds in the vicinity, and they kept throwing handful after handful of white bread down into the sogging pit, though I watched that white sog, and after about a half hour, most of it was eaten by gooses who eventually came much closer to the pier.
Meanwhile, I kept hearing that Kingfisher's chatter from the Hidden Creeks area across from Sunset Beach, and I kept wondering when I'd get to see it racing across the Bay. This was my first shot of the Kingfisher, and my sharpest.
Soon as I heard his distinctive call/warning, I paid attention to where it was coming from. The trees on the other side of the lagoon, but it was awhile till I saw it, when Eric prompted me, saying a crow was chasing it. I tuned in, hoped I'd focused enough, and clicked and clicked as they raced across the bay, then the crow left, and the Kingfisher rested.
The closer two birds are together, the larger the image I can show here. When they're farther apart, they seem smaller, because I can't just enlarge them, but I also have to enlarge the space between them. When they're closer, like this, you can see the large size disparity between the chaser and the chasee.
If left alone to pursue their desires, Kingfishers eat "mostly small fish, aquatic invertebrates and tadpoles," and Crows eat "carrion, small vertebrates, other birds' eggs and nestlings, berries, seeds, invertebrates and human food waste, visits bird feeders." both according to my Lone Pine Birds of Texas.
Kingfishers are 11 – 14 inches long with wingspans of 20 inches.
Then, I added these
September 19 2015
Here, I was just fooling around. Not paying so much attention to composition or where everybody's head was facing, whether anyone could see their eyes, all that folderol. Quick shots, kinda experimental. I usually don't photograph pigeons unless they're gorgeous all by themselves or doing something really interesting like trying to fetch a mate. I just shot these. Six or seven in a fairly fast rat-a-tat.
Of which only two of the series do I deem worthy of showing off, and I'm still not at all sure about this one, except I really like those tail feathers up like that — and I count six sets of eyes looking back.
This second time through the same shots I'd shot this morning, this one really stood out. The first time through them, not so much. I love the abstraction of trees in the water behind it, and the clear, sharp profile.
Two little ducks that look like Wood Duck females, a Great Egret, a mallard in flight, the only three American White Pelicans, so far, and another duck. This and those that follow were taken after sunset, after dinner, and just before dark, though after the ducks had left Sunset Beach after having been fed.
I have no idea why I shot this or worked it up or put it here.
People who assume things are always asking me what kind of zoom I have — at least those who don't just tell me that's a great camera, when it's mostly lens, not that large a camera, although it is biggish. But if it were a zoom, I probably would have pulled it back a little for this shot — and ruined it. So I guess I'm still happy it's not a zoom.
Kinda slept in, didn't get to Sunset Bay till just at 8 ayem..
Didn't really catch much action that late, but did see this Great Egret capture a fish.
I've always heard and read that herons impale their catches with their sharp beaks, but I've always kinda disbelieved that idea, too, because in the nearly ten years I've been photographing herons, including egrets, I'd never seen beak through flesh. Till now. This pretty much proves the story.
Kind of a busy background of pigeons, but I kept shooting anyway as it first attempted to swallow the fish, but failed.
Then got it lined up in its beak.
And down it went. There were still three pelicans, but they didn't do much interesting.
I did birds on Thursday afternoon, and met, again, someone who has long been an advocate of this bird journal. Thanks, Jennifer. We talked about swans, which they have a lot of in England, where I think she's from, and the pelicans and other birds including Whooping Cranes and Roseate Spoonbills, neither of which we saw in Sunset Bay today.
These are two of the three advanced scouts who arrived in Sunset Bay September 12. I've been sitting out itching from my half-dozen or so spider bites acquired while photographing one of the Green Herons who has been hunting in Sunset Bay, so I haven't paid that much attention to Sunset Bay or the lake lately, but I missed it all too much today to stay away. And I found pelicans closer than I saw them pretty far out last time I did pay them attention. And I will be coming back at my usual, near-constant attentions over the next few weeks. I still itch, just it's almost manageable.
This notion of kinda close involves using a 1.7 X telextender, so I'm using the millimeter extension of about 510mm in the lens department with my nominal 300mm tele, but the pelicans are closer, and so are my exposures here.
Rendering all-white birds can be an issue. One cannot, usually, just click at one and expect to render its bright white feathers as the detailed bright gray they actually show as. They are not all-white, even just their feathers.
Great Egrets, which are probably the most common herons at White Rock Lake are best rendered a neutralish gray, so we can see them and their exquisite details.
There are probably more domestic — not wild — gooses in Sunset Bay than anything else but the much smaller ducks, usually of the Mallard persuasion.
The goose is not looking at or concerned about the much-smaller Killdeer, our noisiest peep. I doubt gooses even notice Killdeer unless it gets between goose and food.
Concerning Spider bites & not Photographing Birds Lately
I'm thinking I can possibly do birds Thursday, even though what the VA Emergency Room doctors and nurses, who probably know better than I — It wouldn't take much. — all agree it was probably spiders that bit me at least five times, so I can't blame insects. If I knew their species, I'd show a Wiki-Commons pic of them atop these paragraphs.
The only where I went I usually do not, was across the creek from the Invisible Green Heron. Tall weeds The City hasn't mown in weeks, and I just stood there clicking, giving them time to bite arms, hand, elbow and face, which I only felt much later, then wounds oozed.
My left hand is still so swollen I can't see veins on the back of it, so I may abstain at least a few more days, though I dearly miss the birds and people who watch and photo them. The people who worry about me are busy doing that, praying, etc. (Thanks Mom, Anna and K.) So I shall take their heed and hide from spiders longer. I've graduated from cooking my histamines with warm water that always worked before, to cooling them with ice packs, thanks to the advice of an ER nurse, and I'm religiously taking the littlest pills, spreading Rx 2.5% hydrocortisone and desperately trying to not scratch by moving ice packs that kill the itchy-poo prickles.
The only real pain I got is from the ice packs, and I can still take pix, but not out of the house, yet. Maybe some out-The-Slider's window birdography is almost in order.
Sometimes I like to show images by other photographers.
Anybody is eligible, just send me some samples, and I'll know.
Quoting Tommy Fisher: "I went to Valley Creek Park today and just as I entered the park entrance I saw what looked like a large leaf flutter down from
one of the Cypress trees. As I watched I realized it was not just fluttering, it was flying. It had a pretty good tailwind and was moving fast. I watched it thru my binoculars and saw it settle into the grass fifty yards or so away. I went to the spot and found this super-size moth.
I had never seen one and did not know if it was a moth or a butterfly. I got a few shots, but unfortunately it was partially shaded on one side. It was a good 5.5 – 6 inches wingtip to wingtip. It departed before I could get an unshaded shot and went a long distance and I never saw it again."
"I had no idea what it was. When I got home I showed it to my wife Rita, and we started to research. I could not find it under butterflies. Rita started to search moths and found it, she is much better at identifying birds and critters thru research than I am. When I get a shot of something and don't know what it is, I turn it over to my research department (Rita)."
"It turned out to be a Female Polyphemus Moth. Nature never ceases to amaze me and this moth is no exception. The Polyphemus only lives seven to ten days after emergence and does not eat or drink as it has no mouth or digestive system. It survives only off of the nutrients stored by the caterpillar the summer before. It emerges just long enough to mate and for the female to lay her eggs."
"I never have seen one before and probably never will again. I have seen two different butterflies at the park in past years that I had never seen before and have not seen since, they were the Mourning Cloak and the Buckeye. I just consider it luck to have seen them at all."
"This was taken in my backyard of a Carpenter Bee and a Passion Flower. This guy loves these flowers, any time they are blooming he is there."
Pelicans Fishing, Cormorants, Coots & Killdeers
September 15 2015
While photographing that poor Green Heron, who never caught anything all while we watched, I looked up and out into the bay, and I didn't see the pelicans on that far log where I'd first seen them, so I went back to the pier thinking they were probably going fishing, and they were.
All organized at the beginning, but the organization portion quickly goeth asunder.
Dunking heads partially underwater, seining with their beaks to get a lower mandible full of food.
First they swam in front of it, then they swam behind the Great Blue Heron, who is usually just there. I assume pelicans like different kinds of fish than herons do. .
Later, when the whole clan is gathered and rested, we will see cormorants, gulls, pelicans and sometimes even ducks joining into massive flotillas in search for fish. It's all very competitive, but it helps everybody who joins in to find more food, so they squabble among themselves, but they keep doing it day after day, because they fish best when they fish with each other.
Pelican A Tilts Beak Down to Drain Water from Pouch, and Pelican B Tilts Back Beak to Drain Fishes into its Gullet
Rendered high-contrast to partially alleviate the the focus issue. Mostly, this image of fast-flitting shorebirds serves as a transition.
Cormorants dive for food, partially propelled by their wings, which tend to get wet down their, so they can often be seen drying their wings. One cormorant has been out in the bay for a week or so. Now that the pelks are coming back, there'll be gobs more soon. Usually, lately, three pelicans come in early, then after or within a couple weeks, many, many more will.
I shot four times, and managed to get one in pretty good focus.
Beach = Peninsula = Sandbar = Island
At first, I thought it might be a female Northern Shoveler, but it's not.
Mandarin Duck & Invisible Green Heron
September 14 2015
I think this is my best photograph of the Mandarin, but he never got close enough to do him right.
Especially compare the Mandarin on the far left and the male Wood Duck on the far right. Their sides are very similar, but not much else.
It looks obvious, but it was anything but. one of the ways photographs lie is in the rendering of tonalities. This Green Heron was a dark black blob on a sometimes bright, often dark landscape. Lightening it enough for you and me to recognize it — like this — renders the scene way too obvious and bright.
Because you can still easily see that there's a small, dark bird here. That was not at all clear from across the water from where it was hunting. A guy with a camera who'd been walking down the road (nobody uses trails through there, because there is only one, tiny, narrow tail anywhere, and nearly none at all through the water's edge area, so the road becomes the trail, and so very subtly, the City of Dallas is teaching people to always walk down the middle of roads, even though there are cars using that same path. Pretty stupid, huh?
Anyway, the guy walking by saw us aiming our cameras at — well something invisible to him, and if we looked away, then back, it was invisible to us, too — until we adjusted our seeing — looking into the dark, not the light. Then, and only then, could we see the bird for the landscape, and click our little and big cameras away at it.
I also got other photos this early morning, but because I also got four very large and itchy Unsub Bug Bites, complete with large bumps on my forehead, left hand and right elbow, I'm not going to go to the lake tomorrow, Tuesday and maybe not Wednesday, too. Besides I still have some de-cluttering to do in my house, and my deadline is Thursday, although I've got done everything else the house insurance people demanded. I also got pix of the three, early-arrival American White Pelicans doing their Synchronized Swim-fishing thing, and some other stuff of interest. Tomorrow, tomorrow.
Female Wood Ducks already have a finely-honed appreciation for very colorful birds, so it might not be a surprise that the Wood Ducks tend to not let the Mandarin Duck join in their reindeer games all the time, but sometimes they don't seem to mind.
Oddly enough, finding the Mandarin Duck is a lesson in appreciating Nature's subtleties. He usually stays on the far side of the lagoon, when he's there at all. So a telephoto will help, a lot. But even when we know it's out there, because we just saw him there, he tends to blend into whatever's out there. Seeing a Mandarin Duck that far away is a lot like seeing a close Green Heron. We have to adjust our seeing.
Nobody ever expects quite so much color and pattern in a duck, so we tend to literally 'overlook' its wild colors and arrangements thereof, and it becomes invisible. Not here in a photograph so much, because our lenses focus in just one place, and we're lucky if that's on our subject. But in real life, if we can call Mandarin Ducks real life, they sometimes disappear right in front of our eyes.
small shorebirds, Egrets, Green Heron, Grebe,
Ducks & the first three of the season's Pelicans
September 13 2015
But there were just these two, and they were loop-de-looping, corkscrewing, winding and pell-mell flying in, around and through the inner Bay till they disappeared. I got three shots in the early amber of sunrise. Two in near focus, just this one sharp. More than anything else, details depend upon focus, and focusing these fast little guys was a real challenge — way more than all those ducks and myriad other birds I practice on as they execute controlled falls to earth or water, because these little birds' trajectories changed moment by moment. But I got 'em. Now, if I can only identify them.
Our American Coot Supply has well more than trebled in the last day or so, but we have to expect way more again. Luckily, we have plenty Great Egrets already.
Great Egret individuals disappear from time, but I think they're with us day in, day out, month in, seasons in, through the years.
Anna and I saw two Green Herons this blissfully cool Sunday morning. This one in Sunset Bay, and another along DeGoyler Drive, where I first-ever saw the tiny little herons about a decade ago. Here I photographed it copiously. There I just watched — I watched, identified it aloud, and just kept watching.
At least I called it that when I named all the major log formations in the bay.
Last time I saw the grebe, I got documentation that it was there. This time, I got much more detail. It helped that it had got wet.
As my treasured, but I fear permanently out-of-publication Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, states about these little (12-15 inches long with a wingspan of 16 inches) birds, "With relatively solid bones and the ability to partially deflate its air sac, the Pied-billed Grebe can float low in the water or sink below the water's surface like a tiny submarine, with only its nostrils and eyes showing above the surface." That book's authors go on, but I won't. Find the book on a used-book site somewhere. It's a treasure of Texas bird knowledge.
No idea what it was so intent upon in the sky above it, but it watched carefully for awhile. Must have been something hungry and/or bigger than it was, flying over. Exposure, focus distance, and too many other variables to give up this marvelous photo opportunity, and try to capture something up there, so I kept the camera trained on the heron. A bird on a log in front of us is better than something in the sky, and I don't switch exposure compensations forth and back with much intelligence. It takes watching the subject intently, so it doesn't fly off.
Pretty good focus = pretty good detail. Nice of this little heron to drop by. If briefly.
… to Fly nearly straight up and away, which it did with amazing speed I was not able to follow. Lucky I got these.
Like I say, it was a gorgeous morning, and the lake was flooded with people enjoying it. We stayed for a long time, doing that long walk we've been promising ourselves. And about those pelicans — every shot I made was way overexposed, so I guess I'll have to go back later this week, and more gather or these go fishing closer to shore.
I photographed them so poorly this early cool afternoon, I didn't even want to show you what I got. I had to go back in the much hotter afternoon — with a tripod and a willingness to mess significantly with the exposure till I got it right. I knew by the time I got there, the sun would be behind them, putting them in their own shadows, so I overexposed everything around them to get these shots.
Where they were this Sunday afternoon was a little closer to shore than where they were that morning, so they seem to be getting a little less shy. I don't know if one of them had wintered here at White Rock Lake before and led the way, but the one standing on the right is an adult. Sibley sub-identifies that pelican with black feathers atop its head age as a summer Adult (June – August), and from looking at Sibley's painting of this species, I think the one with spots on its wings (left) is a juvenile, possibly hatched up north (anywhere north along a wide, big-smiling arc down from British Columbia, Canada, to southeastern Idaho, Utah, then all the way across to eastern Minnesota, where they probably came from.
It didn't swim very far, but it came back within a few minutes. When they get hungry, however, and that feeling eclipses how tired they must be from flying all that distance from the north, northeast or northwest, they'll start swimming around closer to shore, where they'll do their usual synchronized-swimming fishing. Where, together, they will swam after fish, driving them to the shallows (The whole bay is very shallow, often only a few inches deep, but pelicans tend to drive their prey into the edges of land.), then, when they'd pushed them into water too shallow for the fish, they scoop them up with their flexible lower mandibles. It's great fun to watch them when they do that, and perhaps the best part of the process, is they often come close enough to shore for us photographers to get pix of them up-close and personal — or pelicano.
Pelican A has its beak open; Pelican B is doing a Lower Mandible Inversion; and Pelican C is just standing there. The mandible inversion, wherein they invert their pliable lower mandible / pouch inside-out over their puffed-out breast, because that stretching helps them keep it pliable, so it can hold gallons of water with fish in it, then filter out the water and tip back and swallow the fish, the whole sequence of which is something alert photographers wait long minutes unto hours for a chance to photograph.
FOS Alert: Erin S reported 3 American White Pelicans in SSB Sept 12.
Every time I visit Sunset Bay, I see something different
September 13 2015
Juvenile White Ibis Flying Over Sunset Bay
Dark shape above, and Eric's already calling it an Ibis, so I just have to lift my camera while sliding the exposure compensation dial up, because flying birds are either all the way or partially in their own shadows, so I click and click and click, till it's past too far away already. These shots are the best of the bunch.
I was hoping this bird was on reconnaissance, looking for a nice place to settle for awhile, but after it disappeared nothing happened. Although it might have later.
Then, not much later, I got this shot of this bird apparently banking for a turn. Of course, it being white against a gray sky background, I had to close down the EV to render it correctly.
Then as luck would have it, I got this opportunity. Both of these last two were at some distance, so they are very small portions of the full frame, blown up. I had this last one even larger, but it was beginning to break apart visually, so I made the jpeg smaller, so it'd look sharper.
When I saw this, often-feisty and fast-moving bird fly in from a little west of the pier, I got excited, hoping for some real Snowy Dancing, which it did some of early, but most of the time, it was pretty calm for a Snowy Egret.
Eric pointed it out for me or I might have lost in a month the similarly-sized and -shaped ducks, distinctive as it is small.
I don't always shoot everything that flies into or out of Sunset Bay or the lagoon, but I sure often do, because I always need the practice.
Hot After Rain
September 11 2015
One of our domestic gooses flapping, but you knew that.
Looks like a dark and mysterious place.
They really are two pair, just I cropped off the slower female, because I wanted these guys to be bigger. When I get exposure this right, I want to show it off.
All four landed safely, and J R is just so proud he got them all — even the female bringing up the rear — in good focus.
Before I saw its wings, I assumed it was an adult or very nearly one. But Kala King tells me these are Indian Runners, who run but do not fly, because their wings are too small.
Usually, I show pix in strict chronological order. This time, I did it backwards, but not on purpose. This was the shot I take to see if my exposure is right, before I get down to the end of the Pier at Sunset Bay. And yeah, that's Katy.
MORE PIX That Afternoon
September 10 2015
Round and round and round they went.
I have no idea why, but I am curious.
I think these are Blue-winged Teal and Northern Shovelers. They both seemed to be landing and taking off from this wood-piled area left of Sunset Island.
Of course, they weren't really leapfrogging. They were chasing each other left and right up and down the far side of the peninsula that might be an island by now, and if it keeps raining it might disappear altogether.
I don't know if it was them 'playing' or there was some serious purpose, but it looked like fun, splashing down the beach …
… and suddenly taking short flights.
Oh, and I added a couple more pix below, and some above those, too.
the pier 7–7:38 am
& That Afternoon, Too
wet and cool
September 9 2015
What I at first thought was just one, turned out to be several flocks flying into Sunset Bay early this rainy-cool Wednesday morning. Nice.
I arrived at 7 almost sharp. Yes, raining but not heavily. Most of it landed on my head and camera, both of which are weather-sealed. This shot, however, was taken around four that afternoon, when I came back to try to do better photography.
This bunch is, I think, Blue-winged Teal, but it's way too far to see their beaks. The two species are on opposite ends of the same two-page spread in Sibley's, so I consider that 'related." There are several similarities, so it shouldn't be too surprising to see them both flying around this early in the morning.
But these birds' beaks are petite, compared with the Northern Shovelers, whom I often call "Snorkers."
Blue-winged Teal excite the local birders, but Snorkers don't get the respect. Which is probably why I love Snorkers and think of BWT as just more ducks.
Low and inside.
I only remember focusing on the female, so I guess the male below is a bonus.
The colors are all wrong in this shot, because it started out all blue. This morning it was point camera up, get blue; point camera at bird on earth somewhere, get real colors. I managed to do the top five shots in today's journal entry pretty close to right, then the right way completely eluded me in this one, and I wasted hours trying to find a way to change colors in Photoflop.
It used to be simple. Then the idiots at Adobe replaced that wonderful facility, so now it's impossible, so I approximated this shot. Badly. But there were a big bunch of Stilt Sandpipers flying around and around this ayem. If you want to see them in their truer colors, check these three [below] that I photographed September 1. I suspect they may have been scouts for this larger flock …
There was an overexposed Snow Egret flying in the above slot awhile ago, and it didn't blur, but the overly white areas (no terribly unlike the ones above, but there are fewer and smaller of them here, so this is really a decent replacement for that one. But today was about flocks, not individuals, so maybe neither was right for this spot.
refidnasb1's video of White-faced Ibis in Dallas' Great Trinity Forest published September 4, 2015.
Then stay tuned for his vid of Great Trinity Forest Clearcutting and Surface Mining Trinity Forest Golf Course.
Up too Early;
shoulda stayed in bed
September 5 2015
There's more at night, but I am continually amazed how many egrets spend the early morning out in Sunset Bay. Of course, soon, soon, the place will be over-run by the much bigger, American White Pelicans again, for whom these last few weeks' of sleeping egrets is kinda a premonition.
My camera thinks it was night, and it was dark, but the egrets wake and get into the sky with a minimum of fuss. They got places to go around White Rock, The Trinity River and points beyond. I'd love to know where all those who sleep nights at the lake, spend their days.
I don't know, but it looks like it doesn't have a wing. Clipped, so they couldn't fly away?
Of whatever it is they do. Eat grass (They are great lawn mowers.) Cross the road. Gather together. Disperse. Interfere with duck sex. 'Talk' with humans and other gooses. Honk like traffic jams. Swim. Run on the water, sometimes even fly short and long ways. They're busy at it every day.
Early in the morning at Sunset Bay.
I think. My computer dictionary defines dabble as "(of a duck or other waterbird) move the bill around in shallow water while feeding: teal dabble in the shallows."
From WhatDoDucksEat: "Ducks also have bills that are shaped differently depending on the type of food they like to eat. So what do ducks like to eat? Some ducks are dabbling ducks. This means that they stay near the surface of the water to find food. If you have ever seen a duck with its head in the water and its tail in the air, then you were watching a dabbling duck catching its food.
They circle and figure-8 the inner bay dozens and dozens of times a day. I assume they keep losing their bearings. Pigeons circling on YouTube.
It was exciting when I shot it. now it seems rather pedestrian.
But maybe it's design is too clean. Now it looks more like a dove.
Another, Much better
Great Blue Heron Chase
September 5 2015
This is the sort of image I want to see huge, like filling a whole wall. If I were in the business of selling prints, this is one I'd want to. But then I'd be in the business of selling prints, and I'd need a big, expensive printer that made big, expensive prints — and I'd have to keep it busy most of the time, or I'd have to shop that part of the business out. Or I'd have to engage one of those weasels who say they'll take care of all that, then I'd wake up some ugly morning and see one of my pictures in somebody's magazine, with somebody else's name on it. Oh, never mind.
Which is not to say that I don't sell images or the use of images, just that it's more complicated than one might imagine, and it's not why I go out and photograph birds. I'm fascinated by them, and I love watching them do what seems to be like odd things, till I can figure out what it is they are doing, and why they're doing it. Then I want to photograph it some more.
I like this one enough to want it on my next business card. I keep meeting people who might want to visit this electronic rag, and the way I promoted any of my sites — this and DallasArtsRevue.com has always been by handing out business cards.
I assume they are having loads of fun. I would be having loads of fun if I could fly like this — something I've only seen few times far between. Ever.
Actually, they are probably about the same close apart. Just my point of view of their frolics was different. I could probably go on with this fun chase, but this is all I post-produced. As usual, just the best or the ones that 'said' something I needed to 'say.'
Shorebirds @ the Dam
Tricolored Herons @ SSB
September 4 2015 — 224
SSB is Sunset Bay, and though we generally go there first and often only, we'd heard there was a very interesting bird at the Spillway, except it was really off the front of the dam, somewhere between The [Upper] Spillway and The Old Pump House, so we set out to walk the path up to it, then the length of it. I, as usual, needed the walk, but it was hot and getting hotter, so I walked it and back, and I was nearly exhausted all day long, but I needed it. I also got pix of several bird species there but none of "the very interesting bird," and when I went off to Sunset Bay, once in the late morning, and once in the too-early evening, it was still hot. But there were many times more interesting species, some of whom posed for me.
Oh, yeah, and these are new pix, shot Thursday, September 3, 2015.
After I get some sleep maybe I can identify this one.
We can even see some spots.
Or at least — off Dam.
Well, I was standing on the dam to photograph these crows looking down onto the Upper-most Spillway, where the dam is.
I was attempting to get everything except the two red trucks in one composition. The two red trucks were pure serendipitous happenstance.
The landing crow seems comparatively immense to the standing one. Notice how the latter is looking up to the former. Big one's an adult. Little one's a juvenile.
It's easy to get pic of birds with their wing- and tail-feathers spread like this, if one is already cytotechnology the shutter along as they were doing whatever they were doing when this happened, but we never know quite what they'll be doing then, so it's usually just pure luck.
And it is. The flashiest color of adult Tricolored Herons is blue [below], but the flashiest color of juveniles is rust-ish red.
One Flying and the other one just there.
Notice all the blue. So blue, when I saw my first-ever Tricolored Heron, I assumed it was a Great Blue Heron [for comparison and for real just past the 'coons below], because I managed to not even notice its white belly. We haven't seen Little Blues for awhile, but I know they're out there somewhere, maybe hiding, because I saw a juvenile 'round here somewhere bot SSB, about this time last summer, but I remember when three, maybe more of them, were in SSB spatting among themselves for territory and fresh-caught fish. I'll have to look those up.
Like DallasArtsRevue.com, The Amateur Birder's Journal never throws anything away. All the birds and all the words are all still here on these pages. Barring my numerous errors, you could use the Last Month and Last Year links at the top of every Bird Journal page to go all the way back, see how global warming has changed our world. This Bird Journal goes back to June 2006 online. You could do as well as me to search (also at the top of every bird page) for "Little Blue Heron," caps or not, though, as usual, that might net art of that bird, if any, because The Amateur Bird Journal and my previous predilection are both searched. And if you see ads anywhere along the way, it's probably your fault. I'm not selling anything on the Bird Journal, unless you really need one of my photos. Then it'll cost you, but not necessarily money.
Talking about pure luck. Getting both these birds in one frame was just that.
And it's true, it was a little bluish, but it was a little, bluish, adult Tricolored Heron, and the one with a red neck was a juvenile Tricolored Heron. Not all my pix of them do particularly well, but these first five are nearly spectacular.
That is, the sand bar formerly known as "The Peninsula."
After paging twice through Sibley's Guide to Birds, I'm thinking these are likely to be Least Sandpipers. I've seen a lot of them lately, though usually from their other ends.
in the Dark
September 3 2015 — 53
And that's only counting Raccoon eyes above the water line. I shot these with the flashlight and knew-they'd-be-coming fore-knowledge of Charles F, who feeds gooses and ducks and owns Roy, the Wonder Dog, plus, I think I used the built-in camera flash. Charles talked about their eyes glowing, but this is many times better than I imagined. He said there are about ten of them, overall.
You can tell I was hand-holding the cam. Wow! Amazed I could focus out on the island, too. I should have brought my tripod — or found that old, really clunky monopod I don't think I've ever used. I was struggling with just two hands and at least three's worth of things to hold, turn, push or aim.
The cam would not focus in dark so dark I could barely see to know what to focus on, so I had to find some light to switch it to manual, which worked this time, but not many others.
Or the same one in much worse light — and focus. I think those yellow blurs next to it must be two eyes filled with flashlight light. Or maybe another kit whose eyes were.
Best of the Worst Focuses.
Probably the second-best shot of the bunch. The best being the first shot of all those eyes on the island.
I've got a lot of cleaning up yet to do after the sheet rocker and pulling things out of their temporary boxes back into my newly-topped rooms, so I shot an awful lot of pix the earliest morning on the last day of that last month — not counting these, however — so I'm dribbling the rest out — while I continue to organize, move furniture and clean house, but I still found time to visit the lake tonight, apparently for raccoons in the dark, although I got a lot of pix of more ducks in one place gobbling food than I've ever seen before.
A Short Tale of
Great Blue Herons
September 2 2015
If there is any possible way I can, when I see a Great Blue Heron, I attempt to photograph it doing whatever it is up to. This one is landing very near a Great Egret and not far from one of the few American Coots still hanging out in Sunset Bay after nearly all the others flew off to wherever coots flew off too last spring.
Until they amass into the hundreds, if not thousands, coots really are mostly just there. When there's a bunch of them, however, they bicker and fight, and walk on water / coot scoot and operate other adventures.
This is the image I must have shot the above sequence hoping for.
One white Great Egret and one kinda brownish Great Blue Heron. "Great" in these contexts means big. These are the larger of the North American egrets, all of whom are Herons.
I've seen those birds for decades, but this rock, if it is a rock, though it's probably a log, is entirely new too me.
This GBH is illuminated by the rising sun, thus the sunrise/sunset colors.
I've seen Little Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets wiggling their foot to indicate to potential prey there's something good-sized in the water maybe worth attacking and eating, so it'll come within beak reach and get got. I assume this is a variation on that same theme, though I hadn't ever seen it before. I'm intrigued that the water surface is interrupted in a way that looks a lot like a cartoonist's view of energized water.
GBHs are just so cool.
I don't know if this is the same bird. The big black dots are either bugs or more distant birds, not dirt on my lens.
Directly illuminated by the rising sun.
This time its color is different, because it is now illuminated by the sky above and not just direct, early-morning sunlight, which is amber..
Wood Duck, Killdeer
& a short flock of
September 1 2015
Every spring into summer there's usually at least one young Yellow-crowned Night Heron bumping around, learning the ropes, what to eat and what to leave alone unless it's really desperate, standing by the creek, ever watchful for something in the water or at the edge to eat. I've actually seen and photographed two sometimes, but this year, there seems to be just this one.
I saw this one much earlier in its youth standing beside this same creek — only on this side, staring. A real treat would be to photograph a juvenile with an adult — a family portrait, if you will. Or if they would.
But not close enough to get them both in the same frame, although Eric, who showed me where the juvenile hid in plain sight often, said there might be an adult nearby, and he may have got them close-enough together later. I agree getting them together in one photograph would be neat, but though I have, rarely, seen them together somewhere on the edge of something big and wet, the night-heron adults usually lurk at a distance, ever watchful, but aloof. They've taught their young what they needed teaching, but it may, like just-hatched ducks, be a matter of following a parent to the right place and being let on their own to do what comes naturally.
And it was amazing, to know exactly where it was, but when I'd look down at the camera, then back up, it was as if I'd never seen it at all, so well did it fit in with its extended environment, all a gray scale of mush, invisible to the passing world. A little thing called focus lets us both see it now. Otherwise, everything would just all blend together.
If you hadn't noticed already, my head and camera, are often turned by female Woods.
I have long history with Killdeer, tracked these ubiquitous birds down, up and down Texas. If I had killdeer-like history with the unknown subjects (unsubs) just below, I'd know them, too. Only to stumble on something much easier.
I looked through four bird I.D books twice-each, but never did I find exactly who these are. They sure look distinctive as Shorebirds, surely, and I found several varieties that almost fit these patterns, colors, tones and configurations, but none that quite did. Despite the text-book configuration of this — and subsequent photographs. So I asked the forum members on Dallas' Audubon's Bird Chat (all free, but ya gotta register) and "Ycmry" ideed these three birds as Stilt Sandpipers, which I don't remember ever seeing before. Nice.
Flying in each of the usual views afforded by bird-identification books, but they're rarely exactly like their drawn (Sibley) or photographed (Crossley) pictured selves. But if I could find these birds in books, it should be easy, as distinctive as these photographs — in focus yet — are. But alas! no. I passed them up every time, because my pictures are darker than those in books.
It was as if they wanted me to know their names, they came back around together on several occasions, flashing me with their true and truer selves. But drawing a blank I was. While they were whizzing around, I kept at trying to get them in focus, and am surprised I got two [above] out of three.
Today's birds continue from yester-morn's shoot, way too early starting in the cool of dark, till somewhere past light.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2015 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.
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