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The Amateur Birder's Journal - Stories & Photographs by J R Compton
All Contents © 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. DO NOT USE images without permission & payment.
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September 30 2006

Starlings on Wires - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Starlings on Wires

I've been wondering for years now what all those little birds on wires were. I thought they might be starlings, but never got close enough before to being certain (close to, still not certain).

Not sure where I was to photo this scene, but I'm fairly certain those are European Starlings enough generations later to call them American by now.

September 28

Grackle Bath - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Grackle Bath - Rarely more than a couple
birds bathe at any one time. The rest guard or play.

When Anna and I walked today, we meant to walk, but we stopped at the Spillway Steps to photo herons in the trees and a dandy egret prancing across the rim, elegent and crafty.

Fluff Tail Grackle - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Fluff-tailed Grackle

Then we went up to where the City still has the parking lot and previously fenced edge of the spillway viewing area tall, chain-link fenced off from cars and people — and will continue till they figure out that putting cars there will always be dangerous and at last abandon that parking lot.

Shake Your Tail Feathers - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved

She Shakes Her Tail Feathers

Eventually, they have to let the people back, but their determination to put cars there will only thwart everybody's safety. A grassy knoll sloping down to the retaining wall — which took a lot of dirt with it when it toppled in last spring's 100-year flood — but eventually will have to be replaced, because a lot of water sluices through there after big rains. But the City engineers are not yet willing to let go their preconceived notions. And so the best bird access on the lake remains locked behind ugly fences.

The Mrs Watches - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved

The Mrs. Watches Warily

From the top end of that thwarting fence, we photographed Grackles taking baths, then taking turns flying up to one particular branch of one particular drying tree to fluff up and dry off, wiggle tail and other feathers, puff and preen.

Doing The Wing Fluff - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved

Doing the Wing Fluff

All the nicer for close access, even if they are just grackles.

Unsub Flap - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.
Unsub Soar - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Unsub Flying Over - a duck or
something bigger and longer necked?

While I rested, along the way back, I looked up and saw this unsub fly way over.

September 27

Today's adventure involved a brief sighting of a juvenile hawk far from where we usually see it and a junior Great Blue Heron fishing placidly no more than 20 yards from more than 50 loud, giggling and yelling highschool girls doing a funny sort of calisthenics on shore.

Hawk Blurring toward the Trees - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Hawk Blurring into the Trees

The place was the Boat House. The hawk was either a much darker, blacker juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk that we've usually seen near Sunset Bay on the other side of the lake, or one very like it. I only got the most fleeting vision of it before it got into the thick leaves of the trees on the other side of the bay/creek — all dark and stripey like the photo above. Not many seconds elapsed before I got the camera up and firing.

Hawk Nose in Trees - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved

Hawk Nose in the Trees
(note the beak peeking out
between the leaves at top.)

Its backside is darker, and its front lighter than before, although it's likely it's the same bird as previous sightings. I'm glad to see it, especially since its prey are mamals and reptiles, not birds. This side of the lake is more accessible for me.

Post Fish-gulp Ruffle - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

The Post Fish-gulp Ruffle — Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron seemed younger and less fluffy than the elder bird that stole the fish not so many days ago, until it did the post fish-gulp ruffle. Hard to believe the bird above is the identical bird as below.

Svelt GBH in Stealth Mode - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Svelt Great Blue Heron in Stealth Mode
Hard to believe it's the same bird — only minutes different.

The area I keep calling the creek is actually more of an acutely angled bay or lagoon. And it's deeper than it was during most of the summer of this year of drought. I worried that it might get too deep for egret/heron fishing methods. But it is not.

Now that the spillway has become inaccessible, the Boat House Lagoon is my favorite birding area.

September 26

Heron Family Tree - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

A Black-crowned Night Heron Family Tree

After work I needed to be at the lake. See who'd gathered at the spillway. I expected egrets, and found a few. Then I saw a heron in the tree. Then another. Early shots show feet of birds I only later comprehended. Three. Finally four herons in one tree.

Each time I backed the zoom to include another or changed position after a jogger set the bridge bouncing again, I had to reorient to the gray and blue masses lost in the mesh of tree.

Took long time each time to zone in, find focus and unmerge individual birds.

Stripey - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Stripey

Young Gray - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Lil' Gray

Curley Blue - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Curly Mo

I saw Stripey first. Nat'l Geo calls a Black-crowned Night Heron with this featheration, a juvenile. Lil' Gray appears to be older, past the stripes, having acquired a soft gray consistent with a Black-crown it its second spring. Not sure what the wing drop is about. Curly Mo, with the bad rug, is or very nearly is an adult of breeding age. Then there's Blue.

Blue Looks - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Blue

Who kept its back turned and hunkered through my first several dozen shots, then finally turned and looked over its shoulder when I shot its individual portrait.

September 25

Klingon Goose SexSeptember 24

Seconds Before Goose Sex

Regular readers know all these guys — yes, guys. Tthere's only one female in this picture. She's the gray-necked one with the white pointy tail barely glinting light at the center bottom. Her left eye is barely above the surface. She does not have the black swan klingon face plate.

The African Brown Goose is pushing her down. He is the S-necked one with a black swan-like Klingon face and brown mohawk markings atop his head and neck, just this side of the two white gooses that held her down to start. His are the wings thrust up, out of the way, at the right.

Not counting the African Brown, who usually hangs out with the China White Goose (see yesterday's entry just below) at Tilley's Point across the lake (Free Advice), everybody in this picture belongs to the Nine Geese Running Clan, which we've photographed here often.

As soon as this began, people rushed to our end of the pier at Sunset Bay, worried about the "duck fight" they saw six feet off the pier. "It's sex," I said clearly three times. "It's not a fight. That's how they do it. It'll be over in a few seconds." And it was.

I'd not seen gooses do it before, but I have seen (and photographed) the duck version just a few feet away. The flurry of the chase ends in several birds holding the female down, often under water, while one male does it, and sometimes another.

This time, only one.

Post Sex Wing Flap - Copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Post Sex Back Arch & Wing Flap

He does it quick. The melee is momentary. A few seconds and everybody swims away. Almost everybody. The dominating male may do a little crowing, flap his wings, get a little showy-offish.

Then it's back to normal.


I'm working on a Bird version of our very recent
Grand Canyon vacation. I'll link it here first.

September 24

Canadian Goose - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Been back from the Grand Can a couple days. First had to catch up on sleep, then accomplish some things. Now, finally, I can do birds. Anna drove us around to old haunts. Us hoping for new characters. This orange-banded (plastic wrapped around its right leg) Canadian Goose is new. We found a pair of them at the Boat House.

Klingon Goose Pair at Tilley's Point - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Klingon Goose Pair

We've been speculating on which one is the girl, now we're thinking maybe they're just pals. Not from today's welcome back to old buds, which definitely includes these two. Take notice of the one on the left, previously identified as an African Brown Goose. The White's a China White, often domesticated.

Black Grack - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Black Grack-le on the march

And what Welcome Back could be complete without a black Great-tailed Grackle. This is a particularly classy shot of just one of those nearly ubiquitous birds.

September 9

Green Heron Flying with Fish - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Green Heron Flying with Just-caught Fish

Despite zillions of runners and nearly no parking spaces within a quarter mile, the First-ever Addlepated (as it was then called) Birder's Walk, helping celebrate the The Bath House Cultural Center's 25th Anniversary, was a rousing success. 11 people showed up to watch, learn, photograph, binoc and talk about birds. And we experienced several interesting varieties.

We even got written up in Lakewood Now, a new local, online publication.

Green Heron Takes Off from Boardwalk - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights reserved.

Green Heron Takes Off from the Yacht Club Boardwalk

Perhaps the star of our show was this little Green Heron one of our 11 spotted in the reeds, described, I identified, and we all watched as it perched in the reeds, took off, flew to the yacht club boardwalk, took off again further down the pier, then flew away.

On an early hop, I shot the scratchy, nearly monochromatic photo at the top, more instinctual than expecting anything from it, because I always pan along with flying herons that close. Not much light available. Camera set at a sandpaperish 1600 ISO. Didn't see the fish when I was photographing, but now understand why it left the reeds. They don't seem to mind the crowds.

Not rare, exactly, but not common either, green herons are still special at White Rock Lake. We've maybe seen five of them, altogether, ever.

Great Blue Heron on a Pole - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Great Blue Heron on a Pole
in available darkness

First bird I saw when I arrived early (for a change), the area lit only by a nearly full moon, was a Great Blue Heron on top one of the poles up out of what used to be Dallas' best-known swimming area. T. C., one of our 11 watchers, remembers swimming there in the 1950s, when the Bath House really was a bath house.

Great Blue Heron with Blurry Skyline - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Great Blue Heron with Smeared Skyline — Early

People-watching Great Blues graced us with several fly-bys. We also saw Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets, unidentifiable Warblers someone pointed out in the top of a tree, a juvenile Great Blue Heron, and we all stopped to listen intently to several other species bantering in the Big Thicket.

Oh, and ducks.

Two Ducks with One Foot Up - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Ducks Doing The One-Foot Left-Lean in Unison

Grand fun. Special thanks to the Bath House for setting it up and to the eleven who walked and talked with us. Wish we'd got email addresses. That was so fine we might have to do it again. Maybe after the Pelicans come back next month.

September 8

Green Heron Prayer Answer - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Green Heron - Prayer Answer

The challenge is finding birds. Of which there's lots, of course. Lots to be learned about them. Photographing helps me learn. But finding new birds is increasingly difficult.

Coming back from the dam after settling for photographing egrets acting strangely today, I asked aloud for "a Green Heron four feet away" pointing to the end of the Boat House Bridge.

Look up, there's the heron. More than four feet away, but hey.

Right there eyeing me back. Now I'm asking for multiple bird sightings on the free public walk I'm leading from behind the Bath House Cultural Center at 7 ayem Saturday. It'll be grand fun.

Eegs Flying & Playing - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Egrets Flying in Circles

What I was photographing egrets — both Snowy Egrets and Great Egrets — do between the spillway and the first pier up Garland Road was fishing. Only they were so fast at pulling out fishes we couldn't catch them doing it.

Until I got today's shots large on my monitor, we thought they were touching the surface with their claws and flying back to wait their turn to fly out there and do it again. We were pretty sure they never brought their toeses to their noses. Pretty goofy for fish-crazy birds, but we were relying on eye-brain logic. They knew what they were doing. We didn't.

Egret Dripping - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Egret Dripping Water Catching
A Fish and Flying Low

What this seriously overexposed photograph (easy with all-white egrets on dark backgrounds) shows is water drops arching back from the beak of an egret who's just pulled it out of the water with a fish while flying.

I didn't register it happening, but I shot everything that bird did when it dipped near water. Click-click-click at five frames a second. A much nicer shot of an Egret Tiptoe Fishing in Sunset Bay, is on my Egret page in The Birds of White Rock Lake.

Fast and Small - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

MystBirdMo on the ground running, marching and standing
Some sort of plover or sandpiper? suggests Amanda.

Fall & Fast Marching - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.
Fast & Small - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Also "playing" on the spillway were today's fast and small Mystery Birds of the Moment. So small it was difficult to get close to I.D them. So fast on the ground where they darted faster than I could follow — and in the air, where they changed directions mid-air.

I've seen these before, usually in incredibly fast flocks with the sun behind them, shining on the far side of the spillway. I should know them already. After I catch up with everything else I'm supposed to have already done, I'll find them in the bird books.

See you at the Bath House Saturday morning...

September 7

Lotta Birds - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Lotta Birds - Avian Unsubs

Some days I'm on. Some days the switch don't throw. I was up late cleaning my kitchen, which has to be done every couple months, no matter what.

Keets with Blue - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Showing Some Blue and White in Wings Spread

Cold 7-ish at the Boat House, where we've got on our segmented circum-lago-navigation. One leg to go, to the Spillway, Friday, if I sleep tonight. Since summer we arrive early for cool. Might as well stay in bed longer now to catch warm. Soon it's autumn. Mid-October it'll be pelicans.

My ayem was too early to focus or think straight. Lucky all I had to deal with was a sky full of unsubs and clouds of chirping Green Monk Parakeets, whom I've always thought of as green.

Keet Colors - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Keet Colors - Beyond Green

As this oof (out of focus) shot shows though, they're orange, red, blue and yellow, too. A riot of color in the air. But green in trees and on the ground, where they blend in. Might need to, raucous as they are.

September 6

Great Blue Heron Stealing Fish - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Great Blue Heron Stealing Fish

Stealing fish from a fisher human's string near the Boat House was probably the same Great Blue Heron as yesterday's puffed up fashion plate. As I watched, it tugged, jerked and flapped its wings for leverage and power.

Great Blue Flipping Fish - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Great Blue Flipping Fish

Working the string for more than 20 minutes, it chewed, yanked heads off, flipped the chunks into position then down its thickened throat.

Great Blue's Thicking Throat - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Great Blue with Thickened Throat

I and a nearby egret just watched. That hapless bird will probably catch blame later when the human fisher returns.

Great Blue Heron Fly - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Great Blue Aerial Escape

Leaving three fish heads (of course, I have photos...), a small catfish and we don't know what that third limp lump was. And the nearly sated Great Blue flew back to the pier floating behind the boat house to do a heron ruffle.

Parakeet Flyover - copyrigth 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Parakeets Flying Over Parrot Bay

This morning's other significant experience was watching two green flapping clouds of large, Green Monk Parakeets fly out over Parrot Bay (mistakenly named for them), and three green clouds flock back.

September 4

Great Blue Heron's Great Autumn Coat - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Great Blue Heron's
Great Autumn Couture

Wet lately. Nice change, and we need it, but it's been a challenge to find birds or do much walking. Don't know where they go in weather like this, but we found few birds when we drove around the lake today. Anna, who calls herself my spotter, spotted this handsome heron through the passing windows of the Boat House.

I backed up, walked my rain resistant camera through the wet and netted this portrait of a puffed up, neck-folded and thoroughly insulated Great Blue Heron in its autumn coat.

Muscovy Against The Rain - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Muscovy in the Rain

There were ordinary ducks and widely scattered egrets along the shores, but this aircraft carrier of a Muscovy Duck let me in close for a Winston Churchill pose he'd probably held all day. Stalwart.

September 1

Belted Kingfisher Flying - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Belted Kingfisher in the Early Morning Sun

I wanted to call today's MystBirdMo (Mystery Bird of the Moment) a Skiddle-iddle-iddle, because that's what he (definitely the male of the species) kept crying as he flew out of tall trees on the shore, out over Parrot Bay to fly fast and strange.

Belted Kingfisher Through Trees - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Belted Kingfisher through a tree

I admire a bird that can make flying look absolutely fun. And the Belted Kingfisher, which is was he is, does. For awhile, most of my best shots were through trees, the leaves blocking much of the view,.

That's when he was fairly close, and if I could see that fast, I could still see identifying details. But I can shoot much faster than I can see (or think), so it's easier to shoot first, and make identifications later.

Kingfisher Perched - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved

I also shot a bird at the top of a nearby tree, thinking it might be the same, and it was. His topknot kicks back in the wind while flying. But when he's perched, it pops up looking royal and distinctive.

Several Kingfishers - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved

If it seems there was only one Kingfisher in the neighborhood, I'm giving the wrong impression. There were several, sometimes passing in the air. Note an easy identifier for Kingfishers is the white patch outer on its underwings.

What I did not see, although I did see one slip suddenly down from where it was flying high (in an airplane that's called a stall) but not go very far down, was a straight-out dive into the water, how they catch fish. I'll watch for that.

MystBirdMo Clean Silhouette - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved

Flying Low, Wings Up

I don't think these last shots are a Kingfisher. Its feet trail in the air, and none of my certain Kingfisher shots show that and neither does Sibley or National Geo.

Kingfisher Flying Low - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved

Flying Low, Wings Down

Flying feet dragging is more heron/egret behavior, although we later saw a Black-crowned Night-Heron jump out of a tree right above us and fly out over the lake. I shot it nearly every flap of its way.

Black-crowned Night-Heron Flying - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Black-crowned Night Heron Flying — Wings Down

Till I put this shot of the Black-crown here, I was convinced my unsub was not a heron. I still don't think it's a Black-crown (since even seriously lightened in Photoshop, it was still all dark), but it may be a darker heron. That neck-fold seems obvious now.

It's a little strange but so appropriate to start off a new month in mind-blanking ignorance mode. But, this is September's MystBirdMo #1. Maybe it'll be out there again tomorrow, and I'll get another crack at figuring out what it is.

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copyright 2006 by J R Compton.
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