September 30 2006
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
them American by now.
Grackle Bath - Rarely more than a couple
birds bathe at any one time. The rest guard or play.
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.
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.
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 lake remains locked behind ugly fences.
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
Doing the Wing Fluff
All the nicer for close access, even if they are just grackles.
Unsub Flying Over - a duck or
something bigger and
While I rested, along the way back, I looked up and saw
this unsub fly way over.
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 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
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 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.
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 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
egret/heron fishing methods. But it is not.
Now that the spillway has become inaccessible, the Boat
House Lagoon is my favorite birding area.
A Black-crowned Night Heron Family Tree
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.
time I backed the zoom to include another or changed position
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,
and unmerge individual birds.
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
with the bad
rug, is or
of breeding age. Then there's Blue.
kept its back turned and hunkered through my first several dozen shots,
then finally turned and looked
I shot its individual portrait.
Seconds Before Goose Sex
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.
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.
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
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
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
the duck version just
a few feet away. The flurry of the chase ends in several birds holding
the female down, often
water, while one male does
it, and sometimes another.
This time, only one.
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
Then it's back
I'm working on a Bird version of our very recent
Grand Canyon vacation.
I'll link it here first.
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.
around to old haunts. Us hoping for new characters. This orange-banded
around its right leg) Canadian Goose is
new. We found a pair of them at the Boat House.
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-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.
Green Heron Flying with Just-caught Fish
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
We even got written up in Lakewood
Now, a new local,
Green Heron Takes Off from the Yacht Club
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
On an early hop, I shot the scratchy, nearly
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
but now understand
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,
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 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
Oh, and ducks.
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.
Green Heron - Prayer Answer
challenge is finding birds. Of which
there's lots, of course. Lots to
be learned about them. Photographing helps me learn. But finding
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.
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.
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
relying on eye-brain logic. They knew what they were doing. We didn't.
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
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
MystBirdMo on the ground running, marching and standing
Some sort of plover or sandpiper? suggests Amanda.
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...
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.
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 - 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.
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
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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 — 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.