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Photographed May 22 2015
I photographed this bird Friday afternoon at the Medical Center Rookery, where I've lately been able to find not just singles but smaller groups of Anhingas, although I haven't made the locations public yet, and probably will not — especially after the debacle a few weeks ago with the juvenile Bard Owls, who are a far more public species around here. I will not that I stayed completely within the public areas when I made these photographs — and the best shots were from the outside of the pathways.
It almost seemed to be rowing itself across the sky, with its wings. Except it was staying right where it was, only its head, wings, body and tail were moving. It maintained its perch on a comparatively tall treetop.
I didn't post these pix until I had a better idea of what it was doing, and today, Sunday afternoon, I was finally able to think about it long enough to guess it might be a courtship display, and when I looked it up on the internet, sure enough, that's what it was.
These are part of an ongoing courtship display. First I found a written description with drawings online, then some more still photographs and then after considerable more Internet searching, a lengthy but nervous-inducing video that closely duplicates what I saw on the top of this treetop, and finally, I found a much shorter but more stable video of the same thing. And, of course, I kept finding more information.
The other pix of Anhingas and other species at the rookery are down this page a few clicks at Med Center Rookery shots.
Myocastor coypus in Sunset Bay Saturday Morning
May 23 2015
When I arrived at the Pier at Sunset Bay, youngsters were telling their mother they thought it was a beaver, and it does kinda look like those, but I told them it was a Nutria, and spelled it so they could look it up on their ever-present phone-amajigs. They lined up at the far end (closer to the Nutria) of the pier and in unison photographed the invasive rodent swimming toward the Herb Garden (my new name for the area, lately inundated) of verdant plants growing on either side of the entrance to and the pier proper.
Living With Wildlife has probably the most extensive page; Coypu on Wikipedia; Nutria — Myocastor copus on National Geographic; and Nutria, an Invasive Rodent on Wildlife Services' page, which seriously underestimates the Nutria's body size, all offers more information.
Cuter than the dickens.
I'd heard they sometimes eat their young, so I watched this guy, who was hovering around our latest batch of cute downy young Mallards, but he fought for the tykes at every opportunity.
I've been avoiding photographing yet another ever-so-cute downy young duck, but sometimes I just can't avoid it — or find something more interesting.
Aix galericulata on Sunset Beach Friday Evening
May 23 2015
The light was lousy, and our hero didn't seem anywhere near invincible. In fact, he seemed almost afraid of his own shadow, except there weren't many shadows around.
I was shooting high ISO, and at noon Saturday, I'm looking out the window, and it's not very much brighter now. But I think I have finally have enough pix of our strange, red-whiskered immigrant. Kala King to the rescue again. Yup. It's Yosemite Sam, alright. I knew the character, just couldn't place the name. I've always pronounced it, Yo - sem - ite.
When I wasn't clicking away at him as he got closer and closer, I was watching him very carefully, paying lots of attention to how bold he was — not very. He actually seemed very shy. I knew he was hungry, but not enough to get into the fray of competitive feeding along Sunset Beach's piles of corn grain.
I saw him being thwarted by a female Wood Duck, a Great-tailed Grackle and a couple of feint-attacks by Male Mallards. It took him the longest time just to make it up onto land. I already had plenty of swimming shots of him, so I didn't take a lot more yesterday (Friday date cited above), but it seemed to take forever for him to decide he actually wanted some corn, then do something about it.
Wikipedia says, "The Mandarin duck, or just Mandarin, is a perching duck species found in East Asia. It is medium-sized, at 41–49 cm long with a 65–75 cm wingspan. As the other member of the genus Aix, it is closely related to the North American wood duck. Wikipedia." Beauty of Birds has more info.
But more poignant shy than assertive. Back and forth from the relative safety of the nasty water along the beach (that's got a sewer line dumping into it a ways up the creek,) so it is literally dangerous to humans.
Such a shy duck, although Ben Sandifer reports seeing it eat a snake at White Rock.
Wikipedia also cited this site of recent Mandarin research.
Note the distance he keeps between him and any other species, especially the larger Mallard Drakes.
He was nibbling at corn, and something quite suddenly frightened him into what I perceived as a back-flip into the air. While I watched, he did not come back.
I keep Finding Anhingas at the Rookery, Great Egrets, too
May 22 2015
Egret young sometimes get a little frantic.
Maybe they know that the one that gets the least food will probably get pushed out of the nest.
I'd seen the dark skies all afternoon, but when I first got to the Medical Center Rookery today, then's when the sky let loose into the biggest rain of the day. Although by this shot, it wasn't raining any more.
But it was a lot darker than it looks here.
When I was working up these pix, I kept thinking maybe I shouldn't go unless the sky was a lot darker or blue. Remember blue, as in blue skies?
I had to use flash in this shot, so this heron would come out of the darkness all around it. That's why the gold-eye.
I don't really believe any of that, I just thought it would make a good title for this white on black composition. Although ever since the Littlest one, I have been partial to angels, especially in movies, but also in real life.
The only mating behavior I saw was a breeding pair of humans who'd filled the little, front parking lot with their two vehicles, so they could partially strip and do it on a chair in the Memorial area during a iight rain. I was surprised. I'd seen people reading over there, but …
Odd angle, my best Anhinga shot of the day, although there were many.
If it had black feet, I'd peg it as a juvenile.
Involving Anhinga A, Anhinga B, and Anhinga C all in one somewhat separated group — the most Anhingas I've ever photographed in one picture, I think. The building graying in the background is beyond the Southwestern Medical School campus.
I love my telephoto lens.
Adult Male sitting nest.
Quick Trips to Spillway, Winfrey Meadow
and down the back side of Winfrey
May 21 2015
My first trip to the lake earlier and darker and colder this morning was nearly a complete disaster. I followed this bird for about a half dozen clicks across the sky over The Spillway.
Me sidling along the meadow in The Slider hoping for something a little more interesting.
When I saw this flycatcher hovering. Not so much flying away or over or around, but just hovering in very near the same spot. Watching it today, I remembered seeing other Scissor-tailed Flycatchers hovering in this and other fields long and shot times ago. And I plumb forgot all those other hovers.
The short and stocky one is a juvenile. We can tell that in this shot, because we can see its breast spots. It landed on that post, then was careful to just touch beak to wing as shown here.
No spots, but similar hunch and horizontal stripes configuration.
Great blue heron, Great egrets, Eastern Kingbird,
SpillWay, Dust Baths & Mr. Malicious Mischief
May 20 2015
A somewhat spectacular landing.
I guess …
On a slant wire over the new wood bridge behind the Old Boat House.
I thought I'd got a pic of it catching a fish, but apparently not.
Another bird on another slant.
Most of the other birds I tried to pan along with rendered as ugly blurs.
Maybe you can see why I call the various upper steps the Upper and Middle spill ways. At the bottom is what I call the Middle Spills. This side of that green patch is Egret Island on the right and its moat around that island. Then comes The Lower Steps under the Walking Bridge, which almost directly parallels the Garland Road car bridge.
I was happily holding down the shutter button without ever looking at the shutter speed or any of the results. This was about the sharpest of the bunch, and it shows everything you really need to know. A bird wallowing in dust whilst flapping wings and moving tail feathers to keep the dust flowing and the bath taking.
If I'd planned it better, I'd have much less descriptive pictures and more action-stopping high shutter speeds. So here's to Being Not Prepared, and pressing on irregardless.
Shakin' up the dust in my favorite of the dust bath birdies.
A pretty bird, too. I guess I'm assuming it's another House Sparrow. Pretty oranges and browns.
I'd just leaned over to talk to this Muscovy Drake, then turned my attentions elsewhere, when it attacked me, biting my ankles repeatedly and hauling ass into me. Repeatedly. He probably bit me a dozen times. Thank the goodnesses, they don't have teeth. I guess I should say it gummed me repeatedly. It was very annoying. I tripped but did not fall, but I was afraid I might step on the ornery critter.
He kept charging me, and I kept backing off, and he'd just charge again. I tried to move him by lifting him up with my feet, but he's a heavy son of a pest, and I just wore me out. I didn't want to fall and break my camera or lens, so I hightailed it to The Slider, with him biting my ankles at every step of the way.
So much for me thinking of Muscovies as gentle creatures.
May 18 2015
I love to photograph birds with their wings stretched or displaced or whatever's going on here. When those feathers are arranged 'realistically,' the birds look like birds. When they're displaced, those feathers seem to separate themselves into an abstract composition. Makes them more beautiful in many unknown or un-knowable ways.
There's a little of that same abstraction when they're taking off, too.
Just it driving down Lawther and turning toward the shop up past Sunset Inn (name of the restaurant that the building there once was) Circle
Kept seeing various bits of movements along the shore left of the pier. Most turned out to be birds. Another rule: Don't look for birds. Look for movement. And I found lots of little movements, some of which I could focus on. And some I couldn't. Nice to see snakes. I was happy to have something I could keep shooting and keep attempting to focus on. The lovers on the other end of the pier, were scared of it, and I was afraid they'd throw something at it, but they did not. They only withdrew a few feet.
So lots of reptiles, and a few rather ordinary birds.
Till I saw probably my most favorite of birds, a Great Blue Heron. When I had business cards for this journal, it was a Great Blue Heron picture that was featured on it. Even if this is not the same bird I've seen there so many times before, I still call them all "The Bay Gray," because GBHs just are not blue, unless they're in the shade.
Focus suffers fore and aft in this shot, but then I noticed that this GBH has unfolded its wing extensions all the way out — I assume to have more control as it flew low over the outer bay. I'd first seen the behavior in American White Pelicans out there years ago. Long and low. I knew birds could move any of their feathers at any time they want or need to, but this always strikes me as amazing.
Pretty much the same lean forward, flap high and push behavior as the House Sparrow above.
I assume if I had big fluffy wings, I'd want or need to flap them from time to time, even if flying with them is a lot more difficult.
Gathered on a water main.
Not Many Birds in the water in Sunset Bay, but a few on the Beach;
& a Drive Down DeGoyler netted four more photo-worthy birds.
May 18 2015
Flying birds. Click, J R, click.
Maybe four birds visible from the Pier at Sunset Bay today. Not many ducks, no gooses swimming, darned few birds. I assumed some kayakers or a Parks & Wildlife Department habitat-destruction machine had mowed through the area.
If it had a blue-ish body and a brown head, as seen in all three of these photographs, it might be a Brown-headed Cowbird. But a blue-headed brown bird?
Brewer's Blackbird, Rusty Blackbird, Common Grackle and Great-tailed Grackle are species showing the same, brown-body, blue-black head, configuration.
So I'm assuming that this is our good-old usual, every-day-you-probably-see-a-dozen-or-two bird species, the Great-tailed Grackle. Oh, well, so much for finding a rare bird. For that there's the fact that I was the first photographer to photograph an eagle [on another page] at White Rock Lake — and I suppose, the Mandarin Duck [below] from last week.
I wasn't looking any higher than the downy young Mallard duckling, so I missed Mom's head, possibly damaged while protecting her young.
Driving down DeGoyler Drive looking for something ornithologically interesting, I found this always noteworthy species that I know so well, I knew her first name.
Two slightly older juveniles and a younger juvenile, I'm thinking.
That Same Evening in Sunset Bay
May 17 2015
I waited at the bottom of the hill till a woman with a short telephoto lens romped through the high, flowered weeds trying with absolutely no success to get closer to these birds. I thought, once again of the real-world rule: Birds are afraid of people, but not of cars. So I drove up to about where she'd been charging through the weeds, stopped The Slider along the near, left side of the road, so others could pass without honking or scaring off even more birds, and shot these and other, less successful shots.
Nobody's shots are always perfect. I usually get about one in twenty or thirty. The trick is to keep shooting.
My full-frame view up the hill at another bird, with a wonderful sky I never even noticed while I was glued into getting this bird in sharp focus.
This was shot at that same distance, and when I started with it, I thought it was turned 180-degrees around and facing me. But it wasn't.
Staring at me, daring me to make a photo out of it. This shot was much closer, and I was much more successful at pulling it out of the relative darkness, but the background went white, as I knew it would. This is my fave Mockingbird portrait in a long time.
When I see them fly, all I remember is their flashing, fluttering, white-stripe wings. This may be the photograph that most accurately duplicates that sensation, although I'd need video to get it right, and though I took classes in video editing, I've yet to go over to the darker side.
I've read that if we hear a duck quacking, it's more likely that a female is making that sound than a male.
Both intent on getting fed wheat bread.
The eighth find on an internet search for what do swans eat, came up with a page that's most informative. More pertinent right here is this quote, "Swans also love grass, and a special treat for them is the opportunity to graze the grassy areas around the lagoon in the springtime. This tender grass is essential to the development of new cygnets’ digestive systems, and it’s one of their first ventures abroad with Mom and Dad, to find the greenest areas where they can happily nibble."
I think Stanley Park is from whom I got the best advice about what malady Katy was damaged with earlier this year. My big error was thinking that just because I'd found a place that deals daily with swans, somebody like Kathy Rogers would take their advice after I told her I'd found it on the Internet. My bad, apparently. Rogers Wildlife would not even communicate with the experts at this place, just because they, like Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation, have a website. My mistake.
Really Wet Early Sunday Morning At White Rock Lake
May 17 2015
I think I remember seeing this Killdeer just across the road that wind up around and over Dreyfuss Hill from the Dreyfuss building. I'd seen its profile from a way off, but had the devil of a time visually separating it from the grass till I got The Slider just up from it. All I could figure was that it was hungry enough to be out in the rain.
This guy is trying to decide if it wants to attempt to eat this really long worm.
He's tasted it now, and is thinking. What it decided, either about now or a few second later when it spat the tiny morsel of it he tried to get down its throat, was a resounding, "No way."
But then, everything else was wet, too. I think walking around the grassy knoll between Sunset Beach and the Pier at Sunset Bay was the only time I got out of The Slider and walked carefully around.
I realize this is a lousy shot of a Great Egret. Fact is the sky was darker and the egret almost charcoal. I'm just showing you it here, because it figures somewhat less prominently in the next shot down.
The egret is just on the right edge of the building on the left. The guy was one of three or four, all in different trucks, who arrived about the same time I did — 6:20 ayem — today and set out to do some serious fishing.
I was still trying to figure out a way to show you a wind-angle view of the grassy area just on land from the pier and the rest of the water in Sunset Bay when I saw this male Mallard flying. I've trained myself to click away and flying ducks when I think I have have a chance to get them in focus.
Here you can see just above and to the right of the mallard flying, the info sign that shows some of the birds that can be seen — or could have been seen 10 or fifteen years ago — in Sunset Bay. That sign is on the far side, from here, of the entrance to the Pier at Sunset Bay that I would like to have been on this morning. But it was too wet to venture there then.
Sorry, no interesting new species today. But it was wet.
I watched the guy unload fishing gear and must have been a boat from the business end of this truck.
I call this age of baby ducks "teenagers," because they group up so incredibly fast. But I can't recall seeing a male with any of his 'children' before. I've seen the adult male satelliting around the adult female with young many times, but I don't think I've ever seen him alone with them.
I've seen this 'other side' identified on some few maps as the Hidden Creek area, which is why I called it that on my bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake, and it's generally a pretty though densely foliated place, but it's hardly impossible for humans. Many fisher persons of whom and photographer and occasional bird murderer hides.
Who else would have a beak like that and a yet-unfinished growing tail like this?
Rain drops bubbling the pond around the barbecue thingy.
If it was out this morning, it probably got wet, and if it was out long enough to find food, it got soggy. I saw a lot of soggy squirrels out today.
Not so many flycatchers — Scissor-tailed or otherwise — lately, but lots more blackbirds, including RWBBs and Grackles.
Scissortail & Nest, Swallows, Killdeer Taking a Bath,
Sparrow & a Swallow on a bridge, & Wood Ducks v. Snake
May 15 2015
And somewhat serene.
I saw two visits by two — or perhaps one who came twice but separately; it might have been worried about my presence, though I did not photograph it while they were nearby, though I'm not sure why. Doesn't make any sense now. I think I remember a site or a book of bird nests, but that's escaped my mind, like so much else has.
Resting on a rusting handrail.
I love being able to get close enough we could almost count the feathers.
It took more steps that weren't even this interesting to get its body into the water. It was hesitant, and the only killdeer in sight. Finally after much preamble, it just lay back into the water.
But I loved it when it/she/he let all its feathers go loose into the water. One wet rouse to get the water into all the betweens.
Then shake it all about.
Birds don't smile, but this Killdeer looks truly refreshed..
But I don't think it is. It's on one of the fat wires that hold the Old Boathouse's new Wood Bridge together and apart.
But it might just be small as Barn Swallows tend.
Ben reported that he saw the Mandarin Duck fight and eat a snake yesterday. I wonder whether a pissed-off Wood Duck mother could do that? I wouldn't put it past her. Maybe the snake knew that.
It didn't seem to be interested. Until they all went under the bridge where we couldn't see any of them, and we waited, but nothing came out the other side.
Mandarin Duck and Yellow-crowned Night Herons
Evening, May 12 2015
I'd heard there was one, so I showed up in time to see it before the light faded.
I shot 408 pix of it and the Black-crowned Night Heron Tuesday evening, but I went through the images surprisingly quickly, nine at a time.
I tried to pick unique poses among all those pix, which I had sorted surprisingly quickly.
The light, though waning, was almost always adequate. I think these were shot at ISO 800.
I really liked watching its ruff go up and down and sometimes get swept back.
The several of us photographing this duck — Ben, Robert and me, kept wondering about its origin. Ben kept saying, "China," which, no doubt, is where they originated. But various zoos have them — as do duck farms. They are sold at eFowl on the Internet: 1 Male/Female Juvenile Pair for $139 with full wings, clipped wings (temporarily flightless) or pinioned wings (permanently flightless). According to eFoul, they eat "nuts, acorns and seeds during fall and feed on insects and grubs during spring and summer. They do not typically associate with other ducks, but they do enjoy the company of their own breed during winter months."
I had hoped to get to see it flap its wings, so I paid attention for that, too.
More information can be found on birdinformation.com and Beauty of Birds, which cites them as a Chinese symbol of conjugal affection and fidelity, as which they often show up in Chinese art. These two sites have the most info on this species I've found so far.
Not as utterly cute as Ben's shot on the Dallas Audubon Bird Chat [You have to scroll up from this link on that page to see Ben's startling shot.], but this pose is very distinctive, nonetheless.
I especially enjoyed this slowish, fluffy flap.
Somewhat similar to that other bent-over preen above somewhere, but this one shows off wing details.
Note the differences and sames of the Mandarin with the Wood Ducks it usually stood with on this large log. Some of the time, the Mandarin was with the Wood Ducks in apparent peace, but often it busied itself running off anything near it.
It's a bird, and this is one of its repertoire of ways to get into flight. My next shot of it actually turning and flying off, is a large blur, but the Mandarin came back, and after awhile, I tired of photographing it — hoping it would come closer. Still, not bad for my first-ever sighting of this beautiful and distinctive bird.
Meanwhile, we got visited by a more usual White Rock Lake resident Night-Heron.
Who stood around awhile, eventually even showing off its legs and feet, then something inevitably spooked it, and it flew off into the woods.
Then it must have flown through those woods, out and around and back, then flew up the creek past us suddenly photographing them in various states of unreadiness, and they flew out over the lake.
Suddenly two Yellow-crowned Night-Herons.
A Grackle trying to kill a Starling
Morning, May 12 2015
At least I thought it was a starling, but I'd never seen one beat up so, so I wasn't sure till Kala King assured me it was not only a Starling but a fledgling Starling. I was dozens of feet away, because at first I just wanted to get good shots of whatever was going on. Later I thought I should have driven up and scared the grackle away, though there's no reason to believe that would have stopped him. Besides, I've been taught not to interfere with Mother Nature's plans.
Fledgling Starling gives the grackle what for.
And the grackle trounces it.
Grackle has his big foot on the small bird. Pretty obvious symbolism here.
Kala King, who often helps me identify birds here — Thank you again, Kala — says "The grackle was most likely trying to kill it in order to bring back as food for either a nest-sitting mother grackle or baby grackles." Kala cites Audubon's Guide to North American Birds page on Great-tailed Grackles, which describes their Feeding Behavior thus: "Forages mostly on the ground, or by wading in very shallow water. Also forages in trees and shrubs, especially searching for nests to rob. Generally feeds in flocks."
Other smaller birds, mostly starlings — possibly one of the starling's parents, flew about and called, perhaps for help. But nothing seemed to phase the much-larger grackle.
Grackle, starling, starling.
It was raining all through this sequence. Starling above seems to be calling. I didn't hear it from my far perch in The Slider.
Grackle holds starling at bay.
Up against the wall.
Then peck it some more.
Last I saw it, it was leaning against the curb. I doubt it survived its attack. It's likely already become Grackle food. I'm sure it was much easier to carry back to the grackle's nest.
A Scissor-tail, A Great-tailed Grackle & the Rescue Muscovy
May 11 2015
He jumped off the wire, swooshed through the air, up, out and down again, caught the bug, and …
Then he took it back to the wire, so he could transfer the bug to its throat.
The grackle caught my attention Lurch-ing on the upper left corner of that bench, but by the time I got the camera ready to shoot, it jumped into the air. Nice enough.
I saw a big, black bird flying from right to left in Sunset Bay from my usual vantage on The Pier. After a couple shots, I knew it was that Muscovy that Ben rescued. We sometimes wonder whether that rescue was such a good idea, since this particular Muscovy (called that, because it was once believed that these birds were from Moscow or Russia. But they're not. They really came from South America.
The turtles are lined up along what we call "The logs" in outer Sunset Bay.
Sublime, Sublime and a House Finch
May 10 2015
Maybe a big rock or something that is impeding the tremendous flow of water just down from the dam.
Chemically speaking, when a solid substance, like for this instance cool water is warmed enough to change it directly into vapor, it has sublimed. Then there's always sublime meaning of such excellence, gradeur or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe, like when water roars over the dam, filling the trough that is The Spillway, warms enough to sublime off the bottom edge of it.
That's pretty sublime, also, and many people gather on both sides of The Spillway not just to see the water, but to feel its immensity and power.
Looks like tar, but it was moving powerful fast.
Again shot from the driver's window of The Slider as I slowly slid up Winfrey Hill.
Last Saturday I shot these, then never found time
or web space to post them, so here They are…
At the Medical Center Rookery.
First time I've visited that place that I didn't get to photograph any. And certainly no Tricolored Herons. And I've yet to see Cattle Egrets there. Maybe I missed them entirely, and I'm not sure anybody's seen Ibis there this season.
Looks almost like a noble beast.
It always takes so much longer to get decent pix of downy young Great Egrets till they're out of the nest, where I hope to photograph them on my next visit. I kept having to wait till I could see them up over the nest's edge. I think they get the most energetic when they're expecting to be fed.
Katy the Mute Swan Taking a Rollover Bath in Sunset Bay
May 9 2015
Standing on the Pier at Sunset Bay, I was looking for something to photograph and witnessed Katy's first rollover of her extended bath.
I don't know if the whole thing's a routine, but it probably is.
I've seen gooses turn themselves over in the water for the same purposes, not not nearly so elegantly.
Whether they use water or dust (like English and probably other sparrows) or lake water, all birds gotta wash.
Photographing Katy's bath was mostly a matter of seeing it, wanting to record it, then when she started again — with intricate bits of preening in between — just lean on the shutter button for my, I think, four clicks per second (comparatively slow for rapid shutter fire), but plenty fast for Katy.
Her head was under in various positions for what seemed an awfully long time for a swan — as if I'd seen other swans do this before.
Eventually she righted herself, brought her head up.
And went back to preening.
May 9 2015
Been spending a lot of time walking up and down The Spillway these last few weeks. Sometimes it's a whole different set of birds each time, although some species run through them all. Egret, great and small, for one instance. Great being Great Egrets, who are significantly larger and more placid than Snowy Egrets.
There's often lots of spider webs among the struts and braces on the walking bridge. Sometimes there's even spiders, which I like but avoid. Usually, there are pigeons.
One of my favorite pastimes is watching and photographing egrets take off, fly and land.
One of my photographs found its way to a book about fluid mechanics because of all the individual feather settings birds know how and use often to get themselves exactly where they want to go.
I rarely catch this moment when they're not just standing there and they're about to become airborne.
I love me some Great Blue Heron.
It always amazes me when these birds stare and stare into the rushing water, see what they want and impale with their sharp beaks, then move the fish into their beak and down the hatch.
What else, besides spills, would anyone have in a spillway? Snowy Egrets have yellow feet and black beaks, while Great Egrets have black feet and yellow beaks.
I'd wanted more detail in the bright white parts of this bird's wings, but that's difficult with what light there is, is streaming through all those feathers.
May 8 2015
I keep promising myself I'll limit it to a dozen or fewer shots, but then I get carried away again. These first few shots are from the pier at Sunset Bay.
Love that all three of these eight or ten "teen" Mallard ducklings have their heads cocked to their left.
It's still spring! And I'd tell you where I shot this, except I'm tired of watching idiots stalking through the forests of flowers and wildflowers and scaring away all my birds. It shouldn't be hard to find. They're everywhere; they're everywhere.
A little notorious. A lot handsome.
Or some flying insect. It just has to do that, because it's a flycatcher.
The big one's a Great Egret and the feisty little one is a Snowy Egret. We'll see some feist in a minute. We've moved to the spillways under the dam.
Such vivid colors.
But it's a big black bug. I never actually saw it still and in focus, I only saw a humming demon flickering from flower to flower, but I kept shooting, and this one shot is pretty close to in focus. Kala King shot this same insect last August in pretty much the same place, but closer though about the same focus, but she learned it is a Southern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa micans). Thanks again, Kala.
It's charging another bird, whom I did not see, in attempt to protect and proclaim this as its own territory.
When it gets feisty, those fine feathers atop its head pop up and stay up, till it cools down.
I used to specialize in shots like this. I needed the practice.
Something icky going on on top of its noggin I didn't even notice when I shot this pic, I was so busy crouching down to take it.
Sitting at the stoplight, waiting for some idiot to finish his texting, I saw this and swung the — I know I used to call it The Blunderbuss, but I think I changed my big, chunky camera with lens' name, but I don't remember what to. A window sill is almost as good as a tripod.
May 7 2015
Nice lady was feeding them crackers from the passenger's seat somewhat above them — and smiling. One of those crackers is falling toward the ducklings, which have finally turned to face the photographer.
Tyrannus tryannus is known for its daring attacks on hawks, crows and even humans. But this one just perched there, keeping a sharp eye out for the white car with a human poking a camera out of.
Flapping like a Mockingbird, but without the flash and practiced perfection, and it didn't eat anything after the flapping. What's happening here? One answer, provided by my Lone Pine Birds of Texas, "Eastern Kingbird rarely walk or hop on the ground — they prefer to fly, even for very short distances." This bird was only hopping for inches.
Usually Possums are stealthy, but this one seemed brazen, in deep need to move its babies, and it crossed the expanse of Cottonwood snowed-upon grass and nearly straight up the tree — not exactly right in front of me, but pretty close for a mere 300mm lens..
Surely she must have seen me standing there in plain sight with my large lens aimed at her, but she paid me no never mind.
Red and Dead
May 6 2015
I was driving up Buckner toward Garland Road, and I happened to see this bright, blazing red object in the grass in front of Doctor's Hospital. My first thought was, "It's a bird," but I had several other guesses.
So despite 5 o'clock traffic, I drove up and into their hospital lots and looked up to the berm, and didn't see it, and didn't see it, then when I drove up Buckner again, I did see it, and I saw what it was next to, and I drove around, parked and found it and photographed it in situ.
Then I photographed it in the seat next to me in The Slider, because I didn't have a plastic bag or anything else to put it in. Then I photographed it on the front porch with natural light, and then I put it in a plastic Fiesta grocery bag and deposited it in the trash.
Too-White Swallow Gets Attacked & Chased Away; Purple Martin; Spotted Sandpiper & Ross's Goose
Looks to me like a Barn Swallow, except for that white fur jacket it's wearing. Earlier this Swallow season I saw some very similar ones.
Ah! Kala King to the rescue, again. Thank you so much, Kala. For paying attention and getting them right, time after time. These are, as she so rightly but subtly suggested, Cliff Swallows, and not so far from where I'd seen Cliff Swallows before, just up the hill at one of those picnic shelters. I'd photographed them there many years ago, when I was slow on the trigger and they were fast in and out of the roof-and-one-wall building, up in a joining of roof and wall, right over picnickers, who likely complained, because the City's crack Habitat Destruction folks cleared them out.
On March 21 (first day of spring) this year, I noticed some, what I thought were overly white Barn Swallows, so I asked on Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat Forum, and Blaine Carnes replied: ""The white feathers are extremely bleached juvenile feathers. Barn Swallows usually go through their entire molt over several months on their wintering grounds in South America (and it's amazing how ragged they can get down there). I've never seen them still finishing up by the time they get back here (or never noticed it). Given how pale-bellied these two are and the relative shortness of their tails, it looks like they're both female. In quite a few other birds, young females are often the last individuals to finish molting, so it would seem that it's the same in Barn Swallows. This is very interesting. Thanks for posting it."
But I was wrong again. This is a Cliff, now a Barn, Swallow.
So either these are more of those same juveniles or something altogether different. I sure don't know. Anyway, along comes another one and attacks the first one while I'm sitting there photographing that first one. I managed to get one click of the initial attack.
And several more shots of the subsequent chase.
Which ended for me when they left the frame, and I was not able to follow.
So I visited the Martin Houses along the road overlooking the Bath House Cultural Center just to see what condition their condition was in.
Pretty much the same.
And here, on another of my several favorite boat ramps was a familiar character.
This is Sunset Bay, where our Ross's Goose seems to have more black feathers than any of the pictures in Sibley's Guide to Birds, while still not quite matching colorations of other, similar birds. If it's a male, I'd think of the Northern Pintail who was with us until the dark of winter, who grew his tail feathers — that elegant pin tail — longer and longer, but I don't have such a comparison if it's a female, so basically, I did not know.
But Kala King knows now and cites her reference. She is basing this on the fact that this bird does not have the wart-like swellings at the base of her bill that males have. Here is a link to where Kala learned the difference between the sexes of Ross's geese. And this is Kala's portrait she did of of our sunset bay Ross's which shows her bill clearly enlarged.
Thanks again, Kala.
Duck Fight; Dog off-leash chasing Ducks & Gooses; and a coupla other birds
May 3 2015
Kinda violent an afternoon in Sunset Bay today. I stood on the pier for twenty or so minutes, then this erupted left (facing out into the lake) of the pier. All I saw at first was water splashing. Eventually, I realized ducks were fighting. Didn't find out why till they were done.
Sometimes the splashing subsided, and I could see that there's at least two ducks into it.
And sometimes they seemed fewer than that.
They kept at it for about eight minutes.
But this one looks like at least three birds involved.
No telling in this one.
But as they were wrapping it up, though perhaps that one on the right was even angrier by this moment.
Still looks vicious.
A little milder splasharasha here. I like.
Then came this. If anyone can think of a wash to prosecute the semi-humans who unleashed this dog so it could try to catch and kill shorebirds in Sunset Bay, I have photos of their car with license close-ups and images of both the woman and man who seem to own Ben here. Now, watch as this idiot-released dog wreak havoc..
I didn't see these guys, and I also didn't see the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks on Sunset Beach that a woman stopped me from going back to my car later to go back where I'd been for a long time staring at every bird in sight, whom she said she'd just seen right about where I had been standing. More invisible birds. Hard to photograph them till the re-materialize.
Ben did not catch anything, but there would have been nothing to stop him. The pair of owners called and called and called for Ben-ee to come back, but Ben was having way too much fun to start obeying now. I kept wondering what would have happened if that duck with the broken leg or others on the injured or lame lists might have been there. Those poor birds could not have escaped as easily as these guys did.
So now we explore a couple of stripey bird s that caught my eyes there after they finally tricked Ben back into his heavy-duty leash and she carried him back t their new car.
Nice to see the various birds growing up in Sunset Bay and watch their progress.
Tricolored Herons, Anhingas & Great Egrets —
Adults & Downy Young — All at the Rookery
May 3 2015
Was a pleasant surprise to see Tricolored Herons at the Medical Center Rookery toady. See also my Bird-annotated map of the SW Med School Rookery.
I carefully investigated the area where they have nested in recent years, but I didn't find any. I assumed they'd gone farther into the interior of the rookery, where humans are prohibited (but some still go), but until I saw them where I generally find Anhinga, I wasn't sure.
I am sure I didn't find any White Ibis there, either. But I have seen them often along the Trinity adjacent to West Dallas, where I usually drive about once a month.
Anhingas also were perched in prominent places if you know where to look, and I've been looking for years and years. I am always surprised when I find them, but it's a pleasant surprise.
I also saw many of them flying toward the Trinity River and just around and over. The reason this looks like I was as high as she was is because I was — standing on top of the parking garage that little used on the weekends.
I spent a lot of time up there photographing Anhingas especially. I got a lot of blurs till I upped my shutter speed significantly, and it took awhile to hone in on each one. I assume they were off to the Trinity River to feed.
Now I have all these Anhinga flying pix, I need to show a few more here. I tried to get one to bank heavily one way or the other in a close-order fly-by, but they weren't interested.
For awhile I shot high-flying egrets, also, but the differentiation in exposures for an essentially dark bird and an all-white one drove me a little crazier switching back and forth, so eventually I gave up on the egrets and concentrated on the Anhingas.
Didn't see any Snowy Egrets last time I visited the rookery. Saw several this trip, but they weren't as active yet. I was surprised not to see any Cattle Egrets this trip, but Erin said she'd seen some a few weeks ago, so they're probably in there, too.
Many more Black-crowned Night Herons, too, although I didn't see any babies.
This guy looks blue instead of gray, and I'm not exactly sure why. In deep shade, they seem very blue, but this is partial sunlight.
When you tend carefully to downy young egrets, you're likely to get some on what you use to move and arrange and feed them.
I probably tried this shot forty times today. I used a tripod, and that helped hold my aim, so the focus point on my screen stayed on the younger's face, but most of my shots got the nest sticks instead of the little fluffy white bird. Getting the tyke sharp, however, meant getting the parental unit a little soft, although some of its plumes are rendered well.
Western Kingbirds, Duck, Pelican, coot & A Mockingbird
May 2.5 2015
As way too often here, I'm hoping that my identification of this bird is correct. It doesn't really look hugely like the one in Sibley's Birds, but that's who I thought it was when I photographed it.
But I'm pretty certain this is a Western Kingbird, and this shot truly resembles Sibley's drawings, and yeah, they do look a lot like the one above.
Near Sunset Beach.
It looks kinda lonely, but there's still gobs of coots running around loose this late spring.
I think there's only one left, and it may well be one that was released by Rogers Wildlife, but I haven't heard about any such release — not that I would, anyway. All the other pelicans have gone north by now — to anywhere along a long down-curving arc across the northern United States and southern Canada from British Columbia, down and across to southeastern Idaho and up to eastern Minnesota. Probably a lot of other places along that curve, too.
I'm not sure which, but I think it's landing.
Fish, Egrets, Doves, Mockingbirds, Ducks & a Kite
May 2 2015
I don't usually shoot fish, but this one — and one other one today — was/are huge. Must be huge fish season.
I couldn't get my camera to focus on this one, under the textured water, while I bounced my camera on the rail overlooking Egret Island, but I think it may have been even larger than that other one.
I followed it across the amphitheater under the walking bridge on the lowest Spillway, but never got real focus till about here. I like the shadow and the bird, and those yellowish plume feathers in back are what shows this bird (any egret I know about) as a Breeding Adult.
I like the space with its deep, dramatic shadows, and the shadow of the walking bridge framing it.
Puffed up to cool or warm themselves or something. Doves are handsome creatures I usually don't give the time of day, but it's spring.
See all those flyaway featherlets around its beak? Those are what helps this bird catch its flies and other insects as it flies through the air.
At first I though it was yellowish, and that threw off my already weak identification skills, but now It think it's just all that green reflecting off the vegetation below. Those wing stripes seem spectacularly Mockingbird-ish
One of the few posture predictors I know well.
Into the wild green yonder.
Mallards, I assume, but I always hope for more Wood Ducks, since we seem already to have a surfeit of Mallards.
When they spread their wing and tail feathers like this, I always pay attention.
They also scare off all the birds in the vicinity, but they obviously don't care about such subtleties. The guy staring at the camera gave me the finger in the next shot that I'm not using here.
Is there a difference? Whichever, she was in charge, and all those big guys were following her instructions carefully.
With the skyline of Dallas showing beyond, so this must be by the Dreyfuss Building on top of Dreyfuss Hill.
Note: I've gone back to using the date I photographed whatever's in the pic instead of the date I post the pix, because a year from now, I want to use the Last Year button at the top to see exactly what was going on the date and year and month previously, so I know what to start watching for, although I tend to pay attention to everything already.
Adult Breeding American Avocets a t the Spillway
And Many Other Birds there, too
May 1 2015
Flying in from the other side of The Spillway.
I was looking out over the wide expanse of wrinkled water sluicing down the upper and middle spillway areas, and was startled to see these guys — I think I counted seven, although I only ever got six at any one time. When I first saw them, they were on the far side toward the dam, so the next time I walked up Spillway Hill a couple hours later after I worked out, I walked up the Garland Road side, and of course, they were on the dam side, so I employed my famous but nearly non-existing patience and…
of course, of course, they slowly moved back to this side.
And got to take them much larger and closer.
Handsome critter when it's exposed correctly. I overexposed a lot of avocets today. I think maybe my mind was on vacation after imbibing strawberry wine last night with great friends and conversationalists.
I caught it flying, too. But it was just a little out of focus. Well, just a lot.
At least I think that's what they are. I've been badly misidentifying things lately — and not just birds. So I'm just not sure.
The teal have been there for months, of course.
But I don't remember seeing starlings out in the water as if waiting for a nice, big, fat, juicy fish to come along. According to my trusty but out-of-print Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, which is the easiest bird book in my library, says: "forages mostly on the ground; diverse diet includes many invertebrates, berries, seeds and human food waste." Hmm… doesn't say anything about foraging in rushing water. Must just be taking a bath.
Nice to see such a variety at the Spillway today. American Avocets were of the most interest, but lots of others, too. I can't wait till all the herons gather and fish together.
I was really excited to see the Great Egrets engaged in Mock Battle today. That's one form of dance I sill love to photograph. And I'm really looking forward to their recitals on the Spillway and on and around the Lower Steps. Most of the time lately, I seem to be getting birds in focus lately.
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 2006, and most of that is documented in this Journal. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964.
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