24 photos so far this month
A Smattering of Birds & Turtles
October 4 2015
There's more of them, but only by ones and twos. I think we counted 16 American White Pelicans today. The other American pelican is the Brown Pelicans, who are coastal. American Whites are inland. The Whites are also white and the Browns are brown, but that's almost obvious.
And maybe not. In this pic, its legs and feet look gray, but in another pic, they look black, which is the right color for a Great Egret. But so much else is wrong.
Here, the colors are right, but its face and beak length just look wrong. So I'm pretty sure it's not a Great Egret, although that's who I assumed it were when I shot these. Heck, I'm often not sure who what bird might be. Might be young. Might be a whole 'nother species. Like a pre-blue Little Blue Heron or some sort of Snowy Egret. Or something entirely else.
Ken on Bird Chat says it's just a Great Egret, "No problems with any of the details. He's just foreshortened and flattened a bit by the "telephoto effect." Foreshortening means "an effect of perspective or the angle of vision." Except both shots are straight-on profiles, no acute angles. But I accept Ken's explanation. I'm on heavy pain pills, so I can either not think straight or hurt like hell — sometimes both. Anna's taking me to a non-VA MD tomorrow. This still doesn't look right, but there's nothing else it could be.
Ducks fly in and out of Sunset Bay all the time. When they catch my attention — i.e., I'm not photographing something else — I photograph them, because I need the practice, as shown here. Kinda fuzzy, J R.
I need close-up pix to name the turtles, but the birds are, middle-to-right cormorants, Great Egret, another Double-crested Cormorant (probably) and I'm really not sure who. I also don't remember all the names of the humans who shared the pier with me today, but I sure enjoyed the conversation. I talked, of course, but I learned, too. Gives me a reason to go to the lake on Saturdays. A great reason. Of course I'm addicted to WRL (White Rock Lake) …
I finally decided that most of the sandpipers who briefly occupied that tiny little island in front of the Pier at Sunset Bay the last day of September were Least Sandpipers. But not all of them were. I still don't know who the ones who were not Least Sandpipers were, but I may yet learn them.
I thought they looked strange, stopped, checked traffic, backed up the hill, stopped about here, and shot this. Not all that interesting, really.
October 3 2015
Kingfishers are elusive. We've been photographing this one — and sometimes her mate — for a couple weeks. We just assume she'll be around whether we hear her "laughing" or not. Tommy, whom I met again this morning calls the high-pitched staccato sound they emit "laughing." David Allen Sibley calls it "a long, uneven rattle most similar to Hairy Woodpecker rattle but harsher, unsteady, clattering. Also a higher, shorter, more musical, rapid trill tirrrr."
Nice thing about them hovering, is that they do it in very close to the same, exact place in the sky, so after the first shot, we just have to keep shooting. Which is what I did here. I saw her dive down, but I have no idea whether she got the fish. My camera was on a tripod, and though it swivels pretty well, I haven't mastered following anything down and to the right, and all my shots of her speeding back to the Hidden Creeks area were blurs.
My precious, now out-of-print Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas describes their voice as "fast, repetitive, cackling rattle, a little like a teacup shaking on a saucer." I always think of it as a very high-pitched staccato scream, and it does sound a lot like a woodpecker.
People keep asking me when the best time would be to see the Kingfishers. There's two, a male and a female. My best answer would be "when they are there." I go to Sunset Bay almost every day, except when I've already been to Sunset Bay every day that week. Sometimes one or the other or both of the Kingfishers are there. Sometimes I never see either of them. Sometimes they show early in the morning. Sometimes noon or in the late afternoon. There are no guarantees. This time it was about noon. And if Tommy hadn't seen it this time, I probably never would have. I saw him aiming his tele up and west, so I did, too. And found this.
My all-time favorite of my photographs of an Adult Female Kingfisher hovering is on the top (quick upload) of my List of Exhibitions. It's a little better than this series, because her wings aren't in such dark shadow, and it includes poetic verbal context because this version of that photo was created for an exhibition at the Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas. I've always wanted to perform the words, and I've even got some gestural hand-motions to go with, but it still scares me to think performing in public, although it's fun to do otherwise.
Compared to yesterday [below], today the pelicans seemed comatose.
It's Pelicans Season &
They're Getting active
October 1 2015
Got to the lake a little late today. Tried to find a parking space at the VA Hospital earlier. Never found one. So I went birding. Found 15 pelicans parked relatively close to the Pier at Sunset Bay, split over two spaces — one log and one underwater island. These are the log pelicans. The one with its wings up has just joined the party, and was kinda rude about it. They often are.
And the others made their feelings known. Didn't stop it, though. And it wouldn't stop it next time or the time after that. I've seen those sharp beaks pierce another pelican's lower mandible before. That's gotta hurt. Their lower mandible is the lower beak with flexible orange-pink skin. When they're fishing, they fill it up with fish and the water they were swimming in, drain the water, tilt back and swallow. I've seen them with pierced mandibles spouting water, but only rarely and just squirts.
Its work here, is done.
This is some or all — I was never quite sure, and they moved around — of the crew on the less-than island. I counted as far as 15 pelicans several times today. The last pelican on the right has its head — and beak — upside-down. It's just one of the many Strange Things Pelicans Do With Their Beaks.
There's actually a step-by-step procedure for stretching and nearly inflating those lower mandibles, so they'll stretch easily when gathered around fish — often several fish. But the whole procedure is rarely completed in the same way every time.
What's important is to stretch it out, without breaking it.
This pelicans has just stretched its lower mandible down over its extended breast, then brought it up (I've only seen them do this a couple hundred times, but I don't know exactly how they do it). They've been practicing all their lives. The valve-looking thing on this side of the inverted mandible hump may help drain the water. Till I get a good look at one doing that — from the inside — I won't know for sure, but I'm curious. I've also read it called a tongue.
Sometimes, but not always, they follow those steps with a big of beak woggling, wherein the parts go up and down quickly, which is usually accompanied by a woggling sound.
When you see three or more pelicans lining up like this and heading out somewhere in single file, it's a fair bet they're going fishing, which often involves some synchronized swimming.
Till the chase the fish into a shallow area and just go at them, filling up their mandibles that they've been so careful to keep flexible.
They already seemed to know where food was. Guess they'd been practicing wherever they came from — or here; it's really hard to tell who's who, and who's been here awhile or just a day. I didn't have an appointment today, but I went back when I thought I might find a space, found a close one, and the people I connected with helped me. So, on the whole, it was a positive development.
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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