199 photos so far this month. Cameras Used Ethics Feedback My Other Bird Pages: Herons Egrets Heron v, Egrets Links & Bird Books Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch Bird Rouses Courtship Behaviors Banding Birding Galveston 2015 & 2013 The 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds page & the 1st Bald Eagles at White Rock Coyotes JR's resumé Contact Dallas Bird Resources: Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat Bird Rescue Info You want to use my photos? How to Photograph Birds Bird Places: Bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake & the Med School Rookery & Village Creek Drying Beds Please do not share these images on Pinterest, Tumblr or other image-sharing sites!
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Best Pix so far This Month : Red-shouldered Hawklets with their new spots Sublimity 1 & Sublimity 2 Downy-young Mallards in Water Storm Male Mallard with Bashed Breast Downy Young Red-shouldered Hawks in nest
Friday Morning at the UTSW Med School Rookery
— Photographed May 26, posted May 27
After watching BCNHs chow down on otherwise innocent young bird chicks lately, I've been sort of angry with them, and when this one stood near the front of the roo key in this taller, more elegant form, I almost didn't take its picture. Then I realized they are just who they are and one of the things BCNHs do is eat other birds' babies. And they seem to prefer their meals fresh.
The reason the one on the right is so much sharper than the one on the left, is because it's much closer, and that's the one I focused on.
Cattle Egret nests may be hidden better than Great or Snowy Egret nests. I don't know. But they were sure more difficult to find.
I only rarely do not use my tripod when I am at the rookery, because my hands shake, and the tripod doesn't. And because once I have it set up and the cam on it pointed at where I want to take a picture, it stays there, even if my arm gets tired or I look away then back, etc.
For some reason, I didn't mind that dark limb in front of the White Ibis' face while the Cattle Egret flew thorough my carefully set-up shot one click up. But I couldn't stand it down here, so I removed it. Looking more carefully at both originals, I think the offending branch was much closer than either bird, but I never saw it when setting up the original shot (this one).
Of course I have no idea if they comprise a pair in any way but there are two of them up there on nearby branches. The one on the left's crown is down, and the bird on the right's crown is up.
I have no idea what happened next, or whether the Cattle Egret on the left had a anything to do with the one in the air. It's just juxtaposition. We make up our own stories.
I keep growing fonder of that shaft of light. I didn't even notice in when I took the picture, but now it's become my favorite part.
Looks fierce, doesn't it?
Just another Cattle Egret. The rookery seemed overflowing with them that Saturday morning.
Most likely, there's just a bunch of Cattle Egrets in the same area, and they're not all related.
I kept hoping to find a Cattle Egret with his crown way up.
Mr. or Ms. Innocent looking for its next meal.
I had hoped to photograph more than one Little Blue Heron, and until I found that rescue, I planned to go up on top of the free parking garage and photograph some flying around, but I did find the rescue…
I'm hoping to go back soon, and to only go where I know the Little Blues nest and hang out. Then up to the Free parking garage and get some of them flying — as if I could ever decide who I can photograph there.
I doubt I noticed all the stark shadows when I took this image.
They were fighting, but not necessarily for any human reasons.
But that's again pinning human emotions on birds, and it usually just is not that way.
I have two versions of this shot. One with the trio on the left alone, and this one. I thought when I listed which ones to work up, I liked this one better.
My First Bird Rescue
In general, I don't get in the way of the natural way of avian families by rescuing birds they've thrown out of their nest. But I knew this was the result of a sudden fall. I counted seven dead egrets in the close vicinity. This was the only live one left. And I knew that Anna had just gone through that area on her way around the rookery.
When we arrive there, I usually go left, and she usually goes right. She says she didn't see any dead Great Egrets there, and she runs Bird Chauffers to deliver rescued birds from the vet to Rogers.
I assume a big wind knocked down at least a couple of nests, maybe more. So it wasn't parents deciding they could only feed one or two, and the others must go. So Anna fetched me a towel from The Slider to throw over it, so I could more easily capture it, and it would soften the floor of the box I had in The Slider's 'trunk.'
The upper shot was probably taken upon arrival at Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation, and this one was likely shot in their office. All I had was my usual Nikon telephoto kit and nothing wider angle.
Trip to Richland Wildlife Management Area near Corsicana, Texas
that just didn't seem all that great, till I looked at the images
— Photographed May 24, posted May 25.
I remember it seemed propitious that within yards of coming onto the property, we saw this pristine black & white bird, who did not immediately fly away.
Almost wherever Anna & I went that cool but dry Wednesday, there were cormorants and egrets blocking our way. It may have been sport for them. Or maybe they couldn't figure out anywhere better to be.
Like Hagerman, there were large metal gizmos hanging around for birds to perch upon, although they may also do other duty. Unlike Hagerman, there were no oil wells clanging away and stinking up the area.
If I saw it quick enough, and could manage to catch up and keep up with it with my good-ole-used-to-be big Nikon and telextended Nikon 300 = 500mm, I photographed it. There were many misses, but many fewer than I imagined out there on the roads connecting the various habitats.
I have long clung to Great Blue Herons as my favorite bird species, and I rarely skip the opportunity to photograph another of them. At Richland Creek or anywhere else.
I don't think I was entirely aware of this sudden visual transition. Anna was guessing what it was, but I was busy photographing, and that usually takes up all my faculties. Photo first; identify; think later. She mentioned it might be a juvenile Yellow-crown, I think, and I said I thought it might be a juvie Black-crown. At this point I don't know if either of us is correct, although she says she has a photo of the Yellow-crown (See it on Anna's Facebook page. updated link). But it does look like both. Family resemblance. Through all our guessing, My Nikon somehow managed to track focus, and these images are the best of the bunch.
When I'm this confused about night and other Herons, I often look at the pictures down my page of The Heroons of White Rock Lake/Texas, where there are pix of ALL AGES of our most popular and populous Texas Herons. Kala thinks it's a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, but it doesn't l ook lik any of my juvie pix on the afore-linked page.
I have been fond of Turkey Vultures for many, many years — especially after stopping to watch about twenty of them dissemble a whole cow carcases on the side of road in West Texas and and New Mexico). I seriously doubt I could have pegged the focus with that toy cam I've been using of late.
My right hand works almost all the time lately, and I only wear the splint at night or for the rare times it hurts. I can see most of the blood vessels in that one that are plain on my uninjured left hand. The Nikon is truly a handful, but it does its Dada duty spectacularly well sometimes. I remember shooting at these guys, but it was always on to the next bird or the next location, so I had very little time to check my work each by each.
Clipped its right primaries a tad here, but look at that lovely face — and all the gnarly detail in its feathers.
Even though I've been identifying Spotted Sandpipers left, right and sideways at White Rock Lake lately, Anna, who has just recently become an official Master Birder had to tell me who this was. Mayhaps it's because the ones at WRL rarely hold this still.
There were maybe two dozen of these whatever they ares attached to what looked like a concrete obelisk on the side of the shore of some body of water as I drove slowly by. Then I backed up and photographed it close-up-ly. Most of the others were closer to others of its species. I chose this one because it was not. I know it's a bug. Seems to have six legs, so maybe it's in my Audubon Insects & Spiders book that always makes me itch.
Kala says it's a Mayfliy. That seems appropriate.
Lots of white egrets there, mostly Greats and Snowies.
For conversations in captive situations (like Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation) I usually prefer Black Vultures to the Turkey variety. They don't say much, but they seem to understand, while Turkey Vultures don't bother with humans much.
Black Vultures are smarter, but their olfactories are not as sharply tuned, so they tend to follow TVs around to find something worth shredding.
There were more cormorants out there than any other species.
It seemed to be wanting to lead me off somewhere, but it was not engaging in playing wounded.
Some of Richland's roaded-off clumps of land and/or water are wet and some mostly dry. The best places may well be wetter, but they are way more difficult to access.
I tried The Swallow chapters of my I.D books to no avail. I kinda assumed that's what these were, because they were flying so fast and turning corners in the sky immediately, no wide arc of turn; no leaning into it. One moment they were going this way. The next they were going the other.. But I hadn't tracked them down. I am utterly amazed I caught this one mid-flight from close enough to get this much wing detail, although its dark head was indecipherable even in bright sunlight. I remember wondering what were the swallows with white tails…
Then later … Anna asked in email if I'd got a shot of one of the Black Terns. I told her I hadn't, then I wondered, looked up Black Terns in my Lone Pine Birds of Texas, and sure enough that's what this was/is. I had previously identified it as "Uh... One of These," but now it's got a proper label.
I recently replaced my tattered and most-used Birds of Texas with a newer, but not at all updated, copy from Amazon, which in its usual eloquently terse but remarkably informative text I learned that "It usually passes through Texas during migration, from April to mid-June and from early August to October." Voilá!
So nice to have captured it in so brief a fly-through. Lucky I hadn't been looking for it.
At White Rock I often invest many long minutes following one Scissor-tail, following it perch to perch, hoping against hope I and whichever camera would traack it whichever direction it suddenly flew to, but I didn't think I had the time for that kind of attention at Richland, where I was pleased just to capture this dichotomy of soft and light on sharp bob-war.
About when we were giving up on finding anything exotic, we came upon this, whom I still refer to as a 'bent-nose,' even though I know better. Anna called it a Glossy Ibis early in our consideration, but I still checked through three different I.D books, and think she's right, but I haven't had enough experience with them to know. And I wasn't allowed in Master Birders School.
It didn't help that this particular Ibis tended to stand with the sun on its back, where if we could have got behind the bird, the sun would have very evenly illuminated it (We only ever saw one.) Richland is essentially a loose knot of roads, only some of which took us where we wanted to go at any given moment.
One 'road' near our entrance was so beset by hills of mud and potholes of water that I was able to charge The Slider one way (down into Richland WMA) early in our sojourn there, but I later absolutely refused to attempt to go back up what I had gone down with gravity on my side. Prii are low to the ground, and there's already plenty of 'bumper' parts that are loose unto periodically falling off.
Turned out, we very carefully turned around on that narrow road (another task a Prius is outstandingly good at), went back, and found a lateral track back and over to a parallel road to get out.
I thought it were a moth, but maybe it's a butterfly. I kept at following it along the short scrub and other growy but not always green stuff between us in the car and the abrupt downhill into the water. And I dared not get out of the car on that side, since I didn't want to scare it away.
I assume that's a levee at the upper far right, with a massive lake over the horizon, but we didn't investigate up there, because it was off the rez.
Ah. Yang for the earlier Yin [above]. A male with his much longer tail.
We were already seeking the way out and heading in that general direction, when I saw these specks in the far-off sky. I had no idea there were this many American White Pelicans running around loose this late after ours — about 70 of them that usually occupy, in one way or another, the really wet portions of Greater Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake — from mid-September through mid-April every year. But now is already the latter part of May.
I think I have learned over the years that some American White Pelican flocks stay in areas of Texas that have direct access to large bodies of water, like Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge near Sherman, and John Bunker Sands Wetland Center near Seagoville, both in northern Texas. So why not?
By that time today, I was only vaguely interested in the dark specs in the sky "back there" turning from dark to bright, and the road system at Richland Creek is anything but a grid, so the notion of 'going back' to get closer never entered my mind. I was plenty pleased to have these two shots. This site contains thousands of photographs of American White Pelicans, most of them much closer.
Which brings us back to STOP!
Driving 'Round the Lake for Small Game
— photographed May 22–23, posted late May 23
So, basically, I got it before it turned into a blur. I didn't think I'd ever get a shot like this, but I sure appreciate it.
Every year about this time I find, then follow Juvenile Mockingbirds till they start practicing flashing their wings, which apparently brings food up out of the ground to them.
If birds hold still enough, I can capture them in focus with the Pany Cam.
Especially, if the action is implied, rather than real.
But if they move, it's a whole 'nother deal. Apparently the Panasonic Lumix G8 does not track the object — and neither always does the J R.
More focus would have helped.
But ya' can't always get what you want.
Even if some good things hang on trees. These must have had something to do with a wedding or other high occasion at the Winfrey Building, approximately in whose yard they hang.
& other things gotta be pulled out of the earth.
Or just found somewhere easy.
Wandering Around with the Pany Cam
— photographed May 22, posted May 22
Seems like all I have to do is park along the uphill track of Lawther Drive, up toward the Winfrey Building, and wait a minute or two, if that, and a male or female Scissor tailed Flycatcher will present itself atop a colorful flower stem. Click. I shot others today — and as usual — but this was the best one.
I love Blue-Jays — for their distinctive cry and vivid blue feathers, and I'm always attempting to better the last six times I've photographed them and their babies [below].
I think of these last two of today's skimpy few shots — of two different Mallard Males — as abstracts, here for their color and shape, more than anything else. Mallards are our most common ducks. I don't know which species comprises our most common birds, but I could make several guesses: Grackles, Mockingbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds …
Wandering Around with the Pany Cam
— photographed May 21, posted May 22
That most was raised by the female.
Summer molt. Once they've mated and the kits are out in the world, male Mallards might molt, losing their more vivid colors — like the bright green of their head-feathers.
I'm sure somebody out there knows what flowers these be. Please tell me.
Kala King, once again, to the rescue: "That must be the patch of Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) by the side of the Sunset Bay pier. That is the best place for butterflies and other insects. That patch is one of the two places in DFW that Broad-winged Skippers have been found."
I've seen some of the effort that goes into keeping up (!) the martin houses — intended for Purple Martins, but often used by House Sparrows and others — but the sparrows always get there first. The Martin Houses I know best all overlook the Bath House Cultural Center down from West Lake Highlands Drive.
I'm assuming this one's cold, and its puffed-out plumage is warming it.
And this one is not cold.
But it's really nice to see an actual Purple Martin on a Purple Martin House.
On the way back out to Buckner Boulevard.
A family visit to check out a so-called Yacht Club.
This was the best of four or five abstract shapes up there.
A multiple-boat outing, if not an actual race.
And an opportunity to exhibit various backgrounds.
That should be enough of sailboats for the next half year or so.
Found this just-fledged Grackle, but no ducks
— photographed May 18, posted May 19
Had in mind some very special ducks that I recently learned the nearest coordinates for in time and space, but I still didn't find the ducks in question — though I kept finding other ducks, who pretty much all looked enough alike to be mothers and kits, which is who they really were. But first, here's an unsub, who may actually be another Grackle, but it just doesn't look like one to this Amateur Birder. 194 shots to get these 13.
Took me awhile to decide that this was a Rusty Blackbird, (Not!) although I knew right off it wasn't one of the ducks I was looking for, and it looked a little like a Great-tailed Grackle, but now I'm convinced that's who it is. I can tell right off that it's a black bird — or at least a bigger brown bird, but I think I know better than to call it a Blackbird — and none of my most common bird I.D books show a picture that closely apprximates this bird in their Blackbirds section.
Probably because they don't show fronts of birds, and they don't bother with recently fledged Grackles."
Which is to say, my first guess was right. I shoulda stuck with it…
It does look a little like one of Richard Crossley's Rusty Blackbird photos in the face from the side in his Crossley Guide to Eastern Birds, but in Sibley Birds East, Rusty Blackbirds are not portrayed from the font, and I only eventually saw the fine diagonal lines across this one's breast in this pic as well as in a couple of my field guides. So for awhile, till I did more exhaustive visual research, I just called it an Unsub.
I shoulda stuck with that.
So by those same details, this may not be the female Great-tailed Grackle I at first assumed it were. But what do I know. I should at about this point remind us all that the largest word on this page is "Amateur." Eventually, I came to the conclusion that this bird as Ken says, a recently-fledged Great-tailed Grackle.
I like the first of these three pictures the best, but I really like this one, too. Whomever it is in whatever species.
I've long sought to photograph one or another grackkle in flight. This photograph may, at long last, be it.
It's a squirrel. And it stayed very close to me enough that I worried I might frighten it, and then it might bite me. Rats with fluffy tails, indeed. I shot a handful of pix of it, and it moved just before each shot, so I either changed my aim or zoomed in or out or moved my camera to keep it in the frame. This was my favorite image of the group, though I wish I'd got the fluffy top of its tail as sharp as the rest of it.
I had a bike cop stop me parked on the far right of Lawther Drive in what I assumed was the Right-of-Way in front of a residence there. I told him about my Right-of-Way theory, but he insisted I was parking in someone's lawn, even though their fence did not enclose the yard out there. I didn't argue, I just wish there were places to park along side of the public road through the public park. The police person on a bike stopped me from photographing a cormorant in the lake, probably too far away, anyway.
This is the first Killdeer I'd seen in weeks, maybe months. I stayed in the road to photograph it where it was in some rich person's yard.
It'd been diving. I waited for it. Here, it'd just come up.
Wind was high. Clouds were dark. And Mama Mallards were keeping their ducklings out of the dangerous waves, which made them easier to photograph up closer, and I may actually be getting better with the Pany Cam and that blankety-blank elder zoom lens.
Some Mallard Moms were keeping their brood out of the water. Some were letting them learn about rougher water.
We call them teenagers, because they act like teenagers. Everything's kinda new to them, and they're rambunctious, and they're just figuring out the way things — including themselves — work. But they're generally eager and inexperienced.
I still like to photograph little pink flowers from time to time. This time I was walking along the edge of the lake, still looking for those ducks, whom I did not find.
I kept hoping they had sprayed their clothes with Picardin and their bodies with DEET. I got two actual kiss pix, but they didn't look very engaging, so I went instead with this. She's showing an engagement ring, but this could be an ad shoot. I think I like the way it leads into the new house abuilding pix next down.
Somebody with big bucks is building a very large home with a great view of the lake on the Hunt Brothers side. Somebody asked whose office building this might be, but I assume the west side of the lake is not zoned for office buildings, though it looks like it could be one.
Accompanying Anna on a Bird Chauffeur Trip to Rogers
Wildlife Rehabilitation — photographed May 16, posted May 17
The one on the left remained bright-eyed and somewhat active for the entire trip from the vet to Rogers. I worried about the other one, who seemed overwhelmed and sleepy, but I could see that it was breathing, and that it moved slightly sometimes, but I had concern.
Found a bird? How to Know If a Bird Needs Help on the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation website.
For today's Bird Chauffeur trip, I used the same cam I've been going on and on about lately, but this time with my short zoom lens that is sharper than the telephoto zoom I've been testing. I have been fond of Blue-Jays ever since adult male Blue-Jays buzz-bombed my head and much longer hair in the very early 1970s when I was on assignment for the Dallas Times Herald at the then-new City Hall building where visitors had been calling the paper about getting attacked when they got too close to the trees with Blue-Jay nests. I was thrilled to have the angry birds shoot touch-and-goes on my head and in my hair when I dared close to their nest to get close-up photos thereof.
Both Jays responded almost immediately to gentle handling, a quick clean-up and feeding at Rogers..
Soon as the beak opened, her other hand, tweezered in one tiny cube of moistened food at a time, which the bird immediately knew what to do with. Swallow.
…As the bird rests safely in Kathy Rogers' hand [right]. The Rogers crew reported that both birds were fixable, and that they would join the dozens of other Blue-Jays who'd been brought to Rogers lately.
Same Kit and I'm Again in the Throes* of Indecision
photographed May 15, posted May 16
While I was shooting the usual crowd from the Pier at Sunset Bay, my eyes wandered over to see who all was laxing out in the mud on the sand bar just northeast of the pier. This. Rather obviously. Many years ago — this site's been going nearly 11 years now — I photographed some mystery-to-me birds flying along the coast from Garland Road down DeGolyer Drive that looked dark and indistinguishable.
A few days later, I got notice that my photo was the first-ever of some sort of Mergansers, I don't remember which. I've since heard mention of mergansers having been seen at Sunset Bay and other places around the lake, but this was the first time I'd seen any of them ever again. And it was just sitting there.
Over the last decade since, I've photographed firsts at the lake of Bald Eagle, Anhinga and a couple other species I tend to forget — as well as the first Tricolored Heron at the rookery, although I thought that one was a Great Blue Heron, and didn't yet know about Jim Peterson's site for listing firsts.
Been a booger trying to get my elderly lens on my not-all-that-recent M43 camera to focus on birds in with other solid objects. Not sure whether that's the fault of the camera, the lens or the operator, and I'm not at all sure which one needs replacing to fix the problem.
Hard to tell if it or me or the lens is out of focus here, but one of us be. Not horribly. But Not superb focus neither.
On a closer snag. Here, out in the open, with lots of focus neutral water all around, all around. Focus is tolerable, though hardly Nikon perfect.
And this one looks very good indeed. Handy to have the focus plane on the far side of all that glass. I'd been watching this bird since I rounded the bend onto the Sunset Inn Circle/East Lawther Drive loop. I chose this one for its sharp eye and dark background. Breeding Adult Great Egrets have orange-ish nuptial plumes on the back end.
If there's nothing close to the subject in question, the lens doesn't seem to mind focusing directly on it. But all today's complaints are this lens, which is, of the two elements (cam & lens) what I'd hope to replace. But this Blue Jay's eye and face is distinctly out of focus.
Body sharp-ish. Head and face (Do birds have faces?) smudged significantly. Of course, by now I'd narrowed the focus selector, and it was in the middle of the image, and this was a quick shot, so it's probably not centered.
My Nikon has a many points of focus, of which I can choose one or most. This cam has an itty bitty one I can make as smaller as I can, but sometimes my face moves it around. Did I mention I miss my big hunk of Nikon? Sure wish The Big N would market an APS-C Mirrorless, but they blew their wad on so-called one-inch cams for amateurs, when they should at least have ventured APS sized sensors eventually for professionals, except, of course, they haven't been making APS-sized lenses lately. Not sure where their heads are, though I could hazard guesses.
But the real joy of mirrorless (non-reflex) is that I get to see the exact colors and color temperature and exposure as the sensor does. No APS-C or full-frame Nikon does that.But my PanyCam does, and it's got another stabilizer in the sensor that works well with the one in the new lens. Hard to test that, since I have only the stabilized cam.
Doctor at the VA today says I don't have a fracture in my hand, and that what I have been doing — wearing a sleeve-like splint — $30 from Walgreen's, and now the best of my Carpal Tunnel Collection, and being very gentle with it and exercizing it mildly — was helping. That means no surgery. Hooray! But it probably won't heal quickly, either.
It's taking its own sweet time now.
More Photo Experimentation via my Couple-year-old MP4 Camera
and Six-year-old lens — Photographed May 13 & posted late May 14
Out again early this Saturday ayem, still experimenting with the hardly-heavy Pany (Panasonic Lumix GX8) Cam and my six-year-old 100-300mm lens that's not really equivalent to a 200-600mm lens, but it don't work half bad. This is a reflection of the sun behind me off a tall building far off the other side of the lake, but I cropped that building, because I liked this part better.
The moon is just so easy to photograph, because like the earth, it is illuminated by what we call "The Sun," so if we want to render it as an 18% gray reflecting object, like it and all of us are to cameras and other light meters, we just point at it and click. That's how I got this. Love the ripples in thick air near the bottom. This one's graininess is due to shooting it at ISO 3200, which I just wanted to try to see what happened, and several of these, are the answer.
One of the better pix today. Probably from standing on The Pier at Sunset Bay.
I didn't know who exactly they were till I showed the image as large as I could get it on my monitor, then it was like, of course. Who else?
I think the two red ones are Little Blue Herons, and the white one is a Snowy Egret. I don't think they're the same three-some as awhile back down this page [below].
Whoever it is, I'm pretty sure it's being pursued by a Red-winged Blackbird. Several species of plucky small birds feel privileged enough to chase hawks and other larger birds.
I usually straighten out angled photographs, but today, I'm in the mood to leave some the way I shot them.
I'm used to following birds into the lagoon with my big Nikon, so here I stutter-followed a Male Mallard in for I knew not what, and this happened. Not bad. Just wish the foot splash and upper inside wings had some texture in them. But hey.
ISO 3200 makes it all a little grainy, but I love the shapes Great-tailed Grackles get in sometimes.
I love the myriad ways water shows itself in photographs. This sorta, kinda, a little bit, reminded me of old rock 'n roll posters from the 1970s.
… because they keep going 'round every few minutes all day long. Over and over and over … It really doesn't take much to spook them; they already want to fly around the block, then come back and act like they hadn't done anything or gone anywhere. And, in fact, they hadn't.
He just looked like a noble beast, so I photographed him.
I was so proud of myself for catching it on the tip of the snag — not quite realizing I was panning along with it, even when it stopped.
The first six or eight times I saw this photograph in Bridge (My elderly but true photo-sorting software from the dreaded Adobe) I did not even see the female Wood Duck on the left. Now I do, but she's still subtle.
Sometimes they appear young and jaunty, and other times they look stead and dumpy.
I think I was sitting in the bench where Ann feeds birds and watches Nature most of most days. I wanted the rest, and there were plenty photographable birds up and down Sunset Beach. I generally like the white ones better, but this one was kind enough to pose for me.
Yeah, it's a little crooked, I now see, but I really like the semi-automatic composition.
Panning along, I shot these three guys. This was the best of the bunch, even if one runner is all but invisible.
I took a buncha pix the next day, some of birds. But not one of the bird pix were in focus enough — and I was careful, because I knew the light was dim. So that was a big negative for my primary use of the old 100-300mm lens or future use of the still lusted-after 100-400mm "Leica" lens, so I may have to rethink things, although my experimentation and testing will continue.
The non-bird photos were amazing, however, though I don't want to dirty this page with too many non-bird pix. These three are my favorites. They have going for them that they weren't moving or flapping, just there.
The Experiment Continues — Posted May 13, 2017
Yes, this was also shot with my new, little kit, with the old camera and old lens. Cute, ain't they?
See how deliciously sharp my elderly 1 to 3 hundred millimeter zoom lens can be at 300 mm — and the newer lens I still lust after would be even sharper — and longer. I've watched the young hawklets up there in that steady cradle so often, I feel like I must be their uncle. As usual, this shot was taken with The Slider parked not quite in the middle of the road (but off to the right some, with the blinkers blinking, and me leaning out the driver's window and pointing the old, experimental kit (of old cam & old lens) almost straight up into their nest. 239
Oh, sorry, I said that already.
This bird is showing off his physique and form, but not as much as he could be.
In the inner circle in front of the Winfrey Building.
In a field of flowers. I never even saw the Red-winged Blackbirds (RWBBs). That's just a free extra bonus i this shot. And the female Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is facing the other way. I've always wanted to show a photo of RWBBs doing this, but next time, I really want them to be in focus.
What they generally proclaim is, "I am here. Where are you?" to potential mates, so they can start a nest, so they can advance the population of RWBBs.
On a wire with vivid red and yellow epaulets flying in the wind against the stormy sky.
Handsome bird, but who is it?
Kala King says it's a juvenile European Starling, and she sent me two pix of those that look very much like this one but lighter. Either I or nature may have darkened these. Kala often helps me identify bird and animal unsubs here. To thank her, I link her name when she does. Having your page linked by various other websites on the net really helps you go up the list of links when someone searches for pics of something you got. I afford that nicety to anyone who correctly identifies birds I have not or can not.
Two more juvenile Starlings. They were hanging around growner-up Starling, so I should have guessed.
I call it Winfrey Hill, because when I drive along DeGoyler Drive (more generally known as East Lawther Drive) and pass the parking lot on the north edge of Winfrey Point, it's the long, upward climb to the Winfrey Building and the Winfrey Parking Lot.
Not much to report on the ongoing experiment with my Panasonic Lumix GX8 camera and elderly 100-300mm lens. They work well-enough together now, but the double stabilization (which my Pany Cam now has, but it won't work till the new lens gets attached). And I'm getting the hang of them working together in my shaking hands, although it's still a real challenge to find the subject out there, through the lens, after I sight it with my eyes. I had that trouble when I first got my Nikon 300mm lens, too. But that was years ago, and now it's second nature. So, like everything else, it'll take time.
An Experiment with a Six-Year-Old Lens
photographed May 11 — posted May 12
The experimental portion of today's journal entry is that it was photographed using a different lens on a different camera. The lens is a 100-300mm zoom on my little Panasonic Lumix GX8, which I am using, because I have been lusting after another lens I might buy, because my Nikon weighs about nine pounds, and the Pany & the 100-400 weight tons less. I bought the camera for family and art purposes.
With this ongoing experiment I hope to learn whether resulting bird images can be as good as those from my Nikon. And so far, results show a definite maybe but I need to keep experimenting.
Warning: Photo Tech Talk:
The Panasonic 100-300mm lens was the best m43 tele zoom I could afford six years ago, but now Panasonic (with Leica design and parts) is making a 100-400mm zoom that tests sharper and faster-focusing, while it's still significantly smaller and lighter than my Nikon.
My Nikon camera + lens + telextender = 9.12 pounds, and the Panasonic/Leica lens I'm lusting after + camera would = 3.25 pounds! That is (and would be) especially helpful with my damaged right hand [all the gory details below, which I can still use, though it hurts.] — except I have grown used to the heavier Nikon, and holding steady the much lighter Panasonic lately was an issue, despite its potential double stabilization (one each in the camera and the lens, that will work together, to greater effect).
My current Pany cam's lens is stabilized, but my elderly lens' tech won't work with my much-newer cam, which is part of why I want the new lens, which will calm my shaking camera even more.
I usually use my Nikon on a tripod, and the new Panasonic/Leica 100-400 zoom has a built-in foot, which my elderly 100-300 entirely lacks.
The supposedly equivalent focal length for a lens that projects the same angles of view onto the much smaller (1/4th the size) M43 (Micro Four-Thirds) sensor of the Panasonic is reputed to be equivalent to "twice the focal length" that projects on full-frame 35mm film, so the 100-400mm zoom is said to have a 2X advantage, "making it a 200-800mm lens equivalent."
But not really! The new lens weighs a third what my Nikon does, and it yields twice the telephoto range — if you believe in these "equivalencies," which, as you will read below, is plainly popycock — though widely accepted — nonsense.
A now abandoned rating used by Digital Photography Review until they were bought by Amazon, who sells gobs of overrated little cameras, compared how many pixels are crammed into a square centimeter of a camera's sensor. Lower density ratings yield better image quality. When a lot of pixels are squeezed together, so camera companies can hype high megapixel ratings to unknowing buyers, IQ (image quality) suffers, and image noise creeps into even the lower ISO settings. But many factors affect image quality.
Panasonic has done an admirable job of rendering those high densities well, but they are still there.
M43 sensors are a hair under 1/4 the area size of my full-frame Nikon sensor/image so, calling it an equivalent is absurd. The actual projected image on the Panasonic is 1/4 the size of the full frame 35mm sensor of the Nikon. My Nikon "full-frame" (named for the 24 x 36mm 35mm film frame) sensor is 884 square millimeters vs. 225 square millimeters on the Panasonic. The overall image offers the same view and zoomed range of viewing angles, but the actual image resolution in the Nikon is at least 4 times that of the Panasonic. Hardly equivalent.
Not all Nikons are full-frame, but all full-frame sensors render inherently better image quality than smaller sensors, depending — of course — on the relative quality of the lenses used. A camera that uses 4 x 5-inch film (I have a well-used one from the 1960s) has better resolution than a Nikon full-frame, although Nikon lenses are probably better, because they are specifically designed for the smaller format.
I like that M43 cameras and lenses are smaller, and the better ones have more-than-adequate image quality for internet purposes — although I have shown images from my M43 cameras — and even smaller formats — in art exhibitions, and those cameras are quieter and lighter weight.
But the sensor size is still significant.
The organism on the left is a snake, and it appears to have a rattle on the small, dark end. And the Snowy Egret is curious about it. But the snake never moved while I watched it for several minutes, so I assume it's dead and flung there by hydraulic forces. I could not find its patterns among the snake pictures I saw online, but I am no herpetologist.
Kala King says it looks like a Copperhead, and she wondered how it got in the water. I assume one flood or another swept it into there.
I'm only sorry that this comparatively sharp photograph does not show this BCNH's occipital plume better. That's it outlining the upper curve of its black back. They always look so dashing with that plume splayed in the wind.
Yep, these are Canada Gooses flying over our heads across from Egret Island in the lower middle portions of The Spillway. Sounded marvelous, and two or three times more than this was the most Canada Gooses I've seen in one place in a long time. We've been getting short handfuls at Sunset Bay recently, but these were about three times the number in the pic above.
I was not standing on The Spillway with the duck. I was up looking down from the sidewalk along the trough we call The Spillway, down from the active portion of our dam that lets in water. The inactive portion of our dam usually does not let in water, and we hope that continues. I've never seen the lake high enough to do that, and it would seem calamitous should that ever happen, although there's a whole wooded area behind and below that long end of the dam called The Fitchery (The Old Fish Hatchery Area) full of once-rectangular pans where fish once hatched and grew, below and for some small distance between that part of the dam and beyond.
Anyway, I was charmed by this loosely fitted collection of feathers on the back of this, I assume, wet duck.
Whenever we can see the top of a bird's head, we can begin to understand that we are shooting down on it. Can't here, so this must be close to a purely lateral view. It seems remarkably sharp.
I have seen only a very few other photographers photographing this nest, which I almost never photograph from outside The Slider. The place I park my Toyota — usually with the blinkers blinking — is just on the right side of the road leading into Sunset Bay (the wet part) through Greater Sunset Bay (the mostly dry and growy and people-populated parts). I see here this very young bird is acquiring the texture and tones to its once all-white little head — and shoulders. I can't wait to see them (I think I see its younger sibling on the left through nest materials) learning to fly to hunt in and around The Bay.
All I could see when I saw these guys flying over was that they seemed to be white. I guessed Great Egrets, but I was wrong. Again. It seems that lately, whenever I look up to egrets flying over Sunset Bay, they turn out to be Cattle Egrets.
When I asked Google why birds put their heads under their wings while sleeping, they responded, "actually, birds don't tuck their heads under their wing. Instead they rest their heads on their backs while they nuzzle their beaks into their back feathers. Sleeping with their head tucked on their back allows birds to rest their neck muscles and also makes for better heat conservation."
From near the entrance to The Pier at Sunset Bay, Sunset Beach looks gentle and tranquil, and it often is. Nice place to sit and think — or not think.
Murder at The Spillway by Kelly Murphy
Posted May 12, 2017
Black-crowned Night-Heron ready to attack. Female Mallard doing what she can, but look at the size differences.
The left side of this action scene is easy to describe. Duckling in the beak of a big, hungry bird. The right side is a mix of frantic bird textures. Mama Mallard does what she can, mixing her soft spots and striations into the powerful heron's legs. Trying to stop it, but …
It broke the little duckling's neck and soon will, step by step (I've seen it happen.) inch it down its throat. Kelley Murphy's photographs are an amazing documentation of life and death at The Spillway.
Charles Holekamp Pix
I've been so busy photographing birds lately, I've neglected some lovely photographs Charles Holekamp sent in April. When I asked him where he found them, he told me, "Didn't go far. They are in my backyard on my Wax Leaf Mahonia to Berry, so just come out full blown and then they swarmed down at eight — every freaking one of them."
Blue-winged Teal & One Red-winged Blackbird Preening
Shot May 8 and posted very early May 9
I keep thinking I should tell how many shots I take to come up with the pix I show here. I sure don't show them all or even most of them. I'm very picky. For today's journal, I shot 229 images. From which I selected eight (8). I don't know what my average is, but I suspect I get about the same percentage of good-enough-to-post images here as I did when I worked for the Dallas Times Herald or any of the other rags I have worked at or for over the years. Today's average is a little under 5%, and I thought that might very well be upper on the scale.
If you're expecting to get every shot perfect, you are in the wrong business. Nearly none of us ever achieve perfection. I don't know anybody that ever happens to. Sometimes we get the first shot just right then keep clicking away. You never know ….
I also don't get everything else perfect when I click the shutter button. I do a bit of editing on almost every shot I show here — and more on some that I don't, before I give up. These Blue-winged Teal shots are here, because I keep trying to get better shots to show Blue Wing Teals' blue parts, although the brown parts are nice, too.
My fellow birders seem to just love Blue-winged Teal. I like them, but I don't get all gaga about them. Sometimes, when they first show up at Sunset Bay, there are little moblets of photographers we never see the rest of the time here, all excited about capturing their spirits — or whatever.
They're handsome enough, I suppose, but hardly spectacular. Now, photographing the Bald Eagle who visits the bay now and then. That's pretty spectacular-ish. I was the first to ever photograph an eagle — a Bald-headed one — at White Rock Lake — for an elapsed time of 14 seconds. And even they are anything but spectacular photographs from back then, although many of us have got better eagle pix since.
It's just a matter of being where they are.
These five shots of this same male Red-winged Blackbird are a bit longer exposures than normal, and those scratch-looking marks may be water droplets flying off its body as it twirls its tail around so fast it looks like gray balloons back there. I saw this bird start up with these drying techniques, and I just kept shooting. (My camera allows fairly fast clickety-clicks, but I've got it slowed down some, so I don't waste so much time figuring out which shot is the best.) I had it on automatic shutter-speed after I selected the aperture and the EV adjustment) and apparently I chose just right. Miracles do happen!
What I like about this shot is that tail is stopped in its often circular tracks. Unfortunately, its head and beak are nearly doubled. In all the other shots the beak is rendered almost still, and that gives us all a sense of tranquility and the feeling that all's right in the world. Ha!
This is my favorite of this longish series — a total of 27 shots, which I've edited down to just these five. Kinda reminds me of that Barn Swallow doing much the same sort of overall preening in place on last month's journal page. Only the swallow was much quicker, and it changed preen targets amazing fast.
Its right wing (here on the left) is up and its left wing (on the right) is down. I guess for these sorts of micro-gymnastics, he (!) chose the correct perch that allows most of his body to hang over the far side of the post.
All these dance-like drying pix remind me of my younger days when I won a Twist competition very early in that dance's long popularity, and shook it all over every chance I got through college.
Lotsa Surprise Birds Early Morning @ Sunset Bay
Photographed May 7, Posted May 8
Woke up way too early Sunday morning and decided to go to Sunset Bay to see how it was that early there. The big decision was whether to wear a long-sleeved shirt on top of my T, and I decided not, and it worked perfectly. Almost soon as I got my camera set up, treasured species hied their way into The Bay.
I hadn't seen an adult Little Blue at the lake in awhile, and here, to find an adult accompanying a blue-spotted juvenile was a real treat. They were followed in by a Snowy Egret, whom I had also sought. Little Blue Herons start out white, then dark blue-black spots appear that gradually turn into solid blue and red over their entire body.
And I don't remember ever seeing an adult and juvenile traveling together. But Sunset Bay is the right place for that to happen. They didn't stay long enough. They stood over there and looked around for a long time, then they flew off. I didn't see into which direction.
At his and Robert Bunch's talk at the Bath House the morning before, Ben Sandifer called what we've been calling "the logs" out far in the bay, "Snags." And I checked with Anna P, who's in the current Master Birder's Class about that term, and she said it was proper, so I'm going to start using it as of now. Note the parental Little Blue's crown is up and nuptial feathers out. Not sure why. Might be an attempt to scare off the tagalong Snowy on the bottom end of the snag.
Great Blue Herons are normal guests at Sunset Bay. In fact, I saw two today. But the other one kept flying on over the Hidden Creeks area, and this one mostly stayed.
Not sure which Snowy Egret this was, but more than one anywhere is always a treat, although I didn't see any of them get flustered or pissed or whatever enough to raise that crown all the way out.
It doesn't look like either of the two earlier entrants into Sunset Bay, so I'm assuming this is a different Little Blue Heron (Although, like Great Blue Herons, they tend to change colors depending on the illumination. Three is a remarkable number of LBHs anywhere at the lake these days. I used to watch — and photograph them — fighting among themselves for the best fishing territory right in front of the pier I love so much.
It's right about the time they usually show up. I believe there were four to six of them buzzing around the Bay this early day. This is the only one who stayed in one place long enough. And this shot is a tiny, tiny portion of a much larger frame.
Cattle Egrets (I think) didn't stay in Sunset Bay, but they flew right on over the Hidden Creek Area heading east. And not just one little bunch. I photographed flock after flock after flock in the hour or so I was there early, for a change. I had assumed White Rock Lake was seeding the world with Great Egrets, but with that orange crown, these have to be Cattle Eegs.
Female Red-winged Blackbird puffed up for warmth.
The Juvenile BCNH never pulled its head out of the leaves.
I assume these are the same young family who's been visiting Sunset Bay these last few years. Nice to see them again this early Sunday Morning, even if their numbers keep diminishing.
No Birds, Just Some Feathers & Scenics
Photographed May 6, Posted May 7
The part of Lawther that used to continue past the Bath House and on toward Yacht Club Row and The Big Thicket has long since been stopped in its tracks past that big parking lot. Walking's easy, but it you want to continue north around the lake, you have to drive north on Buckner Boulevard, exit left (west) onto Mockingbird, where it turns inexorably into Peavy, then get into the far right lane to loop around and down into The Big Thicket area.
It's a two-way road that's the only way to access The Big Thicket, which includes all the yacht clubs and boat houses. Down to nearly where the road used to go on to the Bath House, where it instead loops around and sends us back toward Mockingbird Lane.
Smoke. I love photographing picnic smoke.
But I've still been very busy at White Rock photographing birds.
Posted the aft of May 6
Sorry I haven't been keeping up with this journal lately, but I've still been taking pictures nearly every day. And thank goodness for tripods. I can barely hand-hold my camera with my newly bunged right hand, but a tripod does it pretty well, and I can put it up there.
Sticking pre-digested food down their cute little gullets.
Here, I think we see a bit of predigested meat balancing on the second downy young hawklet, before it opens its beak and swallows.
I don't know what kind of bug.
Apparently Male Great-tailed Grackles believe this look is appreciated by discerning female Great-tailed Grackles. I've seen it often. Sometimes, after this display, he'll go into a much more extreme body formation that I didn't see this time.
I'm still photographing birds at White Rock Lake, despite my hurting hand that may get fixed later this month.
I was photographing birds around the Old Boathouse's newish Bridge, when a nice woman stopped to tell me of some ducklings on a log "around the bend." These were there then, and three days later, they were still there.
I keep finding more subtle reminders of our recent storms.
After I told her about my latest fall — at Sunset Beach a few feet up the hill from the wind- and wave-blasted lake, VA Diabetes Nurse Practitioner George insisted I have my wrist X-rayed at the VA that day, and what she says, I do.
Apparently they saw something in one of the three X-rays, and now I have an operation scheduled in the Plastic Surgery department in a couple weeks. Nurse George later told me that what I have is a "non-displaced fracture," which means there's a bone cracked or broken, but it's still where it has always been.
After earlier visiting The Spillway because I'd seen the water blowing wildly off hard-edge surfaces along the dam and The Spillway as I drove by on Garland Road — and managing not to injure myself in any way, I drove over to Sunset Bay to see what was happening there — with secret dreams of the recently oft-sighted eagle dancing like sugarplums in my head, but I haven't seen any eagles there lately.
I'd just arrived at Sunset Beach and wondered why the two photographers already present had chosen to stand in the precarious footing along the edge of the miniature forest this side of the pier at Sunset Bay. Especially when it was clear that just standing on the beach under that shade tree provided more dramatic light behind and rimming the ducks.
I was having joyous, hilarious fun photographing ducks tossed by the stormy water. I'm guessing the wind was blowing at least 30 mph much of the time. Sometimes 40 or more. I later checked weather reports, and in other places around the city, it was knocking down trees and turning off electricity.
I took more pix from sitting down. Then I needed to change my viewpoint, so I painstakingly (!) got to my feet and clicked more images. I quickly tired of that though, and I hurt in more places than I thought I had. It took awhile, but gradually I stood all the way up, wavered up there awhile, wondered if I could walk back to my car, picked a direction — any direction — and began the climb to where I'd parked The Slider.Apparently, I had cracked my hand when I reached down to slow my descent after getting turned around and tripping over an exposed root on one of my favorite trees to photograph from under. It's got enough leaves it blocks the sun in the evening before sunset, and it's just a little ways up Sunset Beach.
My hand doesn't hurt unless I try to do something stupid with it. It's not much good for lifting, but it mouses and types just fine. Today, my left side started hurting — and now, sometimes my right side joins in. Walking a couple days later, my left knee buckled under me, and I almost fell.
Long-time readers know I've fallen before, and as usual, it has to do with wax in my ears. My usual first clue that something's wrong is that I fall — this time rather spectacularly.
As always, on my way, I found odd images that needed taking.
Male Mallards bash or bump their breasts into other male mallards to decide who's the best. Or as The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds' Mallard Page says, "Most displays are ritualized versions of common motions: males may face off with a head-bob, threaten an aggressor with an open bill, or push against each other, breast to breast."
I have seen this "pushing," and I would describe it more like bashing, but I bow to Cornell's understandings. Breast feathers are thereby compressed as seen above.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2017 & before 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 the best of that is documented in this Journal, all the pages of which continue online — see links at top and bottom of every Bird Journal page. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964. A total of 53 years.