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Martins, Purple — on & off wires, Away & Back And …
June 29 2015
These are Purple Martins gathered on the wires leading up from the east to The Winfrey Building. If I'd lowered the camera, we could see down the hill, past trees, mown areas, an unmown wildflower area, White Rock Lake Trail and the lake most directly overlooking the western-most portion of Sunset Bay.
All these shots but the last one are shot into pretty much the same, more or less directly, northerly direction. There's usually no more than a few second from one shot to the next, depening upon what was happening just then.
This was the second time I saw this sequence. The first time I saw it, maybe a minute earlier, I was too busy watching to realize what was happening — or that it was a repeating sequence.
I had no idea how often it had or would repeat, I just wanted to get the Martins' seeming random movements on silicone, so I could share this strange pattern with you reading these pictures and maybe even these words.
All of this was photographed with my new Olympus E-M1 camera set on Aperture Priority mode with automatic focus, exposure (shutter speed and aperture) and HDR, although I did aim it.
The only real changes I've made besides framing were that I blued-out the top right corner, where I'd apparently misaligned the lens hood on the Panasonic 12-35mm (with angles of view the same as a 24-70mm zoom lens on my Nikon, except it's shining its image on a micro Four Thirds-sized sensor, which has 1/3.84th the physical area (17.3 x 13mm) of my so-called "full-frame" (24 x 36mm) Nikon's sensor. The Nikon has 36 megapixels, and the Olympus has 16.
Somehow I'd missed this flock action all the other times I'd seen hundreds of Purple Martins gathered on these wires or anywhere else.
I did not count the number of birds in each of these 11 images, but there were 124 (plus or minus maybe a couple) in the first image.
I'm pretty sure there were more birds in subsequent photographs.
And fewer later, till they all circled back, behind the wires I was photographing.
This being the last shot in the series — although I didn't know it at the time — I panned along with the bulk of the flock that was flying west. So we can no longer see the tree or "telephone" pole. I do have a slight inclination to count all the birds in this shot, but I really don't want to. I just wanted to show you how Purple Martin flocks sometimes move.
Great, Snowy & Cattle Egrets, adult & Juvenile Anhingas, Black-crowned
Night-Heron & a Red-winged Blackbird — all at the med school rookery
June 28 2015
Hadn't been in too long a while, missed going there, had damaged my side and lower back falling in the tub (all of about 11 inches), so I hurt and needed to walk. Did not bring that new camera I obviously don't know how to deal with. Never once noticed the huge weight and dimensions differences; I was just using my favorite camera and favorite lens on my favorite subjects, birds. It was fun, and I walked all the way around the rookery once, sweat a lot, then got into my air-conditioned car and drove home.
When the light catches their flapping wings just right, it looks like magic in the wind.
2 elaborately or excessively intricate or complicated: florid operatic-style music was out.
• (of language) using unusual words or complicated rhetorical constructions: the florid prose of the nineteenth century.
Note that this is the bird at top middle of what I began thinking of as "The Florid Pack."
A different Great Egret this time. Both of them. Same pack of birds, though, and in the same tree, just not at the very top of it.
This is the very top of that tree. A very active and photogenic bunch of birds.
I did keep returning to the Florid Pack, but I was more than willing to follow the occasional overflying other species.
Leave it to the hardly-ever demure Snowy Egret to have the most extreme and distorted Breeding Look of the egrets I've yet seen. Even more so than the amazing Cattle Egrets. When I shot this, I assumed it was a Cattle Egret, but it's not.
I have seen Cattle Egrets in their most aggressive and obvious breeding look that were about as strange as the Adult Breeding Snowy Egret just above these. But this pair has settled into making a nest, so they don't have to show off.
Only reason to sit a nest is that there's eggs in there.
I thought that a depthy ground-floor view would go very nicely right here — and I had wanted this bird to be something besides another Great Egret, but …
In plain sight, although this is a substantial enlargement. Before setting out today, I set the Nikon to automatic HDR, though I'm not altogether sure I know what that means. There's an HDR setting on the Olympus camera I've been experimenting with this week, and I thought I'd try this one's out, just to see. It seems to greatly expand the tonal range, unless, of course, I overly over-expose the image. Getting the bird, the sky and tonality in almost everywhere else except that one, truncated branch of the tree, was an improvement.
I taught photography in the Air Force before Vietnnam, and then it was High Density Range. Now it seems to be High Dynamic Range. Same thing, though. A longer range of tonalities from white to black or verse vice. I believe normal for these photographs would have blotted the sky out in the background. Don't think I would want to use it to photograph art, but then it might help. I was so happy to see actual blue skies behind these guys, I decided to keep it at Auto HDR. This Anhinga was a little bluish, probably because the sky all around it was, too.
I usually overexpose Anhingas. Maybe because they're mostly black. Note the way this bird has its duck-like feet wrapped around that perch.
For a nest? It is the rookery. It's way up in the upper reaches of the Basketball court where predatory bird recordings are played constantly in order to keep pigeon droppings off the surface of the basketball courts. It doesn't seem to bother the birds in the rookery, who probably know the difference between recorded and real birds, but it has to be annoying to the other humans. And me.
I did so want this to be something more special than a Snowy Egret. At one time, I told Erin, whom I saw at the rookery today, that I'd photographed a juvenile Little Blue Heron, but I was wrong, and I have not seen any Little Blue Herons there this year. I have also not seen any Ibis at the Rookery since (I think) May of 2014, although I saw and photographed dozens of them along the Trinity River before the floods. Maybe they've moved out of the Rookery to someplace where fewer humans bother them.
We know the land crew at the Med Center is slowly destroying trees around the periphery of the grove that is the rookery, hoping to eventually get all the birds to go somewhere else. This rookery used to be across Harry Hines Boulevard, then moved or got moved to the Med Center campus when the other was destroyed, so more businesses could populate that area without a stinky old rookery. There used to be a water souce inside the Med Center rookery, but now there's a hedge of tall weeds in the vicinity where the pond was, so we can't see in there. I suspect the birds appreciate the hedge.
The Rookery is getting smaller, and I don't think we're supposed to notice, but it is. Trees at the edges come down when somebody's not looking. Getting rid of a few species may just be the first step.
I didn't see any juvenile Night-Herons this trip. I may be too late. Yellow-crowned Night-Herons usually do not spend time in rookeries, because they are not that social. I've heard the same said of Great Blue Herons, but I usually see at least one GBH there — though not this time. Usually, I see them flying over.
These are the two Great Egrets in the upper left [above on this page] of the Florid Pack's tree in the photo at the top of today's journal entry, which is — as usual — arranged chronologically.
I'm not certain which of the Florid Pack egrets this one is, but I think it's the one in the middle.
big camera vs. Little camera — What I've
learned so far one does better than the other
June 27 2015
My new Olympus seems to work just fine on large or chunky birds. Focus, exposure and everything else seems just fine.
It works well on medium chunky birds in tall green weeds, too.
And it works especially well on big, chunky birds doing calisthenics on short green grass with various weeds poking through.
But on tiny birds who appear smaller than the only focus area I have yet found, things go a little awry, and the birds look soft.
Not much of that with large birds in more or less 'the open.'
Or small birds in open conditions where the camera can just as easily focus on the ground or grass.
But on birds who are small compared with their surroundings, the Oly fails and the Nikon does much better, though hardly perfect.
It might have helped if I'd got on their other side so I wasn't shooting into shadows on their body's and around the eyes, but there's no road over there where The Slider and I could slide along in the shaodws, of which there also few.
As you can see here.
As usual, no real problem with large object that fill the space.
Here, where the Oly usually fails me the small birds with various details really shine when I use my humongous Nikon.
Which works well even if the birds are somewhat widely separated.
This bird is a little soft, but nowhere near as soft as the Purple Martin above.
A Brazen Woodpecker, A Western Kingbird, A Goose, A Coot,
Some Ducks, a Sexually confusing Swan & a Floating Island
June 26 2015
Not perfect focus, but I'm getting better with my new camera. I call this woodpecker 'brazen' because he didn't seem to mind my presence at all and mostly just ignored me, though he was only a few feet away from and above me.
There's green leaves closer than the bird that fuzz out much of this composition, but we could count tiny feathers that seem like hairs around its beak. Those are how we know for sure that this bird is a flycatcher, since those tiny feathers help it catch flying insects. Kinda like a cowcatcher on a locomotive.
After struggling with my new camera for an hour or so, I saw this simple composition, and decided, "oh, why not get an almost assured win for a change."
While the City is removing parts of trees that birds have been using for perching and other habitat uses, this tree with its own Herb Garden is going great guns out among the far few logs left at Sunset Bay.
My new camera that I'm trying to teach myself shows exactly the exposure and tonalities as the sensor sees, so I can manipulate what it looks like while I'm still pointing the camera at it. With the much larger and heavier Nikon and lens I've been using this year and last, I have to guess at the exposure or trust the camera, which is almost always wrong. Then I have to stare awhile at the LCD that only shows already-taken images to see what it really needs. But I'm not used to using this new cam, and sometimes some things — like more horizontal planes and curves (bodies in this shot) render too bright, while the details in the shade (the male's face and neck) render too dark.
I'm still having difficulty calling this strange beast a Mallard, but t hat's definitely what he is. Just I'm not yet used to their summer molt, and just when I finally get used to that, they'll be in their autumn or winter one, and that will look just as strange as this does now.
I'm not completely satisfied with Kathy Rogers' opinion that KT is a male. I saw her/him having sex with Patches, a male goose, some time back, and though I didn't see any parts being inserted, others have — and some of those have photographs. I'm just not sure about its new sex classification. And I'm not the only one.
Most of our bounteous supply of American Coots split for the summer, but a stalwart few stay. This is the only one I saw today, but it was pretty hot out there. If I were covered with black feathers, I might seek cool breezes and deep shade.
There's a lot of downy young ducks out these days, being on their own, finding their own food.
Sunset and Sunsettier in Sunset Bay Off Sunset Beach
This is the sunset colors and tonality I wish I could have got in the next pic, which actuually shows the family padding their boat out into an overly bright sky.
Sunset Beach 's an easy-access place to put in a canoe, kayak or boat. The only real problem is that boaters are generally entirely unaware of the birds out there, and not knowing or caring, they scare whole populations of them away. I used to think The Park Department's Habitat-Destruction Machines were the hardest on Sunset Bay's floating bird populations, but boaters and boat-bound fisher persons (though not all of them, either) greatly expand the habitat destruction statistics.
If I'd managed to get more color in the already sky-bright, setting sun, the family, their boat, and the inner bay and its foliage, would all be rendered way too dark. But life and photography is like that.
Ducks (and coots when they're around in any numbers) just do that every once in awhile. Hard to say what exactly the cause is each time. Ducks are nervous nellies when people are feeding them, and it doesn't take much to get them in the air, but they usually come back.
Photographs don't always catch everything that's out there. Note the differences between this shot, which shows the sunset colors so well, and the next shot down, which shows the same two people and bird populations, but it's bright enough to show the details hidden in the shadows above. There are ways to get everybody in, but it's usually just too complicated to be worth the time and effort, unless I use flash, and flash causes its own problems.
What might be a family of ducks including recent juveniles standing guard over what they hope will be their patch of corn grain.
At the beginning of the nightly as well as their other daily feedings, most of the ducks are especially skitterish, doing more watching out than eating.
Here, a lot more of them are going at eating the grain, but there's a couple of domestic ducks and even a Wood Duck or two in the mix.
We were sitting around talking about the diverse people who attend Sunset Bay. People from here, there and everywhere enjoy watching and feeding and photographing the birds. And Sunset Bay is a really nice place to do that.
I'm sure this tyke came to the party with its mother, but somewhere in all the activity it looked up and Mom was gone. It was really quite frantic there for awhile as one male (here_ or female attempted to adopt it.
It looked everywhere, even a couple times, got really close to the bench Charles, Ann and I were sitting on. Finally I got a decent shot, but with one of those nasty flash shadows I usually try to avoid. Not long later, I saw two female Mallards try to take up with it. He ran from the first one and to the second one, who widened her skirt (lower body) to accommodate it. Unfortunately I was unable to get the flash to fire just then.
Why we humans are inexorably drawn to Sunset Bay before, after and during storms.
As previously shown, a photographer can either get a great shot of the sunset or a halfway decent shot of the birds on land. This is one of the latter. Moments later, we began to feel droplets of rain on us, then more, then it was gushing down, and we were grabbing stuff and getting out of Sunset Bay.
But the rain and driving in it (Here, I'm going exactly 17 miles per hour) was making me very nervous. This is a random shot with no special effects. There's just rain and lights and color and a windshield wiper attempting to keep my windshield worth looking through.
I didn't really want to be driving in that bash and slash rain, so I turned off on my usual calm-down drive and kept stopping along its one-lane drive to take pictures. I think I didn't have my new little camera at this time — learning the new one has been taking up all my spare time lately — so all of this evenings pictures in this journal entry is my elderly (and literally falling apart after just under two years of pretty constant use when I wasn't sing my Nikon) Panasonic Lumix G5's swan song.
I've always been fascinated by the lights down Garland Road and the even more dense brights down the Spillway (near the center of this shot) — and their reflections in the lake.
The straight line that we can only barely see here under all those other lights and darks is the dam, and the gray beneath that is lake.
That's the walking path on this side of those trees and shrubs and storm clouds on the other side of the lake.
So here, we're still on what I'm calling DeGoyler Drive. This time I've pulled over to the side of the road and actually parked in a little lot — as everybody else who wanted to refuge from the storm or to watch it from relative safety sped by.
Ordinary Birds in Sunset Bay & Gushing Hydrants Up
Buckner road and down Garland toward the Spillways
Photographed east of the Pier at Sunset Bay as the ducks 'round the far end of the Herb Garden.
I know and understand the changing of bird's feather and color configurations through the season so little, I don't even know what word goes after eclipse — aha! plumage, but I've got a book about it somewhere around here. According to Molt in North American Birds, "Whether the cryptic eclipse plumage of ducks, such as shown by this male Mallard, is an alternate or a supplemental plumage remains to be elucidated. Following growth of its flight feathers, this bird will molt its head and body plumage, along with its tail, and thus acquire its colorful basic plumage by fall." And that was about a look entirely different from these.
All the Mallards or all of any other species don't turn at the same time, so I've been procrastinating showing these for about a month.
A while back I repeated the already too-oft repeated lie that European Starlings don't have any natural enemies here in America. But I keep remembering that significantly larger adult male Great-tailed Grackle slamming a stolen nestling around on the concrete path down DeGoyler Drive, so it could feed it to its own nestlings. This one is looking for food, which is what all birds do pretty much all the time.
Lots of different birds gather along Sunset Beach.
Probably one of the few recent juveniles who have lived this long. I think I read somewhere that less than one in ten does.
I think the females are often the more beautiful of duck pairs.
I'm a sucker for a good wing and leg stretch.
That I actually watched Charles pour out in precise, round piles the evening before.
We still have lots of Wood Ducks hanging around Sunset Bay and Sunset Beach. Maybe it has something to do with
My favorite pigeon of the moment.
One of at least a half-dozen fire plugs set to flow during yet another rain. I used to think it was wasteful, but now I assume it has to do with there already being way too much water in the underground pipes.
Oh, sorry, I didn't include the point on the top of the orange hat in the first plug, so just to show it really was a witch hat, here's this other one. But still really like the first shot better.
A rag-tag bunch.
We're hoping that gradually, eventually, that big log will float out into the more open part of the lagoon and on the far side of it, so the American White Pelicans will have a place to roost while they spend their time at White Rock Lake from mid- September or October through mid-April.
DRIVING AROUND THE LAKE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING INTERESTING
My first stop where I found birds interesting enough to photograph was above the new Wood and Steel bridge behind The Old Boat House, where there's a big wire across the lagoon there. My other favorite place over the years to photograph Barn Swallows was over the big parking lot atop Dreyfuss, but that amorphous "they" took that wire down. Once upon a time, it probably delivered electricity or phone or whatever to the Dreyfuss Building that burned down while the Dallas Fire Department rode all around the lake looking for it. They kept going back to Winfrey, because, after all, there's a building there, even if it wasn't burning down, at least they could find it, but thought the burning-down Dreyfuss Social Club building was in plain sight from the parking lot behind the Winfrey Building either nobody bothered to look; they didn't know where or why to look; or the Dreyfuss Building wasn't on any of their maps. So it burned down, and eventually, the City gave us all those 911 signs with specific numeric entries the fire guys could put in their portable computers and actually find places. A little late, perhaps, because the Dreyfuss Building burned nearly to the ground while the firefighters wandered around lost.
Now, if you burn down, you can call the fire department or an ambulance, and supposedly they will know where to find you by tracking where the 911 sign nearest to you is.
Good luck with that.
Looks like a bunch of kids, huh? I thought so, too, till I enlarged the image:
Though they have better physiques. The hard horizontal line just behind them is the dam, and if the water were running a little faster, they would be, too.
For the first time since I've been watching the new stream under the road and then under the path along DeGoyler Drive (I finally changed its name to that on my bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake), I found several birds there. Nothing extraordinary, but I'd never seen more than one, ordinary bird there before. I know not many people are, but I'm a fan of Great-tailed Grackles, and this guy's colors fascinate me. Driving by in a car — even The Slider — is not the best way to photograph birds there, and I don't yet know what is, but I'll keep at it. There's running water that ends up in the lake, that comes down from the Arborectum. I have no idea whether it's clean water, rain water, or something awful like what comes down Dixon Creek into the Sunset Bay area, but it's moving, and birds like that.
I don't know whether we have more Northern Mockingbirds or more Great-tailed Grackles, but they both fascinate me. And I continue to attempt to catch the white flash of their wings in photographs.
I kept waiting for it to jump off and fly, but it just stood there looking back at me.
Over pretty flowers. Context tells me this field is on the way up from the lake to Garland Road.
If I greatly widened this view, you might know exactly where this was photographed.
Barbec's restaurant on Garland Road — from the back. I'm not exactly recommending it, but I do eat there sometimes. Having writ that, couple days later I was hungry early, place was packed, but I got a veggie omelette with a nice chunk of avocado and endless hot decaf, and it was really nice.
That flash looks so fluttery electric when one of them is flying, I still want to capture it that way. But it looks so pedestrian when I get it close to sharp in focus.
With a Great Egret on the lower right, and more behind it on the dam, where we can't see them.
Sunset Bay with a Brief Tour of the Pier At Sunset Bay
I'd promised a tour of the pier at Sunset Bay, and it's here today, amidst all the other fairly decent pix I've shot of the wet edges of Sunset Bay and especially that pier. The puddles are only there in the rainy season, but it's been Rainy Season for several months now, and it doesn't appear that it will let up anytime soon.
… who occupy the back of the Herb Garden on the east side of the Pier at Sunset Bay. The land mass barely seen at the upper far right of this photo is where I call "Sunset Beach," and that water mass in the upper middle is the "lagoon."
It used to be a road, but now this part of it, starting around the bottom of Winfrey's hill (straight and off to the right here), is only for non-motorized vehicles and walkers and runners.
The parking lot used to be higher up that hill and much smaller, but it had begun to encroach into the area of tall, dense trees opposite the much thinner line of tall dense trees just beginning to be visible at the top left of this photo. So they moved the parking area down into this side of the road that used to connect to this road [now path] when it was a road.
Path, as in Biking or Walking.
Till Kala King reminded me, I did not remember the species of those trees, but they have bumps (I found "Cyprus bumps" on Google Images, so that may be what the are called, and Kala corrected the species to Bald Cyprus, and I like that even more). They are the objects on the right here. I used to call them "gnomes," and they still look like "legendary dwarfish creatures supposed to guard the earth's treasures underground," but they appear to have a lot in common with American Coots, also.
As shown above, with one of the half-dozen or so American Coots who stay in Sunset Bay through our hot summers, only to be discovered next Coot season as another FOS — First Of Season, which, of course, they are as well as the Last of Season (LOS).
Thanks to Kala for reminding me those bumps on Bald Cyprus trees are more properly titled "knees," although I've always preferred "elbows."Up the hill and to the left of that car are the line of Portable Toilets and the Sunset Building and eventually another little official-looking cottage that I've never figured out the use for. In the darkness behind the darkness at the uppermost center of this photograph is where they keep all the Habitat Destruction Machines, and from which they exit in mornings and re-enter in the afternoons at about 3 pm. Here, "The Herb Garden" on either side of the main boardwalk of the pier is getting thoroughly soaked, so it can grow taller and deeper in herbs and spices.
The City has "fixed" this hole several times, but a hole it remains. One could easily break a foot or leg, if one is not watching what one is doing — especially smaller people and children with smaller feet and legs. But I like that something is growing up to perhaps fill the hole space.
This photo appears to be leaning left, as I always have, and probably often will, though I leveled Dreyfuss beyond and the end of the pier where I like standing more than I like standing almost anywhere else in the known universe.
I love dark-sky days, even when it swelters, and swelter it did this day, just a couple ago this week. I also love it when it rains and when it doesn't. When it's wet all around and just under, like it was this day, I always stand in the middle of whatever boardwalk portion I am standing in the middle of, and sway back and forth. It's pretty sturdy since the last time they fixed it, what? A could years ago? but I always check, because although my cam and lens are "weather-proof," they won't float, though I generally will. But preferably not in the nasty sewer our lake has become.
I've actually seen humans walking around in this now thoroughly damp area just east of the pier in the dryer seasons, but I'm always nervous about things when humans think it's okay to usurp birds' and animals' places, although watching stupid adults play in the filthy water brings its own sweet justices.
On the Master Plan Map for White Rock Lake [Somewhere on the internet; it's humongous], there's a walkway across the shallows here, and an 'Interpretive Center" under the trees on the left. Now and for the past decade or more, that place has been thick with beautiful trees that turn reds, yellows and oranges in autumn, and where many birds seek shelter or respite from their travels in this area. We believe the Hidden Creeks area is home to coyotes and small wild cats, among many other species who walk or fly. And we believe it would be an stupid tragedy to park an interpretive center there, when we now have wild species that have their own, natural protection from governmental idiocy.
Maybe I should not point out that that densely green "far" shore is where the creep who shot an arrow into one of 'our' pelicans last winter stood or kneeled or slime-balled around in. I and other photographers have attempted photographs of the land portions of Sunset Bay from there, too. But it's not really a great place for that. It is, apparently, a great place for fisher-persons. I haven't been in and around over there for awhile, but last time I was, I found a divan just this side of one of those hidden creeks, and a pleasant family of Muscovy Ducks. I assume one or more fisher persons relaxed on the divan and maybe even fed parts of the fishes to the Muscovies. At least I like thinking that.
But you idiots at Parks & Whatever at the Lake, please, please, please, no Interpretive Centers over there. Leave it wild for the wild life. Leave it the F alone!
Where I've lately seen various ducks, our resident male Mute Swan, several Killdeer, and others have seen a Tricolored Heron fishing, as probably they have also seen — I usually don't get up early enough in the mornings — feisty Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons and maybe even — we used to see a lot of them there — Little Blue Herons. I've already heard about one sighting of a Green Heron in the trees around Sunset Bay, and there will likely be others in the taller trees both east and west of SSB (Sunset Bay) as it gets hotter.
There's more pix of The Pier (one) at Sunset Bay (several pix) near the bottom of the next journal entry down.
Wet, Very Wet — Around the lake to the
Lower Steps & A Brief Tour of Sunset Bay
These two shots are from the far end of the road past the "Big Thicket" just where cars have to loop around and go back, but walkers and bicyclists can go through to The Bath House Cultural Center and on around the lake. I usually loop right just before the street loops left, so I can check out the birds along the shore and in the water out toward that first Yacht Club.
These boat ramps and piers are low, so they were able to scoop up and sploosh through the waves from today's rain.
Nest Stop: The Spillway. Easy parking at the bottom of the hill and all that water sluicing down it, around Egret Island, then under the Walking Bridge and out east through the Municipal Golf Course.
I had been spending a lot of time along The Lower Steps lately, so I stopped by today for some new angles of the place with both my 300mm Nikon and my Panasonic 24-70mm zoom, one camera at a time — one wide and one telephoto. When I worked at the Dallas Times Herald, I used to "wear" two cameras at a time on one strap. Now, that's way to unwieldy.
I love the way its long black legs and feet are slung off to our right and upward, counterbalancing its turn as it slides down the airstream toward the Lower Steps.
Then a leisurely visit to Sunset Bay to see if anything was happening there. Not much. Just a little rain, so nearly no people, thus those poor Mallards and Wood Ducks and gooses and the few summer-overing Coots had no one to feed them nasty old bread. Oh, my, gosh, all those poor wild birds had to find their own food for a day!
So the pigeons were just lolling around in the parking lot, with the old Sunset Restaurant, now an official building, on top of the hill in the background. I assume the pigeons are waiting (perhaps in vain) for someone to come by and feed them bread. We have trained our many birds to beg, instead of learning to find their own food.
I especially like the red one at lower middle.
We'll explore the pier, wet as it was, next time. This shot is just to give you a bit of the lay of the land looking out toward the bay and the rest of the lake. CCC = Civilian Conservation Corps. I call the wild array of plants on either side of the runway to the pier "The Herb Garden," because I have seen many Asians carefully picking plants or leaves in that area, and I thought the area on both sides of the runway to the pier needed a name besides "the area on both sides of the runway to the pier.".
Many birds perch in the trees and bushes there. Domestic gooses lay eggs, then abandon them there, and ducks and their young hide in that area of low foliage that the City has allow to grow in the last few years. I remember a lecture by a shore expert, who told that even small trees and bushes along the shore will help hold that dirt in place. Now, it's difficult to photograph through the shrubbery up the left of the pier.
Greater Sunset Bay is the area from south of Stone Tables, then sliding south around Lawther past that hospital (up the hill) even souther, through the owl and wildcat forest (both of whom have often been seen in the woods by the apartments, and today, at least, wide open spaces, including this fallen tree, tied in yellow to another, similar tree that has not fallen, and three very similarly leaning and bent trees in the foreground. I think of them as attempting to resemble stained glass windows. Behind is the extension of Dixon Creek that carries water, sewage and debris from many neighborhoods beyond White Rock Lake and Park.
A Nice Variety of Species coming Down Dreyfuss & Elsewhere
in the usual chronological order.
I remember when photographers smeared Vaseline on glass to shoot through to get this effect I've rarely seen otherwise. The closest building slightly dark, the rest fading away. I know this is not Dreyfuss, but this is where I was just before.
For something powerful attractive. I'm beginning sometimes to wish I had the video on. I guess that might be a future expansion for this bird journal, but it's usually only as a notion I fully appreciate the hassle of video.
You should have seen it dancing and prancing down and up that tree almost magically. Thriller on anti-grav steroids.
He was on a tree I saw out my passenger-side window, and I kept wishing I had some sort of console- or passenger-seat-based tripodal unit that'd help me hold the cam/lens stiller. I guess I eventually calmed down and got some real detail. Couldn't tell what it was eating, but he sure was enjoying it.
There had been more of them, but I guess I'd accidentally molested the Auto-focus switch to Manual, because it kept not focusing. Then most of them flew away, I switched the switch, and got this rather ordinary composition.
When I do see a Brown-headed Cowbird, it's almost always coming down the far side of Dreyfuss Hill, and usually I manage to miss the brown-headedness of it, so it just looks like yet another little black bird. Eventually, I want to find a pair together in the light that will make his head shine and her rather plan outfit look so much less plain. It's important to dream the little dreams…
A Different Place and at Least a Couple of Woodpeckers
I decided to visit the Greater Stone Tables area, just to see if I could find any birds. Last time I paid an extended visit there in mid-June a year or two ago, we saw lots of Bluebirds. Didn't see a one this time, but there were other treats.
I have many fond memories of that particular chunk of White Rock Lake Park. Summer Solstice Celebrations used to happen there, before they got moved to big, indoor Christian Churches, which I could never quite understand for a pagan celebration. And many lovely picnics, where we could keep on eating and talking, even in the rain. Surely finding a bird or several worth photographing wouldn't be impossible.
It wasn't easy, but it was possible.
Gradually, as I tuned into their size (Sibley says 9.25 inches long) and speed (!), I caught a few, then a few more, although all my woodpecker shots today may have been of the same ones.
I didn't always get better with each new acceptable shot, but I kept trying as they flitted from tree to tree.
Finally, I was getting a bead on them.
That belly looks barely different colored than the rest of it.
So there were at least two of them I was following, although I think the total or woodpeckers I saw and/or attempted to photograph today totalled up to an amazing three.
I'm so pleased they stayed in position long enough — a minute max — to get some slightly different angles and expressions.
Then, of course, they bolted, but I caught one getting away, though hardly any perfections about the shot.
Turns out the swan formerly known as 'Katy' is really a male, and he is now called "K.D."
Down DeGoyler Drive, Up Winfrey Bump & Down into Sunset Bay,
Then back to the Spillway to Experiment with Exposure More.
A lot of today's shooting involved experimenting with settings I usually don't mess with, because I'm not sure what they do. Today I learned a little, including that some of those settings are absolutely baffling.
Much of the time, I dearly wished my big-chunk Nikon would behave like my tiny-chunk Panasonic. So today, I played, and learned a little more, and got some halfway decent shots, despite it all.
I often like to throw in a little local color from atop Winfrey Hill.
Much more difficult to tell when they're in the secure, locked-down position..
Showing its Mallard ancestry but with brilliant bits of its own from someone along the way.
Handsome ducks no matter their sex.
We kept seeing Great Egrets standing on the ornamental black iron fences around the lower pond and steps.
Left is the Slant, this evening covered with elongated shadows from those fences Egrets kept standing on, and below is the uppermost step of The Lower Steps
I had never noticed those stripes last week when I thought I was watching everything so carefully.
The first Snowy Arrives.
The second Snowy Egret is winging across the Lower Steps.
To arrive where male Mallard has been standing, along with the just-arrived Snowy.
This place has got to be one of the greatest-ever places to photograph egrets and herons in flight with something besides a plain, boring sky behind.
Which of course is ludicrous.
Usually, if one's photograph is overly blue, it is because it is illuminated primarily by the blue sky above,instead of direct sunlight. Here, however, we got bright sun on the bird, and blue, blue, blue on the falling and splashing and bubbling water.
Would have liked to have just a little light up under its skirt-like wings, but otherwise this is marvelous lighting — I only wish I knew how I got it.
Just follow the bubbling tail up and away.I'm thinking about starting a new, Spillway page for the best of my upper and lower Spillway pix, but I'm not sure I want to put them all back in any kind of order.
all 100 of My New Birds Flying, Fighting, Chasing And catching Fish
Pix from my Exciting Tour of the Spillway Are Down this page.
These 8 additional shots were added early on
I have seen Great Egrets lying like this on grass a couple times in the last few years, but I don't remember ever seeing them swim, like ducks, geese and other aquatic birds, in the water, but that's what this one appears to be doing. I guess, it could be standing in the water that just happens to coincide with its body being at this level. I'm sure they can swim; I just don't know if this one is, because like I say, I've never before noticed one doing it, although I've often wondered it they could.
I usually greatly overexposed big white birds flying up into the trees of Egret Island, but not this time. Nope, this time I managed to get its trailing wing feathers flapping, but with sharp detail almost everywhere else.
This photograph shows why I call the step-down, water "control" planes here gushing with rainwater, that comprise what I call "the Lower Spillway Steps." The brownish slanted area that looks almost vertical (because it is) behind them includes: a Great Egret,a few pieces of wood debris, a Great Blue Heron and a turtle (probably a Red-eared Slider).
Chasing birds out of one fishing territory to another, then another, seemed to have been the action of the week.
Herons, which include Egrets, sometimes fool fish into thinking they in the safety of a tree shadow in the water by spreading their wings to block the sun. I have no idea if that's what's happening here, but I like the idea.
It could be about to take off or it could just be standing there. I like the pose, even if it's momentary.
I think it's looking for something to eat.
And away from my camera. I assume they are all watching for edibles in the water charging toward them.
I found these additional images by going back through the images I had originally rated to be of zero interest. Each of these, but by no means all of the zeros, have here become four stars because I really did want to use them, and then five-star images when I actually did use them. But there are very few more of the original 2,651 images that so qualify. Now, I'm wondering if I could find ten more shots worthy of this page, to make it a nice, round 100 new pix for last week.
June 9, 10 & 11
There may be other places around Dallas to observe Herons and Egrets in this kind of constant action, but most of my photographs of them doing this in the last ten years have occurred in the areas of the lower and upper Spillway areas of White Rock Lake [below the dam].
Not every year, but for many years, I have placed myself on top of toy stools and benches, to get me that extra 6 or so inches higher, so I'd have clearance over the parapet to swing my camera after birds walking, running, flying or just standing there.
When I go to the Bridge Over the Lower Spillway Steps, I stand up as long as possible, so the birds won't see me as a sudden intrusion up into their space. But that's very tiring, since my feet have nearly no place to go.
I position the stool, bench, whatever to span one of the two metal plates which cover whatever suspends the three floor sections of the bridge together.
I should point out that this, and most other, bridges at White Rock Lake "jiggle" with gut-wrenching up and down lurches when walkers, runners, bicyclists or even baby carriages travel over the bridge.
They make it jiggle while they are transversing and for several seconds after they've cleared the bridge.
Standing anywhere but on the two connector covers, gets you and your camera jiggled fiercely — often too much to hold the camera still. Or still enough to aim or click.
I don't wear hats, because they inevitably interfere with my camera or shoulder strap — or the wind, but a little shade would be nice. I'd think a water bottle would be great, too, except I didn't have one any of those on any of these shoots, and I only missed it later.
So all of these photographs were taken somewhat higher than where these birds were, unless they were flying higher than where I was standing and looking for the next photo opportunity.
The bird species diversity was fairly short. There are Great and Snowy Egrets — and Great Blue and Black-crowned Night herons. All four species show in different ages from juveniles through adults, including Adult Breeding varieties.
I watched juvenile Black-crowned Night-Herons just watch, learn from a parent, then actually almost catch a fish, so it was probably a learning experience for both of them as well as for me.
Most people just walk by, never noticing that there's any bird activity going on.
Most of those who stop, just watch, although many now take pictures on their devices. They get what they need, lots of landscape with little white and variously brown or gray dots darting about.
Three people stopped to talk. One said he was also a photographer, talked briefly about the place and birds, but what he really wanted was for me to take a picture of him on his bike. I told him, and I really was, very busy tracking which bird was where and who was chasing it or being chased.
Another guy, who was friendly and pleasant and who had, far as I could tell, no ulterior motives, asked if I were photographing for National Geographic. I liked thinking the thoughts that brought up, but I told him, no, I was shooting these for myself and loving every sweaty, sunshiny minute of it.
I know I should carry business cards touting this suite of pages — it's not really a site — with the link, www.jrcompton.com/birds, which takes you to a "jump page" that redirects to the current, monthly page.
The one other stopper-by was a woman, who basically just said "hi," and watched the birds for a few minutes.
The business of being a bird is keeping oneself fed, first. Then joining with another bird to start what humans call a family. But feeding oneself is the paramount purpose.
The thing about the Lower Steps is that a lot of water sluices through there during and especially after rains — like lately..
Along with all that water comes a lot of what birds perceive as food, and they like standing at the bottom of that giant trough and try to catch — and eat — them.
Which helps them compete with other individual birds as well as other species, so there's often a lot of jockeying for position, feinted fighting and outright chases.
Which provides amazing opportunities to see and photograph birds in action.
On the first day of my three-day documentation of these actions in this place, I used a 1.7X telextender on my 300mm lens, which makes a 510mm-equivalent telephoto.
I made that work well enough, but I'd recommend just a 300mm lens. That focal length makes it easy to follow the action and a lot easier to get them in focus.
On the last, much less successful evening of shooting, I went home — tired and thirsty — just after 8:30 PM.
That last night, I arrived at 8 PM, and left a little past 9 PM. I shot this one at 8:37 PM, and it's pretty noisy from having to rack the ISO up to 3200.
Eventually I pushed what used to be called"Film Speed up to ISO 12,800, as in this shot of my favorite GBH finally leaving the area.
As you can see, shots illuminated by the sun and not just the barely brighter than night sky, make much better photos. This was exposed at 7:15 PM, Wednesday June 10 at ISO 280 as the sun was setting left and behind it.
More text may — or may not — be coming.
but there certainly will be more pictures.
Then, when I've got them all in place, I'll go back to looking for birds where I don't already expect to find them, although I'm not convinced that's any more sporting.
I'll miss the action at The Lower Steps, but I've got a long way to go adding just the shots I've taken so far.
Maybe by early next week I'll finally be finished with this story.
All totaled, I shot 2,651 shots those long three afternoons and evenings.
I keep losing track when I try to count these down the page, but I just worked up a bunch more, so who knows.
For a change, these images may generally be in Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday order, but they are not specifically chronological, and they probably never will be.
I saw so many chases this week, I don't remember individual races. But I kept wanting the GBH to win a few, but it mostly was just there.
But then nobody ever really won any of these pseudo-skirmishes, there was just a lot of action going on, which is what I was there for, and I didn't want to see or photograph any hurting, just speed at what birds may be best at.
For those three days I was entirely took up with all the fast action and pretty birds.
I remember this one who came like a dark silhouette over Egret Island, the bridge I stood on and the one cars drive over, and it looked like it was heading toward I-30 down this version of White Rock Creek, when it slowly circled back. This shot was altogether black till I sucked the light back into the shadow and got what I'd carefully focused on as it rounded the invisible bend and came back again to land on top of the Lower Steps.
I keep finding one or two doubles each day and rooting them out. Next day I find some more.
I've long-since abandoned my precious chronological order. These are more in the order of me finding them among so many other photos from Tuesday Wednesday Thursday, working them up, and applying them here.
I watched these two come into the amphitheater. The little one following the adult. They stood many yards apart on the right side (facing down into it from my perch on the bridge), while the little one inched closer to the adult. Eventually, the adult flew over to the left slant and parked there like a statue for many long minutes. Then the little one appeared again many feet away from the parent and inched its way till it was close enough to include in one shot. This. I watched the juvenile watch the water and take nips at it once in a long while, but I never saw it catch anything. But then I never even saw the adult move as much as its occipital plume, and it, too, never caught anything at all. The adult must have been teaching the juvenile the incredible waiting skills of BCNHs.
I finally put all the photos and potential photos and the greats and the mediocres into one full folder of them. These are the last of the bunch, although I'll probably add more when my feet stop being sore. I don't sit at my computer to work up pix anymore. I stand, and I've yet to find a particularly comfortable mat to stand on, although I've tried two that somebody out there who tests these things claims is the most comfy, so far.
There seemed to be something going on every minute.
Sometimes every second.
Often, if I had time to pause and look around, I could choose among the actions.
Only slightly less often, soon as I'd finish one act, another action would begin immediately, it it hadn't already begun.
Great Egret in the bottom right corner. Another at the bottom right. Two Snowies climbing the wall of furor, and an adult Black-crowned Nigh-Heron at the bottom middle just being glad nobody's chasing it.
Into the cold black night.
And just as I was finishing up with this page, it started raining Cats & Dogs and sudden squalls in the middle of the day rain rain rain, so in about a week or ten days, the excitement will start up again.
I don't know my Texas fishes, but I looked up "big fish in Texas with red on their side" and got so many differing notions of big and fish and red, that I just gave up. It stayed trapped up there for a long time, till it rained some more and everything flowed away.
Blue Jay Way
I have Blue Jays in my yard at home, but because I've let so many trees grow there, they're difficult to photograph, though I watch them sometimes.
Blue Jay along DeGoyler Drive past that place.
It looks like a new tree is growing out in Sunset Bay, but I suspect it's just been flooded into position, rootless.
Almost anything Katy does seems elegant to somebody. Even now, that we've finally learned — from one of Dallas Birding's most reticent communicators — that she's a he, and is now called "K.D."
After spending a half week in San Antonio burying my father, I needed something a little more interesting to photograph than Sunset Bay or my other too-usual haunts at White Rock Lake. So I hied myself over to the River I'd been thinking about for a couple weeks before I left Dallas. And it would have been nice, I thought, if I could also find some birds there.
I was going to rearrange today's shots, so I could intersperse flood pix with bird pix, but apparently, that was semi-automatic behavior on my part. Today's images are in my usual chronological order.
Birds don't have sweat glands, so the cope with heat in other ways. A bath can be helpful, but a more likely scenario involves then panting, which reduces body temperature via evaporation, especially around their opened beak, throat and lungs. See Michigan State University's W.K. Kellog Biological Station's site for more bird cooling techniques.
Fortunately, I was using my usual 300mm telephoto lens for these shots. Unfortunately, that seriously cuts down on my depth of field (area out there that's rendered in — or as here — completely out of focus).
Then came along a dove.
On a perch that's often been used by birds. That large blue expanse beyond the bird and fence is the river.
I have seen and photographed Cliff Swallows at White Rock Lake before The City destroyed their habitat, which was also the habitat of humans eating, but it's been awhile.
I'm guessing they were following each other up into their nests along the cliff wall.
Detail = small portion of a larger photographic frame. It's always amazing to me that I manage to get more birds in focus when I photograph a bunch of them at once than when I concentrate on getting just one sharp.
If I knew my bird I.Ds better, I should probably be able to identify the one on the right.
I assume a really soggy soccer field lies under all that water. The park, revealed only by various warning signs, would still be a great place to view the Trinity.
I must have felt that I'd had about enough of the scenics already, let's have a bird picture, and there one was.
All that distinctivity and those trees, too.
This tree looks as if it had already been dead when the floods hit, but it is much less likely to hold birds in its present, precarious position in the thick of the flow.
Couldn't be the whole river, which is much wider than this trickle now, though usually, the Trinity River is about this size.
So this is a bird-centric landscape that, despite the focus or lack thereof, still shows us about as much information as it would if everything were sharp.
I finally managed a close-up showing these birds' true identity. But I had to brighten the photo too much, to show you the Cliff Swallows' precarious positioning, not just elegant sylphs of black with rufous smudges.
I liked the abstractness of all the white junk all up and down our Million Dollar Bridge, and I didn't mind if the buildings behind it leaned to the left.
Although I even saw a pair of Little Blue Herons flying east over Lakewood yesterday (when I had no camera), I did not see a single egret or heron anywhere on the river today.
Great-tailed Grackles Show Concern for a Fallen Friend
I assume it was hit by a car. It was in the middle of the road …
… and the grackles would swoop up every time another car came close.
The last car through flipped her over. That can't be good.
Birds at Our Lady of the Lake Rookery in San Antonio, Texas
We buried my father, and then had a little time left over before coming back, so we did a little birding at our favorite place in Santone. Didn't have time for Mitchell Lake, and worried it might be under water, so we passed on that. As it was we barely had time to drive 300 miles north while the sun still shone.
They're playing chase down by the shoreline, where all things that roll (like little blue eggs) eventually go, down the hill that is the island.
Quite the intricate nest.
… but juvenile Cattle Egrets are difficult to discern from Juvenile Little Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets, all of whom were present, though not in such abundance as the Cattle Egrets. Note feathers and bones still showing through the wing feathers, which have not yet grown to cover the quills. But it is flying. Even adult herons sometimes show their quills.
It was a crowded place.
With the reddish feathers of a Cattle Egret showing through from the background.
I may have called the cormorants on the islands Double-cresteds, because I always assumed they were, but with that white around his face, I'm guessing these really are Neotropics.
Long black legs and big orange feet, black beaks, orange/yellow lores and white the rest.
… and the inevitable Great Egrets in the Nest behind. Telephoto lenses — even just 300mm as here — tend to compress depth in photographs taken with them.
They're up and moving around the nest, but they're still very young.
But this time looking in different directions.
One large and two seemingly smaller downy young Cattle Egrets in a nest with an adult Cattle Egret — the swaths of orange feathers is the give-away.
Adults left and right. Not sure who Little Blue Heron is peeping perhaps from a mostly hidden nest in the background. Lots of bugs in the air, as there often are in a rookery.
Do a Site Search for "Little Blue Heron" [and] "stick" or "betrothal," to find my other photographic instances of this concept over the decade or so I've been photographing Little Blue Herons there.
The Snowy is sitting on its own nest. The Cattle Egrets all appear to be adults. Maybe they've found a place for the family nest…
From where I was standing hoping not to get bit by the bugs that were bugging all those birds on the islands just out into the Our Lady Lake, my visions (I moved a lot, always hoping to find a better vantage) were cramped. We hadn't been there in more than a year, have never had issues parking in the college lot across from the Cathedral, but the trees are growing up, and in another year or two, it may be impossible to see the birds in the rookery from the college side of the lake, which would be a pity for us.
The college would still be able to smell the rookery every year, but perhaps the din would be diminished and they won't be able to see each other as well. Somebody has installed new fences, which were still accessible, but I wonder for how much longer.
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. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964.
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