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The Amateur Birder's Journal - Stories & Photographs by J R Compton

This month's Best images: Female Kingfisher Hovering  Rambunctious Pelicans  red diamond  If you assume I am a bird I.D expert, you will be disappointed — I am, too.  red diamond  The Current Bird Journal is always here  Cameras Used  Ethics  Feedbackred diamond  Bird Rescue Advice from Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation  red diamond  Herons   Egrets   Herons or Egrets?  Books & Links  Pelican Beak Weirdness  Pelicans Playing Catch  Bird Rouses  Courtship Displays  Duck Love  Birding Galveston  2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds  & the 1st  Bald Eagles at White Rock Lake  Bird Banding Info  red diamond  Coyotes  800e Journal   G5 Journal  red diamond  Links  My resumé  Contact Me  DallasArtsRevue  red diamond  So you want to use my photos to make your project look better?  How to Photograph Birds  Bird-annotated map of the SW Med School Rookery  Even I use Site Search to find anything here, but that gets art-related finds on DallasArtsRevue, too.

24 photos so far this month

A Smattering of Birds & Turtles

October 4 2015

 Not Nearly As Rambunctious - Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Not Nearly As Rambunctious Today

There's more of them, but only by ones and twos. I think we counted 16 American White Pelicans today. The other American pelican is the Brown Pelicans, who are coastal. American Whites are inland. The Whites are also white and the Browns are brown, but that's almost obvious.

Maybe A Great Egret - Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Maybe A Great Egret

And maybe not. In this pic, its legs and feet look gray, but in another pic, they look black, which is the right color for a Great Egret. But so much else is wrong.

Maybe A Great Egret with Black Legs and Feet - Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Maybe Not A Great Egret

Here, the colors are right, but its face and beak length just look wrong. So I'm pretty sure it's not a Great Egret, although that's who I assumed it were when I shot these. Heck, I'm often not sure who what bird might be. Might be young. Might be a whole 'nother species. Like a pre-blue Little Blue Heron or some sort of Snowy Egret. Or something entirely else.

Ken on Bird Chat says it's just a Great Egret, "No problems with any of the details. He's just foreshortened and flattened a bit by the "telephoto effect." Foreshortening means "an effect of perspective or the angle of vision." Except both shots are straight-on profiles, no acute angles. But I accept Ken's explanation. I'm on heavy pain pills, so I can either not think straight or hurt like hell — sometimes both. Anna's taking me to a non-VA MD tomorrow. This still doesn't look right, but there's nothing else it could be.

Mallard Pair in Flight - Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Mallard Pair in Flight — Male on Top

Ducks fly in and out of Sunset Bay all the time. When they catch my attention — i.e., I'm not photographing something else — I photograph them, because I need the practice, as shown here. Kinda fuzzy, J R.

Turtles & Some Birds - Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Turtles & Some Birds — Note full profile adult Great
Egret lower right, shot with that same telephoto

I need close-up pix to name the turtles, but the birds are, middle-to-right cormorants, Great Egret, another Double-crested Cormorant (probably) and I'm really not sure who. I also don't remember all the names of the humans who shared the pier with me today, but I sure enjoyed the conversation. I talked, of course, but I learned, too. Gives me a reason to go to the lake on Saturdays. A great reason. Of course I'm addicted to WRL (White Rock Lake) …

Three Least Sandpipers - Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Three Least Sandipipers

I finally decided that most of the sandpipers who briefly occupied that tiny little island in front of the Pier at Sunset Bay the last day of September were Least Sandpipers. But not all of them were. I still don't know who the ones who were not Least Sandpipers were, but I may yet learn them.

Starlings on a Streeet Lamp - Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

European Starlings on a Street Lamp on my Way to White Rock Lake

I thought they looked strange, stopped, checked traffic, backed up the hill, stopped about here, and shot this. Not all that interesting, really.



Kingfisher Hovering

October 3 2015

Female Kingfisher Hovering - Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Adult Female Kingfisher Hovering

Kingfishers are elusive. We've been photographing this one — and sometimes her mate — for a couple weeks. We just assume she'll be around whether we hear her "laughing" or not. Tommy, whom I met again this morning calls the high-pitched staccato sound they emit "laughing." David Allen Sibley calls it "a long, uneven rattle most similar to Hairy Woodpecker rattle but harsher, unsteady, clattering. Also a higher, shorter, more musical, rapid trill tirrrr."

Female Kingfisher Hovering - Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Adult Female Kingfisher Hovering

Nice thing about them hovering, is that they do it in very close to the same, exact place in the sky, so after the first shot, we just have to keep shooting. Which is what I did here. I saw her dive down, but I have no idea whether she got the fish. My camera was on a tripod, and though it swivels pretty well, I haven't mastered following anything down and to the right, and all my shots of her speeding back to the Hidden Creeks area were blurs.

Female Kingfisher Hovering - Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Adult Female Kingfisher Hovering

My precious, now out-of-print Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas describes their voice as "fast, repetitive, cackling rattle, a little like a teacup shaking on a saucer." I always think of it as a very high-pitched staccato scream, and it does sound a lot like a woodpecker.

 Female Kingfisher Hovering - Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Adult Female Kingfisher Hovering

People keep asking me when the best time would be to see the Kingfishers. There's two, a male and a female. My best answer would be "when they are there." I go to Sunset Bay almost every day, except when I've already been to Sunset Bay every day that week. Sometimes one or the other or both of the Kingfishers are there. Sometimes I never see either of them. Sometimes they show early in the morning. Sometimes noon or in the late afternoon. There are no guarantees. This time it was about noon. And if Tommy hadn't seen it this time, I probably never would have. I saw him aiming his tele up and west, so I did, too. And found this.

Female Kingfisher Hovering - Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Adult Female Kingfisher Hovering

My all-time favorite of my photographs of an Adult Female Kingfisher hovering is on the top (quick upload) of my List of Exhibitions. It's a little better than this series, because her wings aren't in such dark shadow, and it includes poetic verbal context because this version of that photo was created for an exhibition at the Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas. I've always wanted to perform the words, and I've even got some gestural hand-motions to go with, but it still scares me to think performing in public, although it's fun to do otherwise.

Great Egret Landing - Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Great Egret Landing

Compared to yesterday [below], today the pelicans seemed comatose.



It's Pelicans Season &
They're Getting active

October 1 2015

Pelk Stepping on a Flock-mate -Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Pelican Stepping on a Flock Mate

Got to the lake a little late today. Tried to find a parking space at the VA Hospital earlier. Never found one. So I went birding. Found 15 pelicans parked relatively close to the Pier at Sunset Bay, split over two spaces — one log and one underwater island. These are the log pelicans. The one with its wings up has just joined the party, and was kinda rude about it. They often are.

Sharing Feelings -Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Sharing Feelings

And the others made their feelings known. Didn't stop it, though. And it wouldn't stop it next time or the time after that. I've seen those sharp beaks pierce another pelican's lower mandible before. That's gotta hurt. Their lower mandible is the lower beak with flexible orange-pink skin. When they're fishing, they fill it up with fish and the water they were swimming in, drain the water, tilt back and swallow. I've seen them with pierced mandibles spouting water, but only rarely and just squirts.

And Jumps -Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

And Jumps

Its work here, is done.

Except Some Peculiarities -Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Ordinary Pelicans — Except Some Peculiarities

This is some or all — I was never quite sure, and they moved around — of the crew on the less-than island. I counted as far as 15 pelicans several times today. The last pelican on the right has its head — and beak — upside-down. It's just one of the many Strange Things Pelicans Do With Their Beaks.

Tilt-back Mandible Stretch - Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Tilt-back Mandible Stretch

There's actually a step-by-step procedure for stretching and nearly inflating those lower mandibles, so they'll stretch easily when gathered around fish — often several fish. But the whole procedure is rarely completed in the same way every time.

Looks Almost Inflated -Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Mandible Looks Almost Inflated

What's important is to stretch it out, without breaking it.

Showing Some Tongue -Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Lower Mandible Stretch and Push Up

This pelicans has just stretched its lower mandible down over its extended breast, then brought it up (I've only seen them do this a couple hundred times, but I don't know exactly how they do it). They've been practicing all their lives. The valve-looking thing on this side of the inverted mandible hump may help drain the water. Till I get a good look at one doing that — from the inside — I won't know for sure, but I'm curious. I've also read it called a tongue.

And a bit of Beak Woggle Thrown In -Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

And A Bit of Beak Woggle Thrown In

Sometimes, but not always, they follow those steps with a big of beak woggling, wherein the parts go up and down quickly, which is usually accompanied by a woggling sound.

How Pelicans Sometimes Look Hungry - Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

How Pelicans Sometimes Look Hungry

When you see three or more pelicans lining up like this and heading out somewhere in single file, it's a fair bet they're going fishing, which often involves some synchronized swimming.

Gone Fishing - Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Gone Fishing

Till the chase the fish into a shallow area and just go at them, filling up their mandibles that they've been so careful to keep flexible.

Scarfing It Up -Photograph Copyright 2015   All Rights Reserved.

Scarfing It Up

They already seemed to know where food was. Guess they'd been practicing wherever they came from — or here; it's really hard to tell who's who, and who's been here awhile or just a day. I didn't have an appointment today, but I went back when I thought I might find a space, found a close one, and the people I connected with helped me. So, on the whole, it was a positive development.

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Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2015 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission from and payment to Writer and Photographer J R Compton. I am an amateur. I've only been birding since June 2006, and most of that is documented in this Journal, all the pages of which continue online. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964.

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