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Total Eclipse of the Sun August 21, 2017
As usual, I really had no idea of what I was doing, so I just did it. I figured out earlier than my mirrorless camera (the little Panasonic Lumix GX8) would be ideal for looking at the moon blotting the sun today, because what I'd see wouldn't be the actual blinding optical image of the sun, but an electronically-induced photographic rendering instead. It seemed to make sense at the time, and then I tried not to think about it.
Of course, I had no idea how to set exposure or focus the darned thing or decide on the photo settings, so I just shot and shot, changing what I could.
The people shots were a lot more predictable.
Toward the end of the experience, a woman told us that someone on the radio had announced that Winfrey Point would be a great place to watch the eclipse. We thought so, too.
I didn't figure this one out till much later — if even then, but I liked my solution better.
Not sure why these two idiots felt need to hover over us on Winfrey Point, but it was very annoying, and it should be illegal, which is why I've carefully shown their registration numbers. I think both noise-makers stopped first at The Arborectum, but we could easily have done without their presence. This one looks like a toy, but it was real and annoying.
Two women and a guy wearing a really nice turtle T-shirt, Staring up.
NPR had told me the day before that anything that created an aperture would replicate the moon sliver on the ground.
Back to The Spillway for some High Water Adventure
photographed August 17 & posted August 20
I took my little, fold-up step stool out of The Slider when I got its 80,000 check-up before driving to San Antonio, and I knew soon as I got on the bridge that's what I sure should have brought this time. So I was juggling levitating a couple feet with the cam/lens shuffle when I shoulda been floating a foot and a half higher. Shooting flyers close-up was a real challenge, although I really like this shot — as much as I prefer stopped action and full focus…
But shooting them at some distance got easier.
And photographing them on the slant was more a challenge for them than for me looking down.
Hadn't done it in awhile, but I quickly adjusted to the task. There were dozens of egrets in the vicinity, so I knew there'd soon enough be egret action in the offing.
And there was.
Gradually, I got the hang of it.
And was able to follow the action.
And the passion.
All today's shots were taken at iso 3200, because I'd forgot it was, and I really should have changed it, but I didn't figure that out till I'd shot a hundred or so of these after recently stumbling upon my Dfine filter that takes 'dirty,' too-high iso shots and sands them down smooth. Also found my elderly but simply amazing on those few ocassions when I really need them, Topaz Adjust filters. Not in exactly the same places, but close enough that stumbling on one netted them both..
The companies that created such filters have been flopping lately, and I still use the elderly v. of Photoshop from before Adobe started screwing with and/or altogether deleting my favorite tools, so it was a joy to find and get to use them again. My favorites have always been the ones that look like no filters were used. To these eyes, at least.
I wanted to call this cousins meeting again, but I really don't know what exactly was going on. Heads-up is often a challenge, but neither of these egrets heads are pointing up, and they didn't seem at all challenging…
Gradually, they became more like bookends than battlers.
And they were flying all round the Lower Spillway Steps and Bridge I stood upon hoping to catch up with their flying. I often stand on the other side of that fence, steadying the camera on its steel rods as I photograph the action on Rock Island (under water these days) and The Lower Steps.
We got dozens more egrets than Nigh-crowns, so the star of this picture is just perched there on the right.
I don't have a long zoom, so none of these shots are zoomed in in any way except enlarging the image more — or less.
And in those senses, this one is "zoomed" in significantly.
The trick with correctly exposing bright, white brids like this one is to ever so slightly underexpose them, so their light-light gray parts show to give them shape and dimension without blowing out their other parts and their immediate envivonment.
Kinda sorry the car and the egret were right there in the line of sight. I was after the Great Blue Heron, my favorite species.
Usually, unless The Slider is back there, I just don't include the parking lot in my pictures, but sometimes that's too much of a bother.
I like the sense of the GE's rippling feathers with the water rippling back down The Spillway.
This short series started out with four shots of the same Great Egret, but that was about two too many.
I rarely accomplish a full, flat-out flying pose like this, and if I'd tried to, I would never have.
Usually, they stand there on the fence that parallels Winstead opposite the Seven-Lebben, but if it turned around, it would literally be overlooking the pool that feeds The Lower Steps.
Solid state of flood rush gushing over the dam and down to the Middle Spillway and The Lower Spill below and out of this picture..Struggling For Verticality & Other Challenges …
photographed August 16 & posted August 17
I'm much less certain now that this was a kite. It acted like a kite, and it has a string, but …
Center right is the intersection of East Mockingbird Lane becoming Peavy Road at North Buckner Boulevard. I never saw a human attached to the kite string, and I've never seen a kite like this one, but I enjoyed the experience, photographing it from both sides (east and west) of the lake.
We often find rabbits in these places, but I didn't see any this strong summer day.
As we kept telling each other, "after a lot of rain, they go around and release some of the water." Maybe this one's more like struggling for sideways.
All four of these were photographed using my Nikkor 85mm f1.8 lens, which is sharper than sharp.
More Pix from San Antonio's Elmendorf Park Rookery
photographed August 8 & posted August 17
I've also seen Little Blue Herons (including a feathery nest full of just-hatched little Little Blue Herons link fixed) on the island rookery just a few feet out into the lake from the steep downhill from the fence around Our Lady of the Lake University west of downtown San Antonio, but not this trip.
We have Cattle Egrets at the SW Med School Rookery in Dallas and sometimes at White Rock Lake, so that's nothing new, either, but I'm unaccustomed to seeing Neotropic Cormorants in a rookery situation. Kinda wish it hadn't rained, so we could have watched them longer and maybe learned more of the differences between the cormorant varieties.
I love the air of disconcern from the Cattle Egret facing the apparently angry Neotropic Cormorants on the far right.
When I was photographing these birds, I could not see the rain to attempt any focus on it, but if I'd tried, I wouldn't have got the focus on the birds, so it worked out especially well.
Kinda fascinating to watch entirely other species than I'm used to from the SW Med School rookery at Inwood Road and Harry Hines or White Rock Lake — both in Dallas — doing pretty much the same exact actions I've often seen, but the easy tell is the horizontal white V behind the Neotropic Cormorant's beak. The Neo's beaks and tails still look very strange to me, but there's no doubt of their comorant-hood.
Neotropic Cormorants (I'm assuming; and we all know what that makes of use both.), nests, chicks and that school in the background.
It doesn't always show, but most of today's shots were well rained-upon. Note the multiple splashlets in the lake beyond the island. The rookery island was usually a very busy place — although not nearly as busy as the last time we saw it. So this moment of repose is quite unusual.
At first, I didn't think I had more than four or five pix decent enough for more of Anna's and my visit once-again to Elmendorf Lake. Then I got into them, and the more I looked the more images I found that I wanted to pursue.
I wish I could take credit for posing this bird, but it did it all on its own. All I did was photograph it, and that was not particularly easy, as at least a half dozen prior attempt attest. Preening Muscovies are in constant action. It was too close, and if I'd backed off, it would have wandered away. So many travails…
One of the problems with telling a story in some sort of order is that I eventually decide to leave some pix out of the flow. This one should probably have topped this and the previous (just below) SA Rookery stories, but its great drawback is that it has no birds in it, and I kinda expect to have birds at the top of my bird journal every time.
But this is what we saw when we drove into San Antonio that wet afternoon on our way to the rookery. I may yet completely reorganize the San Antonio birds portion of our program, but it doesn't seem likely.
The Beginnings of Our Recent Vacation in San Antonio & The Hill Country
photographed August 8 & posted August 14
Rain — not snow — falling on our favorite (and so far only) San Antonio-area rookery, located in Elmendorf Park across from and adjacent to Our Lady of the Lake University, after which I used to misidentify the rookery, west of downtown San Antonio, Texas. But it's on City Park land and now behind a couple fences from the school grounds.
Egyptian Gooses are a few of the joys that await us at Elmendorf Lake across the pond from the aforementioned Catholic college that, when I lived in S.A. many decades ago, was way out in the boonies, but is now busy with lower class housing. We used to park in their parking lot and hope they didn't throw us out, because we parked there even when their lot was packed — we assumed for Mass.
Lately, the City of San Antonio has built a much-smaller and much less-used (when we've been there) parking lot on the park side of the lake that winds like a river, so we park there. Usually, when it rains, it stops raining for us. This time it kept on raining, but we didn't mind terribly. Nikon calls my camera/lens "weather resistent," although I've always taken that to mean, "Yeah, go ahead."
Too many years ago to remember or count, Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake had regularly-visiting Egyptian Gooses, but they — and too many other wild and domestic gooses and ducks — have gone away to stay. So we were joyed to see this pair there, again. They dallied in the rain awhile, then as it came down harder, they raced to get under their favorite tree somewhere off to the left.
Plenty birds kept active despite the rain. I watched and photographed grackles for a long time, but this was easily the best of the bunch. The tail it has doesn't seem all that great, so I am refraining from calling it a Great-tailed Grackle. I'm assuming it's a Common Grackle.
There's always more cormorants at the rookery than anything else. And there's usually a mix of Neotropic and Double-crested.
The corm is plainly out of focus, but I liked the sparkling, rain-dropping water, rain falling and the green background too much to blow off this image.
I love me some Muscovies. I've had long conversations with them in the woods across from Sunset Bay in Dallas — and I am continuously amazed by their form and gentle dispositions. Getting to see beneath their usually closed-up wings is a delight.
It's doing a bit of a wing stretch and doesn't seem to mind the rain any more than we did.
This is just the first installation of birds Anna and I photographed in Austin, San Antonio and the in-betweens. And, of course, I'll be photographing birds here in Dallas, as well.
I shot more than a dozen shots of this bird bathing in there, but this was the only shot that was worth anything.
I don't remember shooting this one, but I'm sure it would have been right about here in the time line.
Mid-day Wanderin' @ Sunset Beach in Dallas, Texas, USA
photographed August 4 & posted August 5
As often, I really didn't have any specific plans this day, although I did bring my camera. I was just at the lake to photograph some birds, and see what happens. I thought this was a Mockingbird. Then I thought it couldn't be, because Mockers don't have those black marks, and they do have white slants on their wings.
Then to short-circuit my more other doubtings, I asked Kala King, and she told me it was an adult Northern Mockingbird (our state bird) in molt, meaning it was busy changing out feathers, so they don't look quite right. I always thought those were Mockingbird Eyes. Not Betty-Davis, so it must be a Mocker.
This one I know for sure. It and its kith are many of the stars of this day's bird show.
Mallard Male in molt, two domestic White Ducks, a female of some sort of Mallard Hybrid and a female Mallard.
Or whatever that stuff is down along the shore. Dirty sand or sandy dirt. All I see here are pigeons, although that area of vivid green does throw me.
Here, too. I struggled mightily attempting to present this photo in all its balance and imbalance. Finally, it just seemed so simple.
All today's shots were taken from me sitting in the kinda curved wide, wood-looking, three- or four-person chair with smooth metal separator up Sunset Beach . And Anyone who's ever spent time there knows that every once in awhile, all the nearby pigeons take to the air, fly out over the lake, then off to the south past the pier, back up and over and through the tall trees along the shore, and eventually, come back where they started. Then they diddle around awhile, and do it again — and again. Pretty much all day long. I'm told that they just need to figure out where they are. But there must be more to it than that.
And again — and again — all day long. I worried a lot about getting them all in focus. Then I turned off the worry wart, and I just clicked at them. Some are, and some aren't. Myeh.
I love me a fresh photo of some bird doing a leg stretch. Tall or small, they tend to put their all into it.
I suspect all birds preen. All the ones I've known do.
I didn't have any idea what would happen next, but I was enjoying the day and loving photographing whomever flew me by.
It actually looks like it's having fun. Boy Howdy! If it were me, I would be… Although I might get lost in my wrinkling reflections.
Inevitable landing very soon — losing altitude to just inches.
Or sooner. Toes in the water almost imperceptibly slowing down air speed, so this bird can land precisely on that little lump of wood sticking up — a snagless snag. And all those ruffled feathers are helping it slower down, too.
Then it's time once again for the pigeons to fly out over the close-in part of the lake, disappear awhile, then come back and go back to doing what they were doing before the urge to circle hits them again.
I'm not certain I was even aware that this time I was photographing a Snowy Egret until I was already doing it, and then it didn't really matter.
Snowies — and the twos and threes of Little Blue Herons who used to directly compete with them right here in Sunset Bay — and rarely very far out it, are amazing fisherbirds. Amazing to watch, and amazing movers and fishers and catchers and eaters….
With hardly ever a moment of non-action.
When the Little Blue Herons, whom I have not seen there in about half a dozen years, were often seen at White Rock Lake, the feathery Snowy top plumes used to rise to make their heads look bigger and their whole selves look mightier. But now, without much obvious competition, the those occipital plumes mostly just hang there.
One of the Snowy Egrets' best tricks was foot-shaking. I don't remember thinking about that when I clicked these shots, but I was just in semi-automatic click, click, clicking mode. So Very Much Fun to be photographing Snowy Egrets off Sunset Beach again.
Whenever it moved, I'd click a new pose. Not at all sure about what it was looking out at here, but mostly, whatever it did had to do with finding food — morsel or clunk — then the next and the one after that.
Or down into the water. Hoping for something nourishing, no doubt.
A moment's rest, then …
Hot into the pursuit of yet another possibility.
Yep, same bird. I didn't notice it catch something this time, although I had caught it catch little somethings earlier. When they've got something, their throat opens up, and down whatever it caught goes, bones, guts and all.
After Dinner @ Sunset Bay @ Sunset & After —
photographed August 2 and posted August 3
I'm pretty sure those white blobs in the center between the trees on this side of Sunset Bay are egrets of one sort or a couple others. Snowies or something like that. What I'm really curious about is who is in the top of the tree upper central here. It may be configured like a Bald Eagle, but most of these birds would have fled if it were a Bald Eagle, so it must be something else. Probably a juvenile Cormorant.
Besides the ducks near the bottom of this configuration are five or six Canada Gooses. There were seven a couple days ago, and although the total number of Canada Gooses generally diminishes during their stays almost anywhere, it's possible — even probable — that the others to a total of seven are around here someplace. Canada Goose families tend to stay together for the first year.
Today's photographs are in chronological order — for a change. I brought my tripod and 500mm worth of telephoto. Apparently, the cam was set for iso 1600 but I stumbled upon my long-lost, Dfine high ISO filter that still works spectacularly, so most of today's shots don't look like a sandstorm, although many of them started out that way.
When I started today's tableaux, I assume there were only one set of two Great Egrets flying apart and together, but apparently there are are at least two sets. Differentiating among Great Egrets is a real challenge.
When I closely pan along with one flying bird, the rest tend to look more blurred than usual.
Here, apparently I was following the upper Great Egret.
I'm assuming that's a Double-crested Cormorant up in the corner — although we've seen many Neotropic corms lately — and a Great Egret flying flat out near the center. I was following the egret, but once I saw the cormorant, I knew it had to share this composition.
Looks like a mountain back there — how I wish! — but it's probably a pink cloud.
I lost a little detail and some vividity when I rendered this bird, so I made it smaller, to look less messed with.
With all those spots and splotches of orange on its body and wings, this just has to be a Cattle Egret, whom we don't see all that often in Sunset Bay. Usually just a couple times a year, we get a brief flyover.
We used to call them "The Logs," then somebody learned the correct term was "Snags," so now we call those logs Snags. Got that?
That's a mostly out-of-focus GBH (Great Blue Heron) in the bottom right corner.
It's always a challenge to render bright white birds just the right shade of high gray but with some aspects of details (which I mostly missed here).
But I got both these flyers with just barely adequate texture as I panned with them on my tripod..
Hardly perfect, but not bad. Not bad at all.
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.