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The Amateur Birder's Journal - Stories & Photographs by J R Compton
All Contents © 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. DO NOT USE images without permission & payment.
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March 28 2008

Mystery Black & Whites - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mystery (not Unsubs) Black & White Birds

Only caught the last 20 yards or so of their flight, but with largish black bodies and white extremities, they looked like something I'd never seen before, so then, when they were rapidly descending out in Sunset Bay not far from where the Dreyfuss Club used to be and will be again sometime in the nearish future, I finally started photographing them.

Magic Black & Whites - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Them Nearly Landing

I figured out who they were, what species, pretty quickly once they landed and began fooling around out there, but at this point (These points: the top pic came after this one. It just looks better, so it's first here.) But in flight and once in the water out there, they looked positively elegant. Not the ponderous Muscovies I've previously described on these pages. When I first saw them, I thought they were largish ducks.

Two-way Muscovies - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Push Me, Pull Me

Which is exactly what they are. Muscovy Drake on the left, being towed by the Muscovy Hen on the right. For several seconds, when he moved  left, so did she, and when she moved right, so did he. Then they broke up and swam along together. Now I've had to reconfigure my understanding of Muscovies flying. The really high-caliber ones — fatter than fat old gooses — are ponderous in the air, sounding like choo-choo trains a huffing and puffing, each flap a monumental endeavor.

A Little Privacy - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

A Little Privacy

I'm guessing what they wanted — needed — way out there was a little privacy. Probably from other birds, I doubt they care much about me. And they were out there nearly alone for awhile, so I guess they got it. I've seen ducks do it, and pigeons do it, and even gooses looking like they'd like to do it. Heck, I've even seen gooses keeping ducks from doing it, like they're from the local chapter of the Morals Society. But this is as close as I've been to seeing Muscovy Ducks do it. And, of course, they're not really doing it here, although male ducks tend to push female ducks under water to mount them, not unlike as in this shot.

She Bath - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

She Bath

Also very much like ducks doing it, immediately afterward, she took a rollicking splashy bath. Then they swam off.

The Cormorant Log - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Cormorant Log

Or as alone as anything can be alone near so many cormorants gathered in the fog. This is the Cormorant Log, although during some seasons, it is the Pelican Log and in other seasons it is exclusively the Egret Log. Whoever there's the most of who are willing to keep the other species off, I guess. Of course, if pelicans wanted to be out there, they would be out there. They're bigger and more fierce than cormorants.

Three Pelicans - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Three Pelicans

Well, three pelicans and four cormorants. A lot closer to shore than the log. These guys are on a log, it's just mostly underwater and grayed out by too much water lately.

Black & White & Orange - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black & White & Orange

One cormorant and three pelicans, taken from a little closer to the bent tree and bench off to the left of Sunset Bay proper. Pelicans staying fit for flying, and a cormorant just standing there staring out into space, as cormorants so often do.

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March 27

USS Formidible - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The USS Formidable

After trekking around The Bay again for the too-many-eth time today, hot, bothered, tired already, I thought I hadn't got a single shot worth keeping. But then I often think that. Till I get them up on the monitor. Then I remember. Soon as I saw this little armada swimming across the bay, I was impressed. More with their posture than anything else.

Pelican Battleships - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Cruisers

Or maybe it's that big fin out front. They look formidable. I was formidded, even as far away as I was.

Barn Swallow Past Corm Log - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Swallow Past Corm Log

I photographed other pelicans with much less success or interest in the subjects, had my camera set to underexpose about 2/3 stop, so their bright white feathers would render with just a little detail — like that top photo, when I saw several much smaller, much darker and faster birds. Flying back and forth chasing — and no doubt eating — insects. I saw a flash of orange breast and triangular red head.

Probably Barn Swallow - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Barn Swallow Past the Cormorant Log

Flashing back and forth somewhere between me and the logs of cormorants out in the middle. I assumed it was way too far, but that hardly matters, I generally shoot first and think later. If then. When I saw this image, very large on the monitor, I liked it a lot. I still do.

Barn Swallow Colors - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Showing Barn Swallow Colors

But I wasn't sure about the bird's colors — and thereby its identity — till I saw this shot. Much less poetic and artish. But definitive in a certain, sidewise, wrong angle kind of way. Shows it very probably is a Barn Swallow. The other one looks too dark.

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The Other Day

Pelican Flyover - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Flyover

Two fascinating bird species today. At opposite ends of certain balances. One of our more handsome American White Pelican(s) flying over — actually spiraling in from significant height to land not far below me to try to catch a fish or two, which I did not see it do.

Curve-winged Pelk - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Curve-winged Pelican

But the flying part was magnificent as this by turns elegant and awkward bird circled what seemed like slowly, passing back and forth before me, over, around, then under Singing Bridge — it's thinner portions haloed in the bright back-lighting sunlight. Note, of course, the more and more prominent beak fins that Sibley calls "fibrous epidermal plate." The bigger they get, the sooner their departure northward.

Pelican Grace - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Grace

Often beautiful birds. I'm sure going to miss them when they flock north, up into Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Canada to raise a new crop of pelicans then fly back next September/October. I'm sure I'll find something else to photograph ...

Black Muscovy - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black Muscovy

I'm also very fond of these ponderous birds. Bulkier than gooses. Uglier by far than almost anybody. But with a certain dashing handsomeness, too, if you can ignore all those beak-area warts. I've seen them fly. Talk about ponderous. But I've also spent time with them. They don't run away. They seem happy enough in our company.

Shy Muscovy - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Resting Muscovy

Supposedly from Moscow — thus the "Muscovy" name, they're actually from South America somewhere I should know. I like them more for their distinctive looks than almost anything else but their quiet sociability. They come in nearly all (except for their faces) white, mostly black, green, brown and several mixes of all those colors, plus a sparkling iridescence.

Ponderous Muscovy - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Imposing Figure

But it would be difficult to ignore their distinctive looks.

Oh, and while sifting through last week's shots to separate the winners from the also-rans that I can safely delete and save gigabytes of storage, I discovered three new images of that Gray Gnatcatcher I already barely photographed in Sunset Forest.

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March 26

Ring-billed Gulll - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ring-billed Gull

Our gulls are fading. Fewer and fewer Ring-billed Gulls are hanging around White Rock Lake. Happens every year about this time. And though I've seen them have real — and strange — fun this year, almost reminding me of Jonathan Livingston (No, not Turkey Vulture, the real Jonathan Livingston) Seagull, which I read avidly when it first came out.

Ring-billed Gull - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Same Gull, Same Inspiring Light

Then forgot entirely that was gulls are all about is fun.

Ringbill - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ring-bill

My issue is that they tend to beat up on coots.

Gull Wing - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gull Wing Gull

Still, they are beautiful animals, after whom my favorite car — when I was in my young teens — was named after: the Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gullwing Coupe.

Ring-nose Landing - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gull Landing

I don't usually get tuned it this well to gulls. Today, when they flew over, flew by or landed nearby, I was right there with them. Not sure why or how, but sometimes my link with birds is better than others.

Redwing Blackbird Flap - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Male Red-wing Blackbird Flapping

And the Red-wings are beginning to gather in the reeds along the west edge of the lake. I'm going to have to take my red chair and just sit by some of them and wait.

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March 24

 Cormorant Fly - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cormorant Flyover

Parked at the dog park (good use), only saw half dozen dogs. None either on a leash or inside a fence. I walked over what I've called Singing Bridge. Wind was blowing, otherwise it was almost warm. Plenty of sunshine. But no vibration. I may have to change the name on my map. A cormorant flew over, I panned along with it and magically (it seemed) exposed just right and got it in near perfect focus.

Cormorant with Fish - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Cormorant with Fish

Below the bridge that did not sing, a small group of cormorants were diving for fish. Usually they catch and swallow down there, then come up for air, eventually, then go under again. This one came up with a good sized fish.

Cormorant with Fish - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cormorant Juggling Fish

The trick is get that fish aligned so it would go down easily. Sometimes, that takes a bit of juggling.

Cormorant Flipping Fish - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cormorant Flipping Fish

Flip it up into the air, turn beak, open and ...

Cormorant Swallows Fish - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cormorant Swallows Fish

Swallow. Note thickening of otherwise slender throat.

Cardinal Bullet Deflap - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Bullet Cardinal, Feathers In

Another of those times, a bird flies over, I follow it, going click, click, click not expecting in a million years anything's going to be in focus. But surprise, they are.

Cardinal Fly - Wings Out - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cardinal Flying, Wings Out

Can't see its eyes, but nobody else is that red, with that beak, flying fast. I'm in startlement.

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March 21

Cardinal in the Red Buds - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cardinal Among The Redbuds

What he was doing up there. What he was doing so hot and heavy, he hardly even noticed me sneaking closer and close enough to get some detail for a change. What it was doing... Was eating redbud buds. Had his whole body, beak first into the spray of them.

Cardinal in the Flowers - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Besotted?

I understand. When I was five, my parents got pictures of me in a little bush along the driveway that had orchids growing on it. I was in there eating orchids. Sometimes when I get a good whiff of them, I think I can still taste that smell. Yum.

Seven Cedar Waxwings - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Seven Cedar Waxwings Sitting in a Tree

I've seen them lots lately, in the actual park, just down the hill from what I've been calling the Sunset Grove, as well up in the thick of the trees. Until today, they'd scatter every time I'd come close. Much spookier than a Cardinal. Today, they just flitted about while I closed in. Nice display of a variety of views of Cedar Waxwings.

Five Cedar Waxwings - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

And Closer

I thought I'd have to bring a tripod to get them — and the other flitters — like I did at home last week — here in the grove.

Three Cedar Waxwings - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

And Closer

Imagine my surprise when they kept not flying away. Except, of course, eventually, they did.

Coot Walking On Water - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Coot Running

I was excited when I saw this big on my monitor.

Run Coot Run - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Run, Coots, Run

Until I saw this. Although I like the detail in the upper shot,actual feather — if not exactly definition, then some notion that it's got feathers, although I like the halo on the chaser, almost absent in the chasee. Much better splashing in this one. I wonder whether when I'm in my 80s I'll still be thrilled by the sight of a coot running on the water. Probably.

Grackle Walking - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great-tail Grackle Walking

Or Grackles, for that matter. Everybody else hates them, tries to come up with new ways to keep them out of the urban and suburban trees they love best. But I like Great-tailed Gracks. They fascinate me. I'm worried I must have missed them fighting this year. So far I've missed almost everybody else fighting, too. A near miss on the Mockingbirds, maybe, but I'm getting so much quicker on the uptake for action, I'd really like to see how well I could follow some serious battle scenes.

Blueback Grack - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Blue Black Grack

And they're so pretty. Black most of the time, then suddenly, when you least expect it, parts of them gleam over in iridescent blues, sometimes purples and maybe a few greens. And those great tails.

Luckily, There's Always Egrets - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Luckily, There's Always Egrets

Haven't seen much of them lately. Nearly forgot about egrets. When this one flew toward us sitting on the park bench, then through a tree (well, beyond a tree; obscured my view, at least) , turned out over the water and flew away. I liked it best when it was just like this. Long time since I photographed a Great Egret flying. Lovely bokeh (what digital photogs call the out of focus area usually — but not always — behind the subject. Would have preferred more light on its face, but you can't have everything.

Oh, yeah. I've been saying I was going to slow this down, journal only three days a week, then I go and do it four days a week this week already and darned near raring for more. It was a good week. I didn't feel at all bad about going back to the same place three times in a row. All that and I wrote two large stories for DallasArtsRevue, and I loved doing this. Plus I moved a whole lot of furniture around and cleaned up a really nasty porch and started on some less than fascinating rooms. Some dare call it progress.

Don't mean I'll do this four days every week, though. Just want you to know I'm gonna rest me some, too. Maybe even way down to two or one sometimes. Maybe as summer inches nearer.

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March 20

Mockus Familiaris - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mockus Familiaris with the Wind Rippling its Feathers

This shot is utterly unusual, because this bird is exactly this close. It was posing for me. This is that full frame I always want to fill birds with. Very very unusually in this journal, this shot is all there is. There is zero cropping here. It landed behind the branch at the left, and I gently stepped to my right and it to its left for this photograph. It's a Northern Mockingbird, one of our most common species. My friends.

The Return of Black Mask - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Return of Black Mask - The Yellow-rumped Warbler

Most of today's shooting was in Sunset Forest, one of my names for the copse of trees that circles the northern area of the park without going out into the open meadow up toward the apartments. I started at the Boat House Lagoon but was disappointed at the diversity there today after the flooding that's still evident there, and everywhere around the lake. But I came back here mostly to try to get better shots of yesterday's birds, partially to get to identify them better.

Blackmask Rides Again - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Butterbutt Rides Again

So here are two, much more detailed shots of that same species. These two photos almost look like they're of different birds, but it's the same, and the same as yesterday. I didn't see the yellow at all yester. Today, in bright sunlight, it's obvious. Maybe truly identifying birds means getting to know them.

As for identification, I'm still stymied. What it looks most like in the Texas books is the Magnolia Warbler, but it doesn't look enough like one of those to actually be one. Ah... A Butterbutt, I should have known. It is a Yellow-rumped Warbler. Now that I finally know what it is, I'm going back to I.D it in yester's entry, even though I didn't know what it was then.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look much like my previous Butterbutts. Oh, dratt!

Black Vulture - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black Vulture

There were two, maybe three Black Vultures circling slowly, high over Sunset Bay and it's trees up the hill. Sunset is the only place I've ever seen them, and now I'm wondering how many times I've seen them before and just assumed they were TVs instead. Turkey Vultures. I could still easily overlook where the white is on their wings. TVs trail white all across their wings. Blacks have white "fingers."

woody and the woods - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Woody and Woody

I was drawn to this scene by raucous high pitched chirping. It took me a long time to find them with just that hint. But that bright blot of red under the branches eventually became obvious, although I was never — while shooting — sure what it was. It moved, and it didn't have a big brown tail, so I knew it wasn't a squirrel.

Pecker Flap - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pecker Flap

Besides, the black and white one kept flying around, often much closer than this, to the red red red one. It could have been a fight. It could have been some sort of "pay attention to me" for mating. It is spring still. When I got these images up on the monitor finally, I knew what the woodpecker-like bobbing red head was and how it was situated. But not until then.

Woodward - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Woodward J Red-bellied Woodpecker

Then he flew around and landed on the branch where the other had bee basing. Too handsome and dashing a woodpecker to be called "Woody." The apparently smaller "black and white one" I referred to does look a lot like a female Red-bellied, although I don't see any red anywhere on it. The females have the same black & white pattern on her back, with smallish patch of yellow on the back of her head.

Northern Shoveler - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Northern Shoveler

Not surprising a name for a duck with this much dark bill, I've grown to appreciate shovelers and have been photographing them at various places around the lake for the past several weeks. This is by far the best shot. You can almost even see the textures along its mostly reddish sides. There are more subtle color and texture variations in these handsome birds, and I hope I'll find some even closer next time.

Grack with Stogey - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Grack with Grub

This and the shoveler were both photographed in and around the Lagoon up toward the park's official entrance from the Boat House and its new walking bridge. When I first saw it in the branches over my head, it looked like it was sporting a stogie, some fat bit of tobacco, like the cartoon crows, smoking a big cigar. This "stogie," however, is a big grub, and I didn't get good shots of it ratcheting it into its beak and down the hatch, but you can imagine getting something that big down.

Mrs. Grackle - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mrs. Great-tailed Grackle with her Great Tail

This was actually the first shot of today's multi site shoot. I always shoot interesting or particularly handsome grackles, because there are times when I don't get anything else. Still, this lady is a fine example of her species.

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March 19

Mockingbird with a Grub - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mockingbird with Grub

Coolish today, but bright. Lots of sunshine. And all around the lake, evidence of a flood, way up over the usual edge of the lake, so much flow junk up there, most of the roads were probably underwater. I saw this mockingbird pick up that grub, but wasn't quick enough to capture it. Where it was was dark, besides. I also saw it swallow it. No pic of that, either.

White Bird Pals - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

White Bird Pals - Domestic and Muscovy Ducks

These two white guys were hanging out on the right wing of the pier on Sunset Bay watching...

Thirty Pound Carp - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Fisher Person and 30-pound Carp

This guy catching fish. Fish like this 30-pound carp, one of several that fishing party caught this afternoon and rolled off the pier in a cart. These big fish stormed in from their usual depths out in the center of the lake is probably why pelicans were patrolling unusually close to the shore in the bay today. Good fishing.

Otherwise, not much variety down by the shore. Lots of coots, few ducks, the pelicans huddled into the flooded far edge of the swamp. So I walked up the hill hoping to find Cedar Waxwings, which I did not. I'd seen them up there last year, but now they're in my tree at home, I suppose.

First I saw and heard a loudmouth Mockingbird. I probably take more photographs of mockingbirds than anything else. Darned few of those make it to these pages, however.

Stripey Brown Squawker - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Stripey Brown Squawker

The bird in these photos was making at least as much noise as a mockingbird and had its songs more variation proclaimed from very near the top of the tallest tree around. In this first shot, it looks like it's got a short tail and a very long beak.

Brown Thrasher - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Brown Thrasher

I wasn't happy with that first shot, so I kept circling around that bunch of trees, hoping for a better view. This shot, of the same bird in the same perch, shows a much longer tail and seemingly shorter, more curved beak. Except for its altitude, very like the thrasher I'd photographed last week in the Brooks County Rest Stop.

I'd thought that's what it might be when I first focused in on it, but all my other thrashers have been 500 miles south, and until I looked it up tonight, I'd never noticed its territory covers Texas in winter, and its year-round territory covers the eastern 1/3 of the state.

Other Striped Bird - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Other Stripey Bird — Our Friend the Butterbutt — See above.

This is another stripey bird, much smaller and less amber. More brown, with a black beak and side face mask. Back to the book, which today is the one I bought in The Valley, the Lone Pine Birds of Texas. I poured the books, and I'm still nowhere. My luck, it'll be a House Sparrow.

Little Bird - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Little Gray Bird

I think a distinctly different bird. Small. Much smaller than I usually attempt, but I like that woods overlooking Sunset Bay is a favorite haunt, a favored hunt. I tried to blend into the trees in my brown on brown with olive stripes flannel shirt, blue jeans and brown self, leaning into the shade along the lower bark of a tree.

What is it? How would I know. I'm just an amateur. I've looked. I'll look again tomorrow after I've slept. Maybe.

Even Littler Bird - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

A Bluegray Gnatcatcher

Oh, gosh, why can't birds carry little signs with their secret identity engraved across it. I was so startled and amazed just to capture this little guy's image. Bright eye circle and white striped wings, white under parts, black legs and orange beak with dark point. How hard can that be. Ha!

Gnatcatcher - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Newer Additional Gnatcatcher Image A

I didn't realize it then, but in the week since this sighting, I've discovered more photographs of this little bird, whatever it may be. I didn't see it when I first chose images for this day's journal, because they are so very tiny in such large frames of reference. Some of what I had initially dismissed as more leaves, turned out to be more little birds. Of the same, Bluegray Gnatcatcher variety.

Size, according to my trusty Lone Pine Birds of Texas, is 4.5 inches long with a 6.5-inch wingspan. Larger than I surmised when I was shooting tiny little it far up in the trees nearly over my head. In these shots, it looks much less jaunty and angular. More like a regular, smooth headed bird.

Sidelong Gnatcatcher View - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Newer Gnatcatcher Image B

There's so little detail in this shot that using Dfine, my usual visual noise-suppressor, just didn't make enough sense. So this tee-tiny portion of a much larger shot may seem a little noisy. Mid the last century, we used to call it grain. Now it's "noise."

Blurred Gnatcatcher Flying - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Blurred Gnatcatcher (I think) Flying — C

Any sharpness missing in that last, lengthwise shot of the gnatcatcher, however, has nothing on this near full-blazing blur of that same little bird (I think) flying out of the frame.

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March 18

Rained all day. A reader sent this odd link about interspecies friendship, saying they knew crows were smart, but...
 

March 17

Interspecies Fishing Party - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Interspecies Fishing Party

Catching view of American White Pelicans and associate Double-crested Cormorants very close to Garland Road, I turned around, parked up next to one of the big ritzy houses and ran down the hill and across the street to photograph the action up close.

Pelk Lunge - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelk Lunge

It's always an exciting event. And having it close enough to focus on individual birds, especially, pelicans is always a delight. Neither they nor the armada of cormorants do this smooth and gracefully.

Crashing After Fish - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Crashing After Fish

The fleet moves en mess according to the individual lunges of its specific members. Here, several cormorants are in the middle of diving down, their chosen method for catching and eating fish.

Converging - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Converging

Pelicans are more showy and perhaps more aggressive. Those guys are big.

Fish Middle - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Fish Central with Minor Dispute

Soon as they sight a particularly dense collection of fish, they converge on the area and, if need be, clear off the competition.

Fish Central - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Fish Central

Then more an more friends and family moves in and scoops up.

Another Lunge

Then, soon as the sight more, they lunge into the sky to again re-center the fleet on another find.

Pelk Fly Away - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelk Fly Away

Until sated, they fly happily away, usually back to Sunset Bay.

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March 15

Cedar Wax Wing in My Tree - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cedar Waxwing Framed by My Big Tree

Extremely difficult to capture one of these wild birds standing in one place for very long. Or in focus through that many intervening branches of that and other trees. I really need a longer telephoto or fewer or shorter trees. Might be the first time I've ever considered trimming trees. God puts them there, I figure He knows what needs doing. I'm grateful to have them. Maybe a little of my father is seeping up. He loves to trim trees, has devoted much of his life to that task.

Cedar Waxwing Framed Again - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cedar Waxwing Framed Again

Unlike nearly all of my other bird pictures, these involved the use of a tripod, both were shot from the sunshine on my big front porch, the reason I bought this house nearly 30 years ago, when there were only two trees in the yard. Also unlike most of those other bird shots, these two were focused manually. You likey psychedelic leaves?

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March 14

Wingflap Balance - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wingflap Balance

This nonbreeding bird was the only American White Pelican in Sunset Bay, and I began worrying all the rest had flown back north till later while driving home I saw dozens of large white blots on the lake horizon from Garland Road but I didn't get to scope it out carefully because I was driving that way instead of watching far out onto the lake.

Pelicans balance by flapping and stretching their wings, so they can settle in and engage in some face stretching.

Face Stretch - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Beak Stretch

While walking to the pier to get a better view, I saw it get into a familiar set of preparatory moves, so once it started, I was right on it. Click click till...

Abstract Expression - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Abstract Expression

This best Balloon Mouth I've seen in a long while. Expressive and reality abstracted. Sibley says these are exercizes to keep the pelican's beak and pouch supple, so it can use them to seine for fish easily.

Blind Salute - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Blind Salute

Then when I finally got out on the pier, nothing happened.

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March 13

Cedar Waxwing in My Tree - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cedar Waxwing in My Tree

Sitting on my front porch deciding to seriously cut back on driving places, cushing on my new elderly porch couch with my tele lens, I was photographing doves and mockingbirds when I saw one of these hanging upside down on a thin branch and realized this was not my usual tree fare, so I shot it. Click.

Mockfight 1 - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mockingbird Fight 1

I heard a ruckus, looked up, saw these guys going at it, and I stayed with them best I could getting my camera to focus through all those leaves and branches.

Mockfight 2 - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mock Fight 2

Not always getting them sharp but managing to slow the action some.

Mockfight 3 - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mock Fight 3

Wings spread and tails spread wide to look bigger and more formidable. Hard to say what they were fighting over, but it is spring.

Mockfight 4 - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mock Fight 4

Squawk!

Mock Fight 5 - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mock Fight 5 - The Winner

The winner.

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March 4 - 10

Harris Hawk in McAllen - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Harris Hawk on a Wire in McAllen, Texas

This large and distinctive-looking bird was not found in any of the Lower Rio Grande Valley birding centers we visited. Nope. We saw it landing on wires strung from poles near the outskirts of McAllen, Texas, maybe 7 or 8 miles from 'Home.' It did not seem in the least concerned that some guy was pointing up at it from standing in the middle of the not-very-busy street with a big black camera. I took dozens of shots, this being the absolute best of the bunch.

All these birds were photographed in and around The Rio Grande Valley on what may be our last sojourn there — at least with free room and board, Since my parents are re-retiring to San Antonio some 250 miles north. Guess we'll have to discover other Texas places (Nothing is close in Texas.) I've been thinking about The Gulf Coast, and we would have visited along there had we not been driving a hulking U-Haul truck of furniture as quick as we could drive it as close to a straight line back to Dallas as Texas affords.

Harris Hawk Claws - crpy

Citified Harris Hawk with giant, sharp claws
showing more underside and tail detail

I'm still on hiatus, but I'm back. Rested, in a sweaty, truck full of furniture-moving way, but now I've got to figure out how to do this journal as well as that other site without one or the other taking over my life. DallasArtsRevue did that most of this century. Lately, this suite has. The trick will be to do both, have time and energy to keep a life beyond either, and live happily ever after. A challenge. Wish me luck.

 

My parents' yard

Woodpecker Up Close - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Took several days of tracking down their sounds and brief flutters to settle in and finally photograph the Golden-fronteds in Mom & Dad's yard. Lot of teensy weensy images I would have had to blow up immensely to even see before I got these guys.

Golden Front Facing Right - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Lots of woodpeckers in so many trees and lots of tap tap tapping.

Buff Hummer - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Buff-bellied Hummingbird

The hummer above is my first published photo of a hummingbird. I found it flickering into, then perching still in a copse of trees on the other side of the canal that goes behind my parents' house near the Mexican border. There was an amazing diversity of birds in their yard.

Green Jay Fly - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Green Jay Flying

Green Jays, perhaps very like Blue Jays, race around their territory, defending it against all comers. The Greens seem less bold, however. I've been buzz-bombed by Blue Jays when I was a photog from the long-defunct Dallas Times Herald assigned to photograph their nests in then-new City Hall downtown. Blues here are ubiquitous. We had to hunt for them down there. When I shot this one, I just shot "some bird" flying by. I had no idea what it was, am extraordinarily lucky I got anything like this detail or focus.

Green Jay Bathing - copyright 2008 by Anna Palmer. All Rights Reserved.

Green Jay Bathing

Anna got us one more view of a Valley Green Jay, at the Brook County Rest Stop. Another fascinating feather display.

Kiskadee Flapping - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Flapping Kiskadee

Same here for the Kiskadees, of which there are often many around my parents' house. I'd never known their wings were so colorful. I'd photographed them before, but only previously got standard portraits, and am delighted with this blurry, beak-less mess for expanding my visual understanding of this loud species.

Doing The Kiska Twist - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Doing The Kiska Twist

I take this twist for curiosity, but the Kiskadee could be exercising some totally other excuse for it. Very difficult to see their dark eyes in that dark sideband swash of black.

Up-the-Nose shot of a Kiskadee - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Up-the-beak Shot of a Great Kiskadee

At least this view shows us its eye. Kiskas were a challenge to photograph in the wild. At the bird places, they were usually being fed, but even there I found photographing them a challenge, although I may have photographed this very bird before — from Mom's swimming pool, where I took my last dip and very brief float on one of the cooler days we spent down there this last time.

Scrawny Kiska - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kiska in a Tree

One of the more common and colorful birds in the Valley is the Greater Kiskadee, notable for two distinctive calls. They're named for the shrill and repeated kisk a dee whistle, but we also noted a one-note special sometimes, we know not when.

Brooks County Rest Stop

Pyrrhuloxia - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mrs. Cardinal at the Brooks County Rest Stop in Far South Texas

Brooks County is north of the Valley and well south of San Antonio. It's been our driving gateway to that semi-tropical region, and we'll miss stopping there. It's beautiful and replete with birds we have not got to see that close in natural setting elsewhere. This is s a female Cardinal.

Green Jay in Brooks - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Green Jay

Last time down, I was happy to get as much as a fleeting shot of the Green Jays my mother so appreciates. I like the jungle colors, but they seem ungainly ugly to me, but I got nothing against ugly. I was pleased to have an opportunity on this trip to capture the Greens in various postures.

Treed Brown Thrasher - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Treed Brown Thrasher

I'd only seen thrashers twice ever before, so the rest stop was a great chance to get a little more acquainted with them.
 

Edinburg Scenic Wetlands

Cavorting - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Blue Herons Cavorting

Cavorting Great Blue Herons - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cavorting Great Blue Herons

The Wetlands sounds like an extensive area partially underwater. It is actually a couple of large rectangular troughs and some very small ponds. We chose areas by the species listed, knowing those are iffy at best. We did not, for example, see the Belted or Green Kingfishers that were on their list. But we saw plenty other species and were delighted we'd visited. Just seeing two Great Blue Herons flying around together both close and far (only seen that once before at White Rock) was a thrill. They seemed so big out there.

Cavorting GBHs - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cavorting GBH Pair

Signs insisted we stay on the paved straight pathways but we wandered off some, around the fenceless end along the highway, where paths were weeds growing over hidden rocks. Precarious but a lot closer to the birds. A lot closer.

Blue-winged Teal - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Blue-winged Teal

Nice variety. Surprising to find pelicans swimming with Great Blue Herons and all those exotic Stilts, but some kind of wonderful, too. Lots of local color.

Black-necked Stilt Flying - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black-necked Stilt

We saw fewer than these after a great long walk last Christmas. Not much where to walk here, but so many wondrous birds. And so much closer.

Black-necked Stilt Landing - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black-necked Stilt Landing

Always a treat to revisit old acquaintances. Especially those with long pink legs. According to the source cited below, "Proportionately, this bird has the longest legs of any North American bird, making it truly deserving of the name 'stilt'."

Male & Female Black-necked Stilts - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female (top) and Male Black-necked Stilts

Females are brown-backed; males are black back there. Both have black necks, droopy-looking eyes and long beak sperfect for picking "prey from the water's surface or from the bottom substrate; eats primarily inscts, crustaceans and otherr aquatic invertibrates," according to the Lone Pine "Birds of Texas" by Keith A. Arnold and Gregory Kennedy, which also identifies "Male: blacker upperparts. Female: browner upperparts."

Black-necked Stilts - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black-necked Stilts Feeding

Only one brown back.

Unsub Flying In - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Unsub Flying In

My best guess after pouring over my bird books looking, is that this bird is a Greater Yellowlegs. But there's an immense likelihood I'm wrong about that. Anybody who knows these shorebirds may be able to use the fairly distinctive wings and tail feathers shown in the photograph above to distinguish this from all those very similar birds I've struggled with before.

Unsub Waiting - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Spotted Sandpiper in non-breeding plumage: Waiting to be Identified

My best guess is only a guess, but even though I finally got a Golden Book (Remember Golden Books? One dollar each for knowledge in many diverse areas during The Fifties and Beyond) that shows a lot of different birds from beneath. It seems important that I caught it from slightly underneath (second photo above), but darned few field guides show them that way.

Pelican Flying - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Flying Over to Check Us Out

Nice to see a couple of my good friends, the American White Pelicans, that far south. Much more than about 20 miles further south, and they'd been in Mexico, where I saw a flock of them flying into on our penultimate Valley visit.

Barn Swallow - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Barn Swallow Flitting Fast

We also visited the Old Hidalgo Pump House, but we didn't have the energy to flush out the interpretive birding place that might have been out in the woods somewhere beyond our ken. Signage there was indifferent, and the only birds we encountered were grackles and a remarkably unshy mockingbird. Mostly not worth our visit.

Little Brown Birds - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Little Brown Birds - House Sparrows Feeding

We later revisited Quinta Mazatlan in south McAllen, where we saw flitting samples of several Valley birds but nothing special this time. The many Chachalacas were too fast for me or in too deep shade.

 

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All text and photographs copyright 2008 by J R Compton.
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without
specific written permission from the writer or photographer.

Thanks always to Anna.

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