J R's Images & Ideas
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J R's Guide to the Birds of White Rock Lake

Great-tailed Grackles   Index of Bird Pages

G R A C K L E   C O U R T S H I P   a n d   F I G H T S

   1/500 @ f/11  240mm iso400 FF-high HH  pattern

1/400 @ f/11  300mm iso400 FF-high HH  pattern

Two grackles showing bill up courting display

As often happens, the day after I read about bill up courting behaviors and wished I could see something like that, I not only got to see it, I got to photograph it. I even got a too-dark photo of one puffing his feathers out making it look about 50% larger. What I did not expect were the battles that ensued within minutes — even seconds — after this bill up routine.

As usual with photographing new types of bird behavior, it took me a few shots to figure out how to do it. The first shots were badly exposed, out of focus and the photographer moved the camera too much.

As you'll see, I did not always manage to keep the birds in frame. They were flying, flopping, flailing and falling fast. Much faster action than I'm used to capturing. I never cared much for sports but I used to photograph dancing to get up to speed, now I have birds.

Grackle Battle   1/400 @ f/11  300mm iso400 8% of full frame (FF) HH (hand held)  pattern

These are the few frames that were nearly in focus, in frame and you can still tell what's going on. Several times during the battles, one or the other bird would be knocked down onto the ground, struggle back up and go at it again.

In a way, I'm glad they took their time, because it took me awhile to figure out what was going on, where it might happen next, and what I could do about it. Still, I was surprised that I got this many decent shots. Many were not.

Fiercely Gracks   1/400 @ f/11  300mm iso400 8% crop HH  pattern

The exposure on the dark birds was pretty good, but the background tended toward overexposure. It took several tries at masking — nearly impossible with that many fine feathers — before I realized I could just burn down (darken) the wood and weeds under and behind them, then rough mask the birds to sharpen them back up when I reduced the file sizes for the web.

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Grack Attack   1/400 @ f/11  300mm iso400 8% crop HH  pattern

Doesn't the upper Grack here look evil? It's just a trick of lighting, eye placement and luck, and I don't really believe birds doing what birds do is ever evil, but oof! what a look.
 

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