American White Pelican Head Shots at Lake Morton

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On my recent walk around foggy Lake Morton, I found four American White Pelicans perched on a small wall at the edge of the lake. Normally they would have been strongly backlit by the rising sun, but since the fog was so thick, I could sit low and get some fun head shots.

American White Pelican
American White Pelican

Look at that blue eye! These pelicans are getting their “breeding bumps” on their bills, an interesting feature of their breeding plumage.

I find it challenging to get a good head angle on the preening shots. I liked this one, where I could see both eyes and the end of the large beak carefully arranging the bird’s tiny feathers. Big birds can be so graceful.

American White Pelican
Preening American White Pelican

I tried for some juxtapositions with two birds in the same frame. It seems easy, especially when the birds are right next to each other and frequently in each other’s way as they preen. But getting two heads at good angles in the same focus plane requires some patience. In my case, it also took a little Topaz Sharpener to un-soften the bird in the foreground.

American White Pelican
American White Pelican

This next bird’s bump is a little deformed…but he gave me some of the best head shots!

American White Pelican
American White Pelican

It’s not every day that I can get close enough for head shots of these beautiful birds! The fog that had initially disappointed me turned out to be one of the best parts of the morning. As I finished with these birds, the sun started to peek out a little, forming a giant softbox that backlit the white birds. I liked this last head shot the best because of the white light that emphasizes the soft, angel feel of the back feathers.

American White Pelican
American White Pelican

A Foggy Walk around Lake Morton

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It’s been too long since I made it to some of my favorite springtime photography locations! I recently headed to Lake Morton to check on the ducks and nesting swans. The sun came up shining bright in my rearview mirror as I drove, but when I arrived at Lake Morton, a heavy fog settled in over the lake. It turns out fog can make for good photos…

All around the lake, swans were nesting. Three pairs of Black Swans had cygnets in the pens, and a number of Mute Swans were sitting on nests around the lake. Hopefully I can get back to find some newly-hatched cygnets again!

Mute Swan
Mute Swan

It was a good morning for Wood Ducks. I found a pair on the edge of the lake. These usually skittish birds were not at all bothered by me. I dropped down and got on eye level with the male, who posed for a head shot.

Wood Duck
Wood Duck

A few minutes later, the male took his mate out for a swim in the fog.

Wood Duck
Wood Duck

I found some Great Blue Heron nests at the top of some cypress trees. Most Great Blue Herons started making their nests back in late November, but this heron waited until early April to start throwing his head up and courting a prospective mate. I loved this image of him peering down at me.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron

I continued my way around the lake, surprised to see fewer geese and swans that on my previous visits. I think the City sold some of the swans. I missed seeing Father Goose. He took such good care of the Muscovy Ducklings.

Speaking of Muscovy ducks, I spotted two of them in an unlikely place – sitting in a treetop!

Muscovy Ducks in Tree
Muscovy Ducks in Tree

I found a couple of Common Gallinule nests, nested in the vegetation at the edge of the lake. One nest had small babies in it! I could hear their calls. Mom was sitting on them, and it was really hard to get a photo. But meet my first baby gallinules of 2021…

Common Gallinule Babies at Nest
Common Gallinule Babies at Nest

A Double-crested Cormorant sat quietly on the edge of the lake. I got a few shots of his bright blue eye before a family arrived to feed the ducks.

Double-crested Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant

Most of the wintering ducks have left. I didn’t see a Ruddy Duck at all. So I was extra-surprised to see two female Lesser Scaups swimming near the water’s edge. The sun had finally started to come out, so I got a hint of light on their dark brown feathers. Pretty!

Lesser Scaup
Lesser Scaup

As the sun emerged and the fog burned off, I started out on another lap around the lake. More on that in the next posts!

Springtime Birding in the Backyard

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It’s definitely springtime! I’ve started seeing fun migrants passing through the backyard. My winter residents have started singing, and they are all molting into their beautiful breeding plumages. I had to get out there with my camera before they leave for their nesting grounds.

Blondie, my little Palm Warbler, is turning bright yellow! His head is a bright chocolate brown. He was hanging out in the honeysuckle, sipping from the nectar of the flowers.

Palm Warbler (Blondie)
Palm Warbler (Blondie)

Another Palm Warbler (one without a blond beak) hung out at the bird bath. His face and chest are also getting a yellow cast. He waited for the Painted Buntings to finish splashing around, then took his turn in the bird bath.

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler

Speaking of Painted Buntings, the males are going to leave any day now. The females stick around for a few more weeks, usually until around Earth Day. I’ve been hearing birdsong that I’m pretty sure is the Painted Buntings. One of these days, I hope one of them will perch out in the open and sing for my camera. :)

Painted Bunting
Painted Bunting

Another Bunting showed up recently, a nice migrant surprise. This next bird is an Indigo Bunting. The bird was molting from its brown winter colors to its bright blue springtime colors. He stayed for several days, probably enjoying the bird feeders as he got ready for the next stage of his migration.

Indigo Bunting
Indigo Bunting

He’s not the only blue bird in the backyard. The Eastern Bluebirds have started visiting every afternoon in the late afternoons. They fly in, take turns splashing in the birdbath, fluff out their feathers on the top of the porch, and then fly off again.

Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird

I put out a perch near the birdbath, hoping to give the birds a picturesque place to wait their turns under the water drip. But the first bird who noticed the perch didn’t care about the birdbath. This little House Wren sat high in the bushes to sing, flew down to inspect my perch, and then ended up standing on my birdcam. :)

House Wren
House Wren

Nearby, a pair of Common Ground Doves preened each other. They are definitely a nesting pair. Maybe one of these years I will find their nest. A third dove, possibly last year’s baby, hung out on the edge of a garden bed.

Common Ground Dove
Common Ground Dove

Two male Painted Buntings liked my red salvia plants. They perched in the flowery stalks, eating the seeds. I’m going to miss them when they leave!

Painted Bunting
Male Painted Buntings in Salvia

My last photo of the day was the Gray Catbird who took pity on me and landed briefly on my staged perch. He let me snap a few photos before he joined a second Gray Catbird in the birdbath. Splish, splash!

Gray Catbird
Gray Catbird