Go fish

Let me apologize in advance to nathalie with an h for not posting these photos until now.  I’ve been on call since Wednesday and have only last night enjoyed my first bit of sleep since Friday morning.  It’s been that kind of week and weekend.  But I digress…

Over a cup of coffee at Starbucks recently, we discussed the first All in a day’s walk in terms of photography, equipment, approach and so on—not to mention the plethora of wildlife presented.

You see, she’s a professional photographer with far more experience and much better equipment than I have, so I readily engage in “shop talk” with her as frequently as she’ll allow.  I listen intently, I ask questions, and I learn.

In terms of dealing with rough waters and strong winds and the other elemental considerations from January 18, we got around to discussing the image of a double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) carrying a fish.  That’s when I explained to her that that cormorant was in fact the second such bird to fight off a pelican while protecting its meal, and more importantly, the first cormorant had played with its much larger catch while swimming further away from me.

Those photos didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped due to distance and position: The birds were quite far from shore and I was facing south into the sun.  Therefore, I scrapped them.

Well, let’s be honest: Few of the pictures of things on the water’s surface turned out as well as I had hoped.  The water was simply too rough to provide a stable background.  I came home with a smorgasbord of photos showing empty water or bits of waterfowl hidden behind tall waves or subjects out of focus, all of which can be blamed on the fact that strong surface movement kept the whole of the lake in a perpetual state of turmoil.

This was the one case where, on the south side of Winfrey Point, the winds coming from the north ran aground and offered a tiny reprieve from the tumultuous waves inundating the rest of the lake.

As she and I talked a bit about what was in that post and I shared the story about the first cormorant, she adamantly said she wanted to see photo of the bird playing with its catch.  I agreed with one caveat: That she understand the photos weren’t as good as I would have liked.

So on with the tale…

I’ve explained before that many species join in when the pelicans hunt.  Unlike brown pelicans, white pelicans are surface feeders instead of divers.  They are also cooperative hunters: Groups of them form a floating line and push closer and closer together.  This herds fish into tighter and tighter circles until a feeding frenzy erupts as the pelicans finally meet in the middle.

Gulls, cormorants and ducks often join in this activity.  It’s actually quite interesting to watch since the pelicans will head out first and start congregating near the spillway.  As more and more of these avian giants leave, the cormorants begin flocking their way in the same direction.  Then go the gulls.  And any ducks already in the area or who see the activity likewise join the club.

When finally the pelicans begin to move, hundreds of waterfowl can be gathered together.  It looks like a naval fleet consisting of aircraft (gulls) and boats of varying sizes (pelicans, cormorants and ducks).  The cacophony will get your attention if the sight of so many creatures on the move doesn’t.

I saw the feeding flotilla out toward the center of the lake with spurious individuals sneaking away with whatever they caught.  Ducks and cormorants know that a pelican can and will kill them if it tries to go after a fish the lesser birds have in their possession.  It’s not that pelicans are violent or even trying to kill; it’s that they’re much larger than the other birds and can impale and/or drown them simply by trying to steal the fish.  (I’ve seen a cormorant grabbed in a pelicans beak and pushed underwater as the larger bird tried to “catch” the already caught fish.)

So the smart ones get out of the way fast when they have something to eat.

That’s when I first saw this cormorant.  The fish it carried was a large catfish that looked as big as the bird’s throat.  But I wasn’t the only one who noticed.  No sooner had I set my sights on the cormorant when a pelican flying back to Sunset Bay made a quick turn to intercept a free meal.  It landed pretty much on top of the cormorant, after which much splashing and wing flapping ensued.  Rough surface conditions made it impossible for me to see clearly what was happening so far out in the lake, yet I watched nonetheless in appreciation of the show.

After no more than 10 or 15 seconds, the pelican calmed down and floated quietly on the surface.  I didn’t see it eat anything, nor did I see the cormorant.  Then just as quickly as it had arrived, the pelican turned away and skipped across the surface of the lake as it took flight, then it arced silently and swept through the clear sky on its way back to the bay.

That’s when I noticed the cormorant had escaped with its meal!

A double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) swimming with a fish in its beak (2009_01_18_004692)

It broke the surface heading away from me.  I zoomed in as much as I could and snapped a photo.

Given the average size of cormorants, I estimated the catfish at about 1 foot/30 centimeters long.  Humans would consider it small by our fishing standards, but for a cormorant it certainly had to be viewed as a gluttonous feast.

I kept pressing the shutter button with the same belief I always have when taking photos: It’s digital, so it’s better to try and delete them later than not to try and miss something cool.

That’s when the cormorant turned and threw the fish into the air.

A double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) tossing a fish into the air (2009_01_18_004693)

I’d like to believe, like cats, the cormorant was enjoying a bit of predator-prey play (although prey hardly find it fun), but in truth I suspect the bird needed to change the fish’s position after nearly losing it to the pelican.

A double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) swimming with a fish in its beak (2009_01_18_004694)

It then turned away again and moved further toward the center of the lake, further from shore and into a more questionable photographic arena.  I was shooting at 400mm and still the bird was nothing but a black spot in the center of an ocean of blue.  (Yes, all of these photos are crops from much larger, much emptier images.  Eventually I will invest in a larger zoom telephoto lens, but not now and not soon.)

A double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) swimming with a fish in its beak (2009_01_18_004695)

Another westward turn and the bird-fish combo became increasingly difficult to focus on.  As it moved away from the cover of Winfrey Point, the wind-driven waves began creating an environment where mostly I saw water with a bit of cormorant hiding behind the blue.

A double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) swimming with a fish in its beak (2009_01_18_004696)

When it dashed through a large wave on its way to the dinner table, I pressed the button one more time before turning my attention toward the rest of my walk.

[note: these photos are in sequence and span a time frame of five seconds]

Walking out the door

I have a photo album spread out on the floor of my mind, pictures scattered across a carpet painted with home from decades ago, and I can’t move without bumping against more images from childhood.

There I am walking out the back door to feed the ducks.  I loved those birds.  I still do, albeit somewhere deep in the past when we still shared life with them, a memory with vitality dimmed by age.  They disappeared while we weren’t looking, sent to a place we never saw and never knew, relegated to the history of lives once cherished and all too soon tossed away by others.  We were promised they would have good lives in that unnamed place.  I still don’t know if I believe it.  I miss them.

There I am sitting on the bed with the windows open, soft breezes gently caressing me as they pass through a room marked only in silence and tears.  My face looks back from the mirror across from me, so I turn and look away.  That face belonged to someone else, yet it took me many years to realize that.

There I am coming home from Colorado to find our beloved dog vanquished to our mind’s eye by a stepmother who saw him as competition and not as companion.  I doubt any of us fully understood what that meant, that moment of realization when sacred became sacrifice in our absence.

There I am being stopped by store security convinced I stole something.  I was too young to spell shoplifting, and they sent two adults to frisk me.  My parents watched as two overbearing men searched me and came up with nothing, my pockets full of lint and hope.  Innocent, I still walked away feeling I’d done something wrong.

There I am at four in the morning staring at the Christmas tree and all the gifts tucked beneath it, the only person in the house not sleeping, and I would sit there until it was safe to wake the others.  I’d already checked the stockings and felt my way through all the presents in the dark.  Only a sense of timing kept me from doing more than sitting, waiting.  That was my tradition from as early as I could remember until the Christmas before I moved out.

There I am lying on the living room floor in a world constructed of a blanket and a pillow, and beside me, tucked beneath the covers with me, our precious Doberman snuggles against me and snores.  I hardly had the strength to leave her there so I could take a picture.

There I am carrying coleslaw to the picnic table as family gathers for a barbecue.  Broad tree limbs stretch out over us and shield us with verdant leaves that capture the sun and send shade in its place.  Chicken turned on the grill, laughter filled the air, horseshoes thrown.  I can still smell the fire as it sizzled and snapped.

There I am scared as hell while we tried to explain how the axle on my father’s truck could have been twisted in half while he was at work.  I cried during and after the whipping my brother received.  Too young to know better, it seemed like innocent fun before the damage was done.

There I am catching lightning bugs in the back yard, the sun below the horizon without taking its light with it, trees stretching into the sky like giants made of shadow, a simple glass jar carried with the utmost care as it glowed and flickered with each tiny luminescent monster captured.  They would all be set free in a blaze of glory that filled the whole of our world with dazzling, flying lights.

There I am picking fresh peaches from the tree in the front yard.  Their fuzz tickled my skin, so I’d hold them against my cheeks just to get that thrill.  Mom could whip up marvelous creations with the bushels of fruit that came off that tree.  And how that tree could grow.  Sometimes I felt certain it would take over the whole of the lot.

There I am walking to the bus stop, first at the end of the block, then down the street.  When buses no longer met our needs, I rode my bike to school.  Or walked.  Or rode with friends.  I watched cartoons at a friend’s house along the way, stopped and had donuts at a local shop, roamed around until I was late, and made every trip an adventure.

There I am going to the local library, a small child filled with the wonder of so many books just waiting for me to discover their secrets.  Later as I grew older, I stayed enamored of the written word and found that library a shrinking collection of available goodies.  But I never stopped going until I felt I’d read every piece of literature it had to offer.  Then I moved on to larger libraries.

There I am watching my stepsister’s car float down the road as torrential rains flooded our neighborhood.  We stood on the front porch and half-laughed and half-cried as the little sedan picked up and moved while wave after wave of water pushed everything along the way.

There I am kissing the first girl I ever kissed.  And the first guy.  Confusion marked the very essence of me.  I nearly missed the lightning that sparked in both cases simply because I was so nervous.

There I am running around the neighborhood like a wild child with three friends.  The world slept around us under a blanket of the deepest night, the hour so late that we should have been in bed asleep.  We caused trouble instead, invoking all manner of mayhem that young kids could cause on a summer night when nothing but opportunity rested before us.

There I am pushing my nephew around in a cardboard box on a layer of ice and snow that crippled all of Dallas.  Talk about snow day.  Bundled in the warmth of coats and glee, he drove while I motored, and together we slipped and slid in bitter cold on the whitest ground imaginable.  Nature’s glass makes a marvelous diversion for the young of heart.

There I am lying in bed with tears streaming from my eyes as I cry myself to sleep for the umpteenth time, a habit that defined my teen years.  I was lost, miserable, searching for something I wouldn’t recognize for many years, seeking answers to questions I couldn’t ask.

There I am riding to school with two friends, both of them giggling and gossiping from the front seat as I sat in back and laughed until I hurt.  One drove the car that was bigger than any battleship I’d ever seen while the other navigated.  And we rode in that same car to the local taco diner when, as seniors in high school, we could leave for lunch.

There I am sitting at the dining room table trying to convince my father that Tic Tacs he found in my dresser were not the drugs he thought they were.  A thorough search of my room while I was at school spelled the end of my childhood.  All that felt safe before then suddenly felt like a trap, and I couldn’t help but feel my home had become a cage.

There I am on the phone telling only a few what I intended but not where I headed.

There I am walking out the front door for the last time, my things gathered in a few suitcases and bags, the night stretched out before me with endless promise and angst.

I found the photo I was looking for.  It was there all along, a single image tucked beneath a flood of images.  It’s of a friend, a brother, a parent, a school, a pet, a book, a road, a sunset.  It’s a picture of childhood that rests in the past now decades removed from this place.  It’s faded, that image, yet clear and sharp when I brush away the cobwebs of time.

I miss it.  I miss the places and faces.  I miss the innocence.  I miss it, the time in that photo, the people who lived back then.

She sings to me in lesser times

Days are one by one the same: drudgery and turmoil, pain and anguish, worry and concern.

White-hot pavement scores the air with deformed breath, a wisp of illusion raised in waves that bend and distort the world.

Havoc cries from lonely breasts pierced by living daggers.

And I weep.

What comes in these shadows that torment?  What anguish must I suffer beneath this weight?

Oh, how she sings to me, her voice a siren upon the wind, a dagger opening old wounds as easily as it draws new ones made of flesh.

Call to me, dearest, for your voice paints life’s picture that too many ignore.

All in a day’s walk – January 18, 2009

Sunday’s walk was punctuated with strong winds and bright sunshine.  As I’ve developed a great deal of respect for the wind and what it can do while I’m trying to take photographs, not the least of which is knock me on my butt, I tried to direct my walk toward those areas where gusty onslaughts would pose the least problems.

I headed out my front door and walked to the north shore of Sunset Bay to see if I could find my kestrel friend (which I did), and from there I wandered south to Garland Road, then west to the spillway and into the Old Fish Hatchery Nature Area.  Before I even reached Winfrey Point, however, I ran across some rather unique ducks.

A male bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) swimming away from shore (2009_01_18_004678)

Jenny once mentioned she walked at the lake and found herself in awe of the “baffleheads” swimming about near shore.

I corrected her on the name, and thereafter we both laughed uproariously in agreement that it probably wasn’t the ducks who were baffled.

I generally find buffleheads (Bucephala albeola) all along the eastern shore of the lake, and this time was no different.

As diving ducks go, they spend a great deal of time away from land where the water is deep enough for them to get below the surface and search for food, so getting close to one for a good photograph isn’t an opportunity that presents itself.

Add enough wind to create white caps that can hide in its troughs this small waterfowl and you can imagine the difficulty had with capturing an image.

An American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) skimming the water's surface as it lands (2009_01_18_004700)

No visit to White Rock Lake in winter can be complete without seeing the American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos).

Watching this one ski in for a landing was a delight indeed.

Having flown from the spillway where a great many pelicans remained engaged in a cooperative hunt, this one came in with direct aim at a cormorant carrying a fish.

The pelican pursued the other bird for a brief time, but the cormorant won.

A double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) carrying a small fish in its beak (2009_01_18_004766)

Having escaped the much larger pelican who had set its sight on a free meal, this double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) scurried away from the gaping maws with a daring bit of fast swimming, after which it was left in peace to enjoy its catch.

While the fish might seem small, a cormorant seen earlier held a much bigger prize: a catfish at least three times as large as this one.

When it comes to how these birds eat, one thing is true: Nothing is too big or too small, especially in winter when more competition fills the lake with hungry mouths.

By the way: Although cormorants swim low in the water, this one is more than swimming low; it’s in a trough between high waves pushed across the lake by blustery winds.  You’d normally see at least part of its back and the whole of its neck.  Not this time, though.

A pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) swimming in rough waters (2009_01_18_004782)

Childlike, pied-billed grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) are so small and delicate that I always think of them as juveniles tossed out into the wild to fend for themselves.

This one struggling to swim against the onslaught of wind and wave beckoned for help solely by its appearance.

Don’t you want to just swim out there and help it?  I know I did.

Photographing this species is one of the most difficult prospects imaginable.  At the first perceived threat, they dive underwater and swim for all they’re worth, often moving several yards/meters in a random direction.

When they dive, all I can do is watch the entire area in hopes of spotting it when it surfaces.  That’s assuming, I mean, that it surfaces within sight.  That’s not always the case.

A great egret (Ardea alba) standing on fallen bamboo at the water's edge (2009_01_18_004811)

Great egrets (Ardea alba).  Ubiquitous throughout the year along with a litany of other heron and egret species, these birds help define the essence of this lake.  I can’t recall a single walk along its shores that didn’t offer at least one encounter with this large, stunning avian creature.

Perched on a bamboo float drifting against the ground, this beautiful adult captivated me with its grace, its agility, its pure essence defined by majestic white plumage.

It tolerated so many humans who passed by unaware of its presence.  And a shame that was, too, for it remained there for quite some time, posing as it were, and anyone witnessing it from nearby was all the better for it.

At least until some nitwit let his dog chase the bird away.  That’s a travesty of this lake: Too many careless people with unattended canines, and I’ve seen more than a few of those free-running dogs kill more than a little of the wildlife that lives here.  Watching a mindless git pat his dog cheerfully as it holds a dead duck in its mouth is one of the more disgusting things you can ever see…

When I finally made it around the southern end of the lake to the Audubon park behind the spillway, I lost myself in dense woodlands and impassible marshes.  The Old Fish Hatchery Nature Area remains one of my favorite haunts at White Rock.  It provides year-round exposure to a plethora of nature’s marvels.  Here I’ve seen many species of owl, hawk, eagle, egret and heron, chickadee, warbler, thrasher, duck, goose and many other birds, not to mention opossums, raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, two species of fox, snakes and turtles and lizards galore, and a litany of other denizens most would be surprised to find in the heart of DFW.  Yet here they are and here they live.

A tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) perched on a small limb while watching me (2009_01_18_004911)

The tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) is a mouthy little bird.

This one cried ad nauseam from dry marshlands as I circled on the trails and followed it through naked trees and evergreen shrubs.

Many times it became nothing more than a voice in the forest, a chattering life leading me from one footstep to the next.

It never lost sight of me, I suspect, as each time I found it again it was staring at me, yelling at me even.  How delightful!

Because it lives here throughout the year, I fear I might take it for granted more often than I think (like so many other species that become mundane and ordinary).  What a shame that is.  This bird is such a joy to watch and hear.

A northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) high in the treetops (2009_01_18_004934)

As woodpeckers go, the northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) remains an enigma.

Less evident than the red-bellied, hairy and downy woodpeckers yet still more obvious than the yellow-bellied sapsucker, this species seems easier to find at backyard feeders than within its natural habitat.

Well, perhaps it’s more visible at feeders than it is within its normal habitat given the density of trees within which I’ve always found it, not to mention its marvelous camouflage.  A back yard is an easier viewing platform than is a forest overflowing with ligneous, verdant obstacles.

I stalked this poor female like a hapless teenager circling the block where my latest love lives.  I’m not sure she made the distinction between that and a general nuisance.

An American robin (Turdus migratorius) perched on a tree limb while watching me (2009_01_18_005031)

What can be said about American robins (Turdus migratorius)?

They live here all the time, digging their way through yards looking for worms in the morning and flitting about trees and shrubs searching for fruit in the evening.

I scared up a handful of these birds when I stumbled—literally—and fell into a dry marsh replete with doves, robins, squirrels, flycatchers and sparrows.

They never saw it coming.  Neither did I, especially as I brushed myself off and tried to act as though I meant to be in the dirt at that very moment.

Not even I believed as much.

A red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) and an unidentified turtle sunning themselves on a log (2009_01_18_005040)

Our winter has been anything but predictable.

Green anoles have come out of hibernation early to find insects scarce; some insects have arrived early to find the environment less than welcoming.

Some days are very warm; others are very cold.  Mostly it’s warm, and the lack of rain worries everyone.

One of the marshes offered a great deal of wildlife, but it also protected them with dense reeds and shrubs that offered only a small hole here or there through which I could see.

Nevertheless, a log near shore seemed almost busy with a red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) warming itself alongside an unidentified turtle.

I wondered about them, wondered about what the weather would give them, and wondered how they might survive this distressing and confusing deluge of this and that.

A male house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) perched on a limb while watching me (2009_01_18_005056)

Pushing my way through a thicket that had overgrown the trail, a menagerie of birds hailed my arrival with all manner of insults.

They didn’t like me forcing my way through the natural fence that protected them.

Yet even facing into the sun, I recognized this house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) who perched on a branch and screamed at me from behind a cloak of blinding sunlight.

His mate, only a wee bit to my right, held her own from behind an impenetrable shield of branches I eventually turned away from.

Later, as I wound my way through trails that hardly seemed used in ages, I appreciated more and more the position the finches held.

My every effort focused on protecting my eyes and the camera lens from assault by the world’s bony fingers, yet the finches rested comfortably within those skeletal hands.

I left the nature area after wandering for hours, all the while never seeing the same trail twice.  I scampered back out into the bright sunshine and noisy city and returned the way I came, circling back around the south end of the lake toward home.

A male northern shoveler (Anas clypeata) swimming in rough water (2009_01_18_005064)

I marched along Garland Road with the lake sprawling out to the north with a host of waterfowl swimming in what looked like a large collection of flotsam.

Mixed in with the other birds was a handful of northern shovelers (Anas clypeata).

Although they hide quite well, this duck species can usually be found here in all but the hottest months.

Smaller than mallard ducks, they pass unnoticed for all but the careful observer.

I’m a careful observer.

They haunt the places where few go, skulk about in silence and shadow hoping no predator will notice.

I found this male swimming about with a few of his brothers and sisters.

Tired, my back aching from such a long walk, even I had to stop and take notice of this migrant.

A paddling of gadwalls (Anas strepera) swimming in rough waters (2009_01_18_005100)

The sun beating down on me, wind howling in my ears, my legs begging me to stop and let them rest, I stumbled along the edge of the lake many hours after I began my journey.

The flotilla of avians greeted my every step.

I noticed a paddling of gadwalls (Anas strepera) amongst the birds swimming and hunting.

Three males and two females all but escaped notice as they pretended to be detritus on the water, a bit of nondescript debris surfing the harsh waves.

The everyman of the duck world, these birds inspire me with their subdued colors.

A male ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) floating on rough water while a pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) preens behind him (2009_01_18_005109)

It goes without saying that almost every encounter I have with a ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) is when it’s sleeping, usually large groups of them floating carefree with heads tucked beneath wings.

Finding this male swimming, his eyes open, excited me to no end.

That he and several others of his kind were so far away in rough water frustrated me to no end.

Thus is the curse of nature photography, I suppose.

And yet the other piece of the puzzle that enamored me of this moment is that another pied-billed grebe can be seen just behind the duck.

Oblivious to me since I was so far away and up high on a ridge overlooking the lake, for once the little critter didn’t vanish beneath the waves.

Instead, it just preened and floated along sans a care in the world.

A Forster's tern (Sterna forsteri) flying away (2009_01_18_005166)

When I finally made it back to Winfrey Point just south of Sunset Bay, I knew home was a few minutes away.

My feet had already started thanking me while my thirst had already started feeling quenched.

But as I walked through dry grass and listened to dry reeds play a woeful yet invigorating song as they danced in the breeze, I noticed a handful of birds flying back and forth along the shore.

I was facing south into the sun, yet even that didn’t stop me from recognizing the Forster’s terns (Sterna forsteri) hunting the shallows and occasionally skimming the water’s surface for a drink or plunging in to catch a small fish.

They spent most of the time cruising, though, passing me both coming and going as they repeatedly flew to and from territorial markers only they could see.

A female yellow-rumped warbler (a.k.a. myrtle warbler or Audubon’s warbler; Dendroica coronata) perched in the top of a tree (2009_01_18_005228)

I passed through Sunset Bay without stopping as the warm weather had beckoned crowds of people to the park.

Throngs jogged and rode bicycles, others picnicked, some meandered as though lost, a few walked dogs or pushed strollers, a handful jockeyed for positions along the shore where they could snap a few pictures, and many engaged in whatever activities would keep them from facing the tumultuous city hidden behind the enclosing woods.

Not wanting to be mobbed in the virtual chaos, I shoved off and let my feet carry me toward home by way of following a creek.

When a belted kingfisher flew by me at top speed, a blue-and-white blur recognized only by its call, I noticed a smaller bird as it landed in a tree nearby.

A female yellow-rumped warbler (a.k.a. myrtle warbler or Audubon’s warbler; Dendroica coronata), dressed in the myrtle form plumage, perched on a limb and watched the goings on with an almost sad indifference.

Projection notwithstanding, she sang a bit as I stood beneath her and watched, after which she went her way and I went mine.

I returned home by early afternoon and began the quest to do some chores, download and process the images from my walk, read a bit, and spend time with The Kids.

Oh, but wait!  You want to know about the encounter with “a creature rare in these parts that sent shivers down my spine for having seen it in the heart of Dallas“.

Let me tell you about that.

Near the beginning of my walk as I marched along the southeastern edge of the lake behind the arboretum, I noticed a large bird circling over the trees to the east.  The treeline was too near and too dense for me to see it clearly, but I could see it was large.

Probably a vulture, I thought given its size, yet the colors vexed me a tad.  With the bright sunny sky and where the sun was in relation to the bird and my viewing angle, I tossed off the issue as an optical illusion.

But I couldn’t take my eyes of the creature because its size and colors couldn’t be reconciled with any of the usual suspects, even if I considered the hues to be deceptive due to the sunshine and where I stood.

And something about the way it held its wings with the ends swept back a bit, not out straight like a hawk, eagle or vulture would do while soaring.

So I watched it as it circled nearer and nearer.  It seemed to be heading directly for my position, and I knew that would mean I’d have about three seconds to snap photos once it came out from behind the treeline.  After that, it would disappear into the bright sun.

Just as I realized my opportunity for a clear view would be extremely short, it finished its last arc and moved southwest.  Right over me.

An osprey (a.k.a. seahawk, fish hawk, or fish eagle; Pandion haliaetus) flying overhead (2009_01_18_004798)

I pressed the button as quickly as I could while the bird flew overhead.  The moment lasted a few seconds only, after which the massive creature vanished behind a curtain of bright light.

But I already knew what it was.

Ospreys (a.k.a. seahawk, fish hawk, or fish eagle; Pandion haliaetus) migrate through this area but don’t normally hang around long.  Seeing one is a momentous occasion since the lake is in the middle of Dallas proper.

An osprey (a.k.a. seahawk, fish hawk, or fish eagle; Pandion haliaetus) flying overhead (2009_01_18_004800)

Neither an eagle nor a hawk, ospreys fill a biological niche that no other creature fills.  It’s the only species in its family and genus, a bird of prey that inhabits all continents save Antarctica and that has no taxonomic siblings or cousins—only distant relatives.

An osprey (a.k.a. seahawk, fish hawk, or fish eagle; Pandion haliaetus) flying overhead (2009_01_18_004801)

This one had a wingspan of about two meters/six feet, so it was a fully grown adult.

After it disappeared in the sun’s brilliance, I had a new bounce in my step and an ear-to-ear grin on my face.  Others around me who looked up to see what I was photographing didn’t appear to realize what they had seen, or they just didn’t care.  Too bad.

Introducing ‘All in a day’s walk’

When I talked about trying to clear the glut of photographs that I never seem to get to, some dating back years, I was silly for not realizing it wouldn’t be possible to keep up with the growing collection.  I mean, it’s not as though I stopped taking pictures in the interim.

Since over the last few weeks I’ve had some exceptional walks at the lake that yielded marvelous encounters and related images, I’m beginning a new continuing series of posts entitled “All in a day’s walk” that will hopefully enable me to somewhat keep up with my obsessive compulsion with photography (mostly nature photography, sure, but I expect other things will pop up from time to time).

Each post in this series will include photographs from a single trek that are worth sharing and that don’t have a standalone story to go with them (and there are plenty of those to come as well).

I expect some of these posts will be rather image-intensive and others will be spartan.

And since it included a creature rare in these parts that sent shivers down my spine for having seen it in the heart of Dallas, I will begin with yesterday’s hike.