Tag Archives: domestic greylag goose (Anser anser)

Let them sing

In songs I cannot hold I feel the world touch me.  In places I cannot go I find myself wandering through a landscape of music.  In voices familiar I find unknown friends.

Eastern phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) singing from a tree branch (2009_03_08_012482)

I cannot deny the totality of my failure.  More always can be taken.  I have no escape from that palpable lesson of loss.

A drake wood duck (Aix sponsa) calling out at sunset (2009_02_13_008525)

Yet I find that dark moment at least partially illuminated with the brightness of song, a chorus of voices innumerable and vast.

A female red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) calling out from the treetops (2009_02_03_006168)

Like carolers some bring their gifts right to my door, yet others I must seek out like opera.

A domestic greylag goose (Anser anser) honking as it swims by (2009_02_03_006504)

The calls of life surround me, blanket me in a warmth that permeates the darkest cold.

A domestic Indian runner (a.k.a. Indian runner duck or runner; Anas platyrhynchos) quacking at sunset (2009_02_03_007053)

Standing witness to this musical legion balms the open sore of failure and begins healing the wounded self.

A Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) singing from the bushes surrounding the patio (2009_01_31_005332)

It’s somewhat like taking alms from the universe.

A male great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) calling out (2008_12_07_001616)

Yet I feel no shame in receiving this charity, this gift from those who have it to give.

A male northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) singing from a treetop (2009_02_20_010310)

Let them sing.  And let me lose myself in the singing.

For even today the needful, lonesome calls of mourning doves filled the shadowy hours of dawn, and I let my eyes climb the tree outside the patio as they followed the plaintive calls to those offering their voices to the chill morning: a pair who had already built a nest in the outer branches.  This can help.

— — — — — — — — — —


[1] Eastern phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)

[2] Wood duck (Aix sponsa), drake

[3] Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus), female

[4] Domestic greylag goose (Anser anser)

[5] Indian runner (a.k.a. Indian runner duck or runner; Anas platyrhynchos), domestic breed

[6] Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

[7] Great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus), male

[8] Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), male

All in a day’s walk – December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve.  Warm weather and plenty of sunshine beckoned me to the lake for an afternoon walk following yet another day of laborious boredom in the office.  Someone has to pay the bills around here…

In the minute plus a few seconds it took me to walk down the private drive into the park, already I had to stop, had to take notice.

A tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) clinging to the underside of a large branch (2008_12_24_002691)

Have I mentioned how enamored I am of the tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)?

Something about such small bodies full of such attitude, full of such piss and vinegar.

They enthrall me.

This one clinging to the bottom of a large tree bellowed its opinions upon the still air as I stood beneath.

I love the attitude.  I love that they join in the mobbing of predators even when all other participants dwarf them by leaps and bounds.  I love that they scream their superiority upon the wind sans consideration for the size of all challengers.

I love their bigger-than-life personalities.

After watching this one pillage the trunk to which it clung, I moved on a bit, although I didn’t make it far before I came across a beautiful man who likewise yelled at me as I invaded his space.

A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) perched on the side of a tree (2008_12_24_002697)

A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) flitted from branch to branch prior to landing in the tree under which I stood.

I backed away from both plant and animal the moment I saw him so I could get a better view.

And he immediately complained about the encounter.

I’ve stood beneath this species as two of its kind tussled from high up until they fell to the ground with a thud.

A loud thud, one that worried me as I set my gaze upon the birds wrestling in winter grass.

Both took to wing as I tried to sneak closer, so no serious damage was done, although I feared for both of them with how far they fell and the rather abrupt stop that sounded like a bowling ball hitting the ground.

But on this day, this warm Christmas Eve, no challengers save me could be found, so no tussle ensued.

Yapping the whole way, he climbed further up the tree at which point I left him to his day.

A turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) soaring overhead (2008_12_24_002721)

While American black vultures usually play hard to find, turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) rarely miss an opportunity to be seen.  They’re rather conceited that way, thinking themselves awfully pretty and awfully worth looking at.

After leaving the woodpecker to his quest for lunch, I stopped near the confluence in Sunset Bay to watch some people feeding the waterfowl.  Sure, the city frowns on that practice and posts signs declaring as much, but people still do it.  All the time.

I knelt in the brittle winter grass and wallowed in the sound of it crunching beneath my knees.

Then a shadow passed over me, a large one sweeping across the ground like a paint brush dripping with darkness wielded by a true artist.

I looked up.

The vulture had just started its climb into the air.

Despite being mostly behind trees from my perspective, a tiny space between two ligneous leviathans gave me the room needed to take a photo.

Such beautiful creatures these vultures, these seekers of death who can inflict it as easily as they find it inflicted by others.

A male great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) foraging on the ground (2008_12_24_002733)

Then a brief sound arose from the hoard jockeying for a bit of bread from the old couple feeding the wildlife.  A raspy, throaty, scratching sound I know all too well.

A male great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) finished his declaration of supremacy with a downward sweep to inspect some shiny bauble that caught his attention.

Actually, it was a bit of bread tossed to him by the elderly man.  He seemed to appreciate grackles as much as I do, a feeling rare in these parts where most feel grackles are a nuisance only.

The female grackle who remained close to him made less of a photographic subject as she darted to and fro.

Too bad, too, as she was as lovely as he in very different ways.

A domestic greylag goose (Anser anser) swimming in the creek (2008_12_24_002737)

I think it’s unfortunate that people have released so many domestic swan geese and domestic greylag geese (Anser anser) at the lake.

Whether Chinese or African, these poor birds can hardly fly and have such a limited diet available that they require daily feedings from humans, something teaching other wildlife to depend on us for sustenance.

Yet would I wish them harm?  Clearly: No.

What I do wish is for people to be responsible, to understand the repercussions of their actions, to appreciate the delicate balance this lake requires for it to sustain the biological niche it serves: a full and vigorous wildlife refuge surrounded by some of Dallas’s most inner reaches.

If you can’t stop feeding the wildlife, at least stop feeding them processed foods like white bread.  It’s bad for them; it shortens their lives.

So when peripherally I saw this goose swimming by in the creek, I turned away from the grackle, shifted my knees on the ground, snapped this photo, and then wondered: How can you survive without people feeding you?  How much living will you miss because you need whatever humans provide in the way of sustenance?  How much sympathy can you expect from those who mindlessly tossed you here to eke out a living in a place that can’t support your kind?

Before welling up in tears, thankfully more swift movement from another direction helped me look away, helped me put those thoughts aside.

An American coot (Fulica americana) running by me (2008_12_24_002738)

This American coot (Fulica americana) dashed at full speed toward where I knelt.

But not so much at me as by me.

For I knelt in the brittle, dry grass only an arm’s length from where the elderly couple stood feeding the birds.

I regret that the coot was moving so fast and was so close that I couldn’t get a good photo.

I don’t regret that it was moving so fast and was so close that I captured this full gallop image as it raced headlong toward a free meal ticket.

Unlike the geese, coots do just fine on their own and survive here sans handouts.  But they’re thankful for the treats nonetheless.

It was then I tried gracefully to explain to the well-intentioned man and woman that feeding the animals doesn’t help, and I danced around and finally plunged headlong into saying the dinner rolls they offered made a terrible lunch for these animals, an unhealthy tidbit for humans and animals alike.

Blank stares mixed with offense drifted before me.

So I stood, my knees popping and cracking their complaints, and I turned away and walked to the pier.

An American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) flying above the lake's surface (2008_12_24_002784)

American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) created perpetual motion with their comings and goings.

Some flew back to the bay after feeding while others flew out of the bay searching for lunch.

Catching this one winging its way back to the sandbar for some preening and rest gave me an opportunity to memorialize the pre-breeding beak.

You’ll notice there is no “horn” on top of its beak.  That horn begins growing in January or February as breeding season approaches.

As each bird prepares to woo a mate and secure a chance at procreating, a growth forms on top of the bill that eventually becomes the pelican version of a rhinoceros horn.

I always know the pelicans will leave soon when all of them sport this neat little accoutrement.

For now I can see they’ll be here a while longer.

A double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) perched in a tree (2008_12_24_002790)

Although Sunset Bay is my favorite place at the lake, large crowds on a welcoming pre-holiday afternoon made it too busy for my tastes.

I headed south along the east shore.

The northern edge of Winfrey Point gave me a moment to stop and appreciate a perched double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus).

My approach caught its attention and it turned to watch me, its jewel-like blue eye capturing the sun with splendor.

But then I realized I was on the wrong end of the bird.

Immediately after I snapped that photo, it’s tail went up.

I pressed the button again.

Then the reason for the lifted tail become clear: This one was clearing its bowels.

I turned away at the last minute considering I was quite close and didn’t have much interest in seeing that from the business end of the bird.

Instead, I moved on.

A killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) standing in an open field of dry grass (2008_12_24_002801)

I rounded Winfrey Point and saw gobs of people lining the shore as far south as Garland Road.  Apparently visiting the lake had become a major draw.

Facing the horde totally stepped on my buzz; therefore, I circled around the point and moved uphill back toward Sunset Bay.

Walking through a winter field of dry grass around these parts can scare up some interesting creatures.

The most common field inhabitant is the killdeer (Charadrius vociferus).

I must have thrashed the afternoon nap of at least a dozen of these plovers.

When they’re resting in brown ground cover as they’re wont to do, they become marvelously invisible until they start moving.

And when they start moving, they put a sharp eye on the interloper—in this case, me!—and they make a ruckus to let the invader know a sacred territory has been breached.


I left them to their siesta and continued back toward the bay.

A European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) in nonbreeding plumage perched on a branch (2008_12_24_002837)

Feeling a bit like a lost child making loops through a store to find a parent only to keep seeing the same places over and over again, I passed boisterous crowds of people while trying to make my way through Sunset Bay and toward what I hoped to be quieter places near Stone Tables and places further north.

Along the way I couldn’t help but stop and appreciate some of the winter flora, like skeletal trees holding up the bones of the world for all to see.

And resting upon one such bone was this European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) in nonbreeding plumage.

I can agree with many that this species is invasive and that it has upset the natural order of North America.

I can also agree with many that this species makes life a lot more difficult for our native wildlife.

But I have to add this: We can’t undo what has been done.

Humans loosed the European starling onto this continent in an asinine attempt to introduce all the birds of Shakespeare upon the New World.

That didn’t go so well, at least for native birds who found a great deal of unhealthy competition suddenly set upon them by these aggressor species.

Nevertheless—and I repeat myself—we can’t undo what has been done, and we did it to ourselves.

So I accept the European starling as a disruptive element in our ecosystem.

I don’t like what it does and I don’t like the damage it inflicts, but I wouldn’t kill them all even if I could.  They can’t be blamed for our actions.

I left the starling to its lonely afternoon.

Two male lesser scaups (Aythya affinis) floating on calm water (2008_12_24_002868)

And where did I end up again?

Right back at the pier in Sunset Bay.

The thick mass of humanity had cleared a bit.  But only a bit.

I took the opportunity to crouch on the creaky wooden planks above calm water.

Lesser scaups (Aythya affinis) delight me to no end.  The Daffy Ducks of the world, they tickle me with their cartoonish looks.

Yet animated and childlike though they might seem, they’re also quite beautiful.

These two males floated carefree not too far from where I dangled myself over the lake trying to take photos.

Do they look concerned?


A juvenile ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) flying by me (2008_12_24_002897)

Stand to leave.

Hear shrieking from the air.

Turn to look.

Busybodies fly all around ready to swoop from the sky and nab tasty goodies from anyone who offers—or who can’t withstand the assault.

This juvenile ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) screamed its way by me.

I seriously doubt it had any clue why it was screeching or what it thought it might get in return for the yelling.

Well, truth be told, people expend a lot of effort feeding the wildlife here.

The gull probably thought it worth asking if I had a little something to share.

But I had nothing but the camera.

The bird swept easily through the air and circled the pier for a moment or two, then off it went in search of other trouble.

A white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica) perched in a tree (2008_12_24_002951)

Still too crowded for my tastes, I again left the pier, only this time I headed east along the creek.  The riparian landscape heavy with trees and thickets always offers a different smorgasbord of creatures.

Where I had first photographed green herons and yellow-crowned night herons, only naked branches stood in the afternoon warmth.

But something else was there as well.

Tucked back in the many islands of the confluence perched this white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica).

Okay, let’s be honest: I scared up a litany of animals.  And I was on the opposite side of the creek!

Foraging in the crunchy, leaf- and twig-filled barren wasteland that is the winter ground, this dove became startled as I approached.  It then flitted into a tree where it felt safe watching me.

In turn, I felt bad for bothering it and walked away as quietly as I could.

A Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) perched in a tree (2008_12_24_002963)

Which was about three steps before something else caught my eye.

Leaping from branch to branch as it nibbled at winter fruit and seeds, this Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) paused only briefly.

Its afternoon was full, you see, what with the whole chasing down lunch in winter thing that was going on.

Kinglets, titmice, woodpeckers, doves and other birds filled the area with the business of being busy, yet something about this little conspicuous critter held my attention.

It never moved closer to the edge of the creek where I might have had a clearer view.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed watching it through a barrier of naked limbs from where I perched on the opposite side of the waterway.

But then I had that feeling of being watched.

Strange how that works, how we somehow know when eyes are fixed upon us.

And I knew there were eyes resting all over me, intent and unflinching eyes.

So I turned.

A northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) perched in a tree (2008_12_24_002979)

I commented at Mary’s place recently about northern mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos) being my always companions when I take walks.

No matter the weather, no matter the surroundings, no matter the time of day, it never fails that a member of this species will be nearby keeping close tabs on me.  Even when all other birds scatter and hide, a mockingbird will fly in close and land in a place where it can watch me.

It’s become a sort of game, at least on my part.  The challenge is to find the bird.

And I always find one.

This particular mockingbird chose a bright sunny branch dangling over the creek that gave it a clear view of my position.

To test its mettle, I walked intently back toward the lake.  It hopped a bit further out on the branch to keep me in sight.

So I turned and walked back the other way, back toward the floodplain and Dixon Branch.  Its eyes tracked me like a predator watching a meal.

I laughed and thanked it for keeping everyone safe from the dangerous man with the camera.

An eastern boxelder bug nymph (Boisea trivittata) on a common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) (2008_12_24_002990)

Walking at the creek’s edge toward the bridge that would let me cross to the floodplain, flashes of gold punctuated each step.  Common dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) stood upright and showy, some still flowers while others had gone to seed.

A bit of movement on one of them drew me in closer.

A nymph.  More specifically, a young eastern boxelder bug (Boisea trivittata).

With a telephoto zoom lens on the camera, macro photography was out of the question.  In fact, I had to back away a few steps to get the scene in focus.

Sometimes I wish I could carry the whole camera store with me when I go for walks.

A true bug and not just an insect, these little critters can form rather large colonies when food is abundant.  Just ask xocobra: He and his family had a massive group of them take up residence outside their front door.

I grinned as I left the child to its investigation of the dandelion.

A fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) in a tree holding a wad of black plastic in its mouth (2008_12_24_003001)

The sound of claws scampering on wood drew my eyes up to the treetops.

A fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) ran from limb to limb, jumping from tree to tree, then paused when it realized I was watching it.

From my perspective, I knew it carried something in its mouth and I wanted to know what it was.

A bit of zoom and a button click made it clear: a wad of black plastic.

Nesting material I bet.  Or at least hope.  Yet also a sign of our lack of care and management.  I’ve seen too much garbage harm too many creatures at this lake.

It always disappoints and angers me.

Seeing this little tree rat leaping about with this material made me hope it didn’t pose a threat later.

A fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) and an American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) foraging in winter grass (2008_12_24_003027)

I crossed the bridge and left the path as quickly as possible to escape the growing throng of people.  Who knew Christmas Eve was a major let’s-go-to-the-lake event?

Twigs and grass cracked and crackled beneath my feet as I walked onto the floodplain south of Dixon Branch.

Once I made it to the dry gulch that runs into the woods, I scared up a murder of crows perched in the trees above me.

Why crows are so skittish is beyond me.  They were so high up in the tree and I was still some distance from them, yet they panicked.

I followed their progress through the treetops and slowly turned until I saw another fox squirrel joining an American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) for a spot of afternoon foraging.

I was too far away for a good photo, so I walked slowly toward them with one eye looking through the viewfinder as I clicked and clicked.

As if I had leaped upon it from nearby, the crow suddenly took to the air and headed right for the trees.

I wasn’t even close enough to throw a stone at it, let alone pose a risk.

I tried capturing the escape even though I knew I was too far away.

What I captured was something else.

An American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) landing in a tree with a red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) hiding in the branches (2008_12_24_003034)

Telephoto lenses aren’t particularly good at wide landscape shots.  Still, this image tells a story.

In the upper-left corner is the crow landing in the trees.  That’s simple enough.

Let’s talk about perspective: The branch that runs from the crow’s position to the right side of the picture actually juts out quite some distance above the floodplain.  It’s a large, heavy branch.

Now follow that branch to the right side of the photo just about centered from top to bottom.

See a hint of red and brown perched amongst the branches?

A juvenile red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) sat in the tree in a place where it was perfectly camouflaged, a place that gave it a clear view of the birds and squirrels foraging in the open, a clear line of attack if only one of the animals would move far enough away from the thicket to give the hawk time.

I never realized the hawk was there as I walked toward the crows and squirrels.  In fact, it wasn’t until I was within about five yards/meters that the hawk finally saw me as a nuisance and left its perch.

It scared the heck out of me, took me completely by surprise.

The predator made a quick leap into the air and turned immediately into the dense woodlands.  Unlike its adult counterparts, it was still small enough to make a quick getaway through the branches, one replete with sharp turns and easy avoidance of the obstacles.

I wanted to kick myself for not seeing it sooner.

Exotic isn’t necessary

I don’t always know what I will see, let alone photograph, when I go for walks.  Although the rare occasion pops up when I set out on a quest to find a particular something or other, mostly I let my body and eyes wander aimlessly so I don’t miss the artwork of the mundane.  Well, that’s assuming any of nature’s handiwork can be called mundane.

Something in the ordinary, the usual, too often goes unnoticed.  “Oh, it’s just a duck.”  “Sparrows?  How boring.”  “We don’t see autumn foliage in Texas like you see up north, you know.  Down here it just goes from green to dead in a few days.”  The list goes on.

Truth be told, so much beauty rests unappreciated in what too many call pedestrian.  If only they’d look closer.

Domerstic swan geese (Anser cygnoides) and domestic greylag geese (Anser anser) paddling about a local creek (20081025_14134)

I myself sometimes fail to notice what should be seen yet passes right before my eyes with nary a glance.  And shame on me for that!

Even a gaggle of our local domestic geese deserves more than apathy.  They bring verve and vigor to the lake, their loud voices ringing across the water’s surface and echoing in defiance of the woodlands.  Would that I could gift them for the splendor they bring to my life.

A pekin duck (a.k.a. domestic duck, white pekin duck, or Long Island duck; Anas domesticus) taking a bath (20081101_14213)

Of all the ducks in all the world, White Rock Lake boasts a year-round population of many species, not the least of which can be found bathing in early morning light in the shallows of Sunset Bay.  I stand upon the pier which beckons to me all too often, and there I see a familiar vision which even to me seems nothing short of routine.

But then I look closer, look with eyes intent on devouring the majestic hidden within the unexciting.  Even as I look on, snap photos, appreciate, others glance here and there, perhaps mentioning the water thrown this way and that by a simple white duck, and finally seek more exciting fare.

And I wonder what might be more exciting than this…

Rock doves (a.k.a. common pigeon; Columba livia) perched on the juts of a pier (20081101_14249)

The common pigeon.  They draw their beauty from their forefathers, the rock doves, the progenitors of all pigeons, and they carry to this day an iridescent beauty and unmistakable aura that rarely is as admired as it should be.

I sat upon my favorite pier and let these birds join me, along with dozens of their friends.  Some allowed me to touch them, others allowed me to serve as a perch, and yet more scampered about me as though I didn’t exist, ducking beneath my legs, walking over my hands, standing next to my arms.  Almost an hour burned away in the autumn sun as we enjoyed the morning together.

A male house sparrow (Passer domesticus) clinging to the branch of a shrub (20081020_13882)

Rested upon a branch within a shrub so near that I might reach out and touch him, this male house sparrow accepted my presence, my invasive spirit as I poked my camera in his face, and he never budged for all my commotion.

What a ubiquitous marvel he is.  What a common artwork he proffers to those willing to notice.

American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) and American coots (Fulica americana) preening on a sandbar (20081101_14233)

Pelicans and coots preen upon the desolate sandbar jutting across the bay.  Busy with their grooming, they fail to notice the autumnal canvas nature paints behind them upon what was just a few weeks ago a lush, verdant, green landscape.

I bear witness to the changing of the seasons, to the changing of the guard.  Like these birds, I feel the warmth of a cool day whilst enjoying a potent magic offered up for our enjoyment.  I notice the magnificent display, however, much unlike my avian counterparts.

Golden autumnal foliage sheltering an uphill path at White Rock Lake. (20081101_14476)

Golden canopies stretch endlessly as they mix with reds and browns and greens and hues untold.  Simple yellows, some claim, although they fail to see the truth of the moment.

The trail leading up the hill toward my home snakes its way beneath a sky contrasted by trees intent on showing their autumnal best.  I scarcely knew a moment of peace as I walked this path.  Sunlight falling against and through the gorgeous arms of life succumbing to seasonal sleep brushed upon the bones of the world a gorgeous shelter of color, a shelter beneath which I lost myself.

I’m left feeling satisfied and bewildered all at once.  The everyday can be so exquisite, so delightful.  It can also be terribly ignored.

I wonder why…

— — — — — — — — — —


[1] Domestic swan geese (Anser cygnoides) and domestic greylag geese (Anser anser) paddling about a local creek.

[2] A pekin duck (a.k.a. domestic duck, white pekin duck, or Long Island duck; Anas domesticus) taking a bath.

[3] Rock doves (a.k.a. common pigeon; Columba livia) perched on the juts of a pier.

[4] A male house sparrow (Passer domesticus) clinging to the branch of a shrub.

[5] American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) and American coots (Fulica americana) preening on a sandbar.

[6] Golden autumnal foliage sheltering an uphill path at White Rock Lake.

Let’s get this party started

First, some observations and notes regarding the new camera.

It’s an 8 megapixel camera as opposed to the S50 being 5 megapixel.  That means I can take larger photos with higher image density, and that in turn means I can more easily crop images to focus on the subject—without decreasing the quality of the photograph.

This camera has a 12x optical zoom.  I’m now able to get high quality pictures of subjects at distance.

The S5 IS has significantly improved white balance.  This provides for deeper, richer, and more realistic color.

Similarly, it handles focus with more granular control.  Part of this stems from the increased optical zoom, but another part of it comes from its improved handling of targets.  Like I did, you’ll find subjects clearly delineated by sharp focus while background information becomes a supporting palette.

I forgot to change the ISO setting from automatic to manual.  I never take photos at anything higher than ISO 100, even in the dark, so I rarely have the significant image noise generated by higher ISO settings.  Regrettably, the camera selected some of those higher settings yesterday which resulted in some of the most anticipated images turning out poorly.  Nevertheless, several are retrievable.  Oh, and I’ve since updated the ISO settings to keep that from happening in the future.  Hindsight and all. . .

Finally, there’s much to learn before I’ll feel comfortable with this new gadget, although having the same manufacturer reduces my learning curve since a great deal of the functionality is already familiar to me.  Still, I quite capably fouled up several shots while trying to learn.  Oh well.

But rather than bore you any longer with senseless gibberish regarding some of the photos I took yesterday, I figure it’s best to jump right in.  Here is a small sampling of the pictures captured yesterday.  While you’ll recognize several of the lake’s normal inhabitants and winter visitors, this time around you’re likely to see them in a different light.  I know I did.

A pair of American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) and a double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) preening after their morning baths

A pair of American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
and a double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) preening
after their morning baths

More American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) preening in the morning sun

More American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
preening in the morning sun

An American coot (Fulica americana) milling about in winter grass looking for breakfast

An American coot (Fulica americana) milling about
in winter grass looking for breakfast

A white Chinese goose (a.k.a. swan goose; Anser cygnoides) watching me closely (note the stunning blue eye)

A male white Chinese goose (a.k.a. swan goose; Anser cygnoides)
watching me closely (note the stunning blue eye)

A female domestic greylag goose (Anser anser) facing me directly (again, note the stunning blue eyes)

A female domestic greylag goose (Anser anser)
facing me directly (again, note the stunning blue eyes)

After all that preening, and after the pelicans left, this double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) turned around and enjoyed a relaxing stretch

After all that preening, and after the pelicans left,
this double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) turned
around and enjoyed a relaxing stretch

Despite the unnecessarily high ISO settings, these ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) made for great subjects as they flew around the pier

Despite the unnecessarily high ISO settings, these
ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) made for great subjects
as they flew around the pier

More ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) in flight

More ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) in flight

The larger versions of these photos offer far more than these reduced sizes can hope to achieve.  I hope you at least take a look at some of them.

[note this represents only a fraction of the pictures taken yesterday, and even that fails to include the photos I’ve taken of The Kids; you can expect to see more in the future; likewise, I can expect to overwhelm myself with a plethora of images as I experiment, learn, and bury myself in the joys of photography with this very capable camera]

Quite a different experience

Perhaps you remember the last time I had a close encounter with the large gaggle of domestic swan geese (Anser cygnoides) and domestic greylag geese (Anser anser) that thrives here at the lake.  They are year-round denizens of the area, and mostly they stay within Sunset Bay, my favorite part of the lake and home to my favorite pier, that marvelous wooden structure that offers me a most relaxing and meditative experience no matter my mood.

A week ago as I took a walk in the early morning light, I chanced upon the entire group of three dozen geese.  They had taken up positions along the concrete path that circles White Rock.  In fact, although I didn’t realize it at the time, the spot they chose offered an uncanny prediction of things to come.

Domestic swan geese (Anser cygnoides) and domestic greylag geese (Anser anser) (208_0813)

Some slept, some merely rested, some ate, and some milled about as though trying to decide what to do with the morning.

A large portion of the gaggle, perhaps 15-20 geese, eventually moved onto the path in a slow parade.  This has the unfortunate effect of blocking a great deal of foot and bicycle traffic.  I was rather pleased to see the majority of folks slowing down and winding a safe path through or around the large birds.  (See the end of this post for a clarification on this.*)

I stood and snapped a few photos, then I turned the camera off and simply enjoyed the sights and sounds of these raucous fowl.  I lost myself in their antics, their honking, their challenging those who came too close too quickly.

When I felt refreshed, I moved back toward the lake and away from them.

Some minutes later, after a brief commotion while the separated group again made its way back across the path to join the others, the entire mass began heading in my general direction.

Domestic swan geese (Anser cygnoides) and domestic greylag geese (Anser anser) (208_0817)

Little time passed before I found myself surrounded on all sides by a gaggle of some three dozen geese.  Some found places to settle down and others enjoyed a bite to eat

Domestic swan geese (Anser cygnoides) and domestic greylag geese (Anser anser) (208_0824)
Domestic swan geese (Anser cygnoides) and domestic greylag geese (Anser anser) (208_0828)

One portion of the crowd noisily walked right at me, however, and I eyed them suspiciously.  Having not forgotten the last time such a thing happened when one of the largest males challenged me for my position, I stood upright while still snapping photos.  My intent was to make myself large enough to be more intimidating, thereby hopefully being more trouble than was necessary.  I stood motionless and prepared to retreat should they wish me to relocate.  But they had no such intentions I quickly discovered.

Domestic swan geese (Anser cygnoides) (208_0822)

I stood in quiet stillness as they stopped at my feet.  Had I dropped my hands to my sides, I undoubtedly would have bumped the heads of several geese who stretched their necks up and began a boisterous plea for food.  Apparently, my camera was an unknown and seemed like a possible treat.  Each time I moved it from side to side, their heads followed, they reached up as if trying to snag a quick taste, and they moved in a wee bit closer.

Domestic swan geese (Anser cygnoides) (208_0821)

“I don’t have anything for you,” I replied to their constant entreaties.  My tone was hushed, subdued, non-challenging.  “Really,” I continued, “I haven’t a thing for you.  This is just an old camera.  You wouldn’t like it.”

A cacophony of shrill voices filled the air as they begged me for something I did not have.  And they watched the camera with undivided, unmitigated intent.

Yet all things end, something I profoundly believe, and so the feathered mendicants realized I either had nothing or would not share.  They finally turned their attention elsewhere, a slow movement of large creatures passing me like trickling water in a calm brook.  Heads bobbed up and down while feet padded through the grass.  Within but a moment, I once again stood alone.

There could be no denying my joy at the experience… not to mention the joy at not having to run from a gaggle of geese to ensure my own safety.


* As I said above, “I was rather pleased to see the majority of folks slowing down and winding a safe path through or around the large birds [as the gaggle poured across the path].”  Regrettably, not all people were so kind or attentive, and some even demonstrated blatant cruelty and disregard for the geese.

One such man riding a bike toward the fowl and me began taunting the animals as he approached.  By then, I stood in the middle of the path near the geese.  I watched him with fierce attention.

Too many birds covered the right side of the concrete walkway.  He would be forced to move to the left (his right) in order to get around them.  His movement in that direction was slow, barely visible, and I realized only too late what he intended to do.

He skimmed by with little room to spare, several of the birds coming all too close to being run over or hit by the pedals.  The whole while, the man cackled gleefully at his own viciousness.

And then it happened.  He lifted his left foot from its perch and stretched it out toward one of the brown geese standing still near the only place where the bicycle could safely navigate.  I had no time to act before his foot impacted the bird and sent the innocent thing screaming in pain as it flailed and careened across the road into the grass.

I found the incident so intolerable that I immediately acted without a single thought.

I spun clockwise and lifted my right arm parallel with my shoulder.  That, I knew, would put it level with his chest.  He was too near me by then to avert disaster—assuming he even saw what I was doing and understood what it meant.

He impacted my arm as it moved in full swing toward him.  My momentum put tremendous force into the strike.

Separated from the bike, he flew into the ditch as his wheeled carriage wobbled a bit before rebounding off a nearby tree.  I immediately realized the front wheel had bent.

Whether shock or fear I do not know, but he spoke not a single word as he stared at me.  I paused only briefly enough to confirm he had no broken bones and was not bleeding profusely, after which I turned and walked away.  I paid no additional attention to him or his condition, and I don’t know where he went after that; I do know I didn’t hear or see him again.

Later when the gaggle approached me near the lake’s shore, I saw that brown goose and the horror wrought on it by the vile cretin who so adamantly tried to harm it.

Domestic swan geese (Anser cygnoides) and domestic greylag geese (Anser anser) (208_0827)

I’m convinced the wing was broken.  I saw it outstretched only once.  What I saw was that everything beyond the wrist had been twisted and was pointed in the opposite direction from the rest of the wing.

Since these geese do not migrate, flight is not as critical to them as it might be to other species.  Still, the damage was extensive.  I can only hope it doesn’t cause the goose prolonged pain or problems.  (Note that I did contact the local veterinary clinic that handles wildlife in the area so they would be aware of the situation.)