Serene. Undisturbed. Placid.
Unruffled and tranquil.
Calm, curious, quiet.
Lesser scaups (Aythya affinis) epitomize composure and confidence.
And as these males show, they’re pretty doggone handsome.
Birds in the water. Beauty can be found in any environment, yes, but water has such dynamic personality. And its ability to reflect that which resides above it makes it all the more majestic as a backdrop, an in situ mirror that adds more than a touch of real or abstract flavor.
Yet my fascination runs deeper than the water. I believe it has something to do with creatures with wings who soar on the wind that in turn spend so much time in the water, so much so that evolution has granted them webbed feet, spatulate bills, long legs and liquid-straining pouches. What a marvelous dichotomy…
Snowy egret (Egretta thula)
American coot (Fulica americana)
Pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)
Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis)
American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
Lesser scaup (Aythya affinis)
Great blue heron (Ardea herodias)
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On a related note: The only nesters at the rookery at present are great egrets (Ardea alba). But the time is now for the multitude of other bird species to arrive at this marvel that rests in the heart of the city. The second major species has already made an appearance: anhingas (a.k.a. water turkey or snakebird; Anhinga anhinga). I can’t wait to share this magic with you. What a spectacle, what a mystery, and what a gift!
Quiet. Even at this hour, it blankets the world around me.
Feeble sunshine winks through wisps of cirrus as a distant star lingers over the horizon. Soon it will cast no more light except what bends and bounces through the atmosphere.
Nightfall comes soon these days.
Overhead, silently as though nothing more than apparitions of the mind, three American white pelicans glide effortlessly, their wings slightly bent to slow their momentum. They come to join their brethren at the lake for what the season brings. Shadows against a sky dimly lit by dusk, they do not speak and do not waver. Soon they will rest with familiars in a place wherein they are protected, welcomed, enjoyed in their natural state.
A crisp, autumnal cool front passed by recently. The air feels dry as it brushes my cheek with soft caresses promising winter’s impending arrival.
And in the week ahead, my beloved friend seems perched behind falling leaves and a landscape turning bare, for even though the hour is late, cooler temperatures now prevail—though cooler only than yesterday and last week and last month, but not cool enough yet.
What can I say but from my love of such things comes great joy.
The brisk touch of icy fingers born on northerly winds…
Air cleansed by squeezing hands wrought of arctic intent…
Huddled masses of humans seeking every bit of sunlight in which to stand, afraid of what shivers shade might bring…
The smell of cold, even by Texas standards, that rests sweetly on the tongue…
Visitors from far off places blessing me with their arrivals, their taking shelter here from what besets their homes elsewhere…
Trees shed their summer clothes in favor of the stoic dress of winter, bare limbs standing like skeletons against brief days and long nights…
The rustle of leaves carried to and fro tickles my ears…
These things and more carry beauty to the very heart of me.
This is my season, this season of cold, this season of change.
Let winter come. Let Nature bring her chill upon the land. I’m ready. I’m wanting.
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 A male redhead (Aythya americana). He and his mate arrived early one morning under the cover of heavy clouds. Less gregarious than their scaup and mallard cousins, the two ducks remained far out in the middle of the lake and visited the shore only briefly.
 A male northern pintail (Anas acuta). Never have I seen a female pintail at the lake, though one or more males often spend winter here. A truly global species, pintails occupy the entire northern hemisphere as one vast population with no known subspecies.
 A male lesser scaup (Aythya affinis). Before autumn gives way to winter, he will be joined by many of his friends, both males and females, and the group of them will mingle with coots and ducks and cormorants and pelicans and a host of other waterfowl and shorebirds who overwinter at White Rock Lake.
 Though I recently covered many of the sparrow species visiting for the season, the white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) was not included. These birds, like spotted towhees and brown thrashers, spend a great deal of time rummaging through dense brush and thickets, hence they aren’t always easy to photograph—though they certainly are easy to hear. I lucked out when this one perched high in a tree and sat patiently while I tried to snap a few photos.
 Another sparrow species not covered in my previous entry is the dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis). Juncos are in fact sparrows, though unlike most of their brethren they lack the typical sparrow colors and patterns. Their clean markings and small size make them a delight to see.
 An additional sparrow that overwinters in Dallas is the song sparrow (Melospiza melodia). Their soft call and distinctive song fill the marshes and reed beds around the lake.
nathalie with an h said repeatedly she never sees anything more exciting than ducks when she visits White Rock Lake. Of course, one need understand she considers any creature to be a duck if it has wings and is located near water—let alone if it’s touching water.
But seeing ducks is anything but mundane, especially when this area proffers such a wide variety of these feathered beasts.
A male mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos).
A female mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos).
Blue-winged teals (Anas discors): one male and two females.
A male American wigeon (Anas americana).
A male ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis).
A male northern shoveler (Anas clypeata).
A male gadwall (Anas strepera).
Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola): Two males and two females.
A female lesser scaup (Aythya affinis).
A male lesser scaup (Aythya affinis).
A female wood duck (Aix sponsa).
A male wood duck (Aix sponsa).
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 I did not include photos of feral domestic populations (e.g., Muscovies, domestic Indian runners, etc.). Neither did I include photos of the various hybrid species living here (mostly mallards crossed with various other ducks).
 This is but a sampling of the species found at the lake. Indian runners, northern pintails, black-bellied whistling-ducks, ring-necked ducks, green-winged teals, canvasbacks, redheads, cinnamon teals, greater scaups and many other species can be found depending on the time of year.
 Most of these pictures are of drakes (male ducks). That’s because the females of many species greatly resemble female mallards—with a few minor differences, I mean. The northern shoveler female is smaller with a spatulate bill; the blue-winged teal female is smaller with bill color and minor plumage differences; and the list goes on. The diversity of the species is best represented by the males given their varied displays; only the careful observer would realize the differences presented in images of many females.
 The title “CM DUCKS” is from this silly word game I learned many moons ago as a child.
MR NOT DUCKS