Tag Archives: monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus)


The hope of any generation lies in that which follows.  It has nothing to do with today, nothing to do with us; it has everything to do with what comes after.

A juvenile monk parakeet (a.k.a. quaker parrot; Myiopsitta monachus) begs for attention(2009_06_07_022694)

Even as its parent watches me closely, a juvenile monk parakeet (a.k.a. quaker parrot; Myiopsitta monachus) begs for attention, for a nibble of nourishment.  Within that fledgling rests promise for a parent who may never see its child again.

A female river cooter (Pseudemys concinna) preparing to lay eggs (2009_06_07_022729)

Only a few steps from the footpath where so many people busy themselves without seeing it, this female river cooter (Pseudemys concinna) digs her nest and prepares to lay her eggs.  A bower formed of trees and brush gives her cover, keeps her from all but the observant.

Close-up of a female river cooter (Pseudemys concinna) (2009_06_07_022726)

How I want to wait, to watch, to salve my soul with the beauty of her work.  But the longer I stand, the more people who become curious.  Hungry eyes fall on her, look in her direction.

So before the first egg rests in earthen slumber, I walk away.  Several minutes I spend some distance along the trail so I can watch, feel certain no one returns.

Close-up of a female river cooter (Pseudemys concinna) (2009_06_07_022736)

The mother-to-be watches me closely as I retreat.  Her task set before her, she will never realize the success or failure of her endeavor, instead burying within the soil her own impetus to survive and leaving the future to the whims of nature.

Cliff swallow nest tucked into the corner of a concrete pavilion (2009_06_07_022782)

Cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) build their clay nests in every corner beneath the roof of a concrete pavilion.

Cliff swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) peeking out from its nest (2009_06_07_022779)

Parents flit in and out of the structure, each returning to a nest with food, then checking the nest to ensure it’s clean and free of danger.  A face looks out at me, an adult watching me as it tends to its children.

Cliff swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) perched at the entrance of its nest (2009_06_07_022771)

I see tiny faces and beaks agape when diligent parents return with food.  Looking at me with consternation for my nearness, one makes clear my presence is an unwelcome concern when the future is at stake.

Facing east

I should know better than to take morning walks on the western shore of White Rock Lake.  It places me at a distinct disadvantage since I must spend most of my time facing into the morning sun.

Sometimes that works well, such as at the precise moment when the sun begins climbing over the trees perched on the opposite shore.

The sun rising over the trees blanketing the eastern shore of White Rock Lake (20081004_12985)

Like the otherworldly emissaries in “City of Angels,” as I watched this marvelous display I felt that perhaps I could hear music in the sunrise, an orchestra of harp and piano and violin expertly played to usher in a new day.  No maestro could compare.

And yet not too distant from that scene my path took me around a grove of trees and brought me face-to-face with a danger that hid openly in the rising sun.

A female orb weaver (unidentified; Araneus sp.) suspended in the center of her web as she waits for a meal (20081004_13097)

Its orb of silk spanning almost three meters/yards from ground to tree limb, this beautiful predator floated just above eye level where she disappeared in the brightness.  Mind you, had I not been looking down chasing a monarch butterfly, perhaps I would have seen her before my nose brushed against her web.

Nevertheless, I didn’t stick and she didn’t move.  No damage done, and she politely stayed put as I snapped a few photos from the only angle afforded me.  When I returned only a short time later, however, she had consumed the web in its entirety and retired for the day.

When at last I found myself standing on the bridge that spans White Rock Creek at the bottom of the spillway, I felt a thrill at sighting this marvelous creature.

A black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) hunting from the spillway steps at White Rock Lake (20081004_13124)

The sun damned me by lingering over my right shoulder.  Forced onto the footbridge so that I might keep the light from hitting the lens, I discovered why that bridge offers little hope of good photography: It’s made to give under the weight of traffic, to absorb the constant pounding of walkers, joggers and bikers through the simple act of bouncing.

That can be quite disconcerting, I assure you, as the whole bridge vibrates up and down with only a single person walking across it.  During this busy morning, it supported constant traffic.  Taking a picture while bobbing up and down uncontrollably proved more frustrating than I could tolerate, and it certainly forced me to utilize faster shutter speeds and higher ISO settings than I normally care for.

I left the heron to its stoic stance, impressed though I was with its immobile hunt that screamed of more patience than I could ever demonstrate.

Rambling beyond the old water treatment plant finally brought me to a surprise: Bird feeders right in the heart of our parakeet colony.

Monk parakeets (a.k.a. quaker parrots; Myiopsitta monachus) perched on a bird feeder (20081004_13169)

Although I can’t say for certain that they are maintained by the city (which would be quite a surprise), I do know they are on city property and nestled against the maintenance entrance to the old fish hatchery.  Dallas would score brownie points with me if I were to discover these feeders are in fact tax-payer funded; I’m sure many Dallasites would vehemently disagree with me on that point.

My options were to either stand in the lake or face into the sun in order to capture an image or two.  I chose the latter.  I didn’t have my waders with me, after all, so that seemed the best option despite the outcome.

I walked north to the old paddle boat area.  Ah, what fond memories I have of this place.  More than 30 years ago I enjoyed renting the boats and peddling my way across the water, feeling like a king in a raft for all the effort it took to move but a short distance while being surrounded with spectacular vistas and nature’s bounty.

But that was long ago.  Paddle boats disappeared from these parts decades ago, although one can still find kayaks available for those who arrive without their own water transportation.

My nostalgia ended abruptly when I discovered myself in the midst of one of the most fantastic migrations imaginable.

A monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) (20081004_13203)

With flora aplenty to satiate their need for sustenance and shelter, and with a whole lake full of refreshing water to drink, White Rock offers an autumnal show fit for royalty: a central place for monarch butterflies migrating to Mexico for the winter.

I spent hours in their presence, letting them perch upon me, snapping their portraits, walking through clouds of whispering wings, dancing beneath the canopy of a bald cypress where dozens of them had gathered to rest but were frightened into momentary flight by my presence…  That truly was like standing in the middle of a fantasy film, what with the cypress limbs hanging heavily around me like an umbrella of green and brown, and the air filled with butterflies swimming in lazy circles through the shadowy air.

No movie, no imagination, no special effects could ever capture that moment in its fullness.  Neither can words do it justice.

When finally my body screamed for relief from the heat of the day and the weight of my walk, I returned to the spillway for one last moment.  I stood once again on the trampoline bridge, my view damaged by the constant up-and-down motion—almost as much as was my patience—and I decided to call it a day.

At that very moment I heard the cries, the harsh, shrill call of a hawk.  Yet not one hawk.  The dissimilar voices echoed across the water, blanketed me with the challenge of locating whose fierceness drifted on the wind.

Too far away for me to recognize from where I stood and in a position that offered me only one clear view, I saw a large predator land in the treetops.  In thick woodlands that protected it from all angles save where I stood.

I knew I could not zoom in close enough to see it, yet I tried nonetheless.

A female red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) calling out from a treetop limb (20081004_13293)

By proportions alone I knew she was a female.  Her male brethren could never embody such leviathan size.

Sunlight pouring into my eyes and camera lens as I peered between treetops, she screamed upon the world harsh challenges to an unseen foe.  Who stood a chance against such a large predator?  Who made her feel the need to bellow war cries from atop the world?

I rushed to and fro looking for a better vantage.  None could be found.  The tree upon which she stood held her well over the water, well within the confines of dense forest resting at the foot of the spillway.  I lost her each time I took a few steps in either direction, although I tried strenuously to find a closer and better view.  The only one offered placed her as a silhouette in the disk of the rising sun.  No good.

So I remained where I could watch her, and watch her I did.  After several minutes of demanding peace from a cloaked enemy I could not find, she took flight, her strong wings flapping a few times as they lifted her body toward the heavens.

Then the challenger appeared.

An unidentified accipiter hawk chasing a red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) in flight (20081004_13296)

While not of her kith and kin, the pursuer was indeed another hawk, a smaller predator by any stretch of the imagination.  An accipiter, perhaps a Cooper’s hawk or a sharp-shinned hawk, its identity mattered little; that it pursued her relentlessly as she rose on the thermals made all the difference.

Though more maneuverable than she, the smaller bird of prey knew the most it could do was chase, pursue, challenge.  It could never overpower its larger cousin.

Erratic moves and countermoves punctuated their ascent, the smaller bird’s assaults ultimately meaning little as the female behemoth presented her strength in terms of climbing effortlessly despite the attacks.

The sky would be the field upon which they would do battle.

— — — — — — — — — —


[1] The sun rising over the trees blanketing the eastern shore of White Rock Lake.

[2] A female orb weaver (unidentified; Araneus sp.) suspended in the center of her web as she waits for a meal.

[3] A black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) hunting from the spillway steps.

[4] Monk parakeets (a.k.a. quaker parrots; Myiopsitta monachus) perched on a bird feeder.

[5] A monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

[6] A female red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) calling out from a treetop limb.

[7] An unidentified accipiter hawk chasing a red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) in flight.

Faces that we meet and pass

A Monk parakeet (a.k.a. quaker parrot; Myiopsitta monachus) walking through the grass (20080713_09580)

Monk parakeet (a.k.a. quaker parrot; Myiopsitta monachus)

“Is he taking pictures of the grass?”

“Looks like it.”

“How weird.”

They didn’t notice the parakeet rummaging about the ground beneath a shade tree.  All they noticed was that I stood there taking photos of something they failed to see.

Close-up of a male green anole (Anolis carolinensis) as he challenges me with a full fan display (20080702_08942)

Male green anole (Anolis carolinensis)

“Dude, are you taking pictures of your patio fence?”

“No.  There’s a lizard standing here challenging me.  I thought I might snap a few pictures.”

He looks at the reptile before returning his gaze to me and saying, “Just a lizard?”


He sees just a lizard, just a small, insignificant life that offers nothing for his world.

I see a master of his territory, a predator controlling the local insect population, a marvelous creature with the climbing ability of a gecko and a color-changing ability superior to that of a chameleon.  I see a grand living thing.

Close-up of a female eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) as she perches on a stem (20080712_09324)

Female eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)

“What are you taking pictures of?”

“Everything.  Birds, trees, flowers, lizards, insects—”

“Oh, cool.  Seen any interesting bugs?”

“There were some beautiful dragonflies around the marsh back there.”

“Really?  We must have missed them.”

They missed a plethora of life, so many insects filling the air and foliage that I found it impossible to count them.  All they noticed was the man taking photos as he walked the edge of the marsh and woodlands.

Close-up of Elvis, a male muscovy duck (Cairina moschata), as he watches me take pictures (20080701_08879)

Male muscovy duck (Cairina moschata)

“Wait, Mom.  I wanna take a picture of the ducks.”

“They’re always here, sweetheart.  Let’s look for something more interesting for you photograph.”

Her daughter noticed, noticed how uncommon the common can be, how beautiful nature is in all its forms even when we see it day after day.

I noticed, especially when Elvis walked right up to me to see what I was doing kneeling in the grass.  He and I have developed a bond of trust such that he’ll come to me to investigate and will gladly stand next to me in case I have something to offer.  He knows I won’t hurt him.  And he knows I never ignore him.

A male swan goose (Anser cygnoides) sleeping in the grass

Male swan goose (Anser cygnoides)

They climb out of their car and walk directly to where the swan geese are sleeping and preening.

The father lets his two small children chase the animals, each screaming in joy as the birds honk and flap their wings as they run.

I worry as there are goslings mixed in with the crowd.

I hope one of the parents beats up your brats, I think to myself.

Then I watch as a large male knocks over the young boy and bites at him before fleeing in the opposite direction.  The child screams in shock or pain, or both, and I laugh to myself.

They don’t notice the beauty of these creatures.  Both children and their father see nothing more than entertainment, creatures to be chased and abused to satisfy a need to be cruel, to be hateful.

Close-up of a great egret (Ardea alba) (20080628_08248)

Great egret (Ardea alba)

A dog rushes headlong toward ducks lounging in the shade at the lake’s edge.  The owner stands by and does nothing.

Wings flap and flutter as panic strikes the group.  They all retreat toward the water as they take flight.

The reeds next to the flocking birds hides something else, something besides the water lapping at the shore.

Frightened by the commotion and the rushing canine, an egret takes flight, limping as it struggles into the air.  Its leg is hurt such that it might be broken.

The dog cares little for such things and its owner even less.  They don’t notice the pain, the limp, or even the unnecessary stress their antics place on these animals.

But I notice.  I shake my head with evident disgust before walking away.  I ignore the dog’s owner as he heaves primitive insults at me for my obvious disapproval.

Close-up of a male cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) as he perches on a leaf (20080621_07182)

Male cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus)

“I was at the pool yesterday, and there are some really big bees over there by the bridge.”

“You mean the cicada killers?”

I already feel good that he knows what they are.

He continues, “The big wasps, you mean?”

“I guess so,” she replies.

“They’re harmless.  They won’t hurt you.  All they do is kill cicadas.”

By the look on her face, I doubt she believes him.

His response is so calm, so understanding, that I realize he has no intention of doing anything about the second wasp colony a block away from where I live.  He knows they pose no threat, knows they only live for a few months.

I feel a great sense of relief and pride that he notices them, understands them, and has no intention of interfering with their short lives.

Keets galore

Many people are surprised to hear we have a colony of feral monk parakeets (a.k.a. quaker parrots, Myiopsitta monachus) living at the lake.  That’s an unusual bird for North Texas, and certainly not native.  It’s true that domestic parakeets escaped and found the area to be inviting, and the rest is history.  There’s now a rather substantial group of them hanging around the water all year long.

In my recent wanderings, I stumbled upon them one day as they raucously lounged in the afternoon sun atop a very large tree.

Keep in mind I could never get close to them, hence the poor quality of these photos.  The tree was on top of a hill, they were at the top of the tree, and the only clear shots I could get were from a position down the hill in a clearing.  Still, I think you can see they’re a thriving bunch, and if you’d been there you’d also know they’re a rather loud bunch, boisterous and rowdy.

I promise next time I’ll try to catch them in a better position that will enable me to get more presentable photographs.  For these, however, the larger versions linked to are the best I got.

Monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) congregating in the top of a tree
Monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) congregating in the top of a tree
Monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) congregating in the top of a tree
Monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) congregating in the top of a tree