Tag Archives: yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

Farewells – Part 2

All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self.

A nonbreeding male American goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) perched on a branch (2009_12_19_044964)

He who wears his morality but as his best garment were better naked.

A nonbreeding Harris's sparrow (Zonotrichia querula) perched on a branch (2009_12_20_045764)

The wind and the sun will tear no holes in his skin.

An orange-crowned warbler (Vermivora celata) perched in a bush (2009_12_13_044384)

And he who defines his conduct by ethics imprisons his song-bird in a cage.

An adult yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) climbing the side of a tree (2009_11_28_042637)

The freest song comes not through bars and wires.

An American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) standing on the shore (2009_11_26_041712)

And he to whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, has not yet visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn.

— — — — — — — — — —

Text from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran; all images from White Rock Lake.


[1] American goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)

[2] Harris’s sparrow (Zonotrichia querula)

[3] Orange-crowned warbler (Vermivora celata)

[4] Yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

[5] American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Winter visitors – Part 1

It begins with early migrants vanishing into the great beyond.  Usual faces slowly become less visible until one day I realize they’re gone, and the orchestra of voices that once defined the world starts to change until one day I don’t hear certain songs anymore.  Thus outlines the start of change, the beginning of nature’s shift rotation.

Some joys never leave, sure, and they fill the year with antics and choruses and patterns that accumulate into a foundation over which all other life is drawn.  Yet the seasons change and wash away in their movement a great deal of what many take for granted.

But the watchful eye sees the paints mix, sees the rushing torrent as it clears the canvas so new colors can be placed upon it.  So herein lies a glimpse of those new colors from a perspective brushed in Dallas, Texas, a painting captured at White Rock Lake.

A spotted towhee (Pipilo maculatus) perched on a large branch (2009_11_08_037617)

Pure delight sketched in shadows: the spotted towhee (Pipilo maculatus).  Like brown thrashers, they spend a great deal of their time hidden in the understory searching through brambles and thickets hoping to find sustenance.  Heard more than seen, like chickens they scratch vehemently with their feet trying to dig up food.  Their sweet voices seem unattached, sounds floating behind cover that never join with a body.  Stand in place, however, and perchance one will flash its unmistakable plumage in a moment of public display.

A yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) clinging to the side of a tree (2009_10_17_032133)

Even a yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) cannot hide when it stands against a backdrop of autumnal greens.  I saw while standing in one of my favorite hidden spots a group of six sapsuckers as they shared a tree.  I couldn’t help but be entranced by the scene as these birds normally defend their ground from all other birds.

An orange-crowned warbler (Vermivora celata) perched on a vine (2009_10_24_033662)

The orange-crowned warbler (Vermivora celata) seems downright plain when compared to some of its cousins.  Apparently no white remained for even rudimentary wing bars, let alone other colors for fancy designs.  Once mature, this juvenile will suffer behind a drab olive-to-yellow covering that most would ignore as lacking energy.  Personally, I think even Jackson Pollock would stand intimidated by this species.

An American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) flying over water (2009_10_31_035673)

I said before that those of us most familiar with White Rock Lake define the onset of cooler colors by the arrival of the first American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos).  Watching them these many years has drafted a picture of gregarious birds always seeking company at rest, always placing themselves in the vicinity of cormorants, ducks and geese.  And likewise watching them has shown the landscape hangs incomplete from autumn to spring unless these massive birds are penciled in.

A pine warbler (Dendroica pinus) perched on a branch (2009_10_31_035806)

Not before this year have I seen a pine warbler (Dendroica pinus) this late in the season.  They generally pass through, migrate into and out of the lake’s art like so many drips of temporary color.  Nevertheless, this year these birds have remained with the blue-headed vireos, both species having joined the usual rendering as though they elbowed aside the winter artist and placed themselves in the final piece.  As with all of nature’s art, I wonder if both will stay or if both simply wished to impose on the final image this year.

A ruby-crowned kinglet (Regulus calendula) perched on a small branch (2009_11_07_037173)

No representation of winter in Dallas could be complete without the ruby-crowned kinglet (Regulus calendula).  Its body no larger than a hummingbird, it makes up in personality what it lacks in physical stature: they fill the view with pure delight and make it appear as though nothing else exists.  Boisterous and vibrant and energetic.  Chatty and friendly and unafraid.  I can use a million other words to describe how they finish the painting.  No matter the vocabulary, these small bundles of life complete the season like nothing else.

Where have you been hiding?

Picture restoration from backups.  Half a terabyte of data.  Nearly 72,000 images.  What a tedious, mind-numbing exercise in busywork.

The excitement of downloading and processing photographs explodes all over me when the camera holds new discoveries, new moments captured in digital form.  But this time around?  It’s been less and less like Christmas and more like drowning under the weight of my own pictorial flood.

Nevertheless—and even when it’s become so difficult to focus that I fear I might miss something important when opening the next file—many times I’ve stared unblinking at the screen as I asked the scene in front of me, “Where have you been hiding?”

A female American kestrel (Falco sparverius) perched in a tree (2009_02_15_009810)

A female American kestrel (Falco sparverius) gave me the chase of a lifetime.  Her afternoon activities focused entirely on hunting around Winfrey Point.  Each time she settled, I would move in carefully, quietly, nonchalantly as though not paying attention to her.  Not that she was fooled, mind you, and not that she cared.  Her concerns were about filling her belly, not posing for or avoiding my camera lens.  Mostly what I walked away with were images of empty branches, clear sky, blurs escaping at the edge of the photo that might as well be my finger in front of the lens.

A male American kestrel (Falco sparverius) perched on a wire (2009_02_15_009596)

This male American kestrel (Falco sparverius) was only slightly less active when I found him and a friend hunting in the field between the Bath House Cultural Center and what was once the Dreyfuss Club.  It struck me as somewhat odd that two males shared the same territory, yet I felt certain there was a story hidden there that only they knew.  Besides, I had no doubt the female would not share her banquet with them and the males would have to make do with sloppy seconds.

A tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) with a large seed in its beak (2008_12_28_003881)

When I first spied this tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), I could see it had something in its beak.  I moved closer hoping to get a photo.  Titmice are active creatures, yammering and chattering while bouncing from branch to branch, joining in the mobbing when a threat moves too close, and otherwise being boisterous fun to watch—assuming they sit still long enough.  So when this one paused briefly in perfect profile, I aimed and fired the shutter as quickly as I could.  Only later when I processed the image did I realize the seed it carried was a whole meal for a bird that small.

A male yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) climbing the side of a tree (2008_12_28_004024)

A male yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius).  It’s not just an insult anymore.  In truth, I’m not sure why the name has such a negative connotation.  These birds are aggressive, vigorously defending their territory from other birds.  This one spent the afternoon feeding from the many holes it had drilled in various trees (which are visible in this photo), all the while chasing away chickadees and titmice and woodpeckers, along with various other avian visitors who came along.

A great crested flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) perched in a tree (2009_07_18_026997)

A great crested flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) sang and sang and sang from deep within the woods.  I knew it was there but couldn’t see it, so I waited.  And waited.  Then waited some more.  Its voice carried throughout the confluence, sometimes coming nearer and sometimes moving further away.  I finally gave up on seeing it and turned to leave.  Suddenly its voice filled the air around me.  When I looked, it had taken up position across the creek from me.  The moment lasted about ten seconds; nevertheless, I was thankful for it.

A neotropic cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) sleeping at White Rock Lake (2009_07_20_027453)

This sleeping neotropic cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) perched atop one of the pillars at the water theater during a hot summer evening.  I had to move well north of its position to get the sun out of the lens—and out of my eyes!—but found the effort worthwhile upon discovering this wasn’t one of our resident double-crested cormorants.  The neotropics aren’t unheard of here; they’re just rarely seen and often overshadowed by their more prolific cousins.

A yellow-billed cuckoo (a.k.a. rain crow or storm crow; Coccyzus americanus) perched in a tree (2009_07_19_027436)

If you live anywhere in their territory, you’ve no doubt heard a yellow-billed cuckoo (a.k.a. rain crow or storm crow; Coccyzus americanus).  Their voices are familiar and distinctive, their songs identifiable with ease.  But even if you’ve heard one, you might never have seen one.  These birds spend much of their time lurking about in thick foliage searching for insects and fruit.  It’s not that they’re secretive; this one didn’t mind me one bit as I followed it for almost half an hour.  It’s just that their hunting keeps them in the shadows, behind cover, hidden within the concealing arms of plants that harbor the goodies they like to eat.  I fought with ticks and a few snakes to locate a position where I had a clear shot of this one.

[all images are from White Rock Lake]