Josey Ranch Lake – July 2019

Last April when I walked around Josey Ranch Lake, there were grackles, coots and cedar waxwings.

The coots and cedar waxwings were gone, but the grackles were around – and noisy. The Great-tailed Grackles are probably the most noticeable bird at Josey Ranch Lake (along with pigeons) but what made them more interesting this time were fledglings – new enough that their parents were still feeding them occasionally. Note that the adults have yellow eyes that is indicative of Great-tailed Grackles rather than Boat-tailed Grackles (dark eyes). The juvenile grackle has dark eyes…but since a yellow eyed adult was feeding it, I expect it is a Great-tailed juvenile.

There were white feathers on the grass.

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And three kinds of white birds that I saw in the short time I was there: 1) a Great Egret. At first it was fishing in the water then strutted out onto the concrete walk. Those toes are long…and the feathers were ruffling in the breeze!

A resident 2) Mute Swan was on the lake. I didn’t see one in April, but they were probably there. I’ve seen one juvenile years ago, but I don’t think there have been any cygnets in the past few years.

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A 3) Snowy Egret preened and hunted in the shallows. The wind ruffled its feathers. It stayed in the water, so I didn’t see its yellow socks, but the beak and size are distinctive enough for the identification.

As I walked around the lake, I noted spider webs and shelf fungus. The cloudy day was not the best for photography, but the morning was my only chance to be there.

The high point of the morning was an accidently sighting of a Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron. I wondered if it was the same one I had seen there in June of 2018. This one was in one of the smaller ponds near the lake. I was looking through the vegetation to see if there were any ducks on the pond when I saw it…the only bird in the pond. It didn’t seem to notice me. It was casually hunting the area; I didn’t see it catch anything.

Josey Ranch Pocket Prairie – July 2019

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The Josey Ranch Pocket Prairie has gotten taller since I visited back in April. At first glance the dominant colors are greens and browns. It takes a closer look to notice the wild flowers that are still in bloom and the seed pods that many are already beginning to form. I thought about what it would be like to walk through a larger prairie – that continued for as far as the eye could see – it would not be an easy stroll. The plants are intertwined and densely packed. They are at least waist high. And there would be no shade from the heat. Streams large enough to support trees would be precious.

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The flowers are like jewels in the greens and browns. I used the zoom to get flower pictures and stayed on the path. It was still early enough in the day that the temperature was cool, and I was the only one in the pocket prairie even though the morning commuter traffic was just yards away. I was alone but not too alone.

Kudos to the crew that established and maintain the Josey Ranch Pocket Prairie!

July 4th Fireworks

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I was in Carrollton TX on the 4th of July. It was short walk from my parents’ house to a good viewing area for the city’s fireworks. Other people had the same idea so there was a community block party-like atmosphere. Somebody brought a boom box to provide music. My sister had popsicles to keep us hydrated and cool. Everyone was ready by 9:30 PM when the fireworks started. We had carried folding chairs with us…but I ended up not using mine because I was taking pictures. My camera was on a monopod and I used the ‘fireworks’ setting. It’s not a setting that can shoot in quick succession because it knits together several images in the camera. The result is pictures that show a lot of color. I also liked some of the pictures where I managed to ‘move’ during the time it was capturing the multiple images…the streaks and squiggles look like abstract art. The best pictures are included in this post.

The electrical wires are sometimes visible in the pictures – sometimes not. They were always there.

After the fireworks show was over…we walked back to the house….then heard fireworks again. Somehow the finale had been delayed. Aargh! No pictures.

Josey Ranch Lake

After visiting the Pocket Prairie, I headed over toward the lake. The highlight of this part of the walk was a flock of cedar waxwings feeding around the blooms of a tree. I think they may have been eating tiny insects that were attracted by the blooms. They were very active – chowing down before continuing their migration. I didn’t get any great pictures of them, but I saw enough to identify them while I watched them feed! For some reason – a tend to think of them as slightly larger than they are (maybe because they have a crest like a cardinal, and I lapse into thinking they are the same size).

Otherwise the lake was a disappointment. There was a lone Canada goose and a few mallards. The birds that winter there have already moved northward. There were still a few coots around; they were all on the shore. Perhaps they stay for the summer too. The lake was almost empty.

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The resident boat-tailed grackles are noisy and have a lot of attitude. I took two sequences. On that was walking on the sidewalk as I headed back toward the car…

And another in the front of the drive near the library….I think he might have been warning me to come no closer!

Josey Ranch Pocket Prairie

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Last week I discovered the Josey Ranch Pocket Prairie near the Carrollton (Texas) Public Library. At first it looked mostly like a sea of plants blowing in the breeze…then I began noticing the flowers.

I walked around the path slowly using the zoom on my camera to see the flowers better (and photograph them). There were a lot to see. Some I recognized – the bluebonnets, Indian blanket, Indian paint brush, and pink evening primrose. Others I didn’t. I’ll have to go back and get more detailed pictures to identify them. Spring is a great time to see wildflowers!

I’ll have to remember to take a turn around this pocket prairie when I come to Carrollton in the summer and fall…see it in difference seasons. There seems to be a group of volunteers maintaining the area. There were piles of some invasive plants that had been pulled out and were ready for pickup. The rain garden area seemed almost new. If it rains while I am here – I’ll go over in my rain gear to see how it works!

A Carrollton Garden – Part II

It’s been more than 8 years since my grandmother died – but there are still many plants in the garden at my parents’ house that she started. The pink preference sage all came from a plant from her sister’s garden.

The oxalis was something she saw first in her sister’s garden then ordered some from a catalog (we think). It is growing so profusely these days that some of the plants are being potted to be part of the floral decorations for my niece’s wedding.

The bees like the flowers too.

The evening primrose is self-propagating around a rose bush my grandmother got as a birthday present (the rose bush must be over 20 years old now) and she planted the primrose seeds at its base.

I’m not sure where the daisy-like flowers came from, but they’ve been in the garden for a long time. These days they bloom in enlarging clumps in the front yard garden under the big mulberry and beside the red yucca.

The continuity of plants – passed between family members and through generations. Remembering her…in her garden.

A Carrollton Garden – Part I


I am visiting my parents this week in Carrollton TX and their garden is responding to the warmer weather. Mounds of oxalis line the large patio – carpeting the partial shade area under the mulberry trees.

Various kinds of iris are in bloom. The Dutch iris blooms seem to last longer than the other kinds.

The mulberry trees are a fruitless variety. The trunks of the largest trees have a lot of color when they are wet. Most of the trees have small branches emerging along the big branches. The larger branches have been thinned to allow more sunlight to reach the ground so all the little branches that are within reach of the pole clippers are snipped from the trees keep the canopy open.

The pecan tree is finally old enough to bloom and may produce some pecans this year. Hopefully the nuts will be the paper-shell variety.

The red yuccas are not blooming yet but the seed pods from last fall are still on the stalks. Some of them look almost black (like they were burned). I like the shapes of the empty pods.

More pictures from the garden tomorrow.

Up Close Irises

There was a large vase of irises from the garden to welcome us to my parents’ house last week. Over the course of the evening, I took several opportunities to photograph them at close range – with and without the macro lens. I like the curves of all parts of the flower - from bud to full flower to spent flower. Today - savor the color and shapes of irises!

Travel Day

A week ago, I got up in Texas and got ready to fly home to Maryland. As I got my breakfast, I noticed that the sunrise was spectacular. I quickly grabbed my camera to take some pictures from the backyard. The colors were changing fast. There was a little breeze that caused me to notice the windchimes and I decided to take a silhouette of them with the colors of the sunrise in the background.

Looking back toward the house, there were some hazy clouds that reflected the color. What a great start to my last day in Texas!


My strategy for the trip was to pack small bags rather than large ones. I was flying on Southwest so there was no charge for checking two of them. I carried my back pack and tote on the plane. The tote was holding a red poncho that I wore on the plane (and is a good substitute for a blanket). The strategy worked well for this trip. It’s great to not have to lift heavy luggage.


It felt good to get home later that day. I always savor being ‘home again’ after being away for a week.

Josey Ranch Birds – Part II

There was finally another sunny day in Carrollton TX and I headed over to Josey Ranch Park again. I was lucky enough to arrive about the same time two women arrived with food for the birds. Two swans were at the boardwalk before the women could make their way from the parking lot to the boardwalk; the swans must recognize the signs of a forthcoming meal. The pigeons and seagulls flew in quickly.

After the crowd of birds gathered to enjoy the feast – the coots seemed to be arguing – chasing each other and churning the water. The northern shovelers in the background did not hurry over like the other birds.

How many birds can you identify in this picture? (see the bottom of this blog post for the most prominent ones). This is a good picture to see the relative size of the birds as well.


There are not very many mallards at the lake this time of year. The light changes the green coloring of their head; sometimes the feathers look black!

Lesser Scaups are more prevalent.

The Great Egret is there every time ago – must be a resident.


Pigeons are on the roof of the nearby senior center and library except with there is food! Iridescent neck feather and red eye – oh my!

The Northern Shovelers are not quite as numerous as the Lesser Scaups and they seem relatively used to people being about.


I managed to get a seagull taking off from the lake – watch the one to the center right.

Birds in the ID quiz picture: swan (partial) on the far left, Canada geese in the upper third, ducks with large bills and rust colored sides are male Northern Shovelers, ducks with light sides and brown heads (yellow eyes) are male Lesser Scaups, coot in lower right (black with pointy beak), pigeon (partial) on bottom margin, gull?  Inflight in the upper left.

Rainy Day in Texas

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I stood at open sliding glass doors to take some rainy-day pictures last week when I was in Texas. The colors of the wet foliage were bright for such a cloudy day. Even the raw wound from where a big branch had been cut from a tree was colorful.

A squirrel surveyed the yard. I thought the animal might have heard my camera

When it darted off through the treetops.

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A few minutes later – another squirrel was on the ground. The face and paws looked lighter, but it might have just been the light.

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A couple of days later, the sun was out again….and I got a different perspective of the garden, but it was cold enough that I took the pictures from an open sliding glass door again…quickly to not let the heat escape from the house.

Josey Ranch Birds – Part I

After the sadness of seeing the dead crow, I headed over to the Josey Ranch Lake to see the birds that were still very much alive. The day was still cloudy…but the birds didn’t seem to care.

There were Lesser Scaup – which I had seen during precious visits to Carrolton during the winter and early spring (February 2015, January 2017, and March 2017).

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The Northern Shovelers are there for the winter as well.

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The Great Egret is there all through the year.

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As are the Mute Swans.

Canadian geese are not as common. I had not seen them before this year at this small lake in Texas.

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American Coots and pigeons were plentiful and sometimes were in mixed groups on the shore.

The sea gulls – far from any sea – seem happier on the water.

Mourning a Crow

Every time I visit my family in Carrollton, TX, I photograph the birds at the Josey Ranch Lake Park. The first bird I saw last week was near a trash receptacle beside the parking lot….and it was dead. It was a cloudy day to beginning with and finding a dead crow seemed to fit the weather. Seeing a dead bird is not that common; recently I am more likely to find feathers scattered from a predator taking a bird rather than a whole carcass. I mourned the crow the rest of the morning.

I wondered if the bird had died in a collision with a car…or whether it was West Nile Virus again causing crow deaths. My family had commented that they had been seeing more crows and assumed that the population was healthy and growing again.

I took the photographs with a zoom rather than getting close…just in case the bird died of an infection of some kind. A few white feathers are visible; evidently that is not so unusual for crows even though most of the time we think they are totally black.

More tomorrow about the birds that were active on the cold blustery day…helped me get over seeing the dead bird first.

Texas Sunrise

I was in Texas last week (Carrollton near Dallas to be precise). They were experiencing their first round of cold weather. The first morning I got up to early enough to see the sunrise (not hard this time of year).

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The garden still had a surprising amount of green I wondered how long it would be before the plants succumbed to frost. There were some that already had dried to brown (leaves and flowers) but the soft greens of oxalis and sedum

And the brighter colors of kale dominated the view.

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I took my pictures and hurried back inside…it was cold. Little did I know that the next 3 days would be cloudy…and then wet.

Texas Vegetation

Dallas in June – hot and mostly dry. There is some native vegetation that thrives in the heat. Everything benefits from a little water. The red yucca has become more and more popular in recent decades. It looks delicate but is prolific enough to sometimes be used in public landscaping.

Crape myrtles need extra water but do well in the heat. I photographed a crape myrtle with white blooms in the early morning on the day the sprinklers watered the garden.

The desert willows are even more resilient to the heat and dryness since they are native to the desert southwest and have only recently become common in landscaping in Dallas.

The blue run juniper my parents planted year ago to fill in around the other plants in their front yard (replacing grass) is mature and full of blue ‘berries.’


June is the peak of summer vegetation color in Texas!

Josey Ranch Lake – Other Birds

I’ve posted about the herons and mallards at Josey Ranch Lake earlier this week. There were some other birds at the lake.

The grackles are probably the most numerous birds at the lake. I like to photograph the birds showing their attitude.

The next most numerous birds are pigeons. Most of them were on the roofs of the senior center or library – surveying the lake or grooming.

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A Great Egret was feeding in the shallows near the Great Blue Heron….the lake seems to have enough food to support quite a few birds.

I saw one swan. I wondered if something had happened to the others. In April I saw two and several times in previous years that have been 3 or more.

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Josey Ranch Lake - Mallards

When I first got to Josey Ranch Lake, I thought I all I would see was Mallard Ducks and grackles! All the ducks I usually see when I visit Texas in the winter had gone north to their nesting grounds. When I looked closer at the Mallards, I realized that the ones that appeared to be napping in the shade were either molting males or juveniles just getting their adult plumage. I decided that they were probably juveniles – maybe the same ones I had seen as ducklings in April.

A pair of males on the lake also looked scruffy – probably juveniles getting their plumage.

Then I saw a female with a large number of mid-sized ducklings on the lake….probably the second group of the season. The lake is a good place for duck families evidently!

Josey Ranch Lake – Blue Herons

I saw two types of blue herons at Josey Ranch Lake (along with green herons and a yellow crowned night heron…for a total of 4 different kinds of herons): little blue and great blue. Great Blue Herons are birds I see frequently in Maryland and in Texas. They are large beautiful birds…and I enjoy photographing them. There was one at Josey Ranch Lake – standing serene in the lake shallows.

The  Little Blue Heron is not a bird I see in Maryland, so I was thrilled to see one at Josey Ranch Lake. It was the first heron I saw when I arrived for my walk. It was fishing in the shallows near the senior center. The bird looked a little battered – had some feathered missing in its neck – but seemed healthy and finding edible tidbits in the water.

Josey Ranch Lake – Yellow Crowned Night Heron

Another heron I saw at Josey Ranch Lank was  Yellow Crowned Night Heron. This heron is much larger than the green heron; in the image below the yellow crowned night heron is on the right and the green heron (adult) is on the left (a ball is in the center).

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Both herons were in the fallen reeds looking for breakfast and both found a crayfish. The pictures of the green heron catch were not clear enough to see the crayfish…but the shape and antennae or evident for the night heron’s catch.

This was a bid I had to look up in AllAboutBirds when I got back from my walk. I’d taken enough pictures from various angles to make the identification. It looked like a heron although the head looked more rounded that some of the other herons. The markings give it a different ‘facial expression’ as well – our minds always jump to that thinking, assigning a ‘personality’ to the bird that overlays assumptions made for our species onto the bird.

Josey Ranch Lake – Green Herons

Josey Ranch Lake is near where my parents live in Carrollton, TX and I try to make a walk around it ever time I visit. This time I’ve been busy with other things but managed to get over one morning – and saw 4 kinds of heron in less than 30 minutes! The most numerous were the Green Herons. They are only slightly larger than a grackle….so hard to distinguish at a distance. I was thrilled when I zoomed in on some fallen reeds at the edge of the lake and spotted one that hunting. Another bird appeared in the standing reeds. One caught something a gobbled it down – not sure whether it was a small fish or crayfish.

But the thrill of the day was few feet way at the edge of large stand of cattails….2 juvenile green herons! They were hunting on the logs and seemingly finding tidbits to eat. Their wings did not appear developed enough to allow then to fly; they still had a lot of down and coloring more like a starling than a green heron. But look at the legs!