Monday, August 27, 2007

Pop, Grackle, and Snap

My wife and I dislike Great-tailed Grackles. They are mid-sized birds that inhabit lakeshores. Males are completely black, with less the purplish, bluish sheen of their Eastern Cousins – the Common Grackle. Females and juveniles are dark brown all over. The only striking feature they have are their bright yellow eyes which both sexes have. They are cocky, noisy and omnivorous just like their bigger relatives, the Crows.

So when the Philippine Photographers group chose the Grackle as the next bi-monthly subject (for us residents of North America) we both groaned. The locals have the Yellow-vented Bulbul as their subject – a much more colorful, and very interesting species. How a Grackle can compare to a Bulbul is beyond me. These two bird kinds have no commonality at all.

But decisions have been made, and rules are rules. So Saturday morning, we drove to Lake Balboa in Van Nuys. Despite getting there early – we arrived a little after 8 am - the place was already swarming with people. Lake Balboa is a public park and joggers, dog-walkers, and weekend exercisers were all over the lake shore. However, despite the presence of human beings, we saw the ever-present rock doves, the Mallards and Coots. Some Cormorants were even enjoying an early morning swim. A Great Blue Heron awoke from its top of a lamppost roost. But where were the Grackles?

In the middle of the lake were some boats still covered in blue tarps. There on top were a group of grackles still dozing off. Luckily, the harbor master soon arrived and towed the boats to the pier where they will be rented out. Of course, the grackles were roused from their slumber and soon they were popping up on the shore.

We snapped a few photos but were a bit disappointed. How can you make a simple black or plain brown bird appealing? Inasmuch as these birds have gotten accustomed to the presence of people, we were able to watch them as they went about their daily routine. Some of their poses we found to be quite humorous. Thankfully we were able to capture those candid snapshots of our subject species.

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