Happy Birthday to Me…….


Almost to the end of another month.  And the end of another year in my life.  I will turn 80 on Thursday, which is October 2.  So to celebrate we, Ann and I will be doing our usual thing.  This time however, we will be birding at Uvalde, Texas.  A friend has invited us to use his bird blind down there, with promises of brand new birds for our life list.

We are leaving Wednesday morning Oct. 1, and will return Friday, October 3.  So I am looking forward to posting a blog over the weekend, hopefully with a bunch of new images of some new birds.

This will probably be my last post until the weekend, so here are a few recent photos that I have gotten locally.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

This Northern Cardinal was at the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.  I thought he was too pretty to ignore.

Great Roadrunner on the hood of our car.

Great Roadrunner on the hood of our car.

We happened to look out the door of the blind, and we spotted a Greater Roadrunner on our Ford Escape.  Fortunately, besides the camera that was mounted on the tripod, I also had a second Canon 70D with my 100-400mm lens handy.  I grabbed it and got these shots before the roadrunner hopped off and ran towards the brush.

Greater Roadrunner on our car.

Greater Roadrunner on our car.

Not seeing as many birds that we had hoped, we took a drive around the park for a few minutes.  Not too many birds in the building.  A year or so ago, they, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, took upon themselves to spray the thick mesquite that is in abundance in the park.  The thought was that that the brushy trees were sapping too much of the valuable water of the area.  That was probably true, but in killling the trees, they also destroyed valuable habitat.  I believe that is why the populace of birds, hawks, and wildlife in general has declined.

But having said that, we was this Loggerhead Shrike on a thorny, dead branch.

Loggerhed Shrike

Loggerhed Shrike

So I apologize for the short post, but I hope to make for it in my next post.  But no promises, as I will then be an old man of 80, so we can get absent-minded.  But I would hate to have to start visiting the senior center downtown, because that is where all of the old people hang out. :-)

The Surprises Keep Coming……


After getting that amazing photo of the Bobcat, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be so lucky again for awhile.  However, the following day, Ann and I decided to go back for some serious birding.  We were very disappointed with the lack of birds.  Hey, isn’t this migrating time?  Where are the birds?  Hard to say, as I sure can’t predict the behavior of the avian community.

Anyway, on the way to Middle Concho Park, I decided to turn into a smaller area called Hot Water Slough Park.  The first thing I noticed was a large bird on the ground, and as we watched it flew up into a nearby tree.  Well, I’ll be danged if it wasn’t a Swainson’s Hawk.  I hurriedly tried to maneuver my car into a position so I could photograph it from my driver’s side window.  The bird co-operated and remained perched for me.  Had I tried to leave my vehicle, it would for sure have flown.

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

We continued into Middle Concho Park, but nary was a bird to be seen.  We left there and decided to return to Spring Creek Park.  Again, there was a distinct lack of birds there, too.  However, we are pretty patient.  We cruised along the river bank and all of a sudden, Ann exclaimed, “There’s an owl”.  Wow!  It was a Great Horned Owl, and almost directly overhead.  As I again tried to maneuver my car for a vantage point, she said, “There’s another one!”  Sure enough, above and slightly left was another adult, but it was partially hidden in the branches.  I was able to get some nice shots of the first one.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

So even though there were few of the regular birds that make up the normal population, it was nice to see these nice surprises.

The very next day, we tried again.  Again, we were rewarded with another great surprise.  As we turned into Spring Creek Park, we came upon a large dead tree next to the river bank.  In past years, we had seen hawks, and other birds perched there, but usually it is empty of any bird life.  This time there was an Osprey sitting there.  One of the first of the winter season.  It was very close, as I again, was able to get my car into perfect shooting position.  The first image is from a spot where he was un-obstructed by branches.

Osprey

Osprey

After getting several shots from that spot, I moved a few yards and took the following photo.  Notice he is on the same branch, but I think this image looks a bit more natural.  I am undecided as to which one I like the best.

Osprey

Osprey

I hope you enjoyed this post and the photos.  There is a lesson to be heard here;  never give up as you never know what surprises may lie in the next tree.

Sometimes I get lucky…….


It is always nice to be at the right place at the right time.  Case in point.  Ann and I were prowling through Spring Creek Park, trawling for bird photo opportunites.  As we neared the fence line separating the park property from the wooded area we spotted movement which proved to be a bobcat moving deeper into the woods.  I stopped our Ford Escape and tried to get a better look.  The cat stopped about thirty-five yards into the brush, turned and peered back at me.  I could see his head, which was surrounded with branches, twigs, etc.  I started to drive on, thinking there was no way I could get a photo.  But I changed my mind and stopped the car again.  By resting my Canon 70D with the Tamron 150-600mm lens on the driver’s side window, I could barely get the center focus point on his head.  I pressed the shutter and hoped for the best.  Here is the result.  I hope you like it.

Bobcat

Bobcat

Exposure was 1/1000 sec @ f6.3,  ISO 2500, 600mm.

Ft. Davis and Davis Mountains Revisited


Well, after our aborted trip last month, we finally got it right this time.  We arrived at our destination, the Davis Mountains Inn Bed and Breakfast around 1:30 on Monday afternoon.  That’s our room behind the french doors on the right.

Davis Mountains Inn

Davis Mountains Inn

Since we had a couple of hours to kill before checking in, we decided to visit the Davis Mountains State Park, and have a look at the bird viewing center.  Within a short time we caught glimpses of the following.

Summer Tanager - female

Summer Tanager – female

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

While all of that was going on, this squirrel decided to have a look, too.

Squirrel

Squirrel

After spending about an hour and a half there, it was time to go check in at the inn.  We had a nice room, with a king-sized bed.  It also had a jacuzzi which we didn’t use, mainly because of a previous experience with one, that we had at another place.  But that’s another funny story, for another time.  Remind me to tell you all it about sometime.

Because of a family emergency with the owners of the inn, they were unable to cook breakfast for us the following morning.  However, they also own the Fort Davis Drug Store in Fort Davis.  It doubles as a restaurant, so they paid for our meal there.

Following breakfast we decided to take the scenic loop that goes northwest towards the heart of the Davis Mountains, then circles south of them and eventually returns to the city of Fort Davis.  This loop goes to the McDonald Observatory atop Mt. Locke, elevation 6,791 feet, and about a mile above the desert below.

Approaching Mt. Locke and the McDonald Observatory

Approaching Mt. Locke and the McDonald Observatory

Atop Mt. Locke

Atop Mt. Locke

View from Mt. Locke

View from Mt. Locke

McDonald Observatory

McDonald Observatory

The last time we had visited the observatory a few years ago, we were accosted by a wintery blast as a blue norther blew in as we were atop the mountain.  We hastily made for the visitors center where we were forced to buy some warm jackets.  This time it was cool, but comfortable.

As we continued around the drive heading back towards to Fort Davis, we saw several birds, and added to our 2014 Big Year List, a Canyon Wren, Wilson’s Warbler, and the Acorn Woodpecker, bringing our current total to 185.  Another 15 to go, and we still have three months left.

We also saw this peculiar collection of boulders.  You have to use your imagination to wonder how these ended up in this position.  They are about 15 feet tall.  I wish I had posed Ann in the photo so you could see the size.

Boulders

Boulders

After getting back to the inn, we decided to take a well-deserved nap. Following that, we then went into Fort Davis, which was only a half mile away, and ate a patty melt at the drugstore slash restaurant.  Another filling meal, then relaxed on the patio before turning in for the evening.

On Wednesday, after a scrumptious breakfast of poached eggs and sausage, we went back to the Davis Mountains SP.  Here are a few of the highlights of that visit.

Lesser Goldfinch - juvenile male

Lesser Goldfinch – juvenile male

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker

Say's Phoebe

Say’s Phoebe

We then made a short trip to the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and it was humming with hummingbirds.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird or possibly a Black-chinned.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird or possibly a Black-chinned.

female Rufous Hummingbird

female Rufous Hummingbird

On Thursday morning, it was time to say goodbye to the Davis Mountains.  I am sure we will return soon.   In all we saw a grand total of 45 different species at various times of our journey.

Nighthawks – A Mother and Child


Today has been a drizzly day.  We started to the blind at San Angelo State Park, then thought better of it.  From the direction of the wind, I knew that the drizzly rain would be blowing right back into my lens.  Then, besides, we considered that the birds probably wouldn’t be very active.

So back to the house.  Rats!  Just couldn’t think of anything to write about so started browsing through my archives.  I came across these images that I had taken several years ago, long before I started shooting RAW.  The JPEG files looked good so I started editing them

But here is the story.  About 8:30AM one morning, I got a call from a lady that was opening up her store over near the Village Shopping Center.  She had parked in back of the building, and was going to enter her rear door.  As she walked up, she spotted to creatures on the ground near the structure.  She called me and asked me to come over and identify them.

As I drove up then, at first I couldn’t make out what they were from the car.  As I walked up, though, I recognized them immediately.  They were an adult Common Nighthawk and a young one. Nighthawks don’t nest in the usual sense.  They lay there eggs on the bare ground, usually in some pebbles, etc.  I suspect the nesting area of these two were nearby, at the base of the building wall somewhere.  But there was no way of knowing for sure.

I got my cameras out of the car and commenced trying to get photos.  At first, the chick skittered away from the mom.  I tried to keep a reasonable distance, as I could see he/she was getting stressed.  Finally, the mother moved back closer.  These are two of the many exposures I was to get.

Adult Common Nighthawk with chick

Adult Common Nighthawk with chick

Common Nighthawk chick

Common Nighthawk chick

I hope you enjoy this post and photos.  Ann and I are leaving Monday morning to go back to Fort Davis.  As you know, we tried this trip a couple of weeks ago, but had to return home after I had a medical problem.  Looking back, I believe that I had got bitten by some spider, etc., and had an allergic reaction.  But all is well now, and I hope to have success in getting some new photos of the birds from that area.  So I won’t be blogging until later in the week, probably around next Friday.

Happy Anniversary To Me!


WordPress notified me that today was my fifth year anniversary of my blog.  I didn’t see that coming or I would have opened a bottle of champagne.  It seems like only yesterday, well, maybe the day before.

In those five years, I have had 153,529 views.  That’s the count as I begin to write this.  I have 1,848 subscribed readers in 156 countries, not to mention all of the readers that I have that are not subscribers.  As I write this, which is, by the way, my 789th post, I ponder how in the world was I ever able to think of something to write – 789 times.

Anyway, I wish to thank all of you readers that continue to read my posts.  Some of you make comments and I have gotten to know you.  I wish some others would comment, also, as it is so reassuring to know that there are so many more readers out there, that I don’t know.  If I hadn’t ever gotten any comments, I would probably have terminated this blog long ago.  But as long as I know that someone out there is listening, I will try to continue.

Here are a few photos from the past few days.  Ann and I have taken a few short forays into the local parks to see if anything new has arrived.  Hope you enjoy them.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

Here is the first Yellow Warbler of the new season.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

A rare Zoned-Hawk making an appearance.  I photographed this one this morning.  Actually, I saw him the first time a few days ago.

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

This Green Heron was in a tree contemplating the world.

Green Heron

Green Heron

A familiar Eastern Phoebe.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Ann and I are again, going back to the Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains, leaving Monday for three days.  We had to cut our previous attempt short because of a medical problem.  This time we hope to get it right.

If some of you readers would like to subscribe, click on “Sign Me Up”, on the right side of this page.  You will be notified by e-mail whenever I publish a new post.

Good day for birding on Friday


I had gotten an e-mail from a friend, saying that he had seen some Mississippi Kites along the Concho River downtown.  So after eating an early breakfast at Stango’s in town, we decided to prowl along the river to see if we could see one of the kites.  We got more than we expected.

First of all, we spotted a Coopers’s Hawk across the river.  I almost missed him as he was partly hidden from branches, but enough of him showed up in the early morning light.  Although a long way across, I tried to get him in my viewfinder and snapped of a few shots.  Fortuntely I was using my new Tamron 150-600mm lens.  I was at the extreme end at 600mm, and this is the result I got.

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

We saw a Green Heron fly by us and settle down by the water, so we followed it and stopped along the road.  I got out of the car and walked closer to the shore.  It was across the water about 100 yards away.  Again, the Tamron lens came through for me.

Green Heron

Green Heron

We saw a couple of Great Blue Herons, but I didn’t like the images.  They were too contrasty in the light.  Oh yes, we did see a couple of Mississippi Kites, but they were too far away, even for my long lens.

We then decided to head to Spring Creek Park, where we had previously seen the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.  They had decided to fly elsewhere, but we saw another Eastern Phoebe.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Then we came across another bird, that we thought was another phoebe.  I took several photos of it, and only after we got home and I was able to enlarge the image for a closer look, did I discover it was an Eastern Wood Pewee.  You can see the similarities.

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

After that we drove down near where the river gets wider.  Ann saw this larger heron type bird fly across us and land near the the opposite shore.  At first, I thought it was another Great Blue Heron, when it flew over the car.  An illusion of course, as it turned out to be a smaller juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron.  Unfortunately, it was right next to a piece of trash, and it wasn’t going to walk around it.  Neither could I figure out how to remove such a large portion of the photo, so I just decided to leave it as.

1st year Yellow-crowned Night Heron

1st year Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Leaving that park, we headed over to Middle Concho Park, actually just on the other side of the river.  There wasn’t much going on there, except this little Black-crested Titmouse in a small tree.

Black-crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

We will be going out this weekend for more fun and birding so stay tuned for whatever we may come across.  Click on any image to see enlargements.