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.

Catching a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher


It has been about four years since I had seen a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  That was on a trip to the Big Bend National Park.  On our local Tom Green County Bird Checklist, it is listed as “rare, very hard to find, not present every year”.  So it was a thrill when Ann and I saw a pair of them Wednesday morning.  We were at Spring Creek Park, prowling along the perimeter, driving slowly by the thick brush and vegetation.  It was very quiet when some movement in the thicket caught our attention.  I stopped the car about 20 feet away.  We saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, then a Bewick’s Wren.

We were thinking that was the complete show, when we saw a blueish flash fluttering in the bushes.  They were the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.  They left the brush and flew into a nearby pecan tree, but quickly returned to the thick brush.  We could see them but not very distinctly.  Then we got lucky.  One of them hopped out onto the wire fence that ran along the brush line.  I was able to get the following images  before we lost them again.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

I hope you enjoyed these photos as much as I did obtaining them.  Click on any of  them to see enlargements.

All About Hummingbirds


I have discovered that I have never, in my years of posting on this blog, did a post exclusively about hummingbirds.  I don’t know why that is, but one possibility is that I have a hard time with the identification of the different birds.  Another possible reason is that in my area there is only one dominant hummer; the Black-chinned Hummingbird.  And of course, most of them are the dull, unattractive females.  So I guess I ignored them most of the time.  Oh, did I forget to mention that they are danged hard to photograph, too.

But going back through my photos, I found that I did in fact photograph a few individuals in my travels over the years.  I noticed that I did a pretty good job when I decided to give it a try.  I am not going to try to tell you that I am an expert on these things.  The following photos are for your enjoyment, and if I mis-identified any of them let me know.

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird - singing in the rain

Black-chinned Hummingbird – singing in the rain

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbirds

Sub-adult Rufous Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

And finally an Anna’s Hummingbird resting on Ann’s hand after being banded by Kelly Bryan at Far Flung Outdoor Center, during a banding event.  Seconds later it flew off.  Ann said she could feel the bird’s little heart beating through her hand.

Anna's Hummingbird resting in a comfortable place.

Anna’s Hummingbird resting in a comfortable place.

I hope you enjoyed these photos.  Perhaps, in the near future, I may decide to photograph a few more of these species.  Stay tuned…..

Click on any image to see an enlargement.

 

 

 

 

Raptors, Raptors, Raptors!!!!


Yesterday I posted one of my Red-tailed Hawks to my FaceBook page.  In doing so, I was reminded that it had been a long time since I had blogged about raptors of any kind.  So today, I decided to go back through my archives.  I found a few that I don’t think I have ever posted, some that I hadn’t edited yet, and a few of my favorites.

I will begin with fore-mentioned Red-tailed Hawk.  It was taken a few years ago while on my way to Ballinger, Texas.  He was in the grass on the left side of the highway.  I pulled to the right and stopped and managed to get the photo as he was leaving the ground.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

This next photo of the Zone-tailed Hawk, I got just this morning as I was driving through Spring Creek Park near Lake Nasworthy.  I was lucky indeed as sightings of the Zone-tails are very rare around this area of the state.  I do believe I interrupted his meal of a fresh caught ground squirrel.

Zone-tailed Hawk with fresh catch.

Zone-tailed Hawk with fresh catch.

Next is a Cooper’s Hawk that I captured a few years ago in Big Bend National Park.

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks are difficult to discern between the two species.  I believe the next image is a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  Notice the Cooper’s (above), has a slightly flattish head, where the Sharp-shinned’s head is a bit more rounder.  I may get letters about this, but the sure way to see the difference is you can see the birds next to each other.  The Cooper’s will be the larger.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

People don’t think the Greater Roadrunner as a raptor, but he is definitely a voracious carnivore, as this next photo will show.  This image is pictured on the cover of my book, “Birds, Beasts, and Buttes”.

Great Roadrunner

Great Roadrunner

Another Red-tailed Hawk….

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

More Raptors……

Osprey

Osprey

Young Great-horned Owl.  A raptor to be.

Young Great-horned Owl. A raptor to be.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Another Roadrunner….

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

Click on any image to see great enlargements.

 

Post Processing? or Not?


A lot has been said about post processing.  In the old days of film, you took a roll of film to your local camera store or a WallyWorld to get it developed.  (Or if you had a darkroom, you could do it yourself.)   That in itself is a kind of post processing.  Depending on how good the individual was at his job, you got back a set of decent 3×5 prints.  Sometimes the color was off on one of them due to batch processing.  Then you could take that one negative back and have him or her custom print it.  In other words, adjust the color, or brightness, or whatever was needed to get the print right.  Post processing.

Now in the 21st century we are in the digital age.  We take photos with our digital camera.  Again we can take the memory card to your favorite “developer” and have them do the prints for you.  Or, again, you can do the processing yourself.  Regardless of how good the camera is, it can never get the absolute picture that you saw with your naked eye.  But most individuals are satisfied with what comes out of the camera.  They are good enough to show their friends and relatives, or post to a popular social media.  Or to sell.

Some people say, “get it right in the camera, and there is no need for post processing.”   An image from the camera does look ‘right’.  Or does it?  Look at the following photos of mine.  The images from the camera do look right.  I would probably would be able to sell them the way they are.  But, when I do my post processing, or digital darkroom work, as I like to call it, all of a sudden the photos look more like what I saw before I took the picture.

Click on the photos and examine each one and you will know what I am talking about.

Western Kingbird from the camera.

Cassin’s Kingbird from the camera.

Western Kingbird after post processing.

Cassin’s Kingbird after post processing.

Another.

White-breasted Nuthatch from camera

White-breasted Nuthatch from camera

White-breasted Nuthatch after post processing.

White-breasted Nuthatch after post processing.

In no way do either of these photo look “tricked up” or faked in anyway.  The changes are subtle, but noticeable enough to give more naturalism to the images.

It is very, very rare for me to NOT to post process, or at least check the images out to see if any edits need to be made.  Not that my photos don’t look good from the camera;  it is just that I know that the camera just can’t record all the minute details, or see as well into the shadows as well as my human eye.  So as you can see, it doesn’t hurt to do a bit of post processing, or editing, then you know for sure your result is closer to what you saw in the viewfinder before you clicked the shutter.

For the record, I use PhotoShop along with a couple of choice plug-in programs.  “An old family recipe ‘that was handed down………..”,  just kidding.. :-)

Jerry, over at Quiet Solo Pursuits, talks more about this at the end of his current post.  Click on the link to see his take on it.

 

Sunday at San Angelo State Park


On Sunday morning, Ann and I decided to visit the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.  There we met our friend, Christie McCorts-Chambers, as she had the same thoughts as ours.  We sat and watched the birds to see if there was anything new to drop by.  There were a couple of Black-chinned Hummingbirds that were quite active and I managed to get some nice shots of those.  Also, I was pleased that a beautiful, male House Finch decided to pose for me.

House Finch

House Finch

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

A male Northern Bobwhite made a brief visit at the back of the viewing area, but I managed to get a photo with my Canon 70D and Tamron 150-600mm lens, as I had with all of these photos.   He was about 60 feet away, but as I do with most of my photos, I still was able to crop for a nice close-up.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

We decided to take a drive around the park.  We asked Christie to join us so we spent a couple hours checking out all areas.  Most of what we observed were too far for decent photos, but for birding we saw a total of 27 species for the morning.  Here is one photo of a perhaps a young, or a female Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.  The tail is quite shorter than normal male adult.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Click on any photo to see enlargements.