Making lemonade from a lemon. And other stuff.


Since my last post I have been making several excursions to San Angelo State Park, in search of usable photos.  I have gotten several, but one stands out for me.  I was at the bird viewing blind at the park.  I had my Canon 7D MarkII, with a 150-600mm Tamron lens, mounted on my monopod.  While watching, I spotted a Northern Bobwhite in the distance, about 100 feet away, beyond the water feature.  As a whim I took the photo, not thinking about it being a saleable photo.  But after I got home and put in the computer in preparation for post editing, I realized that I might be able to make something out of it.

Here is the original.  Notice it looks a little bland and washed out and overall, not a very impressive  photograph.

Original Bobwhite photo

Here is the finished product, after cropping for composition, and just adjusting the contrast, a little color saturating, and lighting adjustment.  What fun!!

Northern Bobwhite

Okay, that’s your lesson for the day.  Don’t give up on what you may think is not a usable photograph.  Just some creative cropping and minor adjusting, can give you some surprising results.

I am still looking through my images from our Davis Mountains trip.  Here is another photo of a beautiful Scott’s Oriole.

Scott’s Oriole

And another shot of one of those feisty Acorn Woodpeckers.

Acorn Woodpecker

Going through some of my photos from past years, I sometimes come upon one that I didn’t initially care for.  But after taking a second look, and doing some re-editing, I can sometimes surprise myself.  Such was the case with this Carolina Chickadee that I photographed back in 2014.  I realized that my editing skills weren’t as good then as I am today.  Of course, advancements in software and techniques really help.

Carolina Chickadee

Click on this and the other photos and see some enhanced enlargements.  It make a huge difference in viewing them.

Until the next time, Happy Birding!!

More from the Davis Mountains


I have been spending the past several days, catching up with editing my photos from our Davis Mountains birding trip.  I am really thrilled and happy that I was able to get these photographs, some of which have been on my bucket list for a long time.  Oh, I had seen most of the birds in the past, I just hadn’t been able to get the photos of them that I was satisfied with.  Anyway, here is anoatherhalf-dozen that I have ready for you.  All of them were captureded in or near the Davis Mountains of west Texas.  Click on an of them to see enlargements.

One of my favorites of the trip was this Acorn Woodpecker.  I love their clown face.  They are seen mostly in the mountains of far west Texas and southern Arizona.

Acorn Woodpecker

Formerly the Western Scrub-Jay.  It was split into different species, the Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay and the California Scrub-Jay.

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

The beautiful Scott’s Oriole is found mostly in west Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

Scott’s Oriole

This Western Tanager was pretty elusive.  He stayed partly hidden in the branches, until he finally made this brief appearance.

Western Tanager

The Loggerhead Shrike is a familiar bird all across the southern states.  Know as the Butcher Bird as he likes to impale his prey on barbed-wire or cactus spines, to be eaten at a later time.

Loggerhead Shrike

Another photo of the Woodhouse’s Scrub’Jay.  I don’t know which I like best.

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

Again, I hope you enjoyed these photos.  More are coming in future posts.  Prints are available at my FineArtAmerican store at: http://1bob-zeller.pixels.com.  Just click on the image you are interested in and a menu will fall in place, letting you know what is available and pricing.  You may also buy 12×16 prints directly from me at bobzeller@pobox.com.

One of my readers, Mr. Carl White, asked for a list of all of the species from that trip.  So for all of you birders who may be curious, here is what we saw from leaving San Angelo on May 1 until coming back on May 5.  It includes birds from the Davis Mountains, Lake Balmorhea, Saucedo Wetlands, and highways throughout the areas.

  1. Pyrhuloxia
  2. White-winged Dove
  3. Turkey Vulture
  4. Common Raven
  5. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  6. Northern Mockingbird
  7. Bullock’s Oriole
  8. House Finch
  9. House Sparrow
  10. Great-tailed Grackle
  11. Cassin’s Kingbird
  12. White-crowned Sparrow
  13. Greater Roadrunner
  14. Northern Shoveler
  15. Cinnamon Teal
  16. Mallard
  17. Killdeer
  18. Cave Swallow
  19. Western Meadowlark
  20. Purple Martin
  21. American Coot
  22. Pied-billed Grebe
  23. Olive-sided Sparrow
  24. Black-chinned Hummingbird
  25. Brown-headed Cowbird
  26. Red-tailed Hawk
  27. Chichuahuan Raven
  28. Lark Sparrow
  29. Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay
  30. Scott’s Oriole
  31. White-breasted Nuthatch
  32. Swainson’s Hawk
  33. Chipping Sparrow
  34. Black-headed Grosbeak
  35. Acorn Woodpecker
  36. Mourning Dove
  37. Wilson’s Warbler
  38. Black-crested Titmouse
  39. Hermit Thrush
  40. Western Wood-Pewee
  41. Summer Tanager
  42. Pine Siskin
  43. Blue Grosbeak
  44. Montezuma Quail
  45. Cactus Wren
  46. Canyon Towhee
  47. Say’s Phoebe
  48. McGilivray’s Warbler
  49. Bushtit
  50. Common Nighthawk
  51. Hepatic Tanager (lifer)
  52. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  53. Bewick’s Wren
  54. Western Tanager
  55. Loggerhead Shrike
  56. Scaled Quail
  57. Common Black-Hawk
  58. Eastern Meadowlark
  59. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  60. Lesser Goldfinch
  61. Northern Cardinal
  62. Black-throated Sparrow
  63. Spotted Sandpiper
  64. Green Heron
  65. Red-winged Blackbird
  66. Western Grebe
  67. Clark’s Grebe
  68. Black-necked Stilt
  69. White-faced Ibis
  70. Snowy Egret
  71. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  72. Vermilion Flycatcher
  73. Curve-billed Thrasher
  74. Western Kingbird

Great Birding in Davis Mountains


We returned from our week stay in Fort Davis on Friday afternoon.  It was probably our best birding trip ever when we look at the numbers.  For the four days we spent there we saw a total of 73 different species, high-lighted by our sighting and photograph of a Montezuma Quail.  It had been very elusive to us as we had missed seeing it on a half dozen previous trips.  This time we visited a friends bird-watch setup at his place high in the Davis Mountains.  We have to thank Stephen Hambright for his hospitality and use of his blinds.

Montezuma Quail

I took about 1,000 images there, along the highways in the area, and at Lake Balmorhea.  It will take me several more days to go through all of them.  I am having day-surgery on my nose tomorrow, so I want to do this post today, Sunday, and show these four photographs.  The rest will have to wait several more days until my next post.  Bythe way, click on any image to see a glorious enlargement.

There were several Black-headed Grosbeaks in abundance in the mountains.

Black-headed Grosbeak

We spent two mornings at Stephen’s place.  I think most of our sightings were there.  Besides the Grosbeaks, we saw a Hepatic Tanager, Summer Tanager, Western Tanager, Say’s Phoebe, Wood Pewees, Scrub-jays, and various others.  I will be showing some of those in future posts.

Say’s Phoebe

On Wednesday evening we traveled out highway 505, a desolate road with no traffic for miles.  We were in search of possibly some bald eagles.  We struck out on those, although we did see a huge Common Black-Hawk.  We did see and photograph some Scaled Quail.  They seemed to be everywhere along the way.

Scaled Quail

Those are all that for now.  I hope to be posting again towards the end of this coming week.  I will have to see how this minor surgery goes tomorrow.

I now will have 12×16 inch prints on hand if any of you want one.  Of course, that goes for any photo that you have seen on any of my posts.  They are 40.00 each, but that includes shipping.  If you live in San Angelo, you pay only 30.00 if I can hand deliver it.  Just contact me at bobzeller@pobox.com. or 325-656-6241.

You can also order limited photos from my FineArtAmerica website at http://1-bob-zeller.pixels.com.

Until my next post in a few days, Happy Birding!!

 

Migration is in full swing….


We definitely are in the midst of the spring migration.  There are some strange anomalies this year.  Many birds are arriving early.  Some, like the Great Kiskadee, decided to move farther north and have made a home here in San Angelo.  We have witnessed the arrivals of the Painted Buntings, Western Kingbirds, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, and Ash-throated Flycatchers to name a few.  We even witnessed a pair of Lesser Nighthawks, that are usually rare to this area.

I am beginning to get back into the swing of things, too, after my long layoff.  As we entered the San Angelo State Park yesterday morning, we saw this Misissippi Kite on a high line.  It was the first one of the season for me.

Mississippi Kite

A few minutes later I captured this photo of a Western Kingbird.

Western Kingbird

Tomorrow morning Ann and I are heading to the Davis Mountains.  There have been great reports of numerous birds that we want to see and photograph.  Again, we will be staying at the Davis Mountains Inn.  If any of our birding readers or FaceBook friend happen to be there in the area, look us up.

By the way, I am offering a 10% discount on prints, coffee mugs and other items at my online store FineArtAmerica.  Just enter this code: SBJNYY  at checkout.  Offer expires May 25, 2017.

I will be back in a week, hopefully with some news and photos from our stay at Fort Davis.

Until then, Happy Birding!!

Internet Dating – 50s Style


This post is a little bit off of my usual style, but it will serve as an example of how things can work out, even if a little unorthodox.  But, most importantly, how having faith in the Man upstairs, can make things work out.

It started when Ann and I were down at Beverly Stribling’s ranch, leading eleven delightful ladies on a birding tour.  After that was done, lunch was served, wine was imbibed, and  conversation was entertaining.  One of the ladies insisted that Ann and I tell them how we met, since we have been married 58 years.  After I told them that it was at bit unusual, to say the least, they wanted the complete unabridged story.  I believe that I may have touched a bit on the subject in a post several years ago, but I will be more thorough this time.  I think you will find it a little entertaining.  Perhaps a little unbelievable.  So here we go……..

I am from Muskegon, Michigan originally.  In March of 1958 I was stationed at Ardmore AFB, Oklahome.  Ann had just moved to Muskegon from her home in Beulah, Michigan.  She did this to attend Muskegon Business School.  She was nineteen year of age.  She just happened to rent an upstairs room and my grandmother’s house.  (You can see where this going, can’t you.)

Yep, my sweet grandmother, decided that she should do the right thing and notify me of the cute girl upstairs.   She provided me of her address, just in case I was interested.  This was in mid March of 1958.  Well, since I was a lonely service man, of course, I was a little interested.  (heck, a lot interested).  I decided to write this lass, and introduce myself as the grandchild of her landlord.  She wrote back immediately with a very nice letter, telling me about herself, etc.  So I wrote her back again.  We struck a neat friendship that blossomed as we got to know each other.  She sent me a couple of pictures of herself.  This was the first one.

Ann – 1958

Ann – 1958

You have to agree, she has great looking legs.  So, anyway, I sent her a couple of mine, as I wanted her to know what she was getting into.  Here I am, dressed to impress.

Bob – 1958

We continued to write each other.  By mid-April we were writing each other every day. Before, I had been writing to about 50 other girls.  (Well that figure may be inaccurate.  Maybe it wasn’t that many  I will need to go back and check my records.  After all, I am nearly 83 years of age, and my memory is a bit fuzzy.)  Anyway, I remember sending both of them a Dear Joan letter.  Things were getting more serious, but I still hadn’t met or even talked to Ann.

In about mid-June, I decided to ask Ann if she would marry me.  Yep, that’s right.  Sight unseen, I knew she was the one for me.  I waited in anticipation for her answer.  Three days later I got the return letter.  She said “I’d be honored to be your wife.  Wow! I thought, what do I do now?  Well, I got my calendar out and did some calculating.  First,we needed to set a date.

I decided a fast trip home was in order.  I could only ge a three-day pass, but that didn’t stop me.  I decided to hitch-hike to Oklahoma City, go to Tinker AFB and get a hop (free-right) on any military aircraft that was heading to Michigan or vicinity.  I figured I would hitch-hike to Muskegon, see my future bride for a few hours, then grab a bus back to Ardmore.  I called my dad and asked him go to Ann’s apartment and inform her of my plans.

Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans.  I made it to Tinker just fine.  But as I was sitting, waiting in the transient lounge a fierce thunder storm hit.  It included rain, very high winds, and large hail.  All flight operations ceased and all aircraft were grounded.  I had no choice but to hitch-hike back to Ardmore when weather cleared.  When I got there I called my dad again and asked him to go to Ann’s place again and tell her of my aborted mission.

Okay, I decided.  Time to go to plan B.  I decided to call her and talk to her on the phone.  This would be the first time I would hear her voice.  I called my dad once again.  (By now, my dad is getting to know Ann quite well.)  My grandmother didn’t have a telephone, so I asked my dad to, once again, go get Ann and bring her back to the house.  I would then call home at a designated time, and Ann and I would have our first conversation…….to make wedding plans.

Well, to have a private conversation at my parents house is not easy.  My dad has his favorite chair, a huge recliner that is where he spends his time relaxing.  Our phone is, yep, you guessed it.  On a stand, right next to that chair.  There are no other handsets.  I do not know if my dad gave up his seat for her, but I didn’t ask, as I had other things on my mind when she said hello to me…..for the first time.  We chatted a little then I asked her how August 18 would work for her.  I mentioned that date because of my plans that I worked out, explained in the following paragraph….

I had made some preliminary  plans vis-a-vis our wedding date.  I knew the how many paydays I would need to have to get enough money to rent an apartment, buy groceries, and get a round-trip ticket for me.  All the little things need to start a sucessful marriage to get off the ground.  So I had calculated all of this and figured if I could leave on Friday the 15th, after getting paid of course I could get to Chicago.  A friend of mine was heading that way and he would give me a ride there to the bus station, where I could buy a ticket for the final leg to Muskegon, Michigan.  Ann was to meet me at the bus station, at 2:00 PM the following day, Saturday.  Then we could get married on Monday the 18th.

So, back to our very first telephone conversation.  She said that date would be fantastic.  She would graduate from business school the previous week, so our timing was impeccable.  She said she would make all of the plans, get the license, line up a church and preacher, and send out invitations.  Before I forget, I also went to a jewelry store and paid 79.00 for a set of diamond rings.  Yes, they were real.  Remember this is 1958.

It worked out exactly as planned.  I pulled into the bus station at 2:00 and she was sitting on bench looking pretty much as she did in that picture above. It was like we had known each other forever.  We got a taxi to head for my parents house.  Remember, back then co-habitation (shacking-up) before marriage usually wasn’t done, so I would be staying there until we were married.  She mentioned on the way to the house, that I wouldn’t have much time to relax, as the wedding rehearsal was at 4:00.

All went well, we got to know each other more as the weekend went by.  The wedding was very nice, except for the absence of her parents.  They we up in age and didn’t feel up to making the 150 mile trip from Beulah to Muskegon.  On the following day, Tuesday, we did drive up there, though, so I could meet my in-laws.  They turned out to be awesome people.  There was only one minor snag.  I didn’t have enough money for Ann’s bus ticket back to Ardmore.  I had hoped to get some cash in our wedding gifts.  Alas, there was none.

The Melody Rangers – Ardmore AFB – Me 2nd from the right.

But no fear.  Since I was a professional musician before and during my Air Force career, I had an extra alto saxophone that my parents were keeping for me.  I took it to the local music store, that I used to haunt as a teenager.  I talked the owner into buying that sax so I could buy Ann’s bus ticket.  Problem solved.  We packed all of Ann’s belongings, including dishes, pots and pans, etc. into seven suit cases.  We checked them through on the bus.

Back in Ardmore.  The following day I took Ann out to the airbase.  She got a civil service job working in base supply.  Our landlord, thought we were a sweet couple.  Their son had a cream-puff 1953 Buick Roadmaster that he was willing to sell us for 795.00 and he would tote the note.  I would make payments to him.

So there we were.  All of a sudden we went from, ah, let’s see.  I won’t say a struggling couple, as we didn’t have enough sense to know what struggling meant.  We were just taking each day one at a time, having the time of our lives.  But there we were, Ann had a great job, we had a great car, and I was about to get promoted and add another stripe.  You see, the Good Lord was following our antics all the way, making sure we wouldn’t get lost.  It has now been nearly 59 years.  I wouldn’t recommend our way of getting ‘hitched’ but if I had it to do over, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Wedding photo

Wedding photo.

I hope you enjoyed this fun, but true story of love and adventure.

 

A Special promotion for my WordPress readers.


As many of you know, I am not restricted to bird photography.  One of my award-winning photographs was from the International Water Lily Collection in San Angelo.  It has won many first place awards, besides being one of my best selling photographs.  I am now offering it for a limited time as a stretched canvas print, ready for hanging. It is a special promotion for my WordPress readers that havae been so loyal and faithful over the years.  A saving of $ 23.00.  Click here for more information.

Thank you for considering

Watch for another post here soon. 🙂

 

Bob’s Big Return……with a Bang!


Well, after a six week absence, I am finally ready to get back to posting.  I have my health issues corrected and I am feeling great.  Actually, my health problems go back several years, when I had fits of depression, blood pressure issues, numerous IT infections, and finally culminated with skin cancer problems about two months ago that prompted me to take several weeks off.  I really need to thank my adoring wife, Ann,  for putting up with me and supporting me through all of those years.  I also had the support of several close friends, includding Deb and Paul Tappan, Laren Green and many others, plus a host of FaceBook friends who had me in their prayers.  But the most important individual was, of course, Ann.  If it wasn’t for her, I would not be where I am today.  Now at the age of 82, I am feeling much younger.

During the past several weeks, although I was slowed down a bit, I was able to amass a collection of photos during short visits to surrounding areas.  I am not going to post them in any particular order, but feel free to click on any of them to see some nice enlargements.  If you are interested in any prints, they are available at my on-line store.  Prices starting at 17.56.  I would be greatly honored if you decide to hang one in your home.  If you would just like to have one of my beautiful coffee mugs, check them out here

Okay, let’s start with this wonderful image of a Vermilion Flycatcher.

Vermilion Flycatcher – 1/640 sec, @ f7.1, ISO 800.

By the way, for those that would like to know, my basic equipment for my bird photography is a Canon EOS 7D Mk II and a Tamron 150-600mm Gen 2 zoom lens.

I love the Summer Tanagers.  Evern the female pictured here, has  distinct beauty of her own.

Summer Tanager – female – 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 3200.

It is migration time in Texas, and the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are returning.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 125.

This is probably a Western Meadowlark.  However I am not positive as the Eastern is so nearly identical that I have a hard time discerning which is which.

Western Meadowlark – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 800.

I was proud of this image of the secluded White-eyed Vireo.  Very hard to catch one for a decent photo.

White-eyed Vireo – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 2500.

The Lark Sparrow is one of the most recognizable of the sparrows.  That distinct marking of the head that reminds me of a football helmet.

Lark-Sparrow – 1/640 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 200.

The Northern Bobwhite is one of the quail family that is much in abundance in this area.  Some of you photographers may have noticed that I have no qualms about shooting at high ISOs.  My Canon 7D Mark II handles high ISOs very well.  But if there is excessive digital noise, I use a Photoshop plug-in, Topaz DeNoise, that removes it rather nicely.

Northern Bobwhite – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 3200.

Great Kiskadees are, or have been, very rare to the Concho Valley.  They were practically unheard of around here.  But back in late September of 2016, four of them made there way to the Lake Nasworthy area.  By late March of this year we thought they had disappeared.  But on April 4, Ann and I were cruising around Spring Creek Park.  She said that she could hear one nearby.  I thought she imagining it, but she opened her iPad’s  iBird Pro app.  She played the sound for me, and one of them answered and flew to a nearby tree for this shot.  I guess they have found a home here.

Great Kiskadee – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 400.

Sometimes I  pass up chances if a bird or subject feels like it is too far away.  Such was the case with this Osprey.  He was very tiny, even in the viewfinder, but I made sure my camera and lens was firmly seated on my bean bag on my window sill.  With spot focusing I squeezed off the shot and it proved to be sharp enough to make a nice enlargement.

Osprey – 1/1000 sec. @f7.1, ISO 320.

This was my first photograph of the year of an Ash-throated Flycatcher.  There was a rumor of a similar Brown-crested Flycatcher in the area.  I discounted it as it would have been a rarity for here.  I don’t know of any recorded, confirmed sighting ever in this area.  However, “show me the picture”, and I will believe.

Ash-throated Flycatcher – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 800.

I love the little Kinglets, but they sure as heck really hard to photograph.  Always on the move.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 3200.

Bluebirds.  A crowd favorite.

Eastern Bluebird – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 640.

I was lucky to catch this Nashville Warbler when he was showing a bit of his rusty crown, which is usually hidden.

Nashville Warbler – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 640.

The Chipping Sparrow is another sparrow which is easily recognized.

Chipping Sparrow – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 800.

There are two sub-species of the Yellow-rumped Warbler; Audubon and Myrtle.  This one with the brilliant yellow “chin” is an Audubon.

Yellow-rumped Warbler – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 3200.

The problem with this Rock Wren is they are very hard to see.  We find them in the rocks, or riff-raff, on the side of O. C. Fisher Dam.  We know they are there, so we must be patient and watch for movement along the huge structure.  Finally, when we get a glimpse, it is easier to track them as they move along the rocks.

Rock Wren – 1/800 sec @ f7.1, ISO 1250

This little Bewick’s Wren was singing his little heart out.

Bewick’s Wren – 1/640 sec @ f6.3, ISO 320.

I watched this Great Horned Owl patiently for several minutes.  I was about 200 yards away so there was no way that I was going to agitate him.  I was waiting for him to open his eyes.  I moved his head many times but never opened them.  After about 15 minutes I gave it up and left the building.

Great Horned Owl – 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 800.

Well, I think that is it for this post.  It felt wonderful to be posting again.  This particular post has a record number of photos, nineteen.  That is the most I have ever published in one post.  I hope you enjoyed every one of them.