And another year begins…….


It has been eight years since I wrote my first post to this blog.  My first article was posted in September of 2009.  In that eight years, I have written 968 posts…..this one is number 969.  Hopefully, I can reach the 1,000th soon.  My blog has been viewed 222,164 times as of this writing, reaching readers in 168 countries.

Coincidentally, I also begin my 84th year on this planet, as today is my 83rd birthday. No applause, please.  It is just another passing milestone.  I am enjoying writing this now as much as I did when first started back in September of 2009.  I never dreamed that I would get this far, but here I am.

Okay, enough about celebrating.  Here are a few photos that I captured since my last post.  I hope you enjoy.

This Belted Kingfisher was along the shoreline of Lake O. C. Fisher at San Angelo State Park.

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Belted Kingfisher

I love photographing raptors, and this Cooper’s Hawk posed nicely for me in the trees.

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Cooper’s Hawk

The Great Kiskadees are back for another winter.  They normally are out of range here in Tom Green County.  However, 3 or 4 of them arrived a year ago and stayed all of last winter near Spring Creek Park.  Now, here again on almost a year later exactly, we spotted three again.  Perhaps the same as last year.  I have no way of knowing with certainty.

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Great Kiskadee

During a drive around San Angelo State Park, this young armadillo showed off for us.

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Nine-banded Armadillo

As I said, I love photographing raptors.  This a juvenile Swainson’s Hawk.

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Swainson’s Hawk, juvenile

How about an Osprey, another raptor.

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Osprey

Egyptian Geese are not on the official American Birding Association list.  However, they are a strange looking bird.

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Egyptian Goose

Swainson’s Hawk, adult.

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Swainson’s Hawk

It is always a task, trying to photograph the tiny birds such as this Wilson’s Warbler, but very rewarding.

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Wilson’s Warbler

And who can resist these tiny, feisty American Kestrels.  They are difficult to get in my viewfinder, as they move from one spot to another quickly.

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American Kestrel

Well, I guess that is about it for this post.  I hope you enjoyed my photos.  Now I believe I will celebrate my birthday the rest of the day. 🙂

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Back in San Angelo


They say that it is fun to get away, but always nice to come home again.  Well said.  But…….I am ready to get away again.  I confess, I love traveling all over this great state of Texas, albeit most of my destinations are in the western part of the state.  Uvalde sounds like a likely stop for us in the near future.  We will see, so stay tuned.

I might add that I erred in my last post when I said we were in Jefferson Davis County.  Actually, the name is Jeff Davis County.  It was named after, but shortened, for Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865

After spending several days, sorting and tossing over 1,000 images from our Davis Mountains trip, we finally got away Wednesday morning.  We headed for San Angelo State Park, one of our favorite birding venues.  Here are a few images from there.

I don’t usually take time to notice doves as they are so plentiful I take them for granted, but for some reason or other, I saw this Mourning Dove in the early morning sun, and decided to take a shot.

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Mourning Dove

Driving along another of the many roads that wind through the park, we saw a Cooper’s Hawk land in a tree.  I stopped the car, stepped out and set my camera on the roof of the car.  We were about 80 yards away, but I didn’t want to try to get closer, not wanting to spook hime to fly.

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Cooper’s Hawk

A few minutes later, he did decide to fly.  We watched and saw him land out to our left, in another tree.  This time, he was facing away from me.  I was still able to reach him with my 150-600mm lens.

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Cooper’s Hawk.

There weren’t too many photo ops, even though we saw many species.  Here is a Lark Sparrow, trying to hide in a bush.

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Lark Sparrow

We decided to head for home after that as the temps were starting to rise.  But we were surprised before we got out the gate.  Crossing the road in front of us was this Porcupine.

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Porcupine

That’s all for this post.  Catch me in another few days. 🙂

Happy Birding!!

Birding Davis Mountains and Jeff Davis County.


Getting started on Monday morning before leaving, I had a doctor’s appointment to get a bi-weekly injection for what ails me.  Nothing serious, just something that has to be done every two weeks.  So after getting that out of the way, we stopped at the Mesquite Bean Grill in the Cactus Hotel for a breakfast of their fantastic Mesquite Bean Tacos and coffee.  We knew that would last us quite awhile.  So we were finally on the road at about 9:30 AM.

Our destination was the west Texas village of Fort Davis, the site of the namesake fort, which is one of best preserved frontier posts in the country.  I hope the citizens aren’t offended that I call Fort Davis a village, rather than a city.  But in my book if there aren’t any traffic lights, it is a village.  And a quaint village Fort Davis is.  I want to live there when I grow up.

So anyway, we headed out US67 west from San Angelo.  We would go through other villages: Mertzon, Barnhart, Big Lake (there is no lake there), Rankin, and McCamey.  Oh, I can’t leave out Gervin, but it is only an intersection, so if you miss the sign, you have missed Gervin.  Then we hit Interstate 10 to go through Fort Stockton, a location of ruins of another defunct frontier fort.  Then we hit the turn-off for Balmorhea, (more about that later in this post) and head for Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains.  That final leg of the trip is our favorite as we are able to watch for birds, hawks, etc.

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Red-tailed Hawk

After about a four and a half hour drive we arrived in Fort Davis.  We had munched on some light snacks on the road so we weren’t in need of a huge lunch, so we stopped at Stone Village Market.  You can get made-to-order deli sandwiches.  We opted for a pastrami on sourdough bread with all the fixin’s.  We took them with us and headed for the Davis Mountains Inn where we were going to stay for four nights.  It turned out that we were the only guests that first night.  We were so tired that after unpacking, we decided that would just rest the balance of the day.

Tuesday dawned bright, and after eating breakfast we decided to travel west on Hwy 166 to the turn-off to Hwy 505.  It had been recommended to us that along that stretch of lonely highway, many raptors could be seen, including Golden Eagles.  Along the way we saw many birds and animals, including this Pronghorned Antelope.

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Pronghorn Antelope

At a roadside park on Hwy 166, where there is usually good birding, we saw this one Summer Tanager, a female I believe.

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Summer Tanager, female

Our target bird for this day was the Golden Eagle that frequents the wide open areas along Hwy 505.  We missed the eagle but saw many Red-tailed Hawks, and some Cassin’s Kingbirds.  We vowed to come back another day to hunt for the eagle.

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Cassin’s Kingbird

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Red-tailed Hawk

On Wednesday morning we headed up to Lake Balmorhea.  We always enjoyed the drive to get there.  Up through the Davis Mountains and over Wild Rose Pass.

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Star Mountain from Wild Rose Pass

At the lake, we discovered that one of our favorite roads around the intake end, was closed, due to vandalism.  However, we were able to drive over the dam and along one side of the lake.  Here are a few of our highlights.

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Osprey, near the dam on Lake Balmorhea

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Scaled Quail

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Red-tailed Hawk

On Thursday morning, which would be our last day before heading home, we decided to look for the Golden Eagle again.  We tried to leave earlier this time, and drove directly to the desired area on Hwy 505.  This time we were in luck.  About two miles from the turnoff from Hwy 166, we came up on the eagle feasting on road-kill.  He was as startled as we were.  He flew up onto a fence post.  After checking my mirrors for traffic, I stopped the car in the middle of the road, and grabbed my camera.  I was able to get about a dozen images has he posed for me.  As I checked my mirrors again for traffic, he flew, but I missed any chance for an in-flight shot.  However, I was thrilled that I got such an opportunity from only about thirty-five yards.

But there is bad news.  I had taken an earlier shot of a dark bird in deep shadows, and had boosted my exposure by a stop and two-thirds. For you non-photographers, that means I over-exposed.  Well, I made a rookie error and forgot to change the setting back, so when I grabbed the camera for the eagle shot,  I had no time to adjust.  Hence the eagle was horribly over-exposed.  I had to try to correct it in my post-processing.  So here is the result.  Not a pretty sight, but acceptable.  You can see that the yellow bill and yellow feet are pretty washed out.

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Golden Eagle

After that we continued along the highway for another few minutes.  I then caught a few more photos.

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Broad-winged Hawk

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White-tailed Kite

It was still early in the day, so we decided to visit a friend’s place up in the mountains.  He has a bird-watching setup, complete with portable blinds and a water drip.  It was a drive of only six miles from the road entrance on Hwy 166.  But it is a pretty rough road and it took us about 30 minutes to get there.  I set up my camera in one of the blinds and got comfortable.  Here are a few highlights.

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Western Wood-Pewee

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White-breasted Nuthatch

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Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

On Friday morning we head back to San Angelo, satisfied with a fun, successful birding and photography trip.  I hope you enjoy this post as well as I enjoyed writing it.  Comments are welcome.

Happy Birding!!

Davis Mountains, here we come…….again.


Here I am again, really late with another post.  I am not lazy, I just procrastinate a lot.  So…… again, time got away from me.  Of course at my age of 83, time really gets flying……a sign that I am going downhill, I guess.   So anyway, what have I been doing the past couple of weeks, you may ask.  Well, I have been out shooting almost every day.  The fall migration is getting started, the weather is beautiful, not as hot, and it is fun to be outside.  It keeps me young.  I need that.

As for the title of this post, Ann and I are leaving Monday, the 11th, for Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains.  We will be doing a lot of photography in the area from an altitude of 5,000 feet to 8,000 feet.  We will be staying at the beautiful Davis Mountains Inn near Fort Davis.  It is a nice comfortable Bed & Breakfast.  We will be returning on Friday the 15th, hopefully with a bunch of photographs for a future post.

I have mustered a good bunch of photos since the last post, of course.  I will present a few of them for you here.  Just scroll down, and if you get to the end, 🙂 , there is a link to my Photo Gallery.  Click on any of these to see enlargements.

Cooper’s Hawk.

Yellow Warbler

Red-tailed Hawk

Bell’s Vireo

Swainson’s Hawk

Curve-billed Thrasher

Ash-throataed Flycatacher

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow-breasted Chat

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Northern Cardinal, female

Least Flycatcher

Wilson’s Warbler

Great-crested Flycatcher

Red-tailed Hawk

Bewick’s Wren

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

I hope you have enjoyed this post and the photos.  To see more of my photographs, click this link to my on-line Photo Album.

Some Miscellaneous Stuff.


My wife just reminded me that I hadn’t posted for quite awhile.  After doing some extensive research, I found that she is correct.  It has been nearly a month.  I guess the dog days of summer got ahold of me.  One thing, though, and I think it is a plausible excuse.  I have some cancerous spots on the left side of my face that I am treating.  That involves smearing that Efudex chemical on my face for three weeks.  It is painful, itchy and downright distracting.  I quit that part of the treatment a couple of days ago, now I am using a soothing ointment to help with the healing.  Hopefully it should be cleared completely in another two to three weeks.

Because I am suppose do avoid the sun during the duration of the treatment, I haven’t been out too much.  But using a wide-brim hat, I did make a few short trips.

Some news items concerning San Angelo State Park.  It has pretty much recovered from the drastic storm that hit it about a month ago.  They are still trimming broken tree branches and doing general cleanup, but overall it looks pretty good.  A few days ago they replaced the busted fence around the bird blind, and repaired some other  damage to the building itself.

Here are a few images that I have gotten during those brief outings to the park.  Click on any one of them to see some nice enlargements.

Greater Roadrunner

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Loggerhead Shrike

Common Nighthawk

Green Heron

Western Kingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Loggerhead Shrike

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – juvenile

The birds are returning to the blind, now that it is back to normal operation again.  The fall and winter birds should be returning very soon.

Fun with creative editing….


In times like this, when the weather is hot and the birding is slow, it is time for….drum roll please………..Creative Editing.

Actually, I did get out for a little while Sunday morning.  I didn’t want to spend too much time as I wanted to get home in time to watch Andre Beltre, of the Texas Rangers, get his 3000th base hit.  In the history of baseball, only 30 others had accomplished that in their career.  But, heck, you are not interested in hearing about baseball.

So, back to the original purpose of this post.  While we were out, Ann, a couple of family friends, and I, were birding at San Angelo State Park.  As I said, not too much going on, but we did spot a Northern Bobwhite perched and singing in the distance.  In the distance, is an understatement, as we could barely see him with our naked eyes.  I put my bean bag on the window sill, turned off the engine to prevent anymore vibrations.  I settled my Canon 7D Mark II with my Tamron 150-600 G2 lens, on the beanbag.  With that solid bed, I fired off a few shots at 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, plus 1/3 stop of EV adjustment.  ISO was 800, which promoted a little digital noise.  Here is the original, looking through that long lens.  I was at a distance of approximately 100 yards.  Remember, with the naked eye it looked even much further away.

Northern Bobwhite

Since that was the only usable image from that outing, I loaded it into the computer to see if I could make something out of it in my digital darkroom.  The result follows below.  First, you can see how I first cropped it.  In doing so, it left part of the tree taking up space, too close to the quail for my liking.  Fortunately the sky was an even blue all around, so I just cloned the tree out very easily.  After all, I was after a nice photo of the bird, not the tree.  It was just a distraction in this case.

The first thing I did was get rid of the tiny bit of noise that the higher ISO of 800 created.  There wasn’t much, as the Canon 7D Mk II handles high ISOs very nicely.  But I have a plug-in, Topaz DeNoise, that does a great job of eliminating digital noise.  Very easy to use.

Now, even with taking those precautions described above, the image wasn’t tack sharp.  But that is going to happen when you crop an image so tightly, especially since the original was shot from so far away.  I do all of my cropping and editing in Photoshop CS5.  I do not use their sharpening, though.  I have a great plug-in, called Focus Magic.  Photoshop’s sharpening method with the so-called “Unsharp Mask” just messes with the pixels.  Focus Magic actually corrects the focus very naturally.  But having said that, evev after I use the Focus Magic, I sometimes tweak it a little more by using the Photoshop’s focus tool and paint it a little lightly.  A very neat trick.

After that I tweaked the contrast and color saturation a bit.  And there you have it, my little secret recipe that has been handed down over hundreds of years.  Not bad, if I do say so myself.  I hope you like it. 🙂  (Click on either image to see nice enlargements.)

Northern Bobwhite

And yes, in case you were wondering, Andre Beltre did get his 3,000th  hit,. After that, I took a nap. 🙂

Oh, in case you missed it my beautiful 2018 calendars are here.  Click this link for more information: https://bobzeller.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/2018-calendars-on-the-way/

2018 Calendars on the way.


2018 Calendar

Just a brief post to let you folks know that my beautiful 2018 Texas Tweeties Calendar has been ordered.  It will be here in around August 1.  If you are interested in one contact me  They have proved to be very popular in past years so it would behoove you to get yours as soon as possible.  Just contact me at bobzeller@pobox.com.  They are 22.95 plus 7.00 shipping.  Not a bad price for 12 of my photographs. 🙂

Thank you, and Happy Birding!!