From lemons to lemonade


A couple of days ago, Ann and I decided to check the birding at San Angelo State Park.  We were hoping to catch some early immigrants arriving.  Birding was fair.  I say it was only fair, because I failed to get any good keeper photographs.  At least, that is what I thought until I got home and took a closer look at some of my images.

One that caught my eye was this photo that I captured of a Greater Roadrunner.  Photographed from about 100 feet away, it is a rather nondescript image that isn’t very impressive.

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As you can see, this photo won’t win any prizes.  I didn’t like the way the sun was shining  on the cactus.  The overall composition wasn’t great either.  I decided to do some creative cropping because I really liked the colorul expression of the bird itself.  Fortunately the image was sharp enough that I could really crop close without losing any quality.

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Greater Roadrunner

So, as they say, if you get lemons, make lemonade.

Until the next time, HAPPY BIRDING!!!

Waiting, waiting, waiting for migration


Like any other birder worth his binoculars, I must plead guilty to impatiently waiting for spring migration.  It doesn’t matter that in the fall we will do the same thing; wait for fall migration.  It is a habit with us that seemingly can’t be sated.

Anyway, as I sit here on a cold afternoon, the wind is howling outside.  The temperature outside is only around 40, but the wind chill is around 25.  Normally that wouldn’t keep me in, but I needed to catch up on my blogging.  So here I am.

I admitted above that I was waiting, but truthfully, I am always on the lookout for the birds that may arrive early.  I really haven’t observed many of those, but since my last post, there were a few surprises.  Such as this slate-colored Dark-eyed Junco.  They usually arrive here around mid-April and we saw five of them a couple of days ago on February 24th.

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Dark-eyed Junco

Those were on the ground at Spring Creek Park, here in San Angelo.  Also while were driving through the park, we came up on this beautiful Carolina Wren.  It is probably one of my favorite of the wrens.  This maybe one of favorite photos of one, too;

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Carolina Wren

Across the water was this Great Blue Heron.  He was about 200 yards away, and I wasn’t sure if I could get a great enough image to make it worthwhile.  But my great camera and lens came through for me.

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Great Blue Heron

We saw a plethora of female Red-winged Blackbirds and I usually am not enthralled with photographing them, but once in a while one will stand out and make a nice photograph, such as this one.

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Red-winged Blackbird

We drove by the beach near the lake to check things out.  There were about 200 Ring-billed Gulls.  I always like to look closely to see if one of them is a different gull specie.  We did a double-take, when there in the middle of them, was a Snowy Egret.

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Snowy Egret

As we watched, it decided to take flight.

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Snowy Egret

The following day, we decided to again make a trip to San Angelo State Park.  Out there we saw a Red-tailed Hawk and a few smaller birds.

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Red-tailed Hawk

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Vesper Sparrow

While were at the state park, I decided to check out the bird blind at the wildlife viewing center.  I was much impressed.  You might remember that I wrote in a previous post how bad the condition was.  This time it really looked nice, neatly mowed and the bird feeders were full.  The bad news was that for some reason or other, perhaps a change in the weather, there were only some White-crowned Sparrows, House Finches, a couple of Northern Cardinals and a lone Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

But what the heck, bird migration will start soon. 🙂

Until the next time, HAPPY BIRDING!!!

 

 

“The call of the wild”


We here in San Angelo have been blessed with a nice mild winter thus far.  I, myself, feel blessed that I have been able to go out almost daily if I choose, to enjoy nature in it’s finest.  Ann and I enjoy doing our birding and photography in the open, getting photos of birds in their natural habitat, such as this Marsh Wren, flitting in the reeds and cat-tails.

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Marsh Wren

I don’t mind if the bird is not completely shown.  The main purpose, though, is to make sure the eyes of the subject are sharp.  If they are the photo works great.  As you can see in the above photo, the reeds and twigs are completely blurred and are not distracting.  Another example, is this Carolina Wren.  Personally I love the setting of the bird in it’s natural habitat.

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Carolina Wren

Yet, so many photographers that do enjoy photographing birds prefer sitting in a blind, along side a half dozen other people, all dressed up in their camo clothes.  All shooting the same subjects, getting the same shots, on birds that are all posed on permanent or imitation logs or assorted bird feeders.  You can look at their portfolios of their pics, seeing all familiar poses.  On top of all that, they pay, yes pay up to 200.00 for a session.  Not for me. But for some, this the only way that they can get their photographs, and I have no problem with that.

If you are unable to get out in the wild, or disabled in some way it is a wonderful way to get to shoot photographs.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I am not knocking this method of getting wildlife photos.  I am guilty myself.  There is a blind at San Angelo State Park.  Around ten years ago, when I was getting into birding, I even volunteered to maintain it.  Since Ann and I live a mere three miles away, we went out daily to put feed out, clean the windows, trim the grass, and empty the trash.

Now, although I visit the park on a regular basis, I very rarely use the blind.  I have probably been in it only a couple of times the past year.  By the way, it is free.  No charge.  Keep your money in your pocket.  I just roam the areas in and around San Angelo.  Several park areas near our three lakes and/or rivers.  All so I can get photos of wildlife in natural settings.

Some photos from my last post.

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Great Egret

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Blue Jay

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Song Sparrow

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Northern Cardinal – female

I hope no photographer’s feelings were injured during the making of this rant.  The opinions presented here are of mine, Bob Zeller, only. 🙂

Until the next post, HAPPY BIRDING!!

 

The More I Practice………


The luckier I get…………

I have been told that I am lucky to get some of these shots that I show you.  I agree part way.  I feel that I am lucky to live in an area where there is a lot of wildlife.  However, a large part of time it is because of careful planning, research, then getting to the right place where I may find what I am looking for.  In other words, I kinda make my own luck.  Also, spending thousands on a photographic education, cameras and equipment makes getting lucky a bit easier.

So let me show you the lucky shots that I have been able to get since my last post.  By the way, even though I have these great close-ups, I am rarely any closer than twenty yards.  I heavily crop all of my images for tight composition.  It is a credit to my great lenses.

A favorite haunt of mine is an area of reeds and cat-tails near Spring Creek Park here in San Angelo.  I knew that there was a Common Yellowthroat residing in there somewhere.  The habitat was perfect plus one had been reported being seen there recently.  So Ann and I got us a burrito at Rosa’s along with some coffee and set out early in the morning.  I parked my mobile blind, AKA Ford Escape, about 20 yards away.  Then we waited…….and waited………and waited.  After about 45 minutes, well after the burritos and coffee were gone, the yellowthroat ventured out in the open.  I swear I saw him yawn.  I had, of course, had my camera ready so I was able to track him through the grass and reeds.  Her is my best image of around fifty attempts.

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Common Yellowthroat

It was a great start to a day of birding.  From there, we traveled out Spillway Road on a hunch.  Last year, a Say’s Phoebe, stayed around near the nature trail.  I didn’t really expect to see it again, but sure enough he was there flitting around in the trees.  Now that was a pure stroke of luck.

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Say’s Phoebe

After that, we ventured into Spring Creek Park proper and observed a Great Egret for awhile.  It was across the water and we watched and waited to see if it might catch a fish for my camera.  A funny note:…while were were a waiting, a car with a couple of other bird watchers stopped for a minute.  Then, they decided to move on and come back “when the egret was moving more”.  That attitude will not net anyone great photos.  In fact, that is the best way to miss good photos.

But anyway, I digress.  We watched for another twenty minutes and decided it wasn’t going to do any serious fishing.  I settled for this nice pose.

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Great Egret

A couple of days later we were back out there again.  We had been told that a Sora had been seen in the same area as the yellowthroat previously.  We knew we were probably in for another long wait, as the Sora is another very secretive bird that rarely shows it self.  At first, after about forty minutes, we decided it wasn’t going to show for us.  We left for another area where I captured this tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  Something had aroused him, possibly a nearby mockingbird, and he was showing his “red hair”.

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Ruby-crowned Kinglet

We decided to go back to look for the Sora.  This time we approached from a different angle and finally spotted him in the open and feeding.   I found a good spot where I could shoot him without getting in the way of oncoming traffic.  There as some plastic trash near him and I waited until he gradually moved where it wouldn’t be in the photo.  For a mud hen he is kinda pretty I think.

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Sora

To round out the week, I got a tip where I might find a Green-tailed Towhee.  Although not a rare bird, it is not seen around here regularly.  So we went to San Angelo State Park where it had been seen.  We had been told of the general location, but not a specific spot, but after a bit of searching we spotted it flitting around in some trees.  I had only one chance before it flew, but I got lucky with again.  The image worked well after I adjusted the light and contrast in my digital darkroom.

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Green-tailed Towhee

If you are following our march to the end of the year goal of seeing 200 different species by then, we are now at 80.  A long way to go as it will get harder.  But we shall prevail! 🙂

I guess that ends this final post for January.  I’ll see you back here in a few days.

‘Til then, HAPPY BIRDING!!

 

Tiny Birds in the Overcast


I love the challenge of photographing the tiny birds.  The past few days have been slightly cooler and overcast.  Most birds are staying hidden, but with a little patience, fun can be had looking for those tiny birds that hang around marshy, reedy areas.  A couple of my favorite birding areas feature that description.

Ann and I stopped at one of those sites, bringing some coffee and burritos along for comfort.  We parked a mere fifteen feet from the water and sat back to watch.  Within ten minutes we detected movement in the cattails.  We watched intently as a Common Yellowthroat started showing himself.  I grabbed my Canon EOS 7D MK II with a Tamron 150-600mm G2 zoom lens and got ready.  The reeds where he was moving around was about twenty feet from the bank.  This is one of the images captured.  Keep in mind, it is heavily cropped, as even with my long lens, I could never get this close.

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Common Yellowthroat

A few minutes later I got glimpses of an Orange-crowned Warbler.  He would’t completely expose himself, so we played hide and seek.

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Orange-crowned Warbler

After staying there for nearly an hour and seeing various wrens, cardinals, warblers etc., we moved to another location.  This spot was more brushy as it was farther from the water.  Again, with patience, after a few minutes we saw some action.  More Kinglets, Warblers starting to flit around.  One of two favorite prizes of that sitting was this very cooperative Blue-Gray Gnatcher.

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

The other was this Verdin.  I had been on a quest to get a nice photo of one of these secretive birds but they had alluded me until now.  Check this out.

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I know I have preached this before, but again, don’t let overcast weather keep you from your appointed birding rounds.  The light is fantastic.  No harsh shadows and the color is great.

In other news, my new coffee table book, “Birds, Beasts and Other Stuff” is available now.  110 pages of photos illustrating my photographic career. Hard cover. For a special “WordPress Reader discounted price of 60.00 plus tax and shipping, contact me at bobzeller.pobox.com.

Also you can order from the publisher at: https://www.blurb.com/b/9899713-birds-beasts-and-other-stuff

 

New -Book-Photo

So, that is about it for this post.  I hope you enjoyed the photos and will consider purchasing the book.  You will not be disappointed.

‘Til then,

HAPPY BIRDING!!!

Birding is fun again…..


It is great to begin the year feeling great.  Much different from last year when my health issues were taking up most of my time.  Now, although those issues haven’t disappeared, all is under control now and I feel fine.

Birding activity has increased now, mostly around the Lake Nasworthy and Twin Buttes Reservoir areas.  I can’t understand the lack of birds at San Angelo State Park, but we haven’t been seeing much there.  In fact, the last couple of times we visited, we didn’t stay long but left to go to our above mentioned favorite areas.  I might mention that we rarely visit the bird blind, for the reasons mentioned below.  We prefer to just drive through the park and watch for bird activity.

As far as the blind at San Angelo State Park, is is not maintained properly.  Some volunteers stop out there, usually later in the morning to put seed in the feeders.  Otherwise it is not kept up on a regular basis; mowing, cleaning windows, etc.  The water feature is usually not running.  Even though a local service organization build a handi-cap oriented viewing spot, overall, the blind is still treated like a step-child.  The park management concentrates on hiking trails and star watching activities.  The Friends of the Park, place preferences on the equine area.  But nobody considers any birding related activities.

Birding is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the state.  I know of many people come to the park to see the many birds that frequent the Concho Valley.  I think the managaement would do well to promote that more in the park.

About ten years ago (or more), Ann and I took on the responsibilty of maintaining the blind and viewing area.  Since we were retired and since we only live three miles away, we were there daily at 8:00AM to put feed out.  We kept the place clean and the grass trimmed and weed-whacked.  We kept the water running in the water feature.  Once a month, I lead a birding walk on a Saturday morning.  But after a couple of years, going out there on a daily basis, and getting up in age, we eventually decided to let someone else take over.

So, I say to anybody that wants to travel to San Angelo to bird, we do have lots of birds.  For example, yesterday Ann and I saw 38 species in about a three hour period.  But we visited the public parks around the Lake Nasworthy that I mentioned in the second paragraph of this post.  So come on down……..:-)

Speaking of those 38 species, here are a few example from the past few days:

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Ruby-crowned Kinglet

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Common Yellowthroat

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Cattle Egret

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Greata Egret

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Eastern Bluebird

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Golden-fronted Woodpecker

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Loggerhead Shrike

Those six are a pretty good sampling of the birds around here.   As for my rant about San Angelo State Park, I am a great fan and supporter of the park.  I just wanted to mention about the quality of birding there, if you happen to be a camper there.  Don’t depend on the blind to be very productive.

In other news, the first draft of my new book, “Birds, Beasts and Other Stuff” is at the printers and I should received it in a day or two.  I will peruse it to make sure I like everything, then I will order a bulk shipment.  So hopefully, by the end of the month I will have a supply on hand.  It is a 110 page hard-back book, packed with some of my newest best photos.

On that note, I still have a few copies of my original book, “Birds, Beasts and Buttes”, first published in 2013.  On sale at a reduced price of 45.00.  (Original 65.00).  Contact me at bobzeller@pobox.com if interested.

HAPPY BIRDING!!

 

Twas the day after Christmas……


….And here at the house, I am sitting at the computer holding my mouse.   (was that catchy or what?)

It has been a busy time around here, as it has for most people this time of year.  We had a delightful dinner with friends on Christmas Day, though.  Now it is time to get back to doing what I do best; producing more photographs.

Despite the hectic activities associated with the holiday season, Ann and I managed to get in a little birding, and a little photography.  Here are some of the most recent results.

These are two Northern Cardinals that we have been seeing.  I don’t know which I like best.  Both were photographed at Spring Creek Park, here in San Angelo.

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Northern Cardinal

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Northern Cardinal

While were were driving around the park, we came across this little Brown Creeper.  It is one of the hardest birds to find, let alone to photograph.  They scurry up and down trees, looking for tiny morsels in the bark.  The only way that you can find one, is to just watch for movement.

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Brown Creeper

One bird, or I should say duck, is the little Pied-billed Grebe.  Usually I see them far off shore, and unable to get good detailed shots of them.  This time we spotted one close in to some reeds, where we were more hidden.

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Pied-billed Grebe

In a brushy area we saw three or four more Carolina Wrens.  I hate to pass up a chance to photograph these little cuties.

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Carolina Wren

I am looking forward to the new year.  New challenges.  We will again keep a list of all the birds that we will see during the year.  2019 was a bust, in that regard.  With my on-going health issues, we didn’t travel or do as much birding as usual.  We saw only 155 different species for the year, whereas we usually see 200 or more.  So on January 1, we start anew, hoping for a year where there will be no health emergencies, and maybe make a few trips to other bird areas.

One more thing.  I have started on a new coffee table book.  It will be “Birds, Beasts and Buttes, Volume II”.  I last published the first volume back in 2013, so I have an abundance of new work from west Texas to include.  As the title implies, it will have plenty of birds, animals, and west Texas landscapes.  It will be a hard-cover book with 100 or more photos.  Look for it to be published sometime in January if all goes well.  By the way, I still have a handfull of Volume One that I am selling at a reduced price of 45.00.  Contact me at bobzeller@pobox.com if interested.

Happy New Year and Happy Birding!!!