Memorial Day – New Images

This has been a rather quiet holiday weekend for Ann and I.  Yesterday, Sunday, I spent most of the day in front of the TV.  As I have done for as many years as I can remember, except for the three that I spent in the Air force near Istanbul, Turkey, I watched the Indianapolis 500 auto race.  When I was a kid my dad and would spend Memorial Day listening to that great race on radio, then later watching it on TV.  So it’s a little like a tradition for me.  Of course, like everything else, it has changed over the years.  I remember that 50 years ago, I think it was Jim Hurtabise qualified at 150 miles per hour.  It was thought then, that would be an unsurpassed record.   Yeah, right.  This year, Helio Castroneves qualified right at 228 miles per hour.  That’s 235 mph on the back stretch.  Hmmm…..

This morning, the actual Memorial Day, Ann and I done our daily enjoyable task of going to San Angelo State Park to get the feed out for the birds at the wildlife viewing area.  Since we had nothing better to do this day, we decided to spend a few hours doing a little driving around the park.

Western Diamond Back Rattlesnake

Even though it is getting a little warm we still found that the birds are still active.  We saw no snakes though.  I mention this because a few days ago as we were driving down the path from the bird blind, we came upon a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.  It was sunning itself in the path, and as we approached, it started to move back into the deep grass.  But not before I got a photo of it that I have posted here.  So beware when you are hiking there.  These snakes, if alerted they will move out of the way.  But if you surprise one, it will coil into a defensive posture.  You will hear the rattle, and they can strike out to the length of their body, maybe a few inches further if they put enough force behind the strike.  They can come out of their shoes, so to speak.

Lark Sparrow

In my experience, when wading through deep grass, watch carefully, but don’t be afraid to be a little noisy, as they may sense you coming and move away.  But my wife, Ann, doesn’t take chances.  She makes sure that she walks behind me.  🙂

But, today, as I said, no rattle snakes.  I got a couple of new photos that I will post here.  One of my best photograph of a Lark Sparrow.  This one stayed in place long enough for me to pick up my big 500mm lens.  I took the shot hand-held from the window of the mini-van.  Later I got this cute shot of a Western Kingbird.

Western Kingbird

Click on any photo to see an enlargement.

So we hope that everybody has enjoyable holiday.

Happy Birding!!

Looking Back at Black and White World

I was going through some very old pictures, you know, old snapshots of distant relatives and family from the old days.  I have come to realize that when I was born in 1934, it was the beginning of a color world.  To explain what I mean, it seems like everything before that was black and white.  The civil war, for instance, was not only black and white, but also sometimes sepia.  The president and other statesmen of that era were all black and white.  I can’t picture Abe Lincoln in a red  or yellow neck-tie.  Or having a sun tan.  Nope.  He was just black and white.  The old dust bowl days were even worse, it was a grainy black and white world. 

I remember visiting an aunt in Huntington, Indiana when I was a little kid.  Her walls were covered with old photos of distant grandfathers and great-grandfathers.  They were an aging black and white photos, and the eyes seemed to follow me when ever I moved about the room.  Very eerie.

Anyway, as I was saying I think I entered a color world, even though RCA hadn’t invented color yet.  We did own an old, actually new at the time, 1934 Studebaker.  But I was born at that time, followed by two brothers at two-year intervals.  That must have been bad for my parents, to get a new car, then have three brats during the next five years.  I guess that explains why we didn’t get another car until we bought a new Chevrolet 4-dr Fleetmaster in 1947.  By the way, the color of that old Studebaker was, you guessed it, black.

I and my brothers were really troublesome, even though all the neighbors called us those nice Zeller boys.  But we squabbled amongst ourselves, got in trouble with our parents.  I always got the most blame because I was the oldest.  Then it was me that got the spankings.  My dad, rest his soul, really taught me to dance.  🙂

But I must digress and get back to those old photos.  My mother had a box camera, the kind with a little window in the top that you looked down on to see the image and compose the picture.  She wouldn’t  let us kids use it, so we whined and begged until she bought us each a Brownie Hawk-eye camera.  I loved that little thing and I got pretty good at taking neat black and white scenics.  Composition came naturally to me.  Several years later, when doing some serious studying with NY Institute of Photography, they taught about composing pictures in “The Rule of Thirds.  That is dividing the image into three areas.  Heck, when I looked back at all those old Brownie pics, I realized that was how I was composing my images back then, not knowing I was actually doing it right.  So I really feel that composition can come naturally to a person.

Now I really don’t bother thinking of my pictures in thirds.  If it looks good to me, I’ve probably done it right.  One thing that I see in amateur photos is that the picture taker was afraid to fill up the frame.  He or she will concentrate on the subject, rather on the overall picture, then end up with a photo of a person looking tiny in the middle of the image.  My advice is that when looking through the view finder, check all the corners of the frame, get in close so the person in the photo doesn’t look lonely and distant.

You can do this by zooming in or out if you have a zoom lens.  If shooting with a fixed focal length lens, the move back and forth to get the desired composition.  My personal favorite lens is a Canon 100-400mm zoom lens, because I shoot a lot of wildlife and I am usually a long distance away, and this lens still gives me portability.  When shooting scenics, I use a Canon 24-105mm zoom lens.  That would also be a good lens for anyone that just wants to photograph people or scenics.

Hey, I hope you enjoyed this post today.  When I started at the top, I didn’t know that it would end up being a lesson in photography.  But tune in again in a few days, and I may surprise you again.  Welcome to my color world.  🙂

Need Mississipppi Kite Nesting Info

I  just received an e-mail from Terry Maxwell asking for anyone that has informaation on Mississippi Kite nesting sites in the San Angelo and Tom Green County, Texas area to please contact him at:   A Texas Tech grad is arriving in San Angelo to do some research on the subject.  Thanks for anyway you can help.  Enjoy the photo.  Click on image for an enlargement.

Mississippi Kite feeding young.

The life and hard times of a birder

You know, sometimes writing a blog can be difficult at times.  Like right now, I know that I haven’t posted here for a few days, but I also know that I have readers waiting in anticipation for my next printed word.  At least that is what I keep telling myself, and in reality I am hoping that is true.  But I guess that may be just a bit egotistical of me.  But since I get comments from you, I know that you are there, and I know who you are.

But really, some of my posts must seem a little, let me see,  not necessarily boring, but possibly predictable.  I am usually telling you about my latest birding exploits and or photographs.  And from your comments, I know that you are enjoying them and I appreciate that.

So as predicted, Ann and I have been going to the park the past few mornings to take care of the blind and feed the birds.  Then when we should have been heading back to the house to do things that normal people do, we decided to make our little tours around the park again.  Our yard is getting neglected, our house is getting neglected, I am behind on taking care of some photographic obligations, and I forget the name of our dog.  Of course, she, the dog, is thinking about moving out. 

Such is the life of a birder.  We must simply try to see that elusive creature of the avian family that we can add to our life list.  Ah, the Life List.  We must strive to keep adding to that list of birds that we’ve seen in our life-time.  It is imperative that we do that because it is a status symbol among birders.  I am at 197, and I have just got to make that 200 mark by December 31.  Of course that is just a novice figure but I am starting to sweat.  I haven’t added a new one in a couple of months and I only have six months left to do this.  So I may have to try desperate things.

Right now, we think or imagine we see birds everywhere.  We see an odd shaped tree leave – Hey, a bird!!.  We see a deformed knot in a tree – Hey, a bird!!  We get a call or an e-mail about a rare bird down in Eldorado and we must jump in the van to get there to see it.  Ann and I spent several cold evenings wandering along the Concho River looking for a rare Anhinga that was spotted, the first time ever in San Angelo.  The fifth night after nearly freezing we spotted it, I photographed it, and added it to my short but growing, you guessed it, my Life List.  So I can see why that there is a fine line between a hobby and mental illness.  But I must confess it is great fun, highly rewarding, and gets me and Ann out of doors.

Now back to the real reason for originally starting this blog, here is an update and photos from San Angelo State Park.  There are still a lot of Cedar Waxwings hanging around, but also the Common Nighthawks are arriving in greater numbers that I have seen in the past.  Yesterday, I got dizzy from trying to photograph one of them in flight.  Those rascals are quick, fast and elusive.  My work is cut out for me to get that accomplished.  So I settled for a photo of one on a mesquite branch.  I also came across a juvenile Scissor-tailed Flycatcher munching on an insect of some kind.

I hope you enjoy the pictures.  Click on any image if you would like to see an enlargement.   Oh, I just remembered my dog’s name is Suzie.  And Suzie, I must go.  I just heard about this rare green and purple bird in a cliff hole in Santa Elena Canyon. 🙂

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - juvenile

Common Nighthawk on mesquite branch

“Local Boy Make Good” :-)

Okay, so I’m not a boy, and maybe I’m more loco than local.  But I like a little humor now and then. 🙂

Anyway, it is now official.  My photograph of the two “kissing” prairie dogs (see below) will definitely be published in the August issue of National Wildlife Magazine.  I was notified of this yesterday and I forwarded the digital file to that publication.  It is always nice to add another magazine to my resume.

Now if I could just get on the cover of Playboy. 🙂

Black-tailed Prairie Dogs

Happy Birding!!  (and photographing)

May 8th Park Birding Tour

Our monthly birding tour at the San Angelo State Park went well this morning.  The weather was not as great as we would have liked, the temp only being only in the 60s under cloudy and windy skies, but we ended up seeing about 25 species and had a great time.

The highlight for me was seeing my first Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Eastern Kingbird of the season.

Joining us were John Olson, Pam Guelker, Ken Coley, Jackie Willis, Linda White, Suzanne Johnson and a lady named Cris who is here at Goodfellow AFB for the next seven weeks.  She is from Nebraska and was thrilled to see many birds that she hadn’t seen in her area.

Here are a couple photos of this fun event.  Click on either image for an enlargement.  Happy Birding!!

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Eastern Kingbird

Summer is here!

Okay, so the calendar says summer arrives on June 21 or somewhere along there, but believe me, it seems like it has arrived.  The temp is supposed to reach the century mark today.

But anyway, we took advantage of the nice warmer temperatures and headed back to Eldorado again to check out the waste water ponds again.  Again there were about seventeen White-faced Ibeses plus two Blacked-necked Stilts for openers.  It was nice to see the Stilts close up.  I’ve seen at least one at O. C. Fisher lake, but the shoreline has receded so far out it is hard to see them.

On the way home we again visited the Hummer House in Christoval.  There were birds of all the species that we are used to seeing at that location.  Lazuli Buntings, Painted Buntings, Tanagers, an Orchard Oriole, a Vermilion Flycatcher, plus many, many others.

I received an e-mail from Joy Steele over on Martin Street to inform me that two Mississippi Kites are again nesting there.  So if you venture over to that neighborhood you very likely can see one of them in the trees.  I have done so in the past.

This Saturday is the monthly birding tour at San Angelo State Park.  Meet at the main South Gatehouse at 9:00AM.  We’ll check out the birds in the park, and I think I can show you a perched Common Nighthawk.  Come one, come all, beginners and vets.  We’ll have a blast!!

Here are a few new photos from the past few days.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.  Happy Birding!

Lazuli Bunting

Lark Bunting

Red-shouldered Hawk

Photographic good news!!

With all that’s been going on with me the past few weeks health-wise, I neglected to pass on some good news pertaining to my photography.  John Nuhn, photo editor of National Wildlife Magazine called and inquired about using one of my photographs in that publication, sometime in the coming months. Stay tuned and I will keep you posted.

That will add to my other photo credits.  I have been published in Photographers Forum magazine, Wild West magazine, and Texas Farm and Ranch magazine.  My photography also graces the cover and pages of Ross McSwain’s book,  “See No Evil, Speak No Evil”.  Some of my bird photographs will appear in the next edition of The Handbook of Texas Birds.  One of my scenic photographs has been made into a mural and covers one wall at the McDonalds Restaurant on Southwest Blvd.

Just thought I’d brag a little.  Heck, it’s my blog so I guess it’s okay.  🙂

Incidentally, my back seems to be feeling better as the days go by, so maybe it won’t be long before I’ll be crawling through the weeds again, to get that perfect shot.

Happy Birding!!

End of a week, Start of a month

Spotted Sandpiper

It’s the end of the week but starting a brand new month.  I’m going to show you a few highlights of the past week.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

On Tuesday Ann and I decided to take our friend Jodie Wolslager on a little birding trip.  We headed to Eldorado first to tour the water waste ponds there.  There are always a good selection of waterfowl there, and you never know when you might get surprised.  Suzanne Johnson had e-mailed us that there were about the thirty-seven White-faced Ibises there the previous day.  By the time we got there the count was down to nine.  But nevertheless I obtained some photos.

White-faced Ibises

We also saw some Yellow-headed Blackbirds, both adult and juvenile.  We saw Spotted Sandpipers and a few other sandpiper types that we were unable to identify for certain.  Also in attendance were probably one thousand Wilson’s Phalaropes.

Leaving there we headed to Christoval and back to our favorite place the Hummer House.  

Wilson's Phalaropes

A great collection of birds there, many more than than what we saw on a previous trip.  Our first Painted Buntings of the season, Summer Tanagers, Pine Siskins, Vermilion Flycatcher. Lesser Goldfinches, plus many others.

This morning Ann and I were out at the San Angelo State Park to give a little presentation on birds for a group of Girl Scouts.  I guess because of the cooler weather this morning, most of the birds stayed away.  However, we were treated to a young male Wild Turkey that entered stage left, and left stage right.  We did see a couple of Bullock’s Orioles though.

Upon leaving the park Ann and I spotted our firse Common Nighthawk of the season.  He was perched as always, parallel on a branch.  I got a few nice photos which I will post one here.  After I took the photos, another birding

Common Nighthawk

 friend of ours, Jimmy Villers, drove up with his wife.  She had never seen a nighthawk before, so she got quite thrill out of it.

Click on any photo to see an enlargement.

Happy Birding!!