Another rewarding trip to the San Angelo State Park this morning. We spotted this Ash-throated Flycatcher on her nest, using her wings to protect her young from the sun. You can see one of the chicks peeking from under her right side. Click image to see an enlargement. Enjoy.
I had always heard that San Angelo State Park was home to an American Badger, or two. I had never before seen one. That is until yestereday, when leaving the park, one wandered across the road just a few yards outside the south gate entrance. I stopped the car and used my binoculars to see where he may have went after he entered the buffalo enclosure. I could just make him out lying in the tall grass.
I got out of the van with my Canon 7D and my 100-400mm soom lens. I set it for aperture priority and spot-focus. I walked up to the the fence and through the lens I could see him watching my every move. He had backed himself into his lair so only his head and upper body was outside. I moved back and forth and side to side, trying to get my spot-focus on his eye. Getting the eye in focus is the utmost important thing in photographing any wildlife. With the eyes out of focus, the image is a throw-away. But I think I got it with this shot. Enjoy, and click the image to see an enlargement.
I have never published a post about mine and Ann’s daily trip to the State Park. Since there is no one presently at the park that really wants to take on the task, we have volunteered to go each day to feed the birds at the blind, and do moderate maintenance such as weeding, checking the water flow to the pond, etc. We also clean the windows and watch that the blind hasn’t been invaded by snakes or bees.
Since we live only three miles away, it is a snap to go there each morning to take care of those things. We usually go after breakfast, but we are authorized to go in the gate earlier if we so desire. It is fun to get there and see what might surprise us upon arrival. Usually it is just an assortment of hungry doves or finches, but occasionally we have sneaked in to see other wildlife. A few days ago there was a Wild Turkey, trailed by three chicks beating us there. On another occasion, I walked back around the fence and almost stepped upon an Opossum. He was a cutie. We’ve also seen Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes moving about on the path that leads back to the blind.
After taking care of our chores at the blind, instead of heading back to the house, we stay at the blind for a short time to see what comes in. Then we usually take a slow drive through the park to see the birds that don’t usually frequent the blind, such as hawks and water birds. We prepare ourselves for surprises and we are usually rewarded.
For example, the past few mornings, we have come across a Painted Bunting singing in the top of a tree, two fledgling Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, five Ash-throated Flycatchers, Lark Sparrows, Western Kingbirds, one Blue Grosbeak, one Common Nighthawk with two chicks, at least six Mississippi Kites, one Fox, one White-tailed Deer and two Javelinas. Plus the usual sparrows, grackles, etc.
At the lake shore, albeit a very small coastline now, you can see shorebirds, Blue Herons, Egrets. or American White Pelicans. A Snowy Plover recently laid two eggs on the parking lot at the Red Arroyo boat ramp. We have been keeping tabs on the eggs, but I fear that the eggs have been abandoned. We haven’t seen the parents in about two weeks. They probably realized, too late, that the surface that they decided to lay the eggs on can get very, very hot.
The bird blind itself, can also be very rewarding. You can sit in comfort and and watch through the windows. Open them for fresh air if you like. It was actuallly there at the blind, a couple of years ago, that I actually got hooked on birding and bird photography. I photographed my very first Painted Bunting and Canyon Wren there. At the time I didn’t know how unusual it was to see a Canyon Wren at that location.
So come to San Angelo State Park for a nice pleasant birding experience.
Happy Birding!! (click on any photograph for an enlargment)
Let’s talk golf today, or rather golf course photography. I haven’t birded for a day for two because I’ve been a couch potato for four days. The United States Open, our national golf championship is being played at Pebble Beach Golf & Country Club in California. It is probably one of the most beautiful, scenic golf courses in the country.
But San Angelo is not without some beautiful golf holes. Now isn’t that a co-incidence. I just happen to have some golf hole photographs that I have been wanting to show off. This will show you that do break away from my wildlife photography occasionally. Actually, I guess I would say that I am an outdoor photographer as I love nature and scenics in all aspects, be it mountains, canyons, old buildings, flowers or birds.
Oh, I guess that I should mention that I absolutely love the game of golf, however my health problems have deterred me from it for awhile. Think fractured back.
Enjoy the following pictures and Happy Birding! If you’re a golfer Happy Birdying! Did you catch that, birding and birdying? 🙂
Click on any photo for an enlargement. And by the way, prints are available for any of my photos. Just contact me.
I and Ann decided to take the trip to Ballinger, Texas to see the fledgling hawk that Ken Coley had reported. Actually, we took Ken with us. Sure enough, right outside the northern city limits there was a hawk’s nest on the cross bar of a power pole about 500 yards off the highway. The adult bird wasn’t there but the fledge was standing on the nest. I set up my camera and tripod to get some shots. From what I can see in the photo, posted here, I believe it to be a fledgling Swainson’s Hawk. Ken concurred with that, except that he thought that the adult resembled a Red-tailed. Possibly a light southwest morph. If any of you have any opinion about this, let me know what you think. The photo is poor quality because of the great distance.
During the trip which took us two hours to drive the 30 miles, (hey we’re birders, for crying out loud) we saw a lifer for all three of us. It was a Dickcissel. A very pretty bird. But also a very tiny one, and from 100 yards the image I got wasn’t very great, but enough to make a positive ID. Check it out here.
In other news Terry Maxwell e-mailed us that Jay Packer and his wife, Amy, spotted a Caspian Tern at O. C. Fisher Lake. It is the first one spotted since a pair of them was seen in 2005. I took my spotting scope out there this morning to see if it was still around. But, maybe because of it being hot and windy, there was nary a bird to be seen along the shoreline except for a Great Blue Heron and a few Cormorants.
Gosh, this has been a rather useless day. I haven’t been able to motivate myself into doing anything constructive. Ann and I made our usual trip to the park to feed the birds. While there, we did see a hornets nest being built over the door to the blind, so I dispatched that without sustaining any injury.
We didn’t see anything else exciting so we headed back to the house. I think I forgot to mention on a previous post that we saw a fox a couple of mornings ago. I grabbed the camera as soon as we spotted it, fired off a couple of shots, only to discover that in my haste that I had accidently moved my exposure dial way off kilter. So consequently the photos were drastically over exposed. That’s just like me. When my ship came in, I was at the airport. Always missing great opportunities.
But there have been times that I have been prepared. For example the shot of the Red-tailed Hawk I have posted here. We spotted him high overhead. I had my Canon 100-400mm zoom lens and I stopped the van. I locked him on my auto-focus and tracked him until I was able to get this photo. Nothing to this job. 🙂
Enjoy the photo. Click on the image to see enlargement. Happy Birding!!
The weather was a little drizzly but we had a total of thirteen people in the group. The highlight of the tour was when we spotted a Common Nighthawk in the red soil about a quarter mile from the Prairie Dog village. She had a couple of little chicks next to her. This morning she was nowhere to be found. I hope that she just moved into better cover to protect the chicks. But despite the slightly inclement weather everyone had a great time and are looking forward to our next outing on July 10.
Pam Guelker, one of the birders, most generously donated a fifty pound of bird seed. We certainly thank her very much. Donations of bird seed are always welcome.
Ken Coley came up with the correct identification of the spider in my Birds, Beasts, and Bugs post. It is a Western Spotted Orb Weaver.
Ann and I went back out to the park Saturday afternoon so see if we could see if the Snowy Plover was back on the eggs. She wasn’t. So we took a little ride around as we do quite frequently. When we were in an area of picnic tables, we heard a Northern Bobwhite very close to us. It took us a good five minutes to spot it, but finally we did. It was sitting on a mesquite branch about fifty feet away. I managed to get a few photos and one of them I have posted here. Click on the image to see an enlargement. Happy Birding!!
Today we spotted several Purple Martins out at the state park. I got a few photos. I will post a couple here. Tomorrow is our monthly Adult Birding Adventure. I hope to have a good showing. Rick Smith gave us a great write-up in his column in the San Angelo Standard-times this morning. The subject is “Things You Can Do For Under 5.00” You can read it at this link: http://www.gosanangelo.com/news/2010/jun/10/having-fun-for-5-or-less/ For more info don’t be afraid to give me a call at 325-944-1839. But, basically, just show up at the South Gatehouse at San Angelo State Park at 9:00AM. Bring binoculars and cameras if you have them. Event last until around 11:00AM.
The Snowy Plover eggs are still intact. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they survive for annother 2-3 weeks so they can hatch a couple of babies. The odds are not very great since the eggs are in the middle of a parking lot. In plain sight for the predators, not to mention an automobile or two. The park personnel and myself are trying to warn visitors. They put up a temporary barrier, which usually goes mostly ignored, and I put a rock marking the spot.
In my Bugs, Beasts, and Birds post I wanted someone to help with the identification of the spider. Tony, of San Antonio, thought it was a Marbled Orb Weaver, but in doing my own research, even though it is similar to a Marbled Orb Weaver, it doesn’t look like any of the dozens of photos I have looked at. Very similar, though. May be some kind of variant.
Here are the Purple Martin photos. Click on either on to see and enlargement. Enjoy.
Just a few tidbits from around the area. We have spent a few hours trawling around the state park for some interesting photo ops. The photos below show what I have come up with. By the way, the photo of the spider needs identification. If any of you can help me with this arachnid ID give me a holler. I am not an expert on snakes either, but the nearest I can come to, is I believe it to be a Rat Snake. Okay, so the snake isn’t a beast, but a reptile. But it had a beastly expression on it’s face. Besides, I needed a catchy title for this blog 🙂 Enjoy the pictures. Click on any image to see an enlargement.
Hot weather is for the birds. But they seem to like it. Especially those Snowy Plovers. They are very persistant, tending over the two eggs on the boat ramp parking lot near Red Arroyo. We checked on them this morning, but the Snowies themselves were taking shelter from the heat for awhile and leaving the eggs unattended. But they appeared later just when Sharon Camfield arrived. She was able to add a Snowy Plover to her life list. Congrats to Sharon.
We have a friend, Jim Cunningham, who resides in California but travels around the west and southwest, wherever his job takes him. He is a structural steel engineer and currently is working on the new Bay Bridge in San Francisco. He is a wildlife lover and he carries a little point-and-shoot camera in his pocket all the time. Where he works, it is not feasible to use anything else. Think 150 feet over San Francisco Bay.
While working the high iron there recently, a Peregrine Falcon landed on the rail near him. It kept returning to his “work place” for several days. He also was able to spot a nest or aerie in among some steel bridge supports. There were two or three young birds there. At first he didn’t know what kind of bird it was, so he e-mailed photos to both me and Terry Maxwell for confirmation.
Today I received a CD from him containing several images and he wanted me to post some here to this blog. He also wanted me to explain how we ID these falcons. Well, I am a novice, so actually I really didn’t know a lot about them. So I looked in Sibleys Guide, plus a couple of others. What stood out to me was the round, dark “ear-muff” patches on the side of the head. So here are a few of the photos, with thanks to Jim for providing them. Click on any image for an enlargement.