Concho River – Black-crowned Night Herons


The beautiful Conch River winds itself through downtown San Angelo, Texas.  I have not been down there in quite awhile, due to Ann’s and my responsibiities to the San Angelo State Park.  It seems activities there have taken over our lives to a certain extent.  Anyway, Friday evening an individual called me saying that he had seen some baby Black-crowned Night Herons perhaps nesting along the shore of the Concho River.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Ann and I decided to investigate, so we drove downtown the following morning to cruise along the river and observe.  We stopped near the location that the man had described over the telephone.  I immediately spotted an adult Black-crowned Night Heron up in a tree above the river.  About a hundred yards away there were two Great Blue Herons in another tree.  In still another tree were four Doubled-crested Cormorants

Great Blue Heron

I was surprised that there was so much bird activity along that river.  We didn’t see the young black-crowns unti were deciding to go home, then we spotted one juvenile sitting on a little dam at a low-water crossing.  Click on any of the images to see enlargements.  Below is a listing of the 12 birds that we saw along the river that morning.  We probably would have gotten many more if we could have stayed longer.

Black-crown Night Heron - juvenile

Happy Birding!!

Number of species:     12

Northern Shoveler     18
Ring-necked Duck     12
Pied-billed Grebe     4
Double-crested Cormorant     12
Great Blue Heron     4
Black-crowned Night-Heron     2
Common Ground-Dove     4
Blue Jay     4
Northern Mockingbird     4
Northern Cardinal     6
Common Grackle     6
Great-tailed Grackle     12

BEEP! BEEP! More on Greater Roadrunners


I can’t resist it.  I must write about these Greater Runners again.  It was a gloriously gorgeous day here in San Angelo.  You don’t think that I am going to stay home and get things done, do you??  We toured San Angelo State Park, as we are want to do on days like this.  We saw the usual contigent of birds, including the Phainopepla that is starting to enjoy this west Texas weather.  Then we saw this Greater Roadrunner. and was able to catch these photos.   Click on the images to see an enlargement.

Greater Roadrunner

The Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is a long-legged bird in the cuckoo family, Cuculidae. It is one of the two roadrunner species in the genus Geococcyx; the other is the Lesser Roadrunner. This roadrunner is also known as the chaparral cock, ground cuckoo, and snake killer.[2]

The roadrunner is about 56 centimetres (22 in) long and weighs about 300 grams (10.5 oz), and is the largest North American cuckoo. The adult has a bushy crest and long thick dark bill. It has a long dark tail, a dark head and back, and is blue on the front of the neck and on the belly. Roadrunners have four toes on each zygodactyl foot; two face forward, and two face backward. The name roadrunner comes from the bird’s habit of racing down roads in front of moving vehicles and then darting into the weeds.

Portrait of a Roadrunner

The breeding habitat is desert and shrubby country in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, but some other western states as well. The Greater Roadrunner nests on a platform of sticks low in a cactus or a bush and lays 3–6 eggs, which hatch in 20 days. The chicks fledge in another 18 days. Pairs may occasionally rear a second brood.

Greater Roadrunners measure 61 cm (2 feet) in length, about half of which is tail. They have long, sturdy legs and a slender, pointed bill. The upper body is mostly brown with black streaks and white spots. The neck and upper breast are white or pale brown with dark brown streaks, and the belly is white. A crest of brown feathers sticks up on the head, and a bare patch of orange and blue skin lies behind each eye;[4] the blue is replaced by white in adult males (except the blue adjacent to the eye), and the orange (to the rear) is often hidden by feathers.[2]This bird walks around rapidly, running down prey or occasionally jumping up to catch insects or birds. It mainly feeds on insects, with the addition of small reptiles (including rattlesnakes up to 60 cm long), rodents and other small mammals, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, small birds (particularly from feeders and birdhouses) and eggs, and carrion. It kills larger prey with a blow from the beak—hitting the base of the neck of small mammals—or by holding it in the beak and beating it against a rock. Two roadrunners sometimes attack a relatively big snake cooperatively. Fruit and seeds typically constitute about 10% of the diet.[2]

Although capable of flight, it spends most of its time on the ground, and can run at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour (32 km/h).[4]

Some Pueblo Indian tribes, such as the Hopi, believed that the roadrunner provided protection against evil spirits. In Mexico, some said it brought babies, as the White Stork was said to in Europe. Some Anglo frontier people believed roadrunners led lost people to trails.[2] It is the state bird of New Mexico.

Beep! Beep!

Happy Bidrding!!

Blog Changes – Marfan Syndrome


This is just a short post to update everybody on the change to my blog.  You will notice that I now have a page entitled “Marfan Syndrome“.  I just thought it would be a good idea to make people aware of this disease, that I am afflicted with.  The page tells of my experiences with it and a link to the National Marfan Foundation.

My blog, as usual, will continue to be about, birding, nature, and wildlife photography.

Listen to the Mockingbird………


The Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is the state bird of Texas, and also for a few other states.  And true to it’s name it really can do a heck of a job of miming other birds.  The one that dominates our back yard, can do a great bluejay, and others of our backyard birds.  I can go out there and make random whistles and it will mock me.  My wife says that I am always harrassing him.  But not true, just conversing with him.  He is very territorial about our/his yard.  And that’s the reason we don’t have very many other visiting birds hanging around long.  If we put seed out, he won’t touch it, but neither will he let any other bird have it.

My Stokes Field Guide to North American Birds describes the bird as slim ,flat-crowned, long-tailed, long-legged  with a fairly thick relatively short bill.   Gray above, whitish below, two white wingbars, white base to primaries creates a patch on edge of folded wing.   Indistinct gray eyeline, yellowish eye.  In flight, the distinctive white patches on outer wings are very visible.

Here are some of my favorite photos:

Going my way???

Fledgling Northern Mockingbird

Fledgling Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

I hope you have enjoyed these photos.  Click on the images to see enlargements.

Happy Birding!!

SA State Park going to the Dawgs


I have been focusing, pun intended, on my photography of birds a lot lately.  As a wildlife photographer I also seek after images of the four-footed kind.  One of my favorites is the the Black-tailed Prairie Dog.  There is a “village” of them at the south part of San Angelo State Park, and another at the north section.  I took the photos with this article at the southern area.  The following info is courteous of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Prairie Dogs, mother and child

The black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus), is a rodent of the family sciuridae found in the Great Plains of North America from about the USA-Canada border to the USA-Mexico border. Unlike some other prairie dogs, these animals do not truly hibernate. The Black-tailed prairie dog can be seen above ground in midwinter. There is a report of a Black-tailed prairie dog town in Texas that covered 64,000 km2 (25,000 sq mi) and included 400,000,000 individuals. Prior to habitat destruction, this species was probably the most abundant prairie dog in central North America. This species was one of two described by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the journals and diaries of their expedition.

Black-tailed prairie dogs are generally tan in color, with a lighter colored belly. Their tail has a black tip on it, which is where their name is derived from. Adults can weigh from 1.5 to 3 lb (0.68 to 1.4 kg), males are typically heavier than females. Body length is normally from 14 to 17 in (36 to 43 cm), with a 3 to 4 in (7.6 to 10 cm) tail. They have small ears, but keen hearing, and small, dark eyes, with good vision.[citation needed]

Prairie Dog pup

Black-tailed prairie dogs are frequently exterminated from ranchland, being viewed as a pest. Their habitat has been fragmented, and their numbers have been greatly reduced. Additionally, black-tailed prairie dogs are remarkably susceptible to plague[2]. In 2006, 8 of 8 appearances of plague in black-tailed prairie dog colonies resulted in total colony extinction. Studies in 1961 estimated only 364,000 acres (1,470 km2) of occupied black-tailed prairie dog habitat in the United States. A second study in 2000 showed 676,000 acres (2,740 km2). However, a comprehensive study between 10 states and various tribes in 2004 estimated 1,842,000 acres (7,450 km2) in the United States, plus an additional 51,589 acres (208.77 km2) in Mexico and Canada. Based on the 2004 studies, the US Fish and Wildlife Service removed the black-tailed prairie dog from the Endangered Species Act Candidate Species List in August 2004.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about the cute and comedic animals that exist at the park.  They are fun to watch and enjoy.

No Time to Make Dessert


You ever have one of those days.  So much to do, so little time.  It all started this morning when it took me a little extra time to do the daily crossword.  My original plan was to first go to breakfast at Roxies’.  Yes, that is the name of the diner where we eat our first meal of the day.  In your mind, picture a Roxie, picture a little diner, you will then say that sure looks like a Roxies’ Diner.  🙂

Phoebe (Says or Eastern)

Then after breakfast,  the important stuff;

 1. do the crossword, (a must),

2. go feed the birds at the park, 

3.  fill the van’s gas tank,

4. wash the van,

5. take a new photo of the Santa Elena Canyon over to the Frame-up Gallery to get it framed,

6. check on my exhibit at Crocket National Bank to see if I need to leave some more cards,

7. come home then and try to do a post for my blog.

Well, you know about the best laid plans…….   I just finished number 2.   It is 3:00 PM and I am just getting started on number 7.  I had to skip numbers 3 throught 6.  I didn’t fill the gas tank; I think I can make it to Roxies’ (remember her?) tomorrow morning.  I post-poned washing the van, ‘cuz it gonna rain tonight.   I can wait about going to the Frame-up Gallery.  Ditto to see about my exhibit at the bank.

The reason that it took so long to feed the birds (#2) was it turned out to be a gorgeous sunny day, a perfect day for birding.  So after feeding the birds that’s what we did.  We saw 29 different species.  That includes the pictured  Phoebe.  Can anyone say definitely which it is?  An Eastern Phoebe or a Says Phoebe.  Ann’s list that she sends to E-bird, is below for your information.

So now it is almost 4:00PM and almost finished with this post.  I am pretty warn out and I think it is almost time for a margarita.  It’s a good thing that I don’t cook, because there definitely would  be no time to make dessert. 🙂

Location:     San Angelo State Park
Observation date:     1/24/11
Number of species:     29

Northern Shoveler     30
Northern Bobwhite     8
American White Pelican     30
Great Blue Heron     5
Black Vulture     70
Northern Harrier     1
Red-tailed Hawk     1
American Coot     3
Greater Yellowlegs     2
Least Sandpiper     24
Ring-billed Gull     12
White-winged Dove     6
Mourning Dove     4
Greater Roadrunner     1
Eastern Phoebe     1
Say’s Phoebe     1
Black-crested Titmouse     2
Northern Mockingbird     12
Curve-billed Thrasher     1
Phainopepla     1
Spotted Towhee     1
Chipping Sparrow     3
White-crowned Sparrow     18
Northern Cardinal     6
Pyrrhuloxia     8
Red-winged Blackbird     120
Western Meadowlark     6
House Finch     12
House Sparrow     6

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

Sharp-shinned Hawk


Yestereday, despite the cold wind, Ann and I decided to venture out to the park again.  The sun was shining nicely, so it made up for the cool temps.  We stopped at the bird blind, but saw nothing that we haven’t seen the past few days.  But after deciding to take a short drive around the park, I spotted this Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus), sitting among the mesquites.  At least I think it is a Sharp-shinned.  They are easily confusedd with a Cooper’s Hawk.  But this one has the more rounder head of the Sharpie.  If anyone has a different opinion I would appreciate hearing.  I think it is one of my best images of this particular hawk.  You can click on it and see an enlargement.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Location:     San Angelo State Park
Observation date:     1/21/11
Number of species:     19

American White Pelican     30
Great Blue Heron     3
Black Vulture     30
Sharp-shinned Hawk     1
Red-tailed Hawk     1
American Kestrel     1
Greater Yellowlegs     20
Least Sandpiper     30
Ring-billed Gull     10
Mourning Dove     2
Black-crested Titmouse     1
Northern Mockingbird     20
Spotted Towhee     1
White-crowned Sparrow     24
Northern Cardinal     4
Pyrrhuloxia     4
Red-winged Blackbird     20
Western Meadowlark     2
House Finch     12

Sparrows, Sparrows, Sparrows


Since this blog is basically about birding, and bird photography, I have been sitting here pondering what to put in my next (this) post.  Thinking back, I didn’t know a sparrow from a pigeon before I got into serious birding.  Well, I guess pigeons were bigger, right?   Anyway, now I have come to appreciate just how many species of birds there really are.  In the area where I live, according to the people that know these things, there are thirty different species of sparrows alone.

To be perfectly fair, actually they are not all sparrows.  Four of those species classified in the sparrow family are towhees, three are longspurs, and one is a junco.  That still leaves twenty-two named sparrows, just here in the Concho Valley.  There are more than fifty species including other regions of the country. 

Like any other non-birder, I thought all sparrow looked alike.  Wrong!  Since I now consider myself a birder, albeit a little new at it, I have discovered that there are really many beautiful sparrows to be seen and photographed.  You can see from the following examples.

House Sparrow

Pictured above is the common House Sparrow (Passer domesticus).  Now I ask, isn’t this a pretty little bird.  Nice rich colors of brown, with that little patch of gray on his head, and that black chest, not to be confused with the Black-throated Sparrow.

Black-throated Sparrow

The above is the afore-mentioned Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata).   Another little cutie.

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus)  Another pretty bird with distinctive markings that you can’t miss.

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla).  So these are five of my favorites.  Now when you see a sparrow, take a closer look, and you may be surprised at what you see.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

MLK day at San Angelo State Park


In yesterday’s post I said that I hoped that the fog would lift.  Well, lift it did, a couple of hours later.  It turned out to be a wonderful day, with the temps somewhere in the mid-seventies, with plenty of sunshine.  Ann and I decided to spend a few hours at San Angelo State Park.  Where else would we be??  🙂  It is so nice to be retired, and have such a great park only three miles away.

We just had a good time driving around, not only watching birds, but just enjoying watching other people enjoy it, too.  There were hikers, bikers, walkers, and we came across this fisherman that was just bringing his catch in from the shore.  A huge catch that it was.  Look at all the big Yellow Catfish, probably near 100 lbs worth, judging from the effort that it took the young man to lift them.  He even had to use a wheelbarrow to carry them in from the lake.  There is some fine eatin’ somewhere in town this evening. 🙂

Catch of the Day

We had a great day of birding, also.  Check out the list at the end of this post.  In addition to the usual suspects, we were joined by a Rock Wren, A Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and six Northern Bobwhites.  And a nice surprise.  We spotted the Phainopepla again that has been hanging around.  After chasing him through the mesquites, I came up with this photograph.  I think it is quite an improvement over my original image that I captured a few days ago.

Phainopepla

Click on either photo to see an enlargement.  Here is the list of birds that we saw on Monday, January 17, 2011

Number of species:     26

Northern Shoveler     6
Northern Bobwhite     6
American White Pelican     20
Great Blue Heron     2
American Coot     6
Killdeer     2
Greater Yellowlegs     4
Least Sandpiper     20
Long-billed Dowitcher     6
Ring-billed Gull     20
Herring Gull     2
White-winged Dove     4
Mourning Dove     2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker     1
Tufted Titmouse     0
Black-crested Titmouse     2
Rock Wren     1
Northern Mockingbird     10
Curve-billed Thrasher     2
Phainopepla     1
White-crowned Sparrow     12
Northern Cardinal     6
Pyrrhuloxia     5
Red-winged Blackbird     12
House Finch     6
House Sparrow     4

Happy birding!!

Foggy Monday Birds and a Beast


Okay, okay, I know I haven’t posted in a few days.  I’ve been waiting for a sunshine-filled happy day.  As I am writing this, it may not happen for awhile.  This morning it is very, very foggy.  However, I am hoping for the sun to break through later today.  So I will fill in with the latest birding results from yesterday, posted at the end of this post, and a couple of pictures.

Nine-banded Armadillo

What is a post without some pictures, right?  Yesterday, after doing a little birding, we were on our way out of San Angelo State Park, when we observed a couple of Armadillos rooting around, looking for something edible.  The above image  pictures one of them.  Also, a little earlier, while at the bird blind, I photographed this Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus).  I believe that it is a 1st year male. Click on either photo to see an enlargement. 

Red-winged Blackbird

The following is a list of birds that we saw and reported yesterday.

Location:     San Angelo State Park
Observation date:     1/16/11
Number of species:     24

Northern Shoveler     6
American White Pelican     20
Great Blue Heron     2
Red-tailed Hawk     1
American Kestrel     2
American Coot     12
Killdeer     2
Greater Yellowlegs     2
Least Sandpiper     6
Ring-billed Gull     50
White-winged Dove     6
Greater Roadrunner     1
Ladder-backed Woodpecker     1
Northern Mockingbird     10
Curve-billed Thrasher     1
Spotted Towhee     1
Canyon Towhee     1
White-crowned Sparrow     12
Northern Cardinal     4
Pyrrhuloxia     5
Red-winged Blackbird     10
Western Meadowlark     1
House Finch     6
House Sparrow     8

Happy Birding!!