Finally, some Vermilion Flycatcher images

Where did summer go.  Yesterday morning the temperature here in San Angelo got down to 38 degrees.  It was been cold all day.  Had to turn the heat back on.  What the heck is going on?  But, as we say out here in west Texas, just hang around and things will change.  The forecast for the coming weekend is the mid nineties.

The title of this post reflects the frustrations that I have had the past three years in trying to photograph those tiny creatures.  I have seen them before, don’t get me wrong, but I have never been able to get my lens locked on to them for a good picture.  But that changed last week on our trip to the Big Bend National Park.

The two following photos are the results of that endeavor.  The Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) in the top picture is the male.  The second one is the female.  Both are tiny, shy birds.  They are possibly relatives of the phoebes.  These images were captured at Rio Grande Village Campground in the park.  I mounted my Canon 7D on a tripod with my 500mm and 1.4 teleconverter.  Standing under some trees I had a good view of the birds flitting around.

Vermilion Flycatcher - male

Vermilion Flycatcher - female

In other news, I decided to enter an art show put on by the San Angelo Art Club.  Their club consists mostly of paint artists, but twice a year they have an “Anything Goes, Almost” show and artists of all mediums are invited to enter.  They have a competition and give out cash prizes and ribbons for each medium.  Maybe I can get lucky.  I dropped off two of my latest creations this morning.  If I do win anything, you will be among the first to know.

So, I bid you adios from this post.  Click on the images to see enlargements.

Spring has sprung – or not

I guess spring is finally here, however it is a little cooler here today, but I will ignore that.  Trees are budding out, expecially the mesquites, and that should be a sure sign.  But on the other hand, a niece e-mailed me three days ago that they had gotten 12 inches of snow that morning.  She lives near Traverse City, Michigan.  Thank God for Texas.

We saw our first Ash-throated Flycatcher of the year.  Plus I had a report from friends down in Eldorado that they had seen two Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.  So I guess the migration has started.  I hope you like this photo that I took when I first saw that flycatcher.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

People have asked me how I put that frame and mat around my digital images.  Well, I have a very special friend that wrote me a custom “action” for my Photoshop Elements program.  Pretty neat, huh??

About the Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens).  Breeds in open, dry habitats.  It spends it’s summers in the Southwestern United States.  Click on the image to see an enlargement.

This flycatcher is difficult to discern from a few other species.  To learn more about the identification of all birds, Delbert Tarter, one of the best local experts on the subject, will be presenting a three-week, 12-hour class at the San Angelo, Texas, Nature Center.  Two hours each Tuesday and Thursday nights for the duration.  (Delbert, wasn’t that neat how I worked that plug into this post for you?  You can thank me later.)  🙂   Phone 325-942-0121 for more information.

One more thing, click here to see what  Toby  Shoemaker, of Maine, is saying about me.

Birding Big Bend Again March 2011 – Part II

I thought that for this part I would just show you a bunch of photos from the trip.  No bird photos, but some “touristy” images.

We were staying at The Lajitas House, a bed and breakfast type of house that we rented for our stay.  It is located on a bluff overlooking the Rio Grande River.  This first picture is looking upriver from our patio.  Mexico is on the left, of course.

Rio Grande looking upstream from our patio.

The second image is looking across the river towards a little Mexican village.

Looking south across the Rio Grande River

Number three is looking north from our patio.

Looking north or to our right from our patio.

Our patio, where we sat enjoying the sunsets, sipping margaritas, and just relaxing.

The patio of The Lajitas House

Image number five – it doesn’t get any better than this. 🙂

Another view from the patio.

This view is from high in the southern part of the Chisos Mountains.  The cleft in the distant cliffs is Santa Elena Canyon, about 30 miles away.

Looking south from high in the Chisos Mountains

Next photograph is of a line shack on Homer Wilson’s Blue Creek Ranch.  Behind it is Sentinel Peak.

Homer Wilson's line shack below Sentinel Peak

This tunnel is on the highway that leads to Boquillas Canyon and Rio Grande RV campsite on the east side of Big Bend National Park.

Tunnel east of Panther Junction park headquarters.

About twelve miles north of Lajitas on highway 170 is the ghost town of Terlingua.  Someone had made this junk sculpture and mounted it on a post.  A whimsical replication of a wasp, I would say. 🙂

Junk sculpture at Terlingua ghost town.

How about a beautiful sunset shot from our patio.  As I said before, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Sunset from patio of The Lajitas House

I hope you enjoyed these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.  Click on any image for an enlargement.

Birding Big Bend Again March 2011 – Part I

Back from our favorite haunts again.  Our stay at the Lajitas House was just great.  Large, spacious, quiet and comfortable.  We sat and watched birds and quail come up on our patio.  At night the stars were so bright it was almost blinding.

Scaled Quail on the patio

The first day, Tuesday, we went into Big Bend NP to check out some birding places.  We stopped at the ruins of Sam Neal’s house that stood over 100 years ago.  The vegetation and trees are all grown up, but there is a little shaded area that is frequented by birds of all types.  Thrashers, thrushers, sparrows, towhees. 

Common Black-hawk

While there we visited with another birder/photographer, Cindy McIntyre,  ( from Maine.  She is a Big Bend NP ranger.  She had been to Rio Grande Village, an RV camping area on the on eastern side of the park.  She told us about two rare Common Black-hawks that were nesting there.  She said the site was easy to see, as the park service had the area marked with signage, to protect the birds.

Vermilion Flycatcher

So as you would guess, on Wednesday we headed over there.  Sure enough.  We spotted one hawk almost immediately.  It was sitting on a branch in plain sight.  A great photo opportunity, and I took advantage of it.  It was also another lifer for me, number 222.  Previously, I thought I had already reached 222 but found that I had erroneously added a Purple Finch to my list, when I have actually never seen that bird.

In a nearby area, we saw several Vermilion Flycatchers moving around.  They are tiny, flighty, creatures that can’t sit one spot more than a couple of seconds, and also dificult to get close to.  However, I was able to get my 500mm with a tele-converter, mounted on a tripod, about 35 yards away.

Click on any photo so see an enlargement.

Coming soon, Part II.  I will tell you some more about the trip and our experiences.

Off to the Big Bend again

This will probably be my last post for perhaps a week or so.  We are heading to the Big Bend country of west Texas Monday morning.  This time we are renting the Lajitas House at where else, Lajitas, Texas.  Check this link to see what we will be enjoying for three days:   I am sure we will be sitting on that patio sipping a margarita or two, and aiming my camera at all the great surounding areas.

We will probably check out all of our favorite places in Big Bend National Park;  Santa Elena Canyou where we may see some Peregrine Falcons.  Rio Grande Village camping area is a great birding area, plus we may see a Bobcat or a Coyote.  There is also a great Nature Trail with a board-walk crossing some wetlands.

Floating the Rio Grande - photographed from another raft.

I don’t think we are planning on rafting the Rio Grande this trip but here is a photo of Ann and I preparing to go on a previous trip.  The little half-day float trip that we ususally do is really easy.  Just a few little water rapids splashing over the bow, just enough to make it fun, without worrying about capsizing.

Ann and I preparing to run the rapids of the Rio Grande River

The ruins of the Sam Neil Ranch is a great place to see lots of small birds.  You may also be surprised by a bunch of Collared Peccaries, commonly known as Javelinas.  You may smell them before you see them.  However, they are also quite noisy.

This jacal, or dugout, is on the Old Maverick Road.  It has an interesting history.  It was built by Roberto Luna after his marriage, who lived there until his death in1953 at the age of 103.  He farmed off the land.

Roberto Luna's jacal.

You can’t ignore the Chisos Mountains, the dominant range that is visible from every point in the park.  Elevations around 8,000 feet.  The Basin is an area in the middle of the mountains where the Lodge and camping area are located.  The floor of the Basin is at an elevation of 5,000 feet so you are surrounded by the peaks.  Great birding there, also.

Chisos Mountains

Driving west from Lajitas to Presidio on Hwy 170 is one of most spectacular scenic drives in the country.  At one point, called locally the Big Hill, you are about 450 feet above the Rio Grande River.  This drive is a must if you are in the area.  Here is a photo of Ann standing precariously above the river.  Don’t step back, dear. 🙂

Ann at the Big Hill

So,when we get back, maybe I will have some more interesting images to show you.   By the way, click on any of the above images to see enlargements.

I am still transferring pictures into my iPad.   Holy Moley, Batman, I hadn’t realized how many images I had wanted to move.  I have come across some pictures that I forgot I had.

Who was that masked….er…bird.????

Loggerhead Shrike. (Lanius ludovicianus).  This black-masked little bird may look like the Lone Ranger, but he is far from it.  No white hat on him.  He is pretty barbaric;  impaling his prey of reptiles, amphibians, or rodents on barbed wire or thorns.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Happy Birding!!

Pied-billed Grebe

I’m a little slow getting new posts published.  I have been busy going through old photos and transfering them to my new iPad.  I intend to use it as a portfolio per se, to show my work to interested buyers.  Anyway, I came across these two images and realized that I had never published any grebe photos.  So let me introduce you to the Pied-billed Grebe(Podilymbus podiceps).  They are residents the year around and nest in local lakes and ponds.  A bit on the shy side, they tend to hide or dive under the water when spotted.

Young Pied-billed Grebe

Adult Pied-billed Grebe

In other news we had our monthly birding tour at San Angelo State Park.  We had a total of nine people and here is the results.

Location:     San Angelo State Park
Observation date:     3/12/11
Number of species:     30

Gadwall     1
Cinnamon Teal     2
Northern Shoveler     75
Green-winged Teal     20
Ruddy Duck     6
American White Pelican     200
Great Blue Heron     2
Black Vulture     6
Red-tailed Hawk     1
Killdeer     6
American Avocet     3
Greater Yellowlegs     24
Least Sandpiper     10
Long-billed Dowitcher     24
Ring-billed Gull     100
White-winged Dove     6
Mourning Dove     2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker     1
Black-crested Titmouse     2
Rock Wren     1
Northern Mockingbird     6
Rufous-crowned Sparrow     1
Canyon Towhee     1
White-crowned Sparrow     12
Northern Cardinal     2
Pyrrhuloxia     1
Red-winged Blackbird     30
Brown-headed Cowbird     6
House Finch     10
House Sparrow     3

Ground Squirrel and San Angelo State Park

I was leaving San Angelo State Park one day, and as I drove by some trees this Mexican Ground Squirrel was muching on a mesquite bean pod.  He looked at me as if I was being rude to watch as he ate.  Embarrassed that he caught me looking, I moved on. 🙂

Mexican Ground Squirrel

Seriously, soon there may not be any mesquites left in the park.  They are not a native specie, but were brought in many years ago, probably accidentally on truck tires, carried by birds, etc.  They are a very thirsty plant.  They multiply, their roots run deep and they use up all of the ground water.   The Concho River is the source for O. C. Fisher lake, and the mesquites along the water shed and in the park are spelling the demise of the river and the lake.  To that end, a program is under way to eradicate all of the mesquites in the along the watershed and the park.  The park itself, encompasses more than seven thousand acres.  I worry for the loss of habitat, but those authorities in the know, say that there are enough native species left to sustain the wildlife.

Cabin at San Angelo State Park

More native species will be brought in to some areas.  With the mesquites and salt cedar gone, someday, along with some good rains, perhaps the river will flow again, the lake will fill, and the boat ramps will reach the water. 

O. C. Fisher Lake at San Angelo State Park

In other good news, a showing of my framed photographs will continue for another month at the Crockett National Bank in downtown San Angelo.  Originally I was invited to show for the months of December and January only, but it has been so well received that I have been extended indefinitely.  So if you get to San Angelo, drop in and have a look.  All of my work there is for sale, and I also have prints available in any size.

Click on the photos to see enlargements.

Hey, he’s just a kid………….

Going through some old photos, I came across this one that brought back a fond memory.  A few years ago I was at someone’s ranch.  I really don’t remember whose.  I was just wandering around through the brush and weeds and I came across this new-born goat kid.  The mother was standing about about 20 feet away.  The little one was under a dense mesquite brush.  How it got there I didn’t know.

Looking at it carefully, I realized it was just a few hours old.  It still had blood clots in it’s coat and signs of the after-birth.  It didn’t have a way out of the bush, so I pushed branches aside and carefully reached in.  I gently placed my hand under it’s body and lifted it out into the clearing.  It seened like it only weighed a few ounces, and probably only messured about 14 inches from nose to tail.  It was so cute, I just had to take a photo.  The mother was not concerned in anyway.  She just stood and watched.

I used the cloning tool in Photoshop Elements and cleaned up the coat.  Click on the image to see an enlargement.

"Hey, I'm just a kid"

My Artistic Photography

I really consider all of my photography art, as most photographers do.  But sometime I come up with something that definitely stirs my creative juices.  I submit the following photos for your consideration.  The first, or my before picture, is another of the American Kestrel images that I shot a couple of days ago.  The second, is after doing a bit of tone-mapping with PhotoMatix.  I like the three-dimensional feeling that it gives.

The picture isn’t about the American Kestrel.  It is just about a bird in a tree.  I like the simplicity of it, just the tree with a bird perched in it, against a clear sky.  I like the patterns of the tree branches, with the bird providing a splash of color.  I’d like to hear what you think about it.  Click on either image to see an enlargement.

"Bird in Tree" before tone-mapping

"Bird in Tree" after tone-mapping

Happy Birding””