Ash-throated Flycatchers

Today Ann and I decided to take a drive through Spring Creek Park.  We hadn’t been out there in over a week.  But, alas, it will have to wait again.  Right after we drove into the park, my dashboard beeped.  I had an alert saying that I had a tire going down.  I got my tire gauge out of the glove box, checked, and sure enough the the right-front tire was leaking.

We turned around and headed home.  I then took off to find a place that would make a quick repair, then decided that since the car was due for an oil change, I would have the establishment take care of that plus the tire repair.  Unfortunately, it amounted to about an hour and a half wait.

As-throated Flycatcher

So after getting back to the house, going birding didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore as it was getting late.  So that brings me to here.  I decided to write a post.  Not having a birding report for you from Spring Creek Park, I tossed a dart at the computer and decided to show you images of the Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens).  That is one species that I don’t remember writing about before.  This first (above) photo happens to be one of my peronal favorites.  I like how the wide aperture blurred the colorful background to give a great bokeh.

The next photo, below, was taken during a bird-banding session at the Hummer House in Christoval, Texas on March 28, 2008.  I am not 100% sure it is an Ash-throated as I am not familiar with the yellowish feathers under the wings behind the head.  Maybe one of the banders or another local bird expert will comment to this post, and confirm this for me.  Is it possibly a Brown-crested Flycatcher?

Ash-throated Flycatcher

The Ash-throated Flycatcher, along with the Scissor-tailed and the Vermilion, make up some of the most popular flycatches of the Concho Valley.  I have shown you many images of those species on other occasions.

As-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

The Ash-throated of the species can be confused with the Brown-crested and Dusky-capped Flycatchers.  I hope I have the above photos IDed correctly and if not, maybe someone of more expertise will correctly.

Click on any of the images to see an enlargement.  Also feel free to click my Flickr Logo at the right of this page, and have a look at some more of my photographs.  Also when you are in San Angelo, check out my long-running gallery exhibit showing in the lobby of the Crockett National Bank, on Bryant Thruway.

Concho Valley Bird Banding Update

Since this blog was originally meant to be primarily about birds, bird photography, and birding I thought I would pass on to you any information on these subjects that come my way.

Charles Floyd of the Concho Valley Bird Banders, dropped me a note to tell me that the fall migration banding at the Hummer House, in Christoval, Texas, has been pretty much completed.  They will soon concentrate on winter sparrows, once they start to arrive in bigger numbers.

These are the highlights of what they banded at their last session:

I can see now that I need to get out more.  Most of those would have been lifers for me.

For more about their organization, click on the highlighted link above, or on my “Favorite Websites”  on the right side of this page.  Charles also mentioned that he would keep me posted on any upcoming changes.

Here is a shot that I took at one of their sessions that I attended.

Carolina Chickadee

Since Ann wasn’t feeling herself when she and I made our trip to Big Bend NP a couple of weeks ago, we missed some of the birding opportunities.  So we are going to make a return trip the week after next.  Maybe I can come up with some new bird photos from that area.

I have been negligent in giving credit to my dear friend Deb Tappan, of Knoxville, Tennessee.  She is an outstanding wildlife photographer.  Her collection of bird photographs is awesome, as is all of her photography from the United States and Canada.  This blog of mine is a result of her instigation, by the way.

Miscellaneous Photos and other Shout-0uts

I’m still browsing through my archives and I have come up with one that is really a self-portrait.  I remembered this image when reading Katies Camera Blog.  She had an amazing dog portrait there.  This is of me many years ago with Spike, my best friend.  Now deceased.  Picture quality not great, but it doesn’t take away the special sense of love I had for him.

"A man and his dog"

And speaking of portraits, check out Photos by Holly.   Her latest post shows that she is really an excellent portrait photographer.  I have been following and admiring her photographic exploits since she first got started, not too long ago.

Lynda, over at her Life-on-the-Farmlet blog commented that she liked that I was pulling my flying hawk images from my archives.  Well, here’s another one for you.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

I love photographing hawks of all types, and when I can catch one in flight, I am the most happiest.

This photo below was taken several months ago at Spring Creek Park near Lake Nasworthy.  While driving through, Ann and I spotted this young Great Horned Owl in a tree.  I had published one image of the owlet back then, but I found this one that I think is a bit sharper.

Young Great Horned Owl

In yesterday’s post I talked about Luckenbach, Texas.  My good friend Ross McSwain corrected me on one point.  It was really Waylon Jennings, who wrote and sang it, that made the song famous, and by association, the village(?) of Luckenbach.  Of course, Willie Nelson, also helped in the cause as it is one of his favorite songs.

For those who have never been to Luckenbach, it is a tiny place to be sure.  It has the post office/trading post, a dance hall, and a couple of houses, and that’s about it.  It is located about 12 miles southeast of Fredricksburg, Texas.

Ross McSwain, by the way, is a local author, columnist, and a historian, in my view   His Out Yonder columns for the San Angelo Standard-Times are full of stories and facts about west Texas.  I am proud that he chose my photography for the cover of his book,  See No Evil, Speak No Evil.

I hope you enjoyed this post and the pictures.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

Happy Christopher Columbus Day!!

I haven’t posted for a few days, so I need to catch up a little.  Today is the day that we celebrate Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America.  Actually, I read that he stumbled across it by accident when he was seeking another route to the Far East.  So when his ship ground ashore, he jumped up and down and hollered, “Hey, guys, look what I’ve found!!”

I was going to write a post yesterday, but I got lazy.  First, it took me too darned long to work the Sunday crossword puzzle.  Then after that things went down hill.  I got the bad news that the ALCS championship game between the Texas Rangers and the Detroit Tigers was postponed until today.  That messed up my Sunday plans.  Then I was disappointed that we didn’t get more rain that was promised by the Weather Channel. (More on the rain, later in this post.)  So what is a guy to do after such disappointing things.  I decided to take a nap.

So anyway, here I am.  We did get quite a bit of rain on Saturday.  Officially, 2.83 inches.  We had received only five inches all year until this rain, so now we are at nearly eight inches.  O. C. Fisher Lake picked up a little run-off as you can see in the picture.  But don’t get too excited.  I spotted some American White Pelicans way out in the middle, and they were wading.  So that expanse that you see is only a very few inches deep.  A large puddle, so to speak.  We need a lot more on the watershed north of town to get it up where it should be.  Note the distance, a nearly quarter of a mile from this boat-ramp to the water.

Boat ramp at O. C. Fisher lake

The other picture shows the Concho River, that is the flow source for the lake.  I visited the bridge upstream on Highway 2288 and saw that there was no water flow.  Just a puddle upstream a bit from local runoff.  The land around here is so parched that most of the rain is just getting soaked in.  Some more good storms may result in the river running hard again.

North Concho River riverbed

But at least, the water, what there is, is drawing birds again.  While there, besides the pelicans, we saw, cormorants, herons, sandpipers, etc.

In other news, I did spend a little time just browsing some of my very, very old images and came across a few that you may enjoy looking at.

San Angelo Balloon Fest

Some people may remember the old balloon fests that used to be held down at Santa Fe Park.  This photo is probably around 20 years old.

"Ride 'em, Cowboy"

We also used to have PBR (Professional Bull Riding) event at the coliseum here in San Angelo.  I don’t know what happened, it seemed to draw large crowds, but for some reason we haven’t been on their schedule for a few years.  San Angelo does have the seventh largest PRCA rodeo in the country.  It happens in the month of February and has so many entrants, it takes two weeks to run it.

How about this one:

Downtown Luckenbach, Texas

How many of you have visited “downtown Luckenbach, Texas, to maybe see Willie and the boys.  As you know Willie Nelson made this place with his song of the same name.  Of course, he knows the place well, as it was one of his favorite places to hang out.  You can buy a stuffed armadillo, complete with a Budweiser bottle in it’s claws there.  A good cold beer can be bought it the back, served by a guy that will sing you a song along with it.

Red-tailed Hawk

My posts are never complete without a good bird photo.  My favorites are my hawk photos.  This one, of course, is a Red-tailed Hawk.  I don’t remember when it was photographed, but sometime in the past couple of years.

This post is for Shelly at Kamiak Creek, who likes to see Texas Tweeties in her e-mail inbox, and all of my other blogger friends.   Since this is my first post in several days, this may help with all of your withdrawal symptons. 🙂

In the great words of the famous Arnold Schwarznegger, “Ah’ll be bahhhk”.

Ya’ll have a great week. 🙂

Recapping the past week…….

Here it is, another week-end.  Where does time go?  They say that after you are over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.  I think there is a lot of truth in that.  I feel that I am going so fast that I need to jump off the moving what-ever I’m on. 🙂

Anyway, this past week I have spent doing posts about our Big Bend National Park adventure.  Then I started going through my images from that trip.  Nearly 700 of them, but a lot of duplicates, that I thinned out so I could have a better over-all look at what I had.  From my posts, you can see that it seemed that all I was concerned with was scenic pictures.  That was partly true, as the desert and mountain views were awesome.  On that point, I might add that I sold a framed 12×16 of one of those immediately, and I spent Friday morning finishing that job.

But my mind, as always, was on birds and birding, too.  Ann and I were constantly on the alert for some exciting sightings.  Where we were the most successful was at the Rio Grande Village RV area.  No campers or RVers around so we had the place almost to ourselves.  There were birds of many species.  We upped our bird count for the year pretty well and got a few photographs as well.  We also added a lifer, the Sora that we saw pecking in the grass along the roadway.

Here are a couple of those photos:

Vermilion Flycatcher

  • Vermilion Flycatcher – Photographed Sept. 27,2011
  • Canon 7D with 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter
  • 1/1250 sec @ f6.3 –  ISO 400
  • Aperture priority

Audubon Yellow-rumped Warbler

  • Yellow-rumped Warbler – photographed Sept. 27, 2077
  • Canon 7D with 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter
  • 1/1250 sec @ f6.3 – ISO 320
  • Aperture priority

The Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus), provided the most challenging effort.  There were several of them, but this one was flitting around near a picnic table, hopping from the grass to a nearby tree branch, then back again.  We pulled into the parking spot where I had a good vantage point.  I propped my camera and lens on my Puffin’ Pad window support and just waited for the right moments.  Their red color is so vibrant and vivid it almost washes out some detail.

There are two pre-dominant species of the Yellow-rumped Warbler.  The “Myrtle” and the “Audubon”.  I identified the one pictured as an Audubon, (Dendroica coronata auduboni), mainly because of the yellow throat.

Click on either image to see an enlargement, and also click on my Flickr logo on the right side of this page.  There you can see all of my photographs that I have up-loaded to date.  I am still working on that and many more of my photos will soon be added there.



Adventures from the Big Bend – Thursday – Day 4

Thursday was our final full day in the Big Bend.  We decided to make the trip on the Ross Maxwell Highway that skirts the Chisos Mountains on their west side for thirty miles, then eventually ends up at Santa Elena Canyon.  It is probably the most spectacular drive in Big Bend National Park.  There are numerous pull-offs and scenic over-looks.

Mule Ears Peak (s)

First we started off with breakfast at the Roadrunner Deli.  We arrived promptly at 8:00AM and discovered that Frank actually opened at 7:30AM.  He had his great coffee brewing.  Ann and I ordered up.  Me, sausage and eggs, and I think Ann had the same.  Can’t remember for sure, but it is immaterial, as we were pumped up for our exciting day.

Desert scene - Big Bend National Park

To get to Ross Maxwell Highway, you enter the park from the west, at Study Butte, go another nine miles or so where you come to the intersection to take a right turn.

Windmill and Santiago Peak

Gathering Storms

Driving on down a couple of miles, you come to a pull-off on the right side of the road where there is a short trail leading to the ruins of the old Sam Nail Ranch.  Sam and his younger brother, Jim, built the place originally in 1916.  They had a garden, milk cows, chickens and hogs.  They were pretty well self-sufficient.  There are  just a couple of adobe walls left standing, but there is an abundant collection of birds that hang around the trees that are thriving because of the well that the brothers had built.

Pulliam Peak - Big Bend National Park

Further along the drive you will come upon Homer Wilson’s Blue Creek Ranch over-look.  A short moderate trail leads down to their line camp beneath Sentinel Peak.  It was built in the early 1900s and Homer’s foreman, Lott Felts lived there for many years.

View from Sotol Vista overlook

About a half-mile further on is the Sotol Vista over-look.  See the photo above.  You shouldn’t by-pass this stop.  It is the highest point on the highway and you have a view of the distant Santa Elena Canyon, still 14 miles as the crow flies, and another 22 miles of driving.  Covering those 22 miles is exciting as the scenery is outstanding.  Mountain and desert vistas about on each side of the highway.

Rio Grand River - Santa Elena Canyon in background

Just a few miles before reaching Santa Elena Canyon, is Castolon, a little village trading post.  A welcome stop to use the facilities, get some snacks, or just rest in the shade.  The place has been there since sometime in the 1800s.

Santa Elena Canyon

Arriving at the end of the road you will find a short trail that leads to the base of the canyon.  It is just a short, sandy hike of maybe 500 yards.  You will first reach the dry (usually) Terlingua Creek that enters the Rio Grande River from your right to left.  The river being on your left.  You can cross the dry creek bed then take a trail that leads to a concrete, hand-railed, switch-back path that takes you to a lookout about 100 feet above the river.  It is a stunning view from there as the canyon walls that are only about 50 yards apart, tower above you another 1,500 feet.

Butterfly in Purple Sage

So that ends our visit to Santa Elena Canyon.  We headed back to Study Butte and our casita.  We sat on our little post, watched the birds, and reminisced about our trip.  We also ate our left-over pizza from the evening before.  A fitting end to our latest trip to the Big Bend.

Desert Showers - Big Bend National Park

About my photos.  You may have noticed all the pretty clouds in all of my photos.  Usually when we are in the Big Bend, the skies are clear and sunny.  That, in itself, is all right, but the clouds make for many a pretty photograph.  I also left out the EXIF data for this series.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.  Also click on my Flickr Logo on the right side of this page.  I have been adding new photos there as well.

“It made me see God as I had never seen Him before”………..Captain E. E. Townsend, Texas Ranger, 1894, upon viewing the Big Bend area for the first time.

Adventures from the Big Bend – Wednesday – Day 3

In yesterdays’, Day 2 Tuesday post, I forgot to mention our evening dinner plans.  We were tired, but we thought a cold margarita and a steak would be good.  We went to the LaKiva Bar and Restaurant.  It is a place that you could only call unique.  It is more or less a cave-like structure.  It is actually built into the banks of Terlingua Creek, so it is partially underground, so to speak.

This being a Tuesday, it was Karoke Night.  In previous visits there I had got up and sang a couple of tunes myself.  Not this time though.  We got there at 5:00PM, had our margaritas, (me – two), a delicious steak filet and we were out of there before 7:00PM.  We went back to the casita and sat on the porch for awhile.  I guess we’re getting too old for shenanigans. 🙂

Now on the morning of  Wednesday, Day 3, we decided to take a guided Jeep tour through the back country around Terlingua and Study Butte.  It is another service that is provided at extra cost by the Far Flung Outdoor Center.  Thinking that the Roadrunner Deli didn’t open until 8:00AM we opted to eat at a nearby motel restaurant.  Our tour was scheduled at 8:45AM.  A young lady, Laura, was a very informed guide, and she gave us an education about the geological history of the area.

The tour was over at 11:00AM, so we had some light snacks and headed for the Chisos Mountains, in Big Bend National Park.  The Chisos are the center-piece of the park, with peaks rising to over 8,000 feet.  Our destination was the area called the Basin.  After driving up through Green Gulch, the highway tops out and about 6,000 feet, then you drive back down into the Basin which is at the 5,000 foot elevation.

Drive through Green GulchGreen Gulch and Mt. Casa Grande

On the floor of the Basin are campgrounds, and the Chisos Lodge and Restaurant.  If you visit and want to stay at the lodge, you need to make reservations about two months in advance.  It is surrounded by peaks, including Mount Casa Grande, not the highest, but the most photographed peak in the park.

Mt. Casa Grande

All the water that is collected in the Basin is drained at the pour-off at the bottom of  The Window, a vee-shaped formation on the western side of the basin.  A trail leads to the bottom of the “vee” where you can look over the edge to a  several hundred foot drop to the desert below.  A shorter trail takes you to an over-look where you have a spectacular view, also, looking far out over the Chihuahan desert for many miles.

The Window

 That drive into the Chisos took up all the afternoon.  After returning to our casita, we freshed up and decided on pizza at Long Draw Pizza.  On our many visits to the Big Bend area we passed this established many, many time.  We always ignored it as it, from the outside, looks like just a half of a large mobile home.  Drab looking with just a simple sign outside in a dirt parking lot.  You could kinda picture a red-neck cowboy, behind the bar and serving beer.

But we had recently heard that it really had the best pizza in west Texas.  We were delightly surprised, when walking in, discovered a nice looking, very inviting atmosphere.  Never judge a book by it’s cover, right?  We sat down and were greeted by Nancy, the owner, cook and dishwasher.  The pizza was fantastic and the beer was ice cold.  We ordered a medium size and had enough left for the following evening.

So then back to our room for a good night’s rest, because on Day 4 we are heading up Ross Maxwell Drive for some more photos to show you.

Until then, click on the images to see enlargements and enjoy.

Adventures from the Big Bend – Tuesday – Day 2

After a good night’s sleep in our cozy casita at Far Flung Outdoor Center, we woke early to a pleasant, partly cloudy sky.  Actually, it was pitch-black out when we got up, so the partly-cloudiness came a bit after that.  We wanted to drive to the eastern side of the park near Boquillas Canyon.  The Rio Grande Village RV Site is located near there.  It is one of the prime birding areas in the park.

Vermilion Flycatcher

But I am getting ahead of myself.  First we needed to eat.  Our destination for that little endeavor was Frank Jones’ Roadrunner Deli.  We had eaten there on on our last trip to the Big Bend and were thrilled.  A little non-descript place with 4 tables inside and a few outside.  The is behind the counter and covers the wall, and I think a few little items are written in the margins.  And a large menu it is, as he is open for breakfast and lunch from 7:30 until 3:00PM.

I opted for a pair of eggs over medium with crispy bacon and toast.  Ann was still a bit under the weather and she just had hot tea and toast.  The price was great and we left there pretty well sated.


We left there to head for Rio Grande Village, a distance of about 65 miles from the western to the eastern side of the Big Bend NP.  That national park is one big place, covering around 750,000 acres.

Turkey Vulture

The Rio Grande Village RV Park was vacant.  No RVs or campers yet, as the “snowbirds” hadn’t started to arrive yet.  They are the people from the north that spend the winter in Texas.  We spent a couple of hours just driving slowly through the area.  The were birds galore.  We saw our first ever Sora, which is a little bird that lives in the reeds and marsh grasses.  There were hundreds of my favorite little bird, the Vermilion Flycatcher, plus assorted other species, finches, woodpeckers, warblers, sparrows, etc.  And, of course, we can’t leave out that ever-popular Turkey Vulture.


On the way out we spotted this Javelina along with another, along the side of the road.

Threatening showers over Chichuahuan Desert

I hope you are enjoying this trip as much as Ann and I had.  Watch the next few posts for more from our adventure.  And of course, click on any image to see and enlargement.

Adventures from the Big Bend – Happy birthday to me.

So what do you think.  Do I sound any older?  No??  That’s good, ‘cuz I don’t feel any older.  But I guess I should.  Today I just finished my 77th year on this great planet.  I actually feel much younger.  I think I told you before, that I thought there was something wrong with my birth certificate, not that I want to start a Obama-like controversy.  I even asked my mother if I was adopted, and she said “Yes, but they brought you back.”   I may have even told you that before, but I guess it’s still good for another laugh.

On Friday, we got back from another trip to the Big Bend, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post.  There may be something to that old people stuff after all.  Despite what I said above, I feel a bit worn out after all that traveling.  But hey, young people get tired too.  So anyway, I can now get going on telling you about the wonders of the Big Bend National Parkand surrounding areas.

Audubon Yellow-rumped Warbler

Having said that, I think we spent most of the time in the BBNP than any surrounding area.  Of course, we stayed in Study Butte at the Far Flung Casitas so I guess that would be called part of the “surrounding area”.  Before I go any farther, we always started our day eating breakfast at this great little nondescript place, called Roadrunner Deli.  Dang, if Frank Jones doesn’t have the best breakfast in the area, I don’t know who does.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on who is doing the talking, the tourists head for another motel/restaurant up the way a bit.  So Frank’s place is the place to go if you have the inside knowledge.  Well, maybe enough people will read this and start filling up the place.

His breakfasts, are full menu meals.  He cooks everything to order, however you like your eggs, etc.  A super way to start the day.  So chalk up another piece of information for when you make the trip.

Our first day was spent getting there.  We left San Angelo at about 8:00AM, drove south to Sonora where we picked up I-10 West.  Now along there the speed limit is 80mph so you can cruise right along.  At Fort Stockton, we used the facilities, then took Hwy 385 south to Marathon.  From there, we continued south to the entrance to Big Bend National Park

Santa Helena Canyon - Big Bend National Park

We hit the kiosk at the park entrance around 1:00PM.  From there it still is another 40 miles or so the park headquarters at Panther Junction.  The speed limit is 45MPH, and rigidly enforced during peak times.  Last week it still was pretty hot, and the busy season hasn’t really started yet, so we could get on the gas a bit more to about 55MPH with no worry.  Could probably get away with a bit more speed, but why push your luck.  Anyway, if you do that, you are going to miss a lot of great scenery, and possibly not get to see much wildlife.

We stopped at the Panther Junction to check out the facilities again.  At this point there is a junction with the highway that runs east and west across the park.  If we turn left we go to Boquillas Canyon and Rio Grande Village campground.  We turned right and headed for our destination of Study Butte outside the west side of the park.  A distance of about 35 miles.

After we checked into our accomodations at Far Flung Outdoor Center we unpacked then decided on our evening activities.  Valynda at the desk had told us that Monday night was two-for-one hamburger night at the Starlite Restaurant in the ghost town of Terlingua.  The Starlite was originally a roofless theatre back early in the 20th century.  It was vacant and near falling down when some entrepreneur decided it was worth saving.  They put a roof on it and opened the bar and restaurant.

So we enjoyed a couple of large, juicy, cheeseburgers along with a couple of well-earned margaritas.  After that we had a nice evening of sitting on the porch of our casita, just laying back and watching the birds and wildlife.

About the pictures:

The Yellow-rumped Warbler was photographed at the Rio Grande Village Campground, Big Bend NP.

Santa Elena Canyon is the most accessible canyon in the Big Bend NP.  You can easily drive your car to within 500 yards of the entrance.  The walls at this point reach 1,500 feet.  A short trail from the parking lot takes you to a switch-backed, concrete walking trail , that leads you up to about 100 feet above the Rio Grande River.

More on my next post.  Click on the photos to see enlargements.

Far Flung Outdoor Center – Staying in the Big Bend

We are finally home again, after having a fun stay in the Big Bend courteousy of the Far Flung Outdoor Center.  I mean we paid our own way, but they provided the great fun and comfort.  We stayed in one of their “casitas”, which are small cabins.  Great rooms with all the comforts one would expect from a fine establishment.

You can click on the above link, or the one on the my blogroll at the right to see more information and photos.  The owners, Valynda and Greg Henington, along with their daughter Adana Martinez, are excellent hoteliers.  I believe that is the right word.  We couldn’t ask to be treated any better.  They took care of all of our needs.  We took one of their jeep tours of the rugged areas around the Study Butte area, and Laura, our very informitive guide, furnished us with all the geological information we asked for.

Here are a few more photographs that I took while wandering around the property.

Our casita - Ann in rocking chair

View from casitas

I took over 600 images this trip.  This one below is just one of many that I tried doing by bracketing exposures to come up with something a little different.  I think you will like it.  Let me know what you think.

Big Bend National Park desert scene

There will be more to come in the following days as I go through the task of sorting all these photos.