Raising a Killdeer Family

Several months ago Ann and I came upon a Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) nest with three eggs in it.  Actually, it really isn’t a nest as we know it.  They prefer to nest in gravelly locations.  When they are ready to lay eggs, they just scrape aside the pebbles and drop the eggs on the spot.  Then, during their nesting time, they perform their elaborate “broken wing” distraction, when the nest is approached too closely.

Adult Killdeer

Nest of Killdeer eggs.

These ‘nests’ are difficult to see, as they usually blend in with the surrounding area.  It is possible to step on one before you see it.  So you must be alert.

Killdeer sitting on eggs.

We continued to monitor the situation during later visits to San Angelo State Park, where the nest was located.  Finally, we arrived a few days after the chicks hatched.  As you can see, young killdeer have are mostly big eyes and long legs.   Also as you can see in the photo below, they, like most children, enjoy wading in the muddy water.

Young Killdeer

I hope that you enjoyed these photos and my little description of the nesting Killdeer.   Click on any image to see an enlargement.

How about those Scrub Jays

First, I want to say thanks to the many of new subscribers that I have gotten recently.  I guess a lot of people are interested in what I have to say and like my photographs.  I have been writing this blog for over two years now.  A dear friend and my wife, both got me into this.  To date, I have had over 38,000 hits and I have readers in 116 countries and counting. 

One of my latest readers and a subscriber, is also another bird photographer.  He is John English, (website).     He is also listed at the right under my Favorite Websites.  Check him out.  If you like my bird images, you will certainly like his.   John, who lives in Abilene, Texas, have a lot in common, except he has a (sob) bigger lens.  🙂

Today, I decided to show you some old images of  the Western Scrub Jay.  They are not too recent, but I realized that I had never mentioned them in my blog.  For some reason or other, they are not in San Angelo, at least, not in any great numbers.  I photographed these at the X-Bar Ranch, southwest of Eldorado, and at the Cedar Gap Farms, just south of Abilene, Texas.

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

 I hope you like the photos.  Click on any of them to see an enlargement.

Another Cattle Egret – Plus More

Ann and I decided to take another run down to the Eldorado Water Treatment ponds again yesterday, Monday, morning.  With all that bird activity, I wanted to see if I could pick up some more good images, or at least improve on some previous photos.

First of all, we found that the little juvenile Cattle Egret was still hanging around.  I got this photo of it as it was perched upon a post in one of the ponds.  It was an easy shot with my Canon 7D and 100-400mm lens.  1/500 sec. @f8 and ISO 400.  Sky a little overcast so it made for excellent lighting.

juvenile Cattle Egret

We started to drive around the ponds again, slowly, as we always do.  I had my other Canon 7D with the 500mm lens and 1.4 converter in my lap, leaning slightly out the window.  My Puffin’ Pad window cushion was in place.  I was hoping to see another Wilson’s Snipe.

As we were making a turn around the corner of one of the ponds, I was rewarded.  Right down to my left, only about twenty feet away, I spotted one.  I quickly set up my camera in the window.  I discovered that I nearly had too much lens.  The snipe, as you can see, filled up the frame, with the 500mm and 1.4 converter.  He froze thinking that I couldn’t see him, which was nearly true, as he was blending in with the weeds and mud.  I didn’t want to grab the other camera with the 100-400mm for fear that he might fly.

"Hiding in Plain Sight"

Wilson Snipe.  Canon 7D with 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter. 1/400 sec. @ f8, ISO 400.

These ponds are about 150 feet across.  There are hundreds of ducks of different species, and it has been hard to get decent close-ups even with using the 500mm and the 1.4 converter.  The ducks always seem to swim away to the furthest side of the pond.

To solve the problem, or at least help it a bit, I decided to do something that I never tried.  I have a 2x tele-converter that I can use on the 500mm, but because it would change the aperture to an f8, the auto focus is dis-abled.  Therefore I would have to hand-hold it and manual focus.  Plus the ducks are moving on the water.  But, I figured what the heck.  Nothing to lose.

I went ahead and attached the 2x making my working focal distance 1,000mm.  I sat it on the window sill, and focused it on this female Northern Shoveler, so far away it was pretty tiny with the naked eye.  The result, as you can see, isn’t so bad.  I was able to crop it and print out a nice 8×10.

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler.  Canon 7D with 500mm lens plus 2x tele-converter.  Focal Distance 1,000mm.  1/4000 sec. @ f8, ISO 400.  Manual focus, hand-held with aid of a Puffin’ Pad window support.

Now that I can get these great results, I may use the 2x tele-converter more often when down in Eldorado.

I hope you enjoyed the images, and my little telling of the experience.  Click on any photo to see an enlargement.

The female Northern Cardinal

First an update:  It has been confirmed that the mystery bird in yesterday’s post was a winter Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warbler.  At first, I considered a Pine Warbler, but after contacting my friend Eric Carpenter in Austin, Texas, he indeed confirmed the yellow-rumped.

That was so much fun getting different opinions on the ID of that bird, I am thinking of maybe having a weekly contest.  Let me think about that. 🙂

So now, to answer Katie (her blog), who commented to my Northern Cardinal post, by asking if I had photos of a female.  Well, certainly, dear Katie, anything to satisfy my readers.  Here are three of my best.

female Northern Cardinal

Image number 1, photographed July 7, 2007.  Canon EOS 20D with Canon 100-400mm lens.  1/250 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 400.  Partial metering and aperture priority.

female Northern Cardinal

Image number 2, photographed June 27, 2009, Canon EOS 40D with 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  1/200 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 800, minus 1/3 EV.  Partial metering with aperture priority.

female Northern Cardinal

Image number 3, photographed April 29, 2008, Canon EOS 40D with Canon 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  1/200 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 800. Center-weighted metering and aperture priority.

I hope Katie and the rest of you enjoyed these photos.  Anytime that you wish to request certain species photos, if I can accomodate, I certainly will, if I have some presentable photos.

Click on any of the photos to see an enlargement.

Flight of the Cattle Egret

Yesterday Ann and I made a return trip to the water treatment ponds down at Eldorado, Texas.  Our purpose was to try to get a look at the Black Scoter that was seen there for a few days.  This time we did get a chance to see it.  But as we watched, and as I was preparing to photograph it, it flew off.  Since the ponds cover several acres, and there are five seperate areas we didn’t see it again amidst the hundred of duck species that were there.  So a photograph will have to wait for another time.  It was a lifer for both Ann and I.

However, the juvenile Cattle Egret was still there.  I got a few images of it feeding in the reeds, but my prize was this photo of it in flight.

Cattle Egret in flight

Esposure was with my Canon 7D with a Canon 100-400mm lens.  1/500 sec. @ f8, ISO 250.  Spot metering and aperture priority.

We also saw a Greater Roadrunner running with a captured Red-winged Blackbird in it’s beak.  No photo.  Running too fast for me.  Total species for the two hours again was 27.

  • Ruddy Duck
  • Black Scoter
  • Bufflehead
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Greater Yellowlegs
  • American Coot
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Gadwall
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Eared Grebe
  • Redhead
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Canvasback
  • Northern Pintail
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Meadowlark
  • Egyptian Goose
  • Cattle Egret
  • Mockingbird
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Vermilion Flycatcher
  • Rock Wren
  • Song Sparrow

We also saw one that we can’t identify.  Here are two images of it.  If there are any expert birders out there, tell me what you think.

I hope you enjoyed the photos.  Click on any of them for an enlargement.

Another Northern Cardinal image

I keep going back through my old archives when I have spare time.  Today when I was adding photos to my flickr page, I came across this Northern Cardinal ( Cardinalis cardinalis) image that I had taken with my old Canon 40D back in 2008.

Northern Cardinal

We were sitting in the bird blind at San Angelo State Park, when it flew in and perched atop a desert sumac.  I had my Canon 500mm with a 1/4 tele-converter attached, mounted on a tripod with a Wimberley II gimbal head.  Exposure was 1/500 sec. @ f5.6, ISO 500.  Center weighted metering with aperture priority.

I love the flashy color of the cardinals.  They are one of my favorite birds to photograph because they are naturally photogenic.  Click on the image to see an enlargement.  Also, click on the Flickr logo on the right side of this page and have a look at some other work of mine.

Big News from Eldorado Ponds

Black Scoter, Barnegat Inlet N.J.

Image via Wikipedia

We got an e-mail from Suaanne Johnson in Eldorado last evening.  It seems another rarity was seen there at the water treatment ponds.  Suzanne and her husband, Sid, were birding there and spotted a Black Scoter (Melanitta nigra).  They got pictures and had the sighting verified with the proper authorities.  The Black Scoter (male pictured above) is normally seen only on the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines.  So the female that they saw apparently was lost.

Ann and I drove down there this morning, but we weren’t able to see it.  I probably took off and got back on course to it’s normal habitat.

Wilson's Snipe

But while we were there, we saw this Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata) in the weeds along the shorline of one of the ponds.  Then further along this juvenile Cattle Egret  (Bubulcus ibis) appeared.  He looked like he lost his momma, but he was large enough to fly, as he did shortly after I took this photo.

juvenile Cattle Egret

Soe even though the Black Scoter eluded us, I feel satisfied that I got the above photographs.  Our total birding species count was 23.  We were there for only two hours.  Following is the list:

The EXIF data was identical for both images except for the ISO, which was 100 for the egret and 640 for the snipe.  Otherwise the camera was my Canon 7D, Canon 100-400mm lens, 1/640 sec. @f7.1.  Spot metering with aperture priority.  Of course, the image of the Black Scoter is not mine.

Click on any photo to see an enlargement.  Have a great weekend. 🙂

Dark-eyed Juncos

First, before I get into the subject of this post, I’d like to mention that two of my favorite bloggers are down in south Texas for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival.  One is David Skinner’s (blog) from Canada.  He reports that during a three-hour hunt yesterday he and his group saw 57, yes, folks that is 57 species.  He said that 11 of those were “lifers” for him.

If you remember, in an earlier post I had mentioned that Ann and I had seen 27 species on a recent outing.  David’s total of 57 makes ours look like childs-play.  I need to get to south Texas one of these days.

Another individual, Linda Rockwell of Photo Feathers (blog) is down there, but in a different tour group.  Check out her photos of a couple of Crested Caracaras.  She said that she will be reporting back later on her results.

Now, about the Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis).  These photos were taken at two different times with different equipment.

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon Group)

This Oregon Junco was photographed at the Cedar GapFarm bird viewing center in February 2009.  If you have never been there, click the above link to my post describing it.  I was using my Canon EOS 40D at the time.  I had my Canon 100-400 lens attached and hand-held it for this shot.  1/500 sec. @f5.6, ISO 400.  Center-weighted metering at aperture priority.

Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)

The Slate-colored Junco was photographed at the X-Bar Ranch in November of 2010.  Another great place to bird.  They have a little patio area next to a copse of trees with a little bubbling fountain.  Many species of birds, and all you have to do is sit back in one of the chairs, sip a refreshment of your choice, and enjoy the different species.  Of course, I passed on the refreshment as I was quite busy taking photographs.

It was getting quite dark when I took this particular photo, as you can see by the ISO of 3200.  I had my Canon 7D on a tripod with my Canon 500mm lens.  Other exposure info: 1/400 sec @ f4, partial metering at shutter priority.

Birding at Lake Nasworthy

Our two favorite spots at Lake Nasworthy to bird and to photograph birds, are at two of the parks there, Spring Creek and Middle Concho.  This past Sunday morning Ann and I decided to take in the nice weather and visit both places.  It was enroute home from those places that we encountered the Black Vultures that I featured in yesterday’s post.

We entered Spring Creek Park first, and we didn’t see many birds early on.  However, we saw about seventy Wild Turkeys further down the road.  They were drinking from the creek, then heading back into the nearby woods.  We didn’t see any of the herons or water birds that we usually come upon, but because of the beautiful weather, there were numerous fisherman in their boats, trawling along the water.  That probably spooked the wildlife somewhat.  But that is okay, as the park is for everybody.

But we persisted, continued driving slowly through both parks.  We finally came upon an area in Middle Concho Park, where amongst the trees there was more bird activity.  I stopped the car, got my camera out and set up a tripod in a small clearing where I would have a good view of nearby trees.  I was using my Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens with a 1.4 tele-converter giving me a working focal length of 700mm.

The trees were still pretty dense, so I could hear many birds, and see them flying between the trees, but I wasn’t very lucky at getting many photo ops.  I did finally get these two “keepers”.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker with pecan

This female Golden-fronted Woodpecker was making herself heard, then she flew up onto this dead limb, with a pecan in her mouth. Exposure 1/2500 sec. @f8 with ISO 400 and aperture priority.

Eastern Bluebird

Swinging my camera around on my Wimberley gimbal tripod head about 45 degrees, there was a flurry of activity and I spotted about a half dozen Eastern Bluebirds.  They were in a shaded area, and one of them settled on a visible branch.  Exposure was 1/1000 sec. @f8 plus 1/3 EV – ISO 400.  If I would have had the time, I probably would have opened up the lens a bit more, but with a little help in post processing I managed to get it lightened enough.

From the birding aspect, during the 2 – 3 hours we spent there we managed to see these 24 species:

So, all in all, we had a fun morning.  The weather was gorgeous, and it was wonderful just to get out and enjoy nature.  Click on either image to see an enlargement.

Those cute Black Vultures

Okay, so Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus), aren’t so cute.  I just said that so you would read this post.  Pretty sneaky, eh?  Anyway, Katie, (her blog), loves the Turkey Vultures and I had promised to do a post about them.  Well, I’m sorry, Katie, but they, the Turkey types are gone for awhile, so maybe you can learn to love these. 🙂  For the un-informed, turkey vultures have a red head and the black vultures are, well, all black.

Ann and I were at the Spring Creek and Middle Concho parks that are near Lake Nasworthy, doing some local birding when we came across these.  The light was pretty good, partly cloudy, so I could get some shots that were not over-run with harsh shadows.  They had been feeding on a nearby armadillo carcass  Their fast-food place is called Carrion Carry-out.  Okay, old joke, courtesy of Gary Larson, sorry. 🙂

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Even though the light was better, it still is difficult to bring out the details in the overall blackness of their coat when they are back-lit.

Photo Info:  Canon EOS 7d with 100-400mm lens, aperture priority, spot metering and auto ISO on all images.  The first was created at an earlier date, the bottom two were photographed Sunday morning.

Photo 1:  1/640 sec. @ f10 – plus 1/3 EV – ISO 320

Photo 2:  1/640 sec. @ f7.1 – plus 1/3 EV – ISO 800

Photo 3:  1/640 sec. @ f7.1 – ISO 1250

Click on any image to see an enlargement.