Middle Concho and Spring Creek Birding Hotspot

Just when I thought it could’t get any better.  Middle Concho Park and Spring Creek Park are two adjacent parks at the confluence of Middle Concho River and Spring Creek, where they meet at Lake Nasworthy, here in San Angelo.  I think that is the easiest way to explain their location.  One park is on one side of the river,and the other park on the other side.  However to get from one side to the other, takes about a three mile trip around, back to the bridge that goes over the lake.  Confused??  We’ll just leave it at that.  I remember the joke about the guy on one side of the river calling to a guy on the other side.  He calls over, “Hey, pal, how do I get to the other side?”  The other guy calls back, “You idiot, you are on the other side”. 🙂

The way we bird these parks is to just cruise through the area on the many little lanes and roads, at idling speed of 1-2 miles mph.  Keep your eyes watchful, and you ears listening.  Watch into the trees and along the shorline of the river.  I must admit, in winter it is a bit easier because of the absence of leaves on the trees.  In nice weather we once in a while, sit my camera on a tripod near a picnic table, and just wait and watch.

So getting back to my post here, you remember a previous post a couple of days ago about Ann and I seeing 24 species in a couple of hours.  Well, I don’t know how it could have got any better, but when we made a return trip (again) Saturday, we saw a whopping 34 species in about 3 hours.  During that time, I was also shooting photographs, 442 images in all, if anyone is counting.  Here is a sampling of three.

Cooper's Hawk

Red-naped Sapsucker


I will put the EXIF photo settings at the bottom of this page.  But first here is a complete list of the birds we saw and/or photographed. (Mostly saw). 🙂

  • Northern Mockingbird   6
  • American Coot   200+
  • Double-crested Cormorants   25
  • Northern Shoveler   100+
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker   4
  • Great Egret   4
  • Gadwall  50+
  • White-winged Doves   75+
  • Green-winged Teal   4
  •  Cinnamon Teal   2
  • Great Blue Heron   7
  • Black Vulture   3
  • Western Meadowlark   10
  • Great Horned Owl   1
  • Pied-billed Grebe   5
  • Eastern Bluebirds   25
  • House Finch   12
  • Great-tailed Grackles   25
  • Red-tailed Hawk   1
  • Yellow-Rumped Warbler   30
  • Savannah Sparrow   12
  • Lesser Goldfinch   3
  • White-crowned Sparrow   5
  • Red-winged Blackbird   3
  • Northern Flicker   1
  • Northern Cardinal   1
  • American Robin   1
  • Belted Kingfisher   1
  • Mallard   1
  • Ring-billed Gull   1
  • Blue Jay   1
  • Inca Dove   3
  • Cooper’s Hawk   3
  • Red-naped Sapsucker   1

About the photos.

Cooper’s Hawk.  The hawk was sitting in a tree.  I maneuvered my Ford Edge around so I could shoot it from my driver’s side window.  Canon 7D, 500mm lens with 1.4 teleconverter, 1/1000 sec. @ f11, ISO 400.

Red-naped Sapsucker.  I got out of the car and hand-held my Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm lens.  1/1250 sec. @ f6.3 +0.3EV.  ISO 2000

Gadwall.  The bird was in the water about 15 yard from the shore.  I propped my Canon 7D with the 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter, on the hood of my car, resting it on a SafariSack support.  1/1000 sec. @ f10, ISO 400.

Two more from Middle Concho Park

Friday opened cool and cloudy, but by 11:00AM it was bright and sunny.  We decided to return to Middle Concho Park where we had seen so many species the day before.  Again there were an abundance of birds.  We birded there for an hour or so, then we drove over to the adjacent Spring Creek Park.  Here are two photographs that I captured there.  A Blue Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri), and an American Robin (Turdus migratorius).

Blue Jay

American Robin

As I said the good news was that it was bright and sunny.  On the downside I didn’t have the best light that I would have had if it had remained cloudy.  Boy, I sure am hard to please, aren’t I??  But it did make it difficult to expose properly for the Blue Jay.  As you can see, it worked out okay, though.  The American Robin was in open shade where the light was more even, so the job was easier.

During our birding, we saw a couple of hawks, several herons and egrets and others.  In all, we saw 21 species, as I have listed below.

I hope you enjoyed the photos and narrative about our birding exploits.  Have a great weekend.

A Better Day for Photography – And Birding

Ah, the pleasure of it all.  The showery, foggy, drizzly weather finally left the building for a bit yesterday.  The temp reached 70 degrees, however it stayed cloudy, and that was perfect for me.  The better to make photographs.

Shortly after lunch, Ann and I decided we had enough cabin fever and decided to drive to Middle Concho park and see what was hanging out around there.  Here are two photos that I managed two capture. A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) and a Great Egret (Ardea alba).  Co-incidentally they were both high in a tree (separate) when I photographed them.  Actually we had counted 3 egrets and about 6 herons flying up and down the river as we drove through.

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret

I photographed these in the RAW format and post editing was in Photoshop CS5.  I used my Canon 7D with 500mm lens and 1.4 converter.  Tripod mounted.  The cloudy skies made for excellent light, as there were no harsh shadows.  Both birds were across the river, about 100 yards away and about 20 feet above the ground.  Both images have been cropped.

As for our birding, we saw a total of 20 species during our two-hour stay of mostly doing photography.  We were surprised to see one lone Bufflehead swimming along in the river.  And of course, the place was over-run with American Coots.  But as they say, ’tis the season.  Here is our total list.

  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • American Coot
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Northern Shoveler
  • White-winged Dove
  • Black Vulture
  • Grackles
  • American Robin
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • House Finch
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Bufflehead
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  • Gadwall
  • American Goldfinch

Hopefully, we can make it out again before the weather changes this weekend.

Wilson’s Warblers at Eldorado

In my endeavors to keep bringing you new and exciting images, I dug back through my files and came upon these photos a a Wilson’s Warbler (Wilsonia pusilla) that were captured near the water treatment ponds at Eldorado, Texas, several weeks ago.  One major difference between the Wilson’s Warbler and the Yellow Warbler in my post yesterday is that the Wilson’s has a dark patch atop it’s head.  The bottom photo is a juvenile, so the patch isn’t as dark yet.

Wilson's Warbler

Wison's Warbler

Wilson's Warbler

All photos were taken with my Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter attached.  Hand-held at 1/640 sec, shutter priority, hand-held.

Yellow Warbler at San Angelo SP

The Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia), is not a permanent resident of west Texas.  They only make occasional appearances here during migration.  For that reason, I felt lucky to get to see this one at San Angelo State Park, back in September of 2009.  I was sitting in the blind there when it flew in and entertained me and Ann for a few minutes.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Back then I still owned my Canon EOS 40D.  I used my Canon 100-400mm zoom lens, hand-held.  Exposure was 1/500 sec. @ f6.3 with ISO 400, aperture priority.

Weathered In, Waiting for change…..

We’re still a little weathered in, drizzly, wet cold.  I don’t mind the cold, but for photography, moisture and cameras are not good bedfellows.  But we got out Friday when the sun broke through for an hour or so and I got these pictures to share.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker - female

Golden-fronted Woodpecker photographed from distance of about 40 feet.  Canon 7D, 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter.  1/1250 sec. @ f8, ISO 400.  Hand-held.

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark, was about 65 feet away.  Almost hidden in the brown grass.  Canon 7D, 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter.  1/1600 sec. @ f8, ISO 400.  Hand-held.

Neither photo is gallery quality, but at least, I was able to get outside for awhile and enjoy the nature, albeit from my car.

Re-organizing My Dis-organization

My good friend, Jim Miller, did a post (click here) about how he organizes his photographs.  It is a great post, as he describes in great detail how he key-words all of his image files, to make them easier to find.  A very good, efficient system.  Probably one that all good pros should use.  But since I have had my own method for so long, I will now, for your entertainment, show you how I do it.

If I may regress, re-wind back to the good old days of yesteryear, 1960.  Do you remember Kodachrome (ASA 10).  That was my favorite film that I used when I first started to get passionate about photography.  I loved that particular slide film.  It was very slow as film of that day was, but I could look at a scene and picture how it would photograph.  I had Kodak Retina IIIs 35mm range-finder camera that I had purchased at the base exchange at Karamursel AFB, Turkey.  Back then zoom lenses were non-existent.  I had the basic 50mm lens, then I added an 85mm and a 135mm (whoopee) telephoto.

But back to the subject I intended to write about.  When it comes to organization of photos, working with slides wasn’t bad.  I had various slide trays that I kept for them, putting images for the different trips that I took into each tray and labeled them.

Later when I switched to negative film is where it started to get messy.  I tried notebooks with sleeves for negatives.  I couldn’t keep up with that, so I started just putting the negative into shoeboxes.  I still have some of those boxes of negatives.  I just hope no-one will ask me if I have a certain picture, that will make me have to sort through them.    I think I should throw the boxes away, then I won’t have that worry.

Now comes the digital age.  At first, my digital files were nearly as bad as the shoeboxes.  What a mess, image files were ending up in the strangest locations on my computer.  I one opened my Quicken program and discovered a photo of a raccoon.  🙂  Okay, I’m kidding about that.  🙂  Then about three years ago, when my friend in Tennessee asked me, “how in the world do you find anything?”,  a light bulb popped into my head.  I realized that I needed to do something.

It was about that time I was really getting into shooting wildlife.  So I opened a new folder in my computer’s hard drive, and called it “Photographs.”  How about that.  I certainly felt that this was a step in the right direction.  Since I was shooting a lot of bird photos, I made a folder in Photographs and named it “Birds“.  Boy, now I was on a roll.  When I had a bird picture, I just opened Photographs, then clicked on Birds.

But then I thought, there are a heck of a lot of birds out there.  Different species, etc.  So then if I photographed a sparrow, I made another folder under Birds, and named it Sparrows“.  You can see now where I am going with all of this.  In Sparrows, I have folders for the different species of sparrows, i.e. Vesper, House, Song, Fox and all the others.  If I want to find a photograph of a Lark Sparrow, I just go to my Fastone Image Viewer, click Photographs>Birds>Sparrows>Lark.  All of my Lark Sparrow photographs are there in thumb-nails.  I pick the one I want and open it up in my editing software.

I then did the same for Animals, Flowers, Scenics, etc.  All those are the main folders with sub-folders under each one.

I might mention that when I take the card from the camera, I download it into my Fastone Image Viewer.  I can delete the ones I don’t want, then easily move the keepable (is that a word?) images into the proper folder named above.

This system works for me because, at my age, I don’t want to spend all my time doing what Jim does.  Especially when I shoot a couple of hundred or more on any given day.  I know that his end result is probably much faster than mine and more efficient.  I know my friend in Tennessee is probably giggling over this post as she does use something similar to Jim’s method, as probably all the other pros out there.  But since this old dog doesn’t want to learn new tricks, I will now demonstrate how to find a photograph of a House Finch.  Click Photographs>Birds,Finches>House……

House Finch


And there you have it.  A pretty good system, if I do say so myself.  Also, as any photographer who wants to protect his images, I back up my files on a regular basis.  Now, I need to get that ‘coon image outa my bank account. 🙂

Saturday Morning Ramblings

Well, here it is Saturday morning, and I can’t decide what I want to write about.  It is cold, 37 degrees if the weather people know what they are talking about.  Cloudy and dampish, too.  The kind of day that make you feel blah and restless.  This is west Texas, too, so where is all of our usual sunshine?  Up above all of those clouds, to be sure.

We had a nice start to the day, though.  We met our good friends, Gene and Ethel Berger down at The Village Cafe for breakfast.  It is a regular Saturday morning thing, and it is the time that we solve most of the world’s problems.

This morning I think we made the right decisions to re-organize the Texas Rangers so they will win the World Series in 2012.  We said goodbye to C. J. Wilson.  He wanted more money (so what else is new), so he went to the L. A. Angels.  We then moved Feliz to the regular pitching rotation.   Of course, the newspapers already said these were done deals, but we had to approve them. 🙂

I just looked out the door at our bird feeders.  Nothing much happening.  Just a bunch of White-winged Doves, House Finches, and House Sparrows.  Now that I think about it, those White-winged Doves, (Zenaida asiatica), are kinda pretty in their own way.  I wonder if I have a photo.  Hold on a minute, and I’ll check my files.  It will only take a sec.  Okay, I found two.

White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove

Oops.  I think I accidentally published this post before I was finished.  I will now finish it up.  Gosh, this turned out to be a post with pictures, when I originally thought it would be a blah post.  Just shows to go ya, what ya can do if you just sit down and start writing. 🙂  Enjoy the weekend.

Sage Thrasher – Accidental Lifer

I was going through my Curved-billed Thrasher images this morning, thinking about doing a post.  As I was perusing the thumb-nails, five of them caught my eye.  I realized that those images were different from all the others.  Upon further review, and consulting my bird guides, I discovered it was a Sage Thrasher, (Oreoscoptes montanus). 

The Sage Thrasher is quite a bit smaller than the curved-billed, and has a much shorter bill.  I should have taken a closer look at them at the time, but as I always do, I download into my folders then nearly forget about them, until I accidentally come across them again, as I did this time, looking for better images of the Curved-billed.  As it turns out, it is a lifer for me, as I had never seen and identified one before.  We, in this area, are right on the eastern edge of their wintering zone.

Sage Thrasher

This image was captured in January of 2009, at San Angelo State Park.  My camera at that time was the Canon EOS 40D.  Canon 100-400 zoom lens, 1/800 sec. @ f5.6, ISO 400.  Center-weighted metering at aperture priority.

Uncommon Brown Thrashers

The Brown Thrasher, (Toxostoma rufum), is listed in my area as uncommon, or that means usually present, but hard to find.  These photographs were taken back in January of 2010, nearly two years ago, at San Angelo State Park.  I haven’t seen any of them since, but as the man said, they are hard to find.

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Pertinent photo data is as follows:  Canon EOS 7D, 500mm f4 lens with 1.4 tele-converter, 1/1000 sec. @ f8, -0.3 EV, ISO 640, aperture priority, tripod mounted.

Click on either image to see an enlargement.