Return to K-Mart Creek

About four blocks from our home there is a vacated K-Mart store.  It has been empty for a few years, the parking lot overgrown with weeds.  It is located in the southwest part of San Angelo, on the frontage road that runs paralell to Loop 306.  Between the parking lot and the frontage road is a borrow ditch, or “bar-ditch” as we call them here in west Texas.

There is usually water running there, drainage and run-off, etc.  Birds of different species frequent the place.  Ann and I started referring to it as K-Mart Creek.  There would be herons, egrets, ducks and various others.  During the last year, during our terrible drought, it was dry most of the time, and there were very few birds.  Now with recent rains there is a little water and birds are beginning to return to the creek and the surrounding grasses.  A few days ago we spotted several Northern Pin-tailed Ducks.

Northern Pintail

This morning as we were coming home from breakfast, we decided, as we do often, to check out the ‘creek’.  There were no ducks this time, but in the brush along with a couple of White-winged Doves, there was this Eastern Phoebe.  We were in the parking lot side of the ditch, and the brush was on our side of the ditch.  I was able to use my Canon 7D with my Canon 100-400mm lens for the shot.  I also used the same set-up previously for the image of the Northern Pintail above.

Eastern Phoebe

Please click on either image to see nice enlargements.  Exposure data follows:

Northern Pintail: 1/1250 sec. @ f5.6, +0.3EV, ISO 800

Eastern Phoebe: 1/500 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7EV, ISO 1000

Fun Birding with Bob and Ann

Did you hear the one about the drunkard that was standing on the beach throwing rocks at the seagulls?  When the cop asked him why he was doing that, the sot said, “I don’t want to leave any tern un-stoned”. 🙂

Boy, that is a great lead-in to my post today.  Around noon Saturday Suzanne Johnson called, said she was in town with her husband, Sid.  They had just been near Lake Nasworthy and told us there was a couple of Forster’s Terns (Sterna forsteri) out there on some buoys.  Well, you know me.  “Have camera, will travel”.  I grabbed my camera, then grabbed Ann and we headed out there.  Forster’s aren’t really common around here.

Sure enough, when we got there about 10 minutes later, we saw one of them.  It was a little far for a decent photo.  The one that I show here is one that I took a couple of years ago down at the water treatment ponds in Eldorado.

Forster's Tern

Since the weather was pretty nice, and since we were already there, we decided to check out the parks around the lakes and see what else might make a showing.  It turned out to be a fun afternoon.  Another highlight was seeing some Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis). I am very familiar with the Juncos, but it was the first time I had ever seen them here in San Angelo.  Our local check list shows them to be uncommon here.

Dark-eyed Junco - slate-colored

For you interested birders, here is a complete list of the 30 species we saw Saturday afternoon.

  1. Forster’s Tern   1
  2. Mute Swan   1
  3. Ring-billed Gull   11
  4. American Coot   75+
  5. Northern Mockingbird   4
  6. Great Blue Heron   2
  7. Northern Shoveler   15
  8. Pied-billed Grebe   4
  9. Western Meadowlark   10
  10. House Finch   18
  11. Orange-crowned Warbler   1
  12. Dark-eyed Junco (slate)   12
  13. Cedar Waxwing   30
  14. White-crowned Sparrow   12
  15. White-winged Dove   10
  16. Northern Flicker   1
  17. Red-winged Blackbird   6
  18. American Goldfinch   14
  19. Eastern Bluebird   12
  20. Clay-colored Sparrow   12
  21. Yellow-rumped Warbler   6
  22. Golden-fronted Woodpecker   4
  23. Ladder-backed Woodpecker   1
  24. Double-crested Cormorant   20
  25. Eastern Phoebe   1
  26. Cinnamon Teal   3
  27. Great-tailed Grackle   1
  28. Great Egret   1
  29. Vermilion Flycatcher   1
  30. Ring-necked Duck   2

Camera used on both photos was my Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens.

Forster’s Tern:  1/1250 sec @ f22, -0.3EV.  ISO 1250, partial metering, aperture priority.

Dark-eyed Junco:  1/400 sec @ f4, ISO 3200.  partial metering, aperture priority.

Click on either photo for an enlargement.

The delightful Green Herons

I am having problems lately trying to decide what to post on my blog.  I haven’t been getting out as much as usual these cooler months, so therefore I don’t have new photographs as often as usual.  My wife even complained about the blog yesterday about the Northern Cardinal.  She said it was too short.

Today, I am going back to the archives again.  I don’t remember the last time I wrote about the Green Herons, (Butorides virescens).  They are the shortest of the herons at only 19 inches in length.  But they are delightful to watch.  When they are intent on their hunting, they are almost oblivious to anyone near.

About three years ago, we had our annual Water Lily Festival, at the International Water Lily Garden here in San Angelo, Texas.  There were about 200 people, including city dignitaries, in attendance.  There are five large pools of blooming water lilies from all over the world.  But what stole the show, was a pair of juvenile Green Herons that flew in and started to flit among the water lily pads looking for minnows, etc., much to the delight of the large crowd.

This is a collection of photos that I have of these herons.  Some were taken at that celebration.  Others are from around the San Angelo area.

Green Heron - juvenile with tiny fish

Green Heron - juvenile

Green Heron - adult

Green Heron - on log in river

In the above photo, what appears as little spots are actually little highlights of water in the river.  I was looking down at the heron from about six feet above him.

Green Heron - juvenile on large water lily pad

There you have it.  I hope you enjoyed these photos of the Green Herons.  Click on any of them for enlargements.

Pretty in Red – Northern Cardinal

One of the prettiest, flashiest birds in this area is the Northern Cardinal, (Cardinalis cardinalis).  I photographed this male at the bird blind at San Angelo State Park when I was out there recently.  With the overcast, cloudy skies acting as a diffuser, the colors really popped.

Northern Cardinal

I photographed this bird with my Canon 7D with Canon 500mm lens mounted on my tripod.   Exposure 1/800 sec. @ f7.1, -0.3EV, ISO 1250.  Center-weighted metering and aperture priority.  Distance to subject approximately 35 feet.  Shot in RAW with post processing in Photoshop CS5.

Click image to see an enlargement.

Shooting in Overcast Light

I am sure most of you have heard how great it is to photograph on overcast days.  The reasons are that the light is diffused, and there are virtually no shadows.  Plus the colors tend to be more saturated, especially if there has been rain showers.  In this case we are not talking about saturated with wetness, but more vibrancy in the colors.

Black-crested Titmouse

Such were the conditions Tuesday morning.  There was no rain falling in the area but it was heavily clouded.  I waited until late morning, around 11:00, to go out to the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.  During bright sunny days, this blind is not the greatest for photography at this time of day.  Mainly because of the direction in which the blind faces.  But this day, it wouldn’t have mattered which way it faced.  It was perfect lighting from any direction.

Pyrrhuloxia peeking through branches

I couldn’t believe my good fortune when arriving there.  As you can see from the photos, the light is perfect.  There was no feed in the feeders, but I took care of that and put out enough to satisfy the birds that were still hanging around.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

I set up my Bogen-Manfrotto tripod with the Wimberley gimball head.  On that I mounted my Canon EOS 7D and Canon f4 500mm lens.  I had no need for the 1.4 converter at the blind.  I also had my 100-400mm lens with me, but found no need to use it during this shooting session.

I was quite comfortable sitting and shooting from an open window.  I had a few munchies and a bottle of Gatorade with me so I was content to just sit and watch for a few photo ops for over an hour.

Anyway, in conclusion, unless you are specifically looking for blue skies and puffy white clouds, get out there with your camera on those dreary days.  You will surprise yourself with your results.

Photo data, all aperture priority and center-weighted metering:

Black-crested Titmouse:  1/640 sec @ f7.1, -0.3EV, ISO 160.

Pyrrhuloxia:  1/800 sec @f7.1, -0.3EV,  ISO 400.

Yellow-rumped Warbler:  1/640 sec @ f7.1, -0.3EV, ISO 400.

Mute Swans – A rarity in San Angelo

The past few weeks Ann and I had seen these two Mute Swans (Cygnus olor), out around the Lake Nasworthy area here in San Angelo.  One evening it was late, and they were pretty close to shore in Mary Lee Park.  I decided to take a few photos of them.  It was when I was taking a closer look at the images, then looking in my guides, that I discovered they are very, very rare to Texas.  They are usually found in the Northeast and Great Lakes area.  When Ann sent our sightings to E-Bird they immediately put them on their Rare Bird Alert list.

Mute Swans

It’s funny how you can see something and just take it for granted.  As I said, we got used to seeing them, and it was not a new specie to us, and we didn’t realize that it wasn’t supposed to be around here.  I must say, though, that if they hadn’t been continually dipping their heads in the muddy water they might have been prettier.  But I am not particular.   I photograph what I see.  Like the guy said, “you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your swans”. 🙂

Pertinent photo info:  Canon EOS 7D with Canon 100-400mm lens.  1/2500 sec. @ f8, -0.3EV.  Center-weighted metering and aperture priority.  Hand-held.

Click on image to see an enlargement.

Woodpecker and San Angelo Blind.

I made a quick trip to the San Angelo State Park this morning.  Jim Miller  had told me that the windows had been replaced and I wanted to check them out.  I agree with him, they are more solid than before and should last awhile.  While there, Ann and I decided to check out the birds.  I managed to get this photo of a Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes auarifrons).  

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Photographed with Canon EOS 7d and Canon 100-400mm lens.  I was shooting into the sun but by using spot metering I managed to get a pretty decent shot.  I put my center focusing point on the bird and the camera done it’s job.  Camera to subject distance about 22 feet, 1/500 sec @ f8, ISO 640.  Aperture priority.

I shot the image in RAW and did the post processing in Photoshop CS5.

Birdies, Eagles, Albatrosses

I had you going there for a minute, didn’t I.  I bet you thought I was going to tell you about another birding hotspot.  Today, this post is about the other golfing avians, birdies, eagles, albatrosses. 🙂

Lately, with the temperatures turning so nice for a bit, I sometimes remember my days of enjoying a round of golf.  Golf is a sport that you can get out, enjoy the outdoors, and forget all of your problems.  I haven’t played a round in about five years.  I was a pretty decent player.  I was pretty short off of the tee, though.  When everybody was smoking their tee shots a hundred yards pass me, I was just steady down the middle.  I was given a nickname, “three pecks and a putt”.  I hit a lot of “walkers”.  Walkers are shots that aren’t hit far enough to get back into the cart and ride to.  I never hit into the rough, either.  I couldn’t hit the ball that far. 🙂

But what I enjoyed most about the golf courses was the beauty of them.  And that is what inspired me to photograph some of the course around here.  San Angelo Country Club is one of the prettier ones, and I have sold many of my images of a few golf holes, in the pro shop.  Here are a few samples.

San Angelo Country Club - Hole no. 1

San Angelo Country Club - Hole no. 6

San Angelo Country Club - Hole no. 10

But I am not convinced that I want to play again.  I feel the real birds calling me so I will probably find myself outside this afternoon searching for another elusive lifer.

So enjoy the photos, click on any of them for an enlargement, and I’ll maybe have some more birding photos for you next time.

80 Degrees – Gotta Get Out

We just had to do it.  We had to take advantage of 80 degree high temps and get out and commune with nature.  Our little journey took us to the little parks out at Lake Nasworthy, here in San Angelo.  Among the highlights was a rarity and another lifer for me, a Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus).  However, I couldn’t add it to my list because, it seemes that somewhere I had already added it.  I don’t know how it happened because I knew I had never laid my eyes on it before.  It is a rare sight in San Angelo.  So now it is official and my life-list total still stands at 239.

Common Yellowthroat

Image via Wikipedia

We also saw another bird that really isn’t a rarity but is difficult to find and see, let alone try to photograph.  It was a Common Yellowthroat, (Geothlypis trichas).  It is a tiny bird that hides itself along creek banks or reeds, just peeking out momentarily before scooting back into the foliage.  Since you asked, no, I didn’t get the photograph, but I will perservere someday.  This pictures is courtesy of Wikipedia.  (He takes pretty good pictures, too.) 🙂

Photographs of the Red-headed Woodpecker and a Green-winged Teal, both gave me problems.  They were both terribly back-lit.  Too far away for a flash.  I boosted the EV but it wasn’t enough, so I had to resort to trying to correct them in Photoshop.  I think they are both acceptable, or I wouldn’t be publishing them here.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Green-winged Teal

Farther along our little tour I spotted this Great Blue Heron across the river.  I have this weakness for those herons and love to photograph them.  The lighting was much better so if it doesn’t look good, I have no excuse.

Great Blue Heron

We spent three hours driving through Spring Lake Park and Middle Concho Park.  We ended up seeing a total of 33 species during that time.

  1. American Coot   35
  2. Bufflehead   1
  3. Northern Mockingbird   4
  4. Blue Jay   1
  5. Pied-billed Grebe   7
  6. Double-crested Cormorants  20
  7. Northern Shovelers   24
  8. Cinnamon Teal   1
  9. European Starling   6
  10. Common Grackle   2
  11. Great-tailed Grackle   3
  12. Black-crested Titmouse   2
  13. Great Blue Heron   3
  14. Green-winged Teal   2
  15. Common Yellowthroat   1
  16. White-crowned Sparrow    4
  17. Yellow-rumped Warbler   6
  18. Northern Cardinal   1
  19. Ladder-backed Woodpecker   1
  20. Golden-fronted Woodpecker   3
  21. Red-headed Woodpecker   1
  22. Black Vulture   2
  23. Eastern Phoebe   3
  24. Western Meadowlark   10
  25. Red-winged Blackbird   6
  26. Eastern Bluebird   13
  27. House Finch   6
  28. Red-tailed Hawk   1
  29. Ring-billed Gull   101
  30. American Robin   18
  31. Cedar Waxwing   13
  32. Gadwall   10
  33. Osprey   1

Click on any image to see an enlargement.  Hope you enjoy. 🙂

A Harbinger of Spring

While driving by Rock Slough Park, near Lake Nasworthy several days ago, we spotted several birds in the little area.  Cedar Waxwings, Eastern Bluebirds, along with this American Robin, (Turdus migratorius).  They say that robins are signs of spring’s arrival.  Maybe so, maybe not.  While we have these species year around here, it makes a for good subject for this post.  Plus, is spring not just around the corner?  🙂

American Robin

Photographed with my Canon EOS 7d with Canon 100-400mm lens.  1/640 sec. @ f8, ISO 250.  Center-weighted metering and aperture priority.  Click on image to see an enlargement.