Rare Red-bellied Woodpecker

I have had a busy day today.  I got up early as my wife had an appointment for some medical work before her annual checkup.  Then we went to the bird blind this morning to clean up the place a bit in preparation for the visit Saturday from the Abilene, Texas, Audubon Club.  We decided to make a quick run to Spring Creek Park to check things out.  We figured that with some chores that we had to do tomorrow, this would be our last chance for the week.

We saw several of the usual birds, including an Osprey that I will tell you about in tomorrow’s post.  But I am bursting with the news that today we saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker, (Melanerpes carolinus).  For San Angelo, it is a very rare bird, not historically known for making stopovers here.  It was not a lifer for me, as I had seen one before in Tennessee and Michigan, but nevertheless it was still a thrill to see and photograph it.

Whenever we go birding, Ann reports our findings to E-Bird at The Cornell Lab of Ornithological Society.  They keep tabs on such unusual sightings.  The bird posed perfectly for me, too.  You can click on the image to see an enlargement.

Exposure info:  Canon EOS 7D with 500mm f4 lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7EV, ISO 640.  Hand-held from window of my car.

FOS Ash-throated Flycatcher

I drove out to Middle Concho Park yesterday afternoon.  Earlier in the day, I had been to my doctor to have a biopsey taken from a little thingee on my neck.  I don’t recall what it was called, something that ends in ‘noma’.  Anyway, it is minor, but afterward I got restless.  A beautiful day, and I had to get outside.  However, for some reason or other, the birds must have been taking a siesta elsewhere, as there wasn’t much activity, except for a bunch of woodpeckers.

But one bright light was that we spotted a pair of Ash-throated Flycatchers (Myiarchud cinerascens).  The first ones that we have spotted this season.  So maybe this is a sign of things to come.  I am anxious to get back out and see what else will be arriving.  Click on either picture to see an enlargement.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

It has been a pretty week and week-end.  Now I can relax for a few days.  Over the past three days there was the annual Stribling Art Extravaganza, an art show and sale.  I had entered two framed images, as I do every year.  On Sunday I made my usual trip down at 4:00PM to pick up my un-sold work.  Voila!  I discovered that both pieces had been sold.  What a nice surprise.  In previous shows, I had sold only one, or none at all.

The local parks were very busy with campers, hikers, etc.  Spring breaks are finishing up, I guess.  We did take a short drive, though, and I got a few images but most weren’t anything to write home about.  I got this shot of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) on Friday.  It beats by far, one that I had gotten a week or so earlier.  They are so difficult to photograph.  First of all, they are tiny and hard to see.  After you locate one, then it is hard to focus on it because they are constantly on the move, hopping from one branch to another.

On Saturday morning, Gene and Ethel Berger, who are dear friends of ours, asked us to stop by their lake house out at Lake Nasworthy.  They wanted to show us their beds of Texas Bluebonnets.  They were spectacular as this

Texas Bluebonnets

photograph shows.  Maybe I can get out this week and get more photos of some before they bloom out.  It is the state wildflower and they are blooming profusely now around the area.  This photograph, by the way, was taken on Sunday morning.  I had taken a few on Saturday, but wasn’t satisfied with the results and so I decided to sneak back there for another attempt.

This week promises to be another busy one.  I have been putting off some errands and chores, so I must get caught up.  The car needs washing since the rains are all over for awhile, and I need to do some trimming around the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.  I am going to lead a birding trip for the Abilene Audubon Society on Saturday morning.  They are going to be traveling 90 miles to get here so I feel I better give them a good show.  It should be fun, although I think that all of them are a much better birder than I am.  I am hoping to learn from them.

So have a great week, everyone.  Click on any of the photos to see an enlargement of each.

Big Bend National Park Images

I have been going through old images again.  It’s what I do when I don’t have anything excitingly new to publish.  I just like to see what kind of trouble I can get into, or stir up.  Anyway, here are some photos that you may not have seen.  When I am not photographing birds, my other passion is the rugged and beautiful landscape of Big Bend National Park.

Santa Elena Canyon and Ocotillo

Santa Elena Canyon is one of my favorite spots.  A person can take Ross Maxwell Scenic Highway, that travels the western flanks of the Chisos Mountains, and ends up at the mouth of this awesome canyon.  The Rio Grande River flows through it, creating the immense 1,500 foot walls, that are a scarce 50 yards apart.  A trail of less than a quarter of a mile takes you right up face-to-face with the base of these walls at the entrance.  An easy, but sandy, walk.  The above image was made from about 2 miles away, from the nearby old Maverick Road.  We had just visited the ruins of Roberto Luna’s jacale and were headed back towards the canyon.  The ocotillo was in full bloom and I couldn’t resist this shot.  It was shot on film with my old EOS3.

At another point on the highway, there is a turnoff to have a great view of the Mule Ears Peak.  You can easily identify why it got it’s name.  The view is always changing with light and time of day.  The photo that I have here was taken early in the day, if I remember correctly.  I love the ‘layered” look of the smaller foot hills.  I have photographed the peak many, many times, but I have never gotten an image that really knocked my socks off.   This one is one of my better ones.

Mule Ears Peak

On one trip we made to the BBNP, the weather was very, very rainy and drizzly.  I was excited that the mountains were sometimes covered or shrouded in cloudy mists.  It seemed that I was stopping every mile or so to shoot an impressive scene.  So, it was inevitable that I would forget where one of my images was taken.  I remember stopping for the shot, because of the peaks above the clouds, but on subsequent trips I haven’t been able to remember the place.

Mountains in the Mist

I hope that you have enjoyed these scenic photos from my past.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Blue Heron and Bluebird

The weather Wednesday was still windy and cool.  However we, Ann and I, did get out for a little bit.  We took a little drive through Middle Concho Park again.  This time I got images of another Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), and an Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis).  The heron was on the other side of the river.  I maneuvered the car down near the bank so I could shoot it from my drivers’ side window.  I rested my Canon 7D with 1.4 tele-converter on the Puffin’ Pad on the sill.  Even with the wind, it was still a stable platform.  Exposed at 1/1250 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 250.

Great Blue Heron in tree

Also, along the river we spotted an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), flying overhead.  I grabbed my other Canon EOS 76 with a Canon 100-400mm lens attached, hopped from the car to see if I could get an inflight shot.  This is the result.  The bird was pretty high up and back-lit so I had to crop it extensively to produce this photo.  Not the best image, but I wanted to show it to you anyway.  Exposure 1/2000 sec @ f5.6, ISO 100.

Osprey in flight

Later, as we were driving through some of the roads in the park we saw this Eastern Bluebird in a tree off to the left.  It was in the shade, making exposure a little difficult.  I used the same set-up as I did with the heron.  Exposed at 1/640 sec. @f5.6 +0.3EV, ISO 200.

So all in all, the trip wasn’t wasted.  The weather is starting to heat up again over the weekend so hopefully it will be a more comfortable time to get out to get some more photographs.  For these, click on any of them to see an enlargement.

San Angelo State Park – March Birding Tour

On Saturday March 17, San Angelo State Park had their new monthly birding

Northern Cardinal

tour.  I used to lead it until several months ago, when I gave up the job so someone else could take over.  It took awhile to find someone to fulfill the position, so finally one of the park personnel, Ranger Jade, decided that he would give it a try.  We met at 8:30 at the gatehouse and headed for the blind.  Ranger Jade asked me to assist him as this was all new to him.

Field Sparrow




It went quite well.  There were nine of us this time, but I think when the word gets out, there will be larger turn-outs.  This time they made the birding tour part of a spring break celebration of sorts.  They also had a nature tour, and a bison tour going on also.  Because of this the birding was somewhat abbreviated.  Most of the time was spent at the blind and with a quick drive by the lake to check out the water birds.   We only saw 25 species.  This is the complete list.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

  1. Canyon Towhee   1
  2. White-crowned Sparrow   12
  3. Northern Mockinbird   12
  4. Yellow-headed Blackbird   1
  5. Red-winged Blackbird   13
  6. Phrrhuloxia   3
  7. Mourning Dove   6
  8. White-winged Dove   8
  9. House Finch   15
  10. House Sparrow   10
  11. American Avocet   3
  12. Northern Shoveler  50+
  13. Northern Harrier   1
  14. Ruby-crowned Kinglet   1
  15. Field Sparrow   1
  16. Vesper Sparrow   6
  17. European Starling   4
  18. Golden-fronted Woodpecker   2
  19. Killdeer   2
  20. Western Meadowlark   6
  21. Turkey Vulture   4
  22. Black-crested Titmouse   1
  23. Ring-necked Duck   1
  24. Barn Swallow   4
  25. Curve-billed Thrasher   1

    Curve-billedl Thrasher

Click on any image to see an enlargement.  In the future the birding tours will be on a regular schedule of the third Saturday of each month, meeting at the South Gate at 8:30AM.

Embarrassed Red-tailed Hawk?

Sometimes when I am in the field doing my photography, occasionally I come up with an image that strikes my funny bone.  It happens when the object of your photo moves at just the right time, or wrong time, depending on how you look at.

When I was at Spring Creek Park the other morning I came across this Red-tailed Hawk.  He was in a tree facing away from me.  I got out of the car and was trying to find a way to get my focus between some tree branches.  A gust of wind came up as I pulled the trigger.  I caught the hawk just as his skirt blew up.  He looks slightly red-faced. 🙂

"Keep your eyes to yourself, please"

He flew off the tree branch then.  We watched him go and land further down the road.  We drove on and made a turn-a-round at the end of the park.  As we were making the return trip, there he was, high up in another tree.  This time I caught him in a more gentlemanly pose.

Click in either image to see an enlargement.

Exposure information:  Both photos where shot with my Canon EOS 7D and Canon 100-400mm zoom lens.  Spot metering, aperture priority, ISO 250.  Top photo 1/640 sec. @ f6.3.  Second photo 1/500 sec. @ f6.3.

Osprey FOS – (First of season)

Donna Wadsley over at Bay Photos by Donna was wanting to see a “Texan” Osprey.  She has a nest that she observes in her “backyard”, (Chesapeake Bay).  So, I say, “Donna, this bird’s for you”.  I photographed this one Thursday at Spring Creek Park.  It was perched in a dead tree across the river.  It really was our first good observation of one this year.  I think we had a glimpse of one flying overhead a few weeks ago, but it went by pretty fast.  This photo isn’t one of my best, as the the skies were heavily overcast, and the bird was somewhat backlit.  I admit that I didn’t get the best exposure that I would have liked.  Sometimes I just don’t get it right, so blame it on the camera operator.


Hall of Fame – UPDATE

There was a bit of confusion in the information that I got about me and the band, The Cavaliers, being inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Actually, the band was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, in Nashville, Tennessee, not the West Texas Music Hall of Fame that I described in my post previously.  That puts us in stellar company with Elvis Presley, Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and a veratible host of other big name stars.  It was only J. Frank Wilson that got elected to that West Texas Music HOF, as his name was on the Last Kiss record with the Cavaliers.  He was a member of the band, the lead singer.

The book, that I described, Rockabilly Heaven, is available from www.westexmusichof.com.  It was written by Sid Holmes who was the leader of the Cavaliers.  It chronicles the history of The Cavaliers from 1956 thru 1964.  It also gives a thorough story of the rock-a-billy music from that era in west Texas.  There is a blurb about me along with a fine photo.  I was described as San Angelo’s “best kept secret”.

I thought it was important that I straighten out my errors in that previous post.  I am not one to dwell on such matters about different Halls of Fame.  Such things are nice, but I still only get my senior discount when I buy a cup of coffee. 🙂

Another Pyrrhuloxia and Hall of Fame induction

After reading this post, please see the update at bottom.

For this image, I was driving around San Angelo State Park, and I spotted the Pyrrhuloxia singing away in the top of a tree.  He appeared as a silhouette against the sky.  I propped my Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter on the windowsill of the car, cushioning it with a Puffin’ Pad.  Exposure was 1/1250 sec. @ f8, -0.3EV, ISO 100.  Spot metering and aperture priority.  Post editing in Photoshop CS5 aided by DeNoise and Focus Magic.

Pyrrhuloxia singing in top of tree.

In other news, you have probably read in my “About Me” page about my past career in music.  In the early 1960s I played with the Cavaliers, a band from here in San Angelo, Texas for a short period.  They recorded the famous song “Last Kiss” written by Wayne Cochran and  sang by J. Frank Wilson.  Because of another commitment, I didn’t play sax on the record as no sax part was needed in the song.  Anyway, the band, me included, have been inducted into the West Texas Music Hall of Fame. Sid Holmes, the leader, has written a book, “Rockabilly Heaven”.  It is the untold story of the Cavaliers, and also tells about the music scene of the 50s and 60s in west Texas.  It is available from Ft. Phantom Lake Publishing, 6204 S. Parkway, Ft. Worth, TX 76134.  Or contact sid-holmes@charter.net.  On page 95 there is a handsome photo of yours truly. 

I was instrumental in the hiring of J. Frank Wilson to the band.  We needed a lead vocalist and we heard about this young man that was stationed at the nearby air base, and was near the end of his enlistment.  We auditioned him.  Our drummer, our bass player, and I all thought that he couldn’t sing a lick.  However, Sid Holmes, the leader thought otherwise and the rest is history.  It turned out that with the band backing him up he could blend in easier. The record sold millions, topped the charts for many months and repeated in later years when it was re-corded by Pearl Jam in 1995.

J. Frank Wilson was a one-hit wonder.  He left the Cavaliers in 1964, deciding to go single.  He never made another hit record.  He died a pauper, a few short years ago, in south Texas, where he was working as a janitor in a nursing home.  But, the song he made famous, “Last Kiss”, a song about a girl dying in a car crash, lives on.  I am proud that I was part of the legacy.

IMPORTANT UPDATE – 3/15/2012 –  In conversation with Sid Holmes, the leader of the Cavaliers, I have found that only J. Frank Wilson was elected to the West Texas Music Hall of Fame.  That was because his name was on the record, “Last Kiss” with the Cavaliers backing him up.  However, the Cavaliers band, including me, was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.  That puts us in stellar company with Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Roy Orbison and the many others of that era.