The Burrowing Owl – Roswell, NM

Ann and I got back from Roswell, New Mexico late yesterday, Thursday, afternoon.  It was a fun three days.  Our purpose was to bird and photograph Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge.  I will have more on that in a day or two, but I wanted to share with you one of the highlights, and it took place in downtown Roswell, NM.

We had visited Bitter Lake NWR on Tuesday, but on Wednesday morning, Michael Richardson, one of the owners of the Enchanted Farm Bed & Breakfast, where we were staying,  took us on a little tour around the area.  Driving through one area of the city, we passed a little prairie dog village.  There were many Black-tailed Prairie Dogs scurrying around, but what caught my attention were several Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia), standing on some of the mounds, enjoying the early morning sun.  I had never seen one of these owls up close nor had any photographs, so I was excited to have this photo op.

I made an illegal U-turn and parked across the street.  I got my Canon EOS 7D with the 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter out of the car, and crossed back over to the fence that was bordering the area.  I proceeded to get several images of one of them, by propping my camera on a fence post.

Later on, as Michael was taking us towards another park, we spotted this owl on an overhead wire.  Wow!  Talk about getting some great shots, here was this one just posing for me.

These little owls are only about 9 inches tall, and they are real cuties.  Click on any of the images to see an enlargement.  I am making this post short, as I have many things to do to get caught up.  I will do a post about Bitter Lake NWR in a few days and have more info for you about that place.

Canyon Towhee – Plain but Pretty

I thought I would try to get out one last post before getting ready for a short trip to Roswell, New Mexico, to visit Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge.  I have been busy putting together my forthcoming book, so I haven’t got out to get some fresh photographs.  That, I hope to accomplish in New Mexico next week.

I love the Canyon Towhees (Melozone fusca). They are rather plain in appearance until you take closer look.  They have little rufous crowns, cinnamon undertail coverts, buffy throat, and overall a dull grayish brown.  Put it all together and they are a little cutie.  Here are three of my favorite images taken at San Angelo State Park.

Canyon Towhee

Canyon Towhee

Canyon Towhee

I hope you enjoy these photos.  I will be out of town for a few days so my next post will probably be next weekend.  But I will be thinking of you guys while basking in the 100 degree heat of southeastern New Mexico.  I also hope to come back with some new images to show you, and also have some late additions to add to my book.  The book is coming along nicely.  Cross your eyes and knees that I have it out by late July.

Click on any image to see some nice enlargements.

Blue Herons from my mobile photo blind

You may not realize it, but one of the best blinds for either birding or photographing birds and other wildlife, is your car or pickup.  I can walk or hike and I am more apt to spook a bird then than when I am riding.  I know there may be some disagreement there, and of course, you can’t take an automobile down a hiking trail.  I am talking about when it is possible to do so.

There is another means to my madness here.  My huge 500m lens is not convenient to carry with the weight being somewhere around 13 lbs.  I love to drive slowly down country roads where there is virtually no traffic, or through parks that have the roads that amble through the trees.  Ann is usually with me and she is a big help in spotting our subjects.

Great Blue Heron

I carry one of my Canon 7Ds with a 100-400mm zoom lens on my lap.  The other 7D with the big 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter rests comfortably balanced on the padded counsel between the front seats.  My binoculars rest on the dashboard.  I lower my driver’s side window down far enough that it is raised about 2-3 inches above the sill.  There I attach my Noodle.

The Noodle is one of these foam flotation tubes that you can buy at Walmart.  I call them whoppers, because in their original form they are about 4 feet long, and when you swing them at your buddies in the pool, the sound like Whop, Whop, Whop!!  Okay, so that’s a corny definition. 🙂

Great Blue Heron

I got the idea from Ron Dudley and Mia McPherson, two outstanding photographers and bloggers from Utah.  Well, actually Mia gave the idea to Ron, and Ron passed it on to me.  You take one of those Noodles, cut off a piece about 10-12 inches long.  Cut a long slit down one side, cover it in duct tape and voila! you have very nice window cushion to rest your camera.

I photographed these two Great Blue Herons at Middle Concho Park here in San Angelo.  In this park they have the roads that roam throughout, but the added bonus I have is that I can also drive down through the grass to the water’s edge, as I did for these images.  I maneuvered my car, a 2011 Ford Edge, so I could shoot from my drivers side window.  In both instances, the herons were across the water about 100 yards away.  For shooting, I used the 7D with the 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  It rested comfortably on the Noodle for a nice solid platform.  Be sure to turn your ignition off.  That prevents any added vibration from reaching your lens.

Click on either image to see a very nice enlargement.

Photo #1 – Exposure 1/2000 sec. @f6.3, -0.7EV, ISO 500.

Photo #2 – Exposure 1/2500 sec. @f6.3, -0.3EV, ISO 320

Northern Cardinal – the “Redbird”

Northern Cardinal, (Cardinalis cardinalis).  No matter what you call it, nobody can resist liking this flashy, red bird.  It can be found throughout most of the midwest and eastern part of the country.  Ann and I took a short trip to San Angelo State Park on Sunday morning and I took this photo at the bird blind there.

Northern Cardinal

While going through my archives this morning, preparing for this post, I came upon a couple more images that I think you may have never seen.  I think this next one had been splashing in a pond before me getting the photo.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

I hope looking at these photos will help jump-start your week.  There is something about looking at happy birds, that can give a person a feel-good feeling.

Green Heron at Golden Arches

In previous posts I told you about K-Mart Creek that runs along an old vacated K-Mart building.  That same creek, which is actually an arroyo, skirts along behind a Firestone Tire Store.  From there it crosses under Southwest Blvd. and flows behind a McDonalds Restaurant.  It was there, after breakfast yesterday morning, that as we were leaving, Ann and I spotted this Green Heron walking along looking for crayfish, or ‘crawdads‘ as they are sometimes called here.  As you can see in the third photo he caught his Happy Meal.

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron with crayfish

In all, I captured about 50 images of the hunt.  During that time I watched him eat about three of those morsels.  I left him alone after that, thinking that someday I might see him in the drive-thru.

As a side note, did you know that vultures have their own fast food place?  It is called ‘Carrion Carry-out” 🙂  (I just had to toss that in.)

Click on any of the images to see enlargements.  By the way, I captured all three with my Canon EOS 7D and 100-400mm lens.  I had left the car and walked along the opposite bank.  Also, they were photographed in RAW and these images are otherwise untouched except for minor sharpening and cropping.

Bronzed Cowbird

Just one image to talk about today.  We made s short trip out yesterday to try to find some photo ops, but it has been so hot that I think the bird are heading for the cooler mountains.  I did spot this Bronzed Cowbird, (Molothrus aeneus). It was on the ground at Middle Concho Park.

Bronzed Cowbird

This one was continually ruffling his feathers like he was trying to cool himself off.  Photographed with my Canon EOS 7D and 500mm lens with a 1.4 tele-converter.  1/2000 sec. @ f5.6, +1.0EV, ISO 3200.

I am trying to keep up with a few regular posts while continuing work on my forth-coming book.  I am in the progress of selecting the photos that I want and then trying to organize them.  But, having said that, I may not try to organize them, but just put them hap-hazardly in the book so each page will be a new surprise and not predictable.

Then there is the narrative.  I want to avoid it being boring, instead trying to make it entertaining and humorous.  So stay tuned…….. 🙂

Ash-throated Flycatcher – Quiz news

Before I get into the subject of my post, I want to say that I am curtailing my quizzes for a few weeks.  The reason for that is that I am beginning to work on a book that I have been considering for a long time.  I have found that, by working over the weekend just trying to design the cover, that the project is going to take some time, and will need my undivided attention. The book when finished, will be a handsome thing featuring  most of my photography, both nature and landscapes.  Perhaps, some of you may be interested when the time comes.  But enough about that for now.

There are many Ash-throated Flycatchers (Myiarchus cinerascens),in the area at the present time.  When traveling through Middle Concho Park a few days ago, the opportunity popped up to get this magnificent image.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

If you have needed to ID one of these, you will find that there are many different flycatchers that resemble this one.  It can be a very confusing task.  Photographed with my Canon EOS 7d, Canon 500mm f4 lens with 1.4 tele-converter.  Exposure 1/1250 sec. @ f5.6, ISO 400.  Except for the white of the breast being almost blown out, I am pretty satisfied with the result.  I hope you are, too.

By the way, during my work on the book, I will still try to do three or four posts each week.

A few random shots from the week

I didn’t get many really earth-shaking photos this recent week.  However, it was just as much fun, as usual, just to get out, communicate with nature, and see what might turn up.  But I can show you a few highlights.

Earlier in the week I went to check on the nest of Yellow-crowned Night Herons.  They were in the act of fledging, leaving the nest.  This photo is what you might call the class of 2012 picture.  As for most of those pictures that I had obtained, the lighting was difficult.  But thankful for a little fill-flash and post editing I managed to get an acceptable image.

fledged Yellow-crowned Night Herons
Class of ’12

I went back a few hours later and the birds were away from the nest completely.  I searched the big trees and found that they were scattered among the branches.  I also discovered another previously unseen nest, containing some more newborn.  I will leave it alone as it is far too high in the way and deep in the foliage to attempt any photograph.

Common Nighthawk

From there we went out by Twin Buttes Reservoir.  We hadn’t been out there in quite some time as, because like O. C. Fisher Reservoir, the water was pretty scarce.  As we drove through the area, we spotted this Common Nighthawk perched in a shady spot on a tree limb.

In mid-week we decided to make a run through Spring Creek and Middle Concho Parks.  Again nothing that was outstanding, but we happened to be there later in the heat of the day.  We’re talking nearly 100 degrees and the birds were smarter than us.  However, I photographed this Green Heron feeding in a small inlet of the river.  He was so unaware that I was able to nearly fill the frame with this shot.  I barely needed to do any cropping.  I was only about 35 feet away, shooting from my car window.

Green Heron

On Thursday, the day began with cloudy skies, cooler with a possibility of showers.  We had planned on making a trip to Eden, Texas, about 40 miles to our southeast.  We had read about a man that took it upon himself to beautify some land and build what he calls, a butterfly garden.  It was beautiful, full of all kinds of blooming shrubs, cacti and numerous tiny pools.  It should have been a natural haven teeming with birds, but by the time we arrived the weather had really cooled, and light rain was coming down.

We decided that we didn’t want to spend too much time there, but planned on returning at a later date.  We decided that there was time to make a run across to Eldorado, a distance of about 70 miles to the water treatment ponds there.  There is always something to see there.  The weather had cleared in that area, but it was very, very windy.  The large ponds of water actually had whitecaps on them.  Most of the water fowl was making use of the protection of the lee of the banks.  But we did catch sight of a couple of Redheads in open water.  I got this shot of one about 200 feet away.  It could have been a bit better if I would have had time to re-adjust my shutter speed for the action.  I really had to do a bunch of tweaking in my post editing to produce this image.


So we will wait and see what next week will bring, but I hope everyone enjoyed seeing these photographs.  You may click on any image to see an enlargement.

Love is in the air…………..

Except this isn’t the love boat.  It is the annual invasion of the Lubbber Grasshoppers, (Romalea guttata).  The are about 3 inches long and they are all over some of the country roads out here in west Texas.  They are mostly in “pairs”.  I was on a road near the Twin Buttes Reservoir yesterday, and I don’t know how many honey-mooning families I wiped out because the highway was covered with them.   I decided to get a nice photo of the action, though.

Lubber Grasshoppers – “catching a ride”.

Photographed with my Canon EOS 7D and Canon 100-400mm lens, from about 8 feet.  Exposure 1/640 sec. @ f11, +0.3EV, ISO 320.  Hand-held.  Cklick on the image to see an enlargement.