More Blue Herons Plus

It is a short post this time, due to time constraints.  We got out for a while yesterday morning and found that some of the shore birds are returning.  Although we weren’t close enough to get acceptable images, we saw various sandpipers, ibises, and some waders.

I will include a couple Great Blue Heron photos here that we spotted in Middle Concho Park.

Great Blue Heron in tree.

Great Blue Heron wading

Farther on we did come across a bunch of Least Sandpipers.  I am not great at IDing sandpiper type birds, but I believe I am right on this one.

Least Sandpiper

Click on any image to see an enlargement.

A new day, more birds

After spend a few listless days with not many birds to show, Ann and I finally had an enjoyable morning today.  After breakfast, she, on the spur of the moment, said that we ought to make a run out by the Middle Concho Park to see if things had changed.

The morning was much cooler and I guess that made the difference as we saw a total of 29 species.  I even got a few more images to share.

juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron

We first saw the juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron across the river.  I maneuvered my Ford Edge close to the water so I could rest my big 500mm lens on my Noodle for the shot.

Next, down the little road a bit, I spotted the bright red Vermilion Flycatcher in a tree.  I started to move in with my car to a more comfortable position, but the bird moved.  So began a merry chase for about 15 minutes before I was successful in getting the shot.  I must mention that I didn’t actually “chase”, as in hassling the bird.  I guess “follow” is a better word for it.

Vermilion Flycatcher

After seeing what we could in that park, we decided to try Spring Creek Park while we were in the area.  We saw a two or three Yellow Warblers, but had no opportunity to get a photo.  Coming upon a shoal that was uncovered by the lowering water level, we saw a Spotted Sandpiper and a Green Heron.  Both gave me good photo opportunities, although they were pretty far from the bank.

I got my tripod out and set it up closer to the bank.  It was a shady area and I was confident that I wouldn’t disturb the birds as we were somewhat hidden in the low light the trees provided.  These photos are indeed a credit to my state of the art equipment.  Well, maybe I helped a little, too.  But I am proud of the images that I got after doing some tight cropping.

Spotted Sandpiper

Green Heron

Well, I hope you enjoyed these images as much as I enjoy getting them for you.  It appears that things are looking up a bit, and maybe we will get a few more migrant birds arriving in the near future.

Roadrunner and Wren

We are still in the summer doldrums when it comes to birding here.  Going to the SA State Park has slowed down to producing only a few birds for photography.  In a couple of weeks it will start changing and we will have the winter birds beginning to migrate.  I don’t know about other areas, but we have many, many more birds here in the winter than we do in the summer.

On one of our latest outing we saw only 17 different species, but luckily I managed to get a couple of pictures.  This Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii) was in a tree outside of the bird blind.  I took the picture from the window at a distance of only about ten feet.

Bewick’s Wren

Later on, down the little lane that leads to the blind, we spotted this Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), in a tree along the path.  The light wasn’t too great, early morning sun filtering through the branches.

Great Roadrunner on tree limb.

Enjoy the photos and click on either one to see and enlargement.

I am going to do some blatant advertising again, and direct you to the links on the right of this page, to preview and/or purchase a book or calendar.  I might add that my book is also available as an e-book for your iPad.  (at at cheaper price, too)  For signed autographed copies, contact me direct at:

Attack of the Mockingbird

Coming home from SA State Park yesterday morning we spotted a hawk on the power line along the highway as we sped by.  I quickly checked my mirrors then done a neat U-turn and came back and stopped near the curb, opposite the bird.  On closer examination with my binoculars I believe  it to be an immature Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni).

Swainson’s Hawk – immature

A few feet away on the same wire, was a Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos).  As we watched, the mockingbird decided he didn’t like the presence of the hawk.  It would take off, fly a bit and and harass the hawk.  Repeatedly, it would fly at the hawk, actually coming in contact with it.  It was trying to knock the hawk off of the wire, or at least get it to fly away.  The hawk would have none of it, and it just stood or sat it’s ground and continued to take the beating.

Swainson’s Hawk and Northern Mockingbird

Swainson’s Hawk and Northern Mockingbird

Swainson’s Hawk under attack by a Northern Mockingbird

As you can see, the Northern Mockingbird wasn’t messing around.  He meant business, but the hawk ignored him as if he was just a pesky mosquito.  He eventually gave it up and said adios to the hawk.

Click on any photo to see an enlargement.

Pyrrhuloxia and Curve-billed Thrasher

First I want to share the news that my book, “Birds, Beasts and Buttes”, is now available in E-Book form for the iPad.  Click here where you can preview it and buy at reduced price over the print version.  You can also check out both versions, plus my 2013 Calendar, by clicking on the links on the right side of this page.

Now here is that bird again, you know, the one with the funny sounding name.  I caught this image of the Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus) a few mornings ago at San Angelo State Park.

Female Pyrrhuloxia in early morning light.

While there we also saw this Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre), doing what it does best; thrashing.  Thrashing the sand and grass looking for insects, etc.

A thrashing Curve-billed Thrasher.

I hope you enjoy these pictures, and you can click on either one to see a very nice enlargement of each.

A Kingfisher, a Sandpiper, a Killdeer, and a Coopers Hawk….

All of them walked into a bar.

The bartender said, “What it this, a joke?”

Okay, so I have a hard time getting started on writing these posts.  I admit it.  But the above mentioned birds are the ones that Ann and I saw Friday morning on a drive around Middle Concho and Spring Creek Parks.  The water is still low there, down about 24 inches.  However there is hope that it will rise a bit soon, as water may flow again from Twin Buttes Reservoir.  Behind that dam, water is being pumped from the south pool, which is higher, to the lower south pool.  The south pool is where the gates are that release water downstream to Lake Nasworthy and these parks.

First up, we spotted a Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquatus) on a wire over the river, but before I could get set up for a shot, it flew to the other bank and perched in a tree. With the help of my Noodle on the window sill, I was able to train my Canon EOS 7D and 500mm lens with a 1.4 tele-converter on it.  As the bird was quite tiny anyway, from that distance, and I couldn’t crop it as tight as I would have liked..  This image is the result.

Belted Kingfisher in tree

Driving further on, we came upon a small inlet that was nearly dry, but there was a Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria) grazing in it.

Solitary Sandpiper

Sandpipers are one of my least favorite shorebirds to try and identify.  When we first spotted it, my first immediate thought was Greater Yellowlegs.  But then after getting several images, and consulting my Stokes Guide to birds of North America, I felt comfortable IDing it as the Solitary Sandpiper.

In the same area were a couple of Killdeers (Charadrius vociferus).  One was an adult, the other a juvenile.  The adult was nearer the open water.

Killdeer – juvenile

Killdeer – adult

Just before we decided to call it a day, we glanced toward a grassy picnic area, and there was a hawk in the shadows, walking in the grass.  He was about seventy-five feet away.  I got the camera and 500mm lens up on the Noodle and window sill again and snapped a few images before it flew off.  As I mentioned, the bird was in the shadows, but there was a bright background making exposure difficult.  I really wasn’t able to get a true identification as a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) until I got it in the computer and was able to brighten the exposure.

Cooper’s Hawk

Click on any image to enjoy enlargements.

Black-crowned Night Herons – Juvies

We took a quick run to the San Angelo State Park this morning.  We checked into the blind and saw the regulars were still stopping by for their morning share of the bird seeds.  Nothing exciting, so we ventured over to a new area that has just opened up.  In one particular low area of the park, a spring exists, and the park personnel graded up the dirt to build another pond.  A couple of months ago it look pretty bare, but reeds started growing around it, and a few fish were planted in it.  Now it is starting to attract birds.

As we drove up, at first we saw nothing but swallows, red-winged black birds and a bunch of doves.  Thinking that there was nothing else, I drove on by, turned around and came back from the other direction.  As we glanced over the pond we spotted two juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons perched in the trees.  The light was pretty uneven, but I managed to get several images.  I used my Canon EOS 7d and 500mm lens with a 1.4 tele-converter attached.  I shot the photos from the window of my car.  These are a couple of the better ones.

Black-crowned Night Heron – juvenile

juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron trying out it’s wings.

Hope you enjoyed the photos.  Click on either one to see an enlargement.

Cardinals (The Redbirds)

Well, it’s time to get serious again.  Well, maybe not too serious, but it’s time to write a post about birds, but first let me tell you this little story that I heard this morning.  It is too funny not to pass on.   Credit my friend Monty Jones, AKA the former Biscuits O’Bryan.

It seems that this eccentric guy liked to collect thrones.  Yes, that is right, you read it correct.  Thrones – like the ones that kings sit on to twiddle away the day.  He would travel all over the world to collect thrones from palaces and castles where the current kings, and queens, decided to re-decorate and get new furniture or thrones.

On top of all of that, he lived in a glass house.  (do you see where this is going?)  He stored all these thrones in that glass house.  After a time the weight of all the thrones, gradually was too much, and the glass house collapsed from all the weight.

Soooooo, a person that lives in a glass house should never stow thrones.

Okay, now that I have your attention, my subject today is the Northern Cardinal, (Cardinalis cardinalis).  I have found that if going out day after day in this heat doesn’t produce the right results, a.e. finding birds to photograph, you must go for the sure thing.  The bird blind.  There is always some kind of activity there.

San Angelo State Park has a nice little blind, with comfy seats, and  big windows with a view of feeders and a little pond.  I would much rather drive around in my air-conditioned car, over the hills and through the woods, in search of my photographs.  But the blind is my go-to place when the pickin’s  are lean and I need quick images or just want to pad my birding list. 🙂

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal – female

Actually, the Northern Cardinal is one of my favorite birds.  Always vibrantly red (the male), and fun to watch.  It’s like they have a personality all of their own.  Here in west Texas they sometimes are referred to as simply the Redbirds.  So this is where I ended up going a few days ago.  I hope you enjoy the images.  Click on either one to see an image.

By the way, my book is going great, and I now have my 2013 Bird Calendars.  To preview both the calendar and the book, click on the links on the right side of this.

My Surprising Past (or would you buy a used car from this guy?)

This post will probably contain a bit of entertaining nonsense about my past that I haven’t told you about in detail  But never fear, it is rated PG.  It may not have many pictures, or maybe none at all, but I haven’t gotten that far yet.  We will just see where it leads.

What brought this on, is that my friend Ross McSwain, author of several books about the history of west Texas, made a remark to me that rather surprised.  I have know Ross for forty something years, and after reviewing my book for me, he said “Bob, I have known you for years, played golf with you, listened to you on the saxophone, but I never knew you to be a photographer”.

It made me think about what little my friends actually knew about me.  To set the record straight, although I opted to take a course through the New York Institute of Photography, I had no intentions of pursuing a profession by the use of a camera.  I just wanted to be good at it.  So my photographic work came in streaks.  Mainly when we vacationing, when I wanted pictures of places we visited.

So when we came to San Angelo in 1961, I was with the US Air Force.  My main focus at the time, was my musical career.  Ever since leaving high school that had been my main thing in life.  I rarely had a weekend off from playing the sax.  I was in demand and could name my own price.  But then, at a dance at the Cactus Hotel Ballroom in June of 1962 my life changed.

After coming back from intermission, where I had a cigarette (my final one as it turned out), I sat down to play the next set.  Halfway through the first song, my left lung collapsed.   I said to myself  “Oh s**t!, not again!”  I knew immediately what had happened, having had it happen to my right lung in October of the previous year.  I went into denial, and decided to try to complete the set.  I got through three more songs, then I decided to let them cart me off to the emergency room at the air base.  You can see more details about the cause in my Marfan Syndrome Page

In the years following that, I still played in several bands off and on, but was always careful and watchful of my health.  Because of my problems, after spending the summer of 1962 at the Wilford Hall hospital at Lackland AFB in Texas, the government decided to let me go, and I was awarded my 2nd honorable discharge that following September.  (I was on my second tour of duty.)

My intended Air Force career was no more, so I had to adjust and find civilian work.  I tried several things, selling encyclopedias, selling Watkins products, working in a service station.  In 1964 I finally got a job as head bookkeeper for the Lake View School District here in San Angelo.  My Air Force job had been in accounting so the fit was perfect.  But since I wasn’t CPA, the pay wasn’t very good so after a few years I moved on.

In 1968, Ann, who had been working for the local Coca-cola Bottling Company, was transferred to the Las Cruces, New Mexico plant.  I decided to try a new career, selling cars.  Now here is where the fun starts.

At that time I was a terrible introvert.  I was afraid to talk to people.  Not a good asset, if you want to sell cars.  I was working for some very nice people that owned the dealership.  Needless to say, I fell on my face when trying to sell, so they asked me if I wanted work in the bookkeeping department.  I moved to the office and did very well there.

You’re probably still wondering about my photography.  Well, I was still taking photographs on weekends.  The Organ Mountains and White Sands National Monument were near, and it wasn’t a long drive to get to other great sites in the Gila National Forest.  But, photography was still just a passing hobby.

I was asked to join a local chapter of the Optimist Club.  At first, my greatest fear was that they were going to ask me to give the blessings before breakfast.  I kept avoiding that as shy as I was.  But, believe it or not, after several months of hanging with those guys, I lost my shyness, and really started to open up.  My wife said that nobody could shut me up after that.

Meanwhile, back at the Chevrolet Dealership.  I started to get excited about wanting to sell cars.  But based on my previous “sales record”, they didn’t want to take a chance.  So, I decided to bid them farewell.

The next day I went to work at the Ford Dealership.  Within the first hour there I sold my very first car.  A 1972 Maverick to a soldier from White Sands Missle Range.

In June of that year Ann was transferred back to San Angelo.  I got into car sales immediately, and stayed doing that for another six years.  After cars got so high priced, it made me uncomfortable, so I went to work selling tires.  Montgomery Wards until they closed, then Goodyear.  I could sell tires to an Eskimo for his sled. 🙂

In 1982 I got tired of working for other people, so I went into business for myself.  I started Bob’s Mow’n’Trim Lawn and Landscape Service.  It was very, very successful, but it was a strain on my health, so on the doctor’s recommendation I sold the business in about 1987.  I took a few months off, then decided to work as a contractor delivering newspapers.  I was the best in town for twelve years, and when I retired in 1999, they gave me a nice brief case.

So then, I finally had the time to do serious photography.  A fellow artist, a scuptor, suggested I take my work to art shows.  It was a rough start, as I didn’t have much inventory, but after selling a few prints, I really got excited.  I bought a little trailer, backdrops, and display materials.  During the week I would be out in the field taking photographs, then traveling on weekends to shows around west Texas.  We would do about two shows per month.

So even though it took me a few years, the work I did learning the craft of photography finally paid off.  We retired from doing shows about four years ago.  I now sell my work, word of mouth, on-line, and contacts with various magazines, etc.  But we had great memories.  So now you know a little more about me.

Ya wanna buy a car??  I’ll tell ya what I’m gonna do……………. 🙂

Check out my book by clicking on the links on the right side of this page.

Monday Photo Ops

We decided to take a drive out to the parks around Lake Nasworthy this morning.  We needed to see the lake level dropping inch by inch.  As we drove around Middle Concho Park we again saw a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron across the river from us.  From about 100 yards I tried to get pictures of him feeding along the shore.  He caught something and it looked like a lobster.  He managed to swallow most of it, but he still had the claw to finish off.   Of course, there are no lobster within a thousand miles of us, so I guess it is a large crawdad.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron with crawfish claw.

We watched him a bit more, then continued our drive.  Again, not much was stirring until I rounded a little bend and saw a flash of red in front of me.  Into a  bush it flew.  I grabbed the binoculars and realized that it was a Vermilion Flycatcher.  It flitted among the branches and finally I was able to get my viewfinder on it and snap this picture.  Not one to write home about, or frame for the art gallery, but acceptable.

Vermilion Flycatcher

So ends another day in the field.  I hope you enjoyed the results.  Click on either image to see an enlargement.