Two Wrens and a Pelican


Yesterday was a great day to get back out and do a little birding, plus try for some photo opportunities.  After so many days of being cooped up inside, I was anxious for some excitement.

As we entered Spring Creek Park, we first spotted a large white object out on the river.  Ann at first thought it to be one of the large Mute Swans that frequent the area.  As we got closer, we realized that it was an American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos).  We were surprised to see only one, as a larger flock of 20-30 had been seen at another location a day or two before.  But it seemed unconcerned as it swam leisurely along.  Since it was moving steadily, I had to re-maneuver my car several times to get a good position for a shot.

American White Pelican at Spring Creek Park in San Angelo, Texas.

American White Pelican at Spring Creek Park in San Angelo, Texas.

After getting several images of the pelican, we moved along to another area.  One of my favorite spots is along one of the park perimeter fences.  There is a lot of dense brush along and intertwined with the fence.  I like to just creep the car along that fence, just at idling speed, and maybe about 10 feet from the brush.  If I do it silently enough I can hear the tiny birds within.  It is great fun, as you never know what turns up.  Yesterday, I got lucky, spotting a tiny colorful bird flitting around in the mesquite.  I realized that I was looking at a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus).  The first that I had seen this year.  I readied my Canon EOS7D with 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter, and waited patiently for the bird to make an unobstructed appearance.  The trouble with this type of photography, is the dense brush that must be tolerated.  I usually just use the main center focus point so it easier to “aim” between the branches.  My patience paid off and I managed to get several images when it sat momentarily on a twig.  Of course, as I have to do with almost all of my tiny bird photographs, the image is cropped extensively.

Carolina Wren among the mesquites.

Carolina Wren among the mesquites.

I was excited with these finds, but as we were leaving the park, another opportunity presented itself.  Again, there was some heavy brush near the entrance, so I ventured close to it, as I had when I saw the Carolina Wren.  This time I saw a Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii).  It wasn’t into the brush as deep as the carolina, and much closer.  I was able to use the 7D with my 100-400mm lens.  It made the job easier by hopping into the clear for me for a few seconds.  It felt nice to see two wrens, and photograph them both, in the same day

Bewick's Wren

Bewick’s Wren

This was fun day, and I hope to have many more to share with you.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

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Thank you, thank you, thank you……


I am getting back into the routine again after my bout of illness and a stay in the hospital.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t thank everyone that wrote and wished me well during that period.  The list is long, but at the top of the list would be Shannon of the Dirtnkids Blog.  She is a friend from Houston, Texas that went above and beyond.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that she is a fiend at Scrabble, but she and I kept an on-line game going during my entire stay at Shannon Medical Center.  Name co-incidence?  Maybe, but everything happens for a reason.  And one of my nurses’ name was Shannon.  Figure that out.

Of course, I can’t leave out my wonderful wife, Ann, who probably had the worst job of all;  catering to all of my wishes and needs, and generally just putting up with me.  Perhaps she should be at the top of the list.  I wonder if I am now in trouble…….

Great Blue Heron taking a walk through the brush.

Great Blue Heron taking a walk through the brush.

Also special thanks to another dear friend, Deb Tappan, also a photographer from Knoxville, Tennessee.  She has been quite instrumental in helping with the technical side of my photography through the years.  She made a special phone call as soon as she heard of my plight.  Also special thanks to my friends of many years, Johnny and Jerita Harper of Midland, Texas.

Pretty House Finch

Pretty House Finch

But there were so many others that wished me well.  Ron Dudley, Mia McPherson, Lisa Rest, Martina Landolt,  Melissa Koski, Dwynne Lafleur, Alison of Northern Desert, Toby of Dumb-ass News, Bonnie Gunkel, Syl Lobato, Jo Woolf, Derrick Birdsall, Beth Bradlley, Lyndi Simms and Jerry at QuietSoloPursuits.  I am sure that I probably missed someone, so forgive me if I have.

Don't just sit there like a turtle on a log.  Get these two idiots off of me.

Don’t just sit there like a turtle on a log. Get these two idiots off of me.

Again many thanks to all for helping me get through the hospital stay that was only a nuisance and inconenience.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Back among the living…….


Sorry that I kept you all waiting.  You probably thought I was dead, but I have been away for a bit.  I actually thought I was dead when I had another painful attack last Saturday morning.  I just spent another delightful week in the hospital for removal of some more stones.  I think the doctor said that he removed enough sand and gravel to re-do my driveway. 🙂 But through laproscopic surgery, it was a piece of cake.  Besides that, I have a dear friend that lives near Houston, who loves to play Scrabble.  We had an on-line game going constantly, and the hospital food at Shannon Medical Clinic was awesome.  Things couldn’t have been much better.

In case you are wondering about all of these attacks that I have had the past seven months, it seems that I have this peculiar condition, called “choledocolithiasis“. (Now that would be a great Scrabble word).   Anyway it  causes the liver to produce stones, even though my gall bladder is gone.  Leave it to me to come with something weird to add to my health resume.  But all’s well that ends well.  I am back to nearly 100% and am anxious to resume some photography and birding outings.

Ann and I did get out Saturday morning for a little foray around the local parks.  The birds weren’t real active, but I managed to get a couple of shots that are presentable enough to show here.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

I love it when I can get a good close-up of a Cedar Waxwing.

Squirrel emerging from tree nest.

Squirrel emerging from tree nest.

This park where we do a lot of birding is over-run with squirrels.  For the most part, I usually just ignore them.  However, when I saw this one coming out of his (or hers) nest, I couldn’t resist getting a shot.

So until the next time, click on any image to see an enlargement.

Horoscopes are for the birds.


My horoscope this morning seemed to imply that I would be presenting you with a message with great authority.  I have no idea in the meaning of this.  I will probably give you a bit more of my nonsense enhanced with a few pictures.  How do astrologists come up with this stuff?  They explain that it is all in the ways the stars align.

Well, I can never see any stars align when I look at that wonderful Milky Way.  Heck, I took my trusty plumb-bob outside to check for some kind of alignment.  I couldn’t make out any two stars that seem to be in line with each other.  So I put that ol’ plumb-bob back in the garage with all of my plumbing tools.

Great Egret with sunfish

Great Egret with sunfish

I went out yesterday to see if I could get some usable photos.  I came across this Great Egret, (Ardea alba), and I don’t think the stars were aligning for him as I watched him for twenty minutes, trying to swallow this sunfish.  He finally gave it up, contributed to the catch-and-release program.

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Now this Mute Swan, (Cygnus olor), felt very comfortable in his element.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

As did the above Eastern Phoebe, (Sayornis phoebe).  So maybe there is something to be said about the alignment of stars being inducements.  Anyway, my thoughts on the stars are that there a heck of a lot of them.  Astronomers haven’t yet seen how far away the farthest one is, but so far they have seen nearly 400 billion light-years away.  I imagine that when they see the farthest one, they will see a plate-glass wall.  On the other side of the glass they will see a little kid with a dirty face.  He will have  lollipop in one hand, and a hammer in the other, that he is fixin’ to swing at the glass.

Well, enough of this nonsense for now.  My wife read this and clobbered me, and now I am seeing stars. 🙂

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Airport


Boy, I bet you’re curious after that title, ain’t ya?  Well, I just gotta get your attention, one way or another.

First, I have a few new images to show you.  Several birds and more, and some of them even co-operated this morning.

Red-tailed Hawk in tree

Red-tailed Hawk in tree

This Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) was across the river about 200 yards away.  I didn’t think I had a prayer of getting a usable photo, but as you can see, I was wrong.  I pulled my vehicle close to the river bank and turned off the engine.  Any small vibration can throw the focus off on long shots.  I used my 500mm lens with a 1.4 tele-converter on my Canon EOS 7d for the shot.  I steadied the set-up on my side window and made the shot.  The image was severely cropped.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

We also spotted this Ruby-crowned Kinglet, (Regulus calendula).  He was more in the open than the one that I photographed a few days ago.  Today he was in a ‘leaf-less tree’, one that lost it’s leaves for the winter.  Pretty high off of the ground, but still made a decent photograph.

Wilson's Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe

Later as we crept along a shallow area, inches from the edge, I spotted this Wilson’s Snipe, (Gallinaga delicata), laying at the edge of the water.  He sensed our presence and froze in position, thinking, and rightly so, that he was camoflaged enough to make himself invisible.  He was only about 7 inches long and was very difficult to spot.  A cute little fellow.

C-17 Globemaster III

C-17 Globemaster III

During our birding tour a fairly large bird, was making practice approaches to the nearby Mathis Field airport.  It turned out to be a C-117 Globemaster III, (Aeroplanus gigantus), one of the largest aircraft in the United State Air Force inventory.  I decided to see if I could get a meaningful photograph of it.  We decided to head to the airport to see what I could come up with.  I stationed ourselves near a ditch at the end of the runway, on Knickerbocker Road.  I wanted to get the aircraft just as it went directly overhead, just before it touched down.  Wow!!  What an experience.  In the viewfinder, it looked like it was right on me.  I stayed with it and fired off a sequence of photos.  Then I ducked!!  Of course, it was probably only 50 feet over my head, but it certainly felt closer.  I hope you like the image.  I like the way the camera exposed the clouds behind the plane and darkened the sky above.

Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet – a merry chase


Well, I won’t say that I actually chased it.  I don’t “chase” birds in the true sense of the word, as I don’t like to hassle them.  Perhaps, in this instance, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula), was actually harrassing me.  He sure was being evasive.  This was one time that I really felt I worked hard for the results that I got.

I had pulled my vehicle up close to some dense brush as I had seen movement in there.  With my binoculars I could see him flitting around and stopping for a second or two on different twigs.  At that point I was about 15 feet away from him.  After several exposures, mostly on manual focus, because the surrounding leave and twigs were making it difficult to use auto-focus, I decided to chance slowly getting out of the car and moving closer.

I moved ever so slowly and eventually I was on my knees on the ground and I was only about 7 feet away.  The end of my 100-400mm zoom lens was nearly touching the branches of the bush.  I took several shots, then backed away.  The kinglet gradually made it towards me, outside of the brush and near a wire fence.  Here are the photos in the order that I shot them.  These are just 4 out of about 60 exposures.  I hope you like them.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

As you can see, I got lucky again, being able to catch the red patch that usually is nearly invisible.  The more I practice the luckier I get. Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Birding a record-breaking day.


The weather here has been great lately, as I have mentioned before.  Ann and I got out yesterday for a few hours, and birds, along with spring, were in the air.  Our birding exploits netted us 45 species, which broke our daily record of 44  set last year.  It was hard to believe for a January day.  But when the temps get to the mid 70s, even the birds are happy.

Photographically, it was somewhat of a bust.  Oh, I got photos, but I am, as a photographer, always looking for presentable, saleable images, i.e., photos that are good enough for my Fine Art Gallery, but none of those were to be had.  However, strictly for birding bragging images, here are a few that I captured.  Click on any of them to see an enlargement.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Above, this Ladder-backed Woodpecker was enjoying himself.

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

As was this Brown Creeper.  It seems they love to work the underside of the branches.

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

This Greater Yellowlegs was feeding along the river’s edge.  Really hustling, and paying no mind to anything around him.

We also saw an American Goldfinch.  I was unable to get an image of it, as it was too quick for me.  However, I will show you one that I shot at an earlier date.  Below that is a photo of a Lesser Goldfinch, that I came across in my files during my search for the previous mentioned American.  I thought you’d be interested in the comparison.

American Goldfinch - female

American Goldfinch – female

Lesser Goldfinch - male

Lesser Goldfinch – male

For you birders that are interested in the birds that are found around this west Texas city, here is a complete list of what we saw.

  1. Northern Mockingbird
  2. Double-crested Cormorant
  3. Eastern Bluebird
  4. Western Meadowlark
  5. European Starling
  6. Oranged-crowned Warbler
  7. Killdeer
  8. Belted Kingfisher
  9. Pied-billed Grebe
  10. American Coot
  11. Northern Shoveler
  12. Bufflehead
  13. Vermilion Flycatcher
  14. House Finch
  15. Great Blue Heron
  16. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  17. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  18. Black-crested Titmouse
  19. Black-bellied Whistling Duck
  20. Mute Swan
  21. Great Egret
  22. Mallard
  23. Red-tailed Hawk
  24. American Goldfinch
  25. Great Horned Owl
  26. Northern Cardinal
  27. American Robin
  28. White-crowned Sparrow
  29. Brown Creeper
  30. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  31. Gadwall
  32. Green-winged Teal
  33. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  34. Eastern Phoebe
  35. Greater Yellowlegs
  36. Wilson’s Snipe
  37. Northern Flicker
  38. Bewick’s Wren
  39. Wild Turkey
  40. Ring-billed Gull
  41. Black Vulture
  42. Spotted Sandpiper
  43. White-winged Dove
  44. Great-tailed Grackle
  45. House Sparrow