Big Bend Rafting and other stuff…..


As you all know, the Big Bend area of Texas is far and away one of Ann’s and my favorite places to spend time.  Last week we spent four days there again.  We again stayed at the Casitas at Far Flung Outdoor Center, in Study Butte.  They are the best outfitters for the rafting, jeep tours, and other activities in the Big Bend.  Before I get into trouble, I want to emphasize that is just my own opinion.

View from porch of our cabin at Far Flung Outdoor Center.

View from porch of our cabin at Far Flung Outdoor Center.  Long lens used.

You already saw some of my images of some birds from the trip, but I also was able to get a few more landscape photos as well.  The area was as greenest as I have ever seen in the many years that we have visited.  The above photo was taken in the evening as the sun was setting from my far right.  It is a view from the porch of our Casita, albeit with a very long lens.

One photo that I left out yesterday I would like to insert here.  This man, Joseph, a park service employee, has the job of traveling around the Basin in the Chisos Mountains cleaning out the composting toilets.  The boxes on his pack horses have HUMANURE  painted on them.  A thankless but necessary job, I am sure.  I spotted him while I was scoping out some birds with my 500mm lens.  He was riding towards me about 200 yards away.

Joseph, collecting from the trail toilets.

Joseph, collecting from the trail toilets.

Here are a couple more of my favorite landscapes from our trip.

Sotol and Santiago Peak - Big Bend National Park

Sotol and Santiago Peak – Big Bend National Park

"Dawn Sun on Distant Mountain" - Big Bend National Park

“Dawn Sun on Distant Mountain” – Big Bend National Park

On Thursday morning, we decided to take a half-day rafting trip that Far Flung has as one of their scheduled activities.  We load up and head up-stream to a river put-in area called Grassy Banks.  It is about 10 miles west of Lajitas.  We launch there, then float back to Lajitas, where we are met by the Far Flung crew to load up for the trip back to Study Butte.

Tim, our guide getting the raft ready to launch.  Notice fast moving water of the Rio Grande.

Tim, our guide getting the raft ready to launch. Notice fast moving water of the Rio Grande.

Ann getting into her life jacket.

Ann getting into her life jacket.

Away we go!

Away we go!

The ride wasn’t as dangerous as some of the trips that go through the canyons, but nevertheless I had to hang on to my cameras, grab the side of the raft, and try to keep my balance.  I managed to get a few shots from the raft, though.  Even with the Image Stabilization feature of my Canon lenses, it still was difficult to keep some images in focus.

One view from the raft.

One view from the raft.

Goats high on a bluff on Mexican side of the river.

Goats high on a bluff on Mexican side of the river.

Turkey Vulture warming wings for morning flight.

Turkey Vulture warming wings for morning flight.

After the float trip, we were happy to spend the rest of the day on the porch of our canyon sipping refreshments and watching the surrounding scenery and seeing the quail, rabbits, birds that play around the cabins.  What a great time we had.  Be sure and click on the images to see some nice enlargements.

New photos of the Big Bend


Ann and I arrived home Friday afternoon after a very enjoyable to our favorite area, the Big Bend country of Texas.  We saw 55 species of birds, including a new lifer, the Crissal Thrasher.  We also took a break from birding, and took a raft trip on the Rio Grande which I will talk about in a future post.  Here are some of the bird images I manage to get.

Red-tailed Hawk - enjoying an early morning sunrise.

Peregrine Falcon – enjoying an early morning sunrise, Big Bend National Park.

Wilson's Warbler Trying to hide in the brush at Cottonwood Campground.

Wilson’s Warbler
Trying to hide in the brush at Cottonwood Campground, Big Bend National Park.

Vermilion Flycatcher - at Cottonwood Campground in Big Bend National Park

Vermilion Flycatcher – at Cottonwood Campground in Big Bend National Park.

Greater Roadrunner - on fence post near Marathon, Texas.

Greater Roadrunner – on fence post near Marathon, Texas.

Loggerhead Shrike - on ocotillo plant, Big Bend National Park.

Loggerhead Shrike – on ocotillo plant, Big Bend National Park.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - female- at Far Flung Outdoor Center, Study Butte, Texas.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – female- at Far Flung Outdoor Center, Study Butte, Texas.

Cactus Wren - at Far Flung Outdoor Center, Study Butte, Texas.

Cactus Wren – at Far Flung Outdoor Center, Study Butte, Texas.

Cactus Wren on Prickly Pear cactus, Far Flung Outdoor Center, Study Butte, Texas.

Cactus Wren on Prickly Pear cactus, Far Flung Outdoor Center, Study Butte, Texas.

I hope you enjoyed the photos as much as I enjoyed obtainng them.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.  More photos coming in future posts.

Eastern Bluebird – Canon 70D test


I went out this morning to do a bit of birding and of course, some bird photography.  The bird action is picking up with the fall migration beginning.  But nothing to do with the migration, was when I spotted this Easter Bluebird perched in a tree.  It turned out to be a good test for my new Canon EOS 70D.  I took several exposures in the somewhat difficult light.  The bird was backlit from the right and was in heavy shade for the most part.  I was shooting with a Canon 100-400mm lens.   Here are before and after images.  The first was the original, untouched image straight from the camera.  The second is cropped with minor light, color, and sharpening adjustments.  With the large 20MP file, I found that I could crop tight and lose very little quality.

Original

Original

Cropped and retouched

Cropped and retouched

I would say that I am going to be very happy with my new investment.  Click on either image to see an enlargement.

Migration is getting closer…..


I have been getting out and watching around for the fall arrivals.  Not too successful but did see the first Spotted Towhee of the fall out at San Angelo State Park.  We drove to Middle Concho Park and spotted two Pied-billed Grebes and a large flock of Black-crowned Night Herons.  I did not get any usuable photos of these because of the distance involved, so I will show you the two below from previous posts.  But it is a sign that migration is getting under way, albeit very late.

adult Black-crowned Night Heron

adult Black-crowned Night Heron – published in a previous post.

Spotted Towhee with an attitude.

Spotted Towhee with an attitude.  Published in a previous post.

Here are a few photographs I managed to get the past few days.

Common Nighthawk on mesquite brance at San Angelo State Park.

Common Nighthawk on mesquite branch at San Angelo State Park.

Northern Cardinal, female

Northern Cardinal, female

Yellow-crowned Nigh Heron at nearby K-Mart creek.

Yellow-crowned Nigh Heron at nearby K-Mart creek.

We can’t forget our four-footed friends.

White-tailed Deer at Spring Creek Park.

White-tailed Deer at Spring Creek Park.

Enjoy the pics until I get back with some more.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

Brown Pelican with captions.


I went back out on Saturday afternoon to see if the Brown Pelican was still at Middle Concho Park.  He was, still sitting on the same buoy.  He had been seen earlier flying nearby, but this must be his favorite perch.  The lighting was still not very good.  Even though it was later in the day, with no clouds and a bright sun, the conditions were less than perfect.  Such is the way of a professional wildlife photographer.  We have to dance with the lady we brought.  Try to make lemonade from the lemons.

The pelican wasn’t very active.  Mostly perched, and occasionally preened and posed for me in various positions.  Here is how I in interpreted those poses.

"Do you like this side profile?"

“Do you like this side profile?”

"Betcha you can't do this."

“Betcha you can’t do this.”

"Hmmm.....what have we here?"

“Hmmm…..what have we here?”

"How about a head and shoulders for my presidential library?"

“How about a head and shoulders for my presidential library?”

I hope you enjoyed these photos, and my captions.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Brown Pelican: Rare San Angelo visitor


I was busy in my office this morning when I got a call from our birder friend, Sue Oliver.  She was at Middle Concho Park and had just seen a Brown Pelican sitting on a buoy in the water.  I grabbed my hat, my wife, my cameras, not necessarily in that order, and jumped in the car.  The Brown Pelican is a rare visitor to the San Angelo area.  The last time I had seen one was about five years ago and that was about forty miles south in Eldorado, Texas.

Anyway, about ten minutes later we were at the park, and sure enough, the pelican was sitting on the same buoy that Sue had described.  It was in no hurry to leave, so I was able to get several images over the course of about thirty minutes.  By that time, I had decided that it was going to be there for quite some time, so we headed home.  The sun was very harsh, and glaring.  Sometimes clear blue skies do not work for good photos.

You can tell in the photos the trouble I was having with the exposure, the pelican was pretty much back-lit, but I wasn’t going let that stop me.  I didn’t know how long the bird would be hanging around.  It could leave any minute to fly back to the Gulf coast where it belongs, about 450 miles away.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

I may go back this evening as the clouds are beginning to build up and I may have better lighting.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Waiting for the Migration


Well, it soon should be upon us.  The fall migration of the birds that always head this way southward.  Reports from the far north say that some are leaving there, so I have been scanning the skies, figuratively speaking, of course.

Ann and I drove out to Spring Creek Park this morning to see if there was any fresh arrivals.  None so far.  There was a bit more activity with the present residents and we counted twenty-two different species, however not too many photo opportunities.  There were a couple of Red-tailed Hawk flyovers to get us excited.  Then we happened upon this juvenile Green Heron.

Actually, we had stopped near the water and were just watching, when it flew at us and landed in a nearby mesquite tree.  I was thrilled to see that it was in the open and facing us, with no tree branches in our line of vision.  I did have to carefully maneuver the car a bit to give me an angle that I could put my Canon 7D and 500mm lens on my window sill.

Green Heron - juvenile

Green Heron – juvenile

Green Heron- juvenile

Green Heron- juvenile

It sat there for several minutes, posing for me.  Then as you can see in the second photo that something got it’s attention in the grasses below.

Green Heron - juvenile

Green Heron – juvenile

He hopped to the ground and headed for the weeds along the shore.  I rattled off a series of shots as he went.  I liked this above image, even if I did nearly clip off his tail feathers.  I hope you enjoy the photos. Click on any of them to see an enlargement.

Pictures from new Canon 70D


I have been trying out my new Canon EOS 70D.  I just took it out of the box the day before yesterday.  I have been eagerly going over the changes and improvements.

It has some noticeably improvements over my 7D.  Larger LED screen, 20MP, faster, I think, auto focus.  Also Wi-fi capabilities if I can get it hooked up.  Let’s see, also touch-screen is an option.  I think the menu is easier to navigate.  It uses that tiny memory card instead of the larger compact flash card.  That might be hard to get used to.  After I use it more, I can give a better appraisal.

Here are a couple of images that I took the past couple of days.  This first is a Common Blackhawk, or Zone-tailed Hawk.  It is hard to tell which it is.  Opinions on that are welcome.  Anyway, I used Shutter Priority, and auto everything else and the exposure was nailed, since it is usually difficult to get good images of solid black birds.  Photographed at Spring Creek Park in San Angelo, Texas.

Common Blackhawk or Zone-tailed Hawk

Common Blackhawk or Zone-tailed Hawk

The Golden-fronted Woodpecker pictured below, also on Shutter Priority, was shot at San Angelo State Park this morning.  The lighting there is usually not very great, but the camera done a pretty good job.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Along with the 70D, I was using a Canon 100-400mm lens. Click on either photo to see an enlargement.

Some Labor Day images


Labor Day.  You certainly won’t catch me doing much laboring.  Even though I was aware that there may be too many people doing their outdoor things, Ann and I decided to go to San Angelo State Park to visit the bird blind, AKA the Wildlife Viewing Center.  After stopping there, we did a little drive-around through the park.  There still aren’t too many birds, but we managed to see a few or the regulars.  Here are three nice photographs that I stumbled into getting.  First up was this little juvenile Northern Cardinal that I captured at the blind.

Northern Cardinal juvenile

Northern Cardinal
juvenile

When we took the little drive around the park I managed to get these images.

Bobwhite in tree

Bobwhite in tree

I love those Bobwhites.  Along the way, we saw another covey of them, about twelve, but they scurried into the underbrush before I could even get my camera ready.

We witnessed several nighthawks in the air when we previously entered the park.  Driving around, we saw two perched on mesquite tree branches.  Here is the best of the two.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

Migration is only a few weeks away, so soon I might have some more photographs for you.  We are planning another birding trip to the Big Bend later this month, and my new Canon 70D is supposed to arrive today.  So exciting things are looking up.