Yellow-breasted Sapsucker


Another of the woodpecker species, is the Yellow-breasted Sapsucker.  Often mistaken for a woodpecker, it and the Red-naped Sapsucker are not too frequent visitors here.  Our local bird guides list them as “uncommon, not present every year”.

It is always nice to be able to photograph one close up, as I did this morning at Spring Creek Park.  We saw it moving among the trees, so I drove my car among the trees.  I was only about ten feet away to photograph this one.  It has a red crown, and a bit of red on the neck below the beak.  Forget the yellow belly.  This specimen was a bit ratty looking, it’s plumage dirty, and the reds not very vivid.  It probably hadn’t cleaned up yet from the recent rains.

Yelllow-bellied Sapsucker

Yelllow-bellied Sapsucker

In contrast, here is an older picture of a Red-naped Sapsucker.  Notice the red nape and the red crown.

Red-naped Sapsucker

Red-naped Sapsucker

While were out we encountered this Double-crested Cormorant trying to swallow his Happy Meal™.

Double-crested Cormorant with fish.

Double-crested Cormorant with fish.

Why not end the day with another photo of one of my favorites, the Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Enjoy the pictures and click on either of them to see an enlargement.

Caution- Birding can be addictive……


A couple of years ago, I wrote a post on the hazards of getting addicted to birding.  You will enjoy this post more if you click here to read it first.  I think you will enjoy both.

Since then, I still have not kicked the habit.  In fact, it may have gotten worse.  I bore my friends with information when I spot a new bird.  I carry three bird guides in the car and Ann keeps her daily journal there, too.  My cameras are always at the ready, carefully stowed in the back seat, because I am also a fanatic about photographing every bird I can.

Lewis' Woodpecker Very rare here.  Got a phone call, hurried to find the bird.  It was gone the next day.

Lewis’ Woodpecker
Very rare here. Got a phone call, hurried to find the bird. Found it in local park.  It was gone the next day.

We drive through local parks, down isolated highways, crawl through weeds, with my camera on my back, always looking at trees, power lines, and utility poles.  We spot a stray leaf on a dead tree, and exclaim, “There’s a bird!”, then take a closer look with our binoculars, only to be disappointed.

Acorn Woodpecker 320 miles away for this shot.

Acorn Woodpecker
320 miles away for this shot.

I think my phone number must be on some peoples’ speed dial, because I get calls informing me that there is an unusual bird somewhere.  We jump in the car and head off, with our hearts pounding, wondering what will we get to see.  Will it be a rare bird, or just an ordinary sparrow.  The fun is in the hunt.

Ruddy Ground Dove Very rare here, drove only 20 miles after getting a phone call about it.

Ruddy Ground Dove
Very rare here, drove only 20 miles after getting a phone call about it.

For the shot of the Ruddy Ground Dove, I got a call from a friend of mine.  It had been seen at nearby Dove Creek.  For some reason, it had joined a bunch of Inca Doves and running with them.

Hermit Thrush This is the first one I ever saw at Eldorado, Texas.

Hermit Thrush
This is the first one I ever saw at Eldorado, Texas.

We were invited to my dear friend Shannon’s place near Houston.  It was a bonanza of birds there.  I saw my first Pileated Woodpecker and White-tailed Hawk there.  Also photographed some birds that I could never see around here in San Angelo, Texas, such as the White Ibis.

White-faced Ibises - 400 miles away near Houston, Texas

White Ibises – 400 miles away near Houston, Texas.  Nearly fell in the creek there.

Our friends, the Johnsons, called us a couple of years ago about a Brown Pelican at the water treatment ponds down at Eldorado, Texas, about 40 miles south of here..  It is normally indigenous to the Texas gulf coast, but got off course and ended up there.  We were on the way to eat dinner, if I remember correctly, but we turned the car around and headed south.

Brown Pelican rare to local area.

Brown Pelican
rare to local area.

As I said, birding can be hazardous to your health.  I am looking for a bumper sticker that says, “I Brake for Birds”.   I also stop in the middle of highways, make U-turns, and drive across open pastures.

For all of that, my life list is climbing.  Not very fast, as I have only been addicted for four years, but it is up to 261, if you are interested.

As for a cure for my addiction?  My doctor said to “take two pictures and call me in the morning”.

Yellow-rumped Warbler and more….


Today it was very cloudy, but warm and windy at about 77 degrees.  But it is more or less the calm before the storm.   Tomorrow it is supposed to be only 42°, then on Saturday even lower at 32°.  Those are predicted highs.

But enough about the weather.  I went out this Thursday morning to see if there were any birds around.  Not very many, we found out.  We did see a few at Spring Creek Park;  Western Bluebirds, House Finches, American Goldfinch to name a few.  Also the Ladder-backed Woodpecker of video stardom in my previous blog was still there.  I wonder if he is planning a nest at that location.

Here a couple of shots of a Yellow-rumped Warbler that I obtained.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

An Eastern Phoebe made an appearance, too.  Something familiar about that tree branch.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Meanwhile this squirrel watched all of the proceedings from above.

Squirrel

Squirrel

I hope you enjoyed this post and my photographs.  More to come in a few days, I hope.  Maybe that cold front will finally bring in some more of the birds that we have been missing.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

By the way, my book would make excellent Christmas gifts for that birder in your family.  Click on “Birds, Beasts and Buttes” on the right side of this page to get preview and order if you like.  For autographed copies, contact me at bobzeller@pobox.com.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker Video 2


First and foremost, I need to give credit to my dear friend, Shannon.  She generously took up some of her valuable time to tutor me, and walk me through the process of uploading and embedding videos.  I would say she done a fine job.

After publishing that “test” run in my last post, I thought I would go out and try for some more.  My target was to get a video of a Great Blue Heron grazing along the water.  Alas, none were to be seen.  But lo and behold, I came across the same Ladder-backed Woodpecker, pecking the same hole in the same tree as my previous post.  I took the opportunity to try to improve on that.

I again used my new Canon EOS 70D with a 100-400mm lens.  I was in my vehicle, parked about 15 feet away.  The bird was oblivious to me, since I was hidden in the car.  The camera worked perfectly as advertised, the auto-focus stayed on track, and the exposure seemed to be right on the money.

Here is the result:

This video is best viewed from my blog, rather than from this e-mail.

Short Woodpecker video


When Ann and I were out getting photos for that last post, I came up on a Ladder-backed Woodpecker, hanging beneath a branch pecking away.  I decided to punch the video button on the camera and record it.  Since this is my first attempt at embedding a video in a post, I need you to check it out and see if you can view it properly.

Here it is.  It may not be great, but it is all mine.

For best view, watch it on my blog proper, not from this e-mail.

A Hawk, a Woodpecker and an Owl


Friday we decided to make the rounds of some our favorite local spots again.   We saw around 30 species so the birding is getting back to normal, despite not having many duck species yet.  I did get some nice photos that I will post here for your enjoyment.

The Red-tailed Hawk was very co-0perative, probably had just eaten so he posed readily for me about 30 feet off the ground.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

This Ladder-backed Woodpecker, actually was hanging beneathe limb, but I decided to rotate it for better viewing.  It still looks very natural.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

This photo below is a young Great Horned Owl.  I was surprised that he was so wide awake and alert.  He was definitely staring me down.  Love those eyes.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

On another note, we heard that there was a Sora, a water bird, in a pond at San Angelo State Park.  We had been told that if we couldn’t see it in the reeds, we should clap our hands and it would answer.  So we decided to give it a shot and drove out there.  We didn’t see the bird, but decided to try the clapping thing.  Sure enough on about the third attempt, this loud clapping came from the reeds.  It was very unmistakable.  Here is a photo of a Sora that I took a couple of years ago at Big Bend National Park.

Sora

Sora

Click on any photo to see an enlargement.

It’s a Vermilion Flycatcher!!


It was about five years ago that I got into birding.  It was a by-product of photographing colorful birds.  Up until that time, I was really unaware of the beauty of those avian creatures.  In my mind, there were about four species of birds: i.e. ducks, pigeons, sparrows and hawks.  Then I found that there about 780 species in the United States alone.  Mind boggling.

Then after I got hooked, I had dreams of seeing certain birds that I had never seen before.  One bird that I longed to see was the Vermilion Flycatcher.  I had seen pictures, but never  a live one.  Friends that knew better would say, “Bob, they are out there, you just have to look closer”.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Then one day, I was startled to finally spot one.  I said, “so that’s what they look like”.  I watched it perch on a branch, suddenly fly down to snatch a bug of some type, then hurriedly fly back to it’s perch.  Now that I had finally seen one, it became easier after that.  So the point I am trying to make is that it is all in knowing how and what to look for.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

The same for Nighthawks.  Never had seen one until one day birding, a friend pointed it out as it was sitting on a tree limb.  Even then I didn’t see what she was seeing as all I saw at first, was the proverbial bump on a log.  The all of a sudden it seemed to materialize in front of me.  I had been looking at it bit didn’t know what I was seeing.  Now it is my turn to impress people by spotting them when they can’t.

Learning birds by learning their habits and behavior can be a huge help.  Ann can even identify birds by their sounds.  I hear a lot of obvious ones, but I am not becoming very proficient at it.  I am getting better at visually identifying birds in flight.  They all have different moves and also you can see different field marks that you may not see when they are perched or on the ground.  Case in point, the American White Pelican, when in or on the water appears to be all white.  But in the air, they show they beautiful wings that have contrasting black markings.

American White Pelican

American White Pelican

American White Pelican in flight.

American White Pelican in flight.

And then you have the Wilson’s Snipe.  It is really invisible.  It loves the marshy grasses around ponds, and I have actually stared one in the eye, and didn’t see him for what it was.  This one is a little bit more visible.

Wilson's Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe

So as you can see it is good to pay attention to all of the field marks, habits, and how they look and act in flight.

Now I have to study up on the behavior of those darned Clay Pigeons.  They zip through the air, but disappear so quickly that I don’t get a good look.

Happy Birding!!  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Fun birding with Bob and Ann – Chapter 2


If you haven’t read chapter one, click here.  Of course, it isn’t titled chapter one, because when I wrote it I didn’t know that someday there would be a chapter two.  Frankly, I don’t know where this post will lead until I start typing, AKA writing.  It may be a bunch of nonsense.  I do that on occasion, you know.

Anyway, we went out today to do a bit of birding, planning on hitting all of our usual haunts where we ususally find something to write about.  We stopped first at Twin Buttes reservoir, and would you know there were a few birds, but no water.  Yes, I will repeat, no water.  No wonder there were few birds.  We are in an extreme drought, so we are waiting patiently for some heavy rains.

Next we drove by the parks at Lake Nasworthy, namely Middle Concho Park, and Spring Creek Park.  Still plenty of water there, but the levels are dropping a little.  That is because Lake Nasworthy gets it water from the Twin Buttes Reservoir.  We did see several small birds, the usual ones that hang around, and four Red-tailed Hawks.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

When we go birding, (and photographing birds), Ann keeps a journal of what we see, like the one of little Angie’s that was pictured in my previous post.  Normally this time of year we can see about 30-35 species at a time.  Today I think we managed only about 25 today.   Something about the migration being off schedule, or they are passing by here and looking for more favorable places to spend the winter.  Today we saw, besides the four Red-tailed Hawks, some Eastern Bluebirds, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ladder-backed and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers and several species of sparrows, etc.

As we passed the gun club, we saw some Claybirds flying, but I imagine they were spooked by the gunfire there.  I told Ann we shouldn’t put them on the list.  They are hard to photograph in flight, too.

Oh, yes, I forgot to mention, we saw the first Ring-billed Gulls of the winter season.  Soon the little beach at Mary Lee Park will be overrun with them.  But we can also hope that sometimes there will be a Tern of some type, mixed in with them.

Well tomorow it is supposed to get really cold, a high of 47 is forcast, (but what do they know) so we’ll probably hang out at home.  Freeze for tomorrow night, too.  The change may bring in some of the winter ducks and other water fowl that we are used to.

Well, I am going to get out my winter jammies.  Stay warm, you guys.

Birding is for young and old…


I am dedicating this post to our new little birding friends, Angie, age 9 and Scottie, age 10.  They go out into their neighborhood and count species, logging them into a little journal.

Angie's journal

Angie’s journal

I think Ann and I had a bit of influence on them.  Yesterday they counted 23 different species.  A couple of naturalists in the making.  Shannon, their mother took the above photo and sent it to me.

Today Ann and I went out, the first time in about a week.  At first, we didn’t see very many species but as we stayed patient we started to see a few here and there and ended up spotting a total of 26.  This Golden-fronted Woodpecker was one of the first we saw.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Then came along a Black-crested Titmouse.

Black-crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

This gorgeous, Great Horned Owl stared me down.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

A Red-tailed Hawk hunted from the top of a tree.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

It finally got restless and decided to leave for different hunting grounds.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Just getting these photos made the whole trip worth while.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

Monday Morning Raptors


Where are all of the little birds?  A nice chilly morning gave Ann and I the idea to go birding around the local parks.  For some unknown reason it seemed that all of the birds had disappeared.  Maybe they know something we don’t know.  Anyway, we first made a stop at San Angelo State Park bird blind.  We saw doves, sparrows, and then to our surprise did appear a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  It zipped in, perched on an old oil drum at the back of the property for about ten seconds, then zipped off again.  During that ten seconds I was able to rip off about three exposures.  Luck was with me and I got this excellent pose.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

We then made our way out towards the parks around Lake Nasworthy.  A mile or two before the entrance to Middle Concho Park, we saw this Osprey perched on a mesquite branch over a small wetland.

Osprey

Osprey

In the park proper, we saw a juvenile (I think) Red-tailed Hawk just sitting pretty on another tree branch.  I wheeled our car into position and got a nice portrait that you see here.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

All in all, not a bad haul photographically, but a bad day for birding.  Again, where have all the birds gone?