(This is a re-run of a post that I published back in about January of 2009, about five years ago. The present weather here has prevented me from getting out and getting fresh materiel.)
It was a wet, but welcome, rainy weekend, so Ann and I stayed in for the most part. Watched TV, etc, the usual weekend sitting around stuff.However, we eat breakfast out pretty regularly, so we did notice something of interest. For the past several mornings we have seen, at the intersection of Johnson St., and Sherwood Way, a Common Nighthawk sitting on a utility line. We have been seeing it at about 7:00AM each morning.
They are easy to recognize because of their profile. They don’t sit or perch like a normal bird, but rest parallel to the branch. Ann and I saw our first nighthawk a couple of years ago, after Terry Richmond talked us into birding with her monthly group at San Angelo State Park. When she first pointed it out, I had a hard time seeing it, simply because I didn’t know what I was looking at. Now when we make trips to the park, we always watch for those long, level tree branches where they like to sit. The image pictured above, is one that I photographed there.
During the hot summer, we also found one on the ground, out near the Prairie Dog village. I was walking around looking carefully, because I had been told that one had been seen in the area. Because they have that camo pattern, I nearly stepped on it. I carefully stepped away and was fortunate to get several close-up photographs. It appeared to be almost asleep and I do not know if it was on an egg. After getting my images I left it in peace.
For you photographers out there, my favorite combination for shooting such photos is a Canon 40D. I own two. I use a Canon 100-400mm L series tele lens most of the time. It is more portable, and of course with the zoom, it is ideal for composing the shot. I can use it from the mini-van easily. I also use a Canon 500mm f4 L series super telephoto, and most of the time with a 1.4x converter attached. Difficult to hand-hold but I have done it when needed. But I get best results with it if I have time to set-up a tripod. I use a Manfrotto-Bogen tripod and a Wimberly II gimbel head.
Having told you that, I must describe an experience of trying to photograph an American Kestrel. We were cruising slowly through the San Angelo State Park. We spotted this Kestrel in the top of a tree. I slowed to a stop and tried to get a shot, but before I could get it in focus it flew off. Now that rascal must have known what I was after, because he kept teasing me. He would let me stop the van, just long enough for me to raise the camera, then he gleefully would take off again. Finally, after an exhausting “chase”, I finally decided I had better try to get a shot from a longer distance. I put the “beast” (my 500mm lens) on the camera, then attached a 1.4x converter. That gave me an extra 200mm of focal length. Not much, but it was enough. I maneuvered the van into position and managed to hand-hold the camera long enough through the window. I came away with an awesome image of the American Kestrel, on a branch, showing off with all of his colorful tail feathers spread out.
Again, thanks to all who have commented on my posts. It’s good to know that people are reading my “stuff”. And, by the way, most of my writing is of course, about the local area. I know that a lot of my readers are from other far-flung places, so I welcome you here and hope to hear from you.
Happy Birding!! Click on any image to see an enlargement.