Red-tailed Hawk – off and flying

A couple of days ago while doing a bit of birding at Middle Concho Park, I happened to look across the river, about 200 yards away, and saw this Red-tailed Hawk perched on a tree branch.  I thought to myself, here is a good chance to see what my new Tamron 150-600mm lens could do.  I pulled my vehicle around to my side of the river bank, so I could photograph from the driver’s side window.  I came up with this series of images of this stunning raptor.  All photos hand-held.

Red-tailed Hawk on tree branch.

Red-tailed Hawk on tree branch.

He suddenly stands up, opend his wings  and decides it is time to fly.......

He suddenly stands up, opend his wings and decides it is time to fly…….

...and away he goes.....

…and away he goes…..

....and goes........

….and goes……..

.....and goes.....

…..and goes…..

.......and goes......

…….and goes……

...and eventually heads for another tree out of sight.

…and eventually heads for another tree out of sight.

Except for the first image, all others have been cropped to present close-ups of the hawk.  Click on any of them to see some beautiful enlargements.  Of course, all images are for sale.  Just contact me.

My Big Year update:

#112.  Common Yellow Throat

#113.  Marsh Wren

No place like home……

After having a great time birding at South Llano State Park, we decided to stay home in San Angelo and see if we could have another sucessful day.  We did, counting 41 species and getting some nice photographs.  It was another gorgeous day weather-wise, windy early but beautiful later on.  Here are some highlights of that excursion.

Hooded Merganser - female

Hooded Merganser – female

Hooded Merganser - male

Hooded Merganser – male

These Hooded Mergansers were gliding along nearly side by side.  I was lucky to be able to get these close-ups, thanks to my Tamron 150-600mm lens.  All of the images in this post were taken with that particular lens, attached to my Canon EOS 70D.

Dark-eyed Jumco - slate-colored

Dark-eyed Jumco – slate-colored

The Junco was the first we had seen here in the past two years.  They are not present all the time.

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

I cute little sparrow with the distinctive white bars on the crown.

Wilson's Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe

The Wilson’s Snipe was all alone, just doing his thing, looking for food along the opposite bank of the river.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

Another bird that I have been missing seeing is the Carolina Wren.  They pretty much stay hidden, like this one that is trying to stay out of sight.

American White Pelicans

American White Pelicans

I was able to practice getting birds in flight with this image of the two American White Pelicans.

After another sucessful day we headed home where I started to post-process all these, and more, images.  We added two more birds to our Big Year List.  The Dark-eyed Junco and the Carolina Wren.  Total is now 111.

Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Birding South Llano River State Park

Wanting to do some birding at a different venue for a change, Ann and I, along with Carl Williams, our neighbor, headed south to Junction, Texas and the South Llano River State Park.  About ninety miles from here, it took about an hour and a half to get there.  The weather was beautiful for us.  Mild temps and high thin overcast to diffuse the sun, and prevent those nasty harsh, contrasty shadows that us photographers dislike.

We knew that we would see some birds that we don’t usually see here in at the areas we frequent.  We were not disappointed.  SLRSP has four different walk-in bird blinds.  They are small buildings, with windows, and will seat up to a dozen people.  We checked out all four, and although a park host told us that there were few birds, we saw thirty one species.  All in a time frame of just over three hours.

I left my big 500mm lens home, opting to use exclusively my new Tamron 150-600mm lens.  Again, I was impressed.  I set the camera to Aperture Priority, using an opening of f7.1, and auto everything else.  My Canon EOS 70D performed it’s job as advertised.  I had nearly no bad exposures at all.  Also, I took most of my images with the lens extended to the 600mm maximum.  Here are some my efforts.  All images have been edited and cropped for composition

Western Scrub Jay

Western Scrub Jay

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebird

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

American Robin

American Robin

Pine Sisken

Pine Siskin

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Enjoy the images and click on any of them to see enlargements.

Update to my Big Year list.  Total now 109.

#97.   Cedar Waxwing

#98.   Vesper Sparrow

#100.  Black-throated Sparrow

#101.  Song Sparrow

#102.  Hermit Thrush

#103.  Western Scrub Jay

#104.  Carolina Chickadee

#105.  Fox Sparrow

#106.  Pine Siskin

#107.  Brown Thrasher

#108.  Field Sparrow

#109.  Lincoln’s Sparrow

More on Tamron 150-600mm zoom lens

I have been using this Tamron 150-600mm zoom lens for about four days now and I am getting more used to it.  Again, try as I might, I can’t find anything to dislike about it.  I have noticed on some forums that a couple of users had trouble panning and keeping flying birds in focus.  As you can see from a couple of pictures of the Ring-billed Gull, that there is no problem.  At least with my setup.  Perhaps it is the fault of those owners’ cameras.

Another thing that zoom purchasers fear, including myself, that there is considerable fall-off when zoomed to the extreme end of the lens.  So far, I have taken several images when zoomed out the full extent and I have found no noticeable deterioration of the quality.  Here are several photographs that I took today, just driving through a local park.  They have been edited and cropped as I do normally.  They were all hand-held, from the driver’s side of my car.

American White Pelican

American White Pelican – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 200

Easy work here with the Pelican.  About only fifty feet away, placidly floating on the calm waters, just inviting me to photograph him.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 2000

The little Kinglet gave me the most problem.  It never stayed in one place longer than two seconds.  I was about twenty feet away and he was moving constantly in the brush.  In this image, I really never got it in super good focus, but I loved the pose anyway.

North American Cardinal

North American Cardinal – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 500

No problem with focus here with the Cardinal, but harsh shadows came into play that I had to work with during editing.

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper – 1/1250 sec.  @ f6.3, ISO 200

For this Sandpiper, I did get out of the car.  He was moving along the shoreline pretty fast and I didn’t want to collide with a tree.  I was more interested in getting a useful image to use for identification, than I was for esthetic purpose.  Trying to ID Sandpipers usually drive me up the wall, as they are all so similar.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull – 1/1250 @ f6.3, ISO 200

Photographing this Gull was the most fun.  There were several.  In fact, these images were probably two different individuals.  I parked along the bank of the river, and just used my camera out the driver’s side window.  As they flew by, I just acquired the bird in the lens and held the shutter button down.  By the way, I had never photographed a gull before.

Enjoy the photos, because I had a heck of a good time getting them.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

Tamron 150-600mm lens review

I ordered this new lens by Tamron back on January 15.  Because of a backlog I finally got it yesterday, Feb 12.  Since it arrived early in the morning, I had time to get it out of the box and head out to try it out.  Basically, I was mostly curious about how it would act at the extreme 600mm.  Most zooms seem to lack quality when racked out at the long end.

I was extremely satisfied with the lens.  First of all, it is only about half the weight of my Canon 500mm prime lens, and I feel that the sharpness compares to that lens.  Not bad since it is about 6,000.00 cheaper.  Also, compared to my 100-400mm zoom, it about the same weight, although I have not weighed it.  With the lens hood, it is about 3 inches longer than the 100-400mm.

The following photo were all hand-held.  As I stated, I was shooting mostly at the extreme 600mm length.

Gadwall - from camera

Northern Shoveler female – orig

Gadwall- cropped and edited

Northern Shoveler female – cropped and edited

Female Northern Shoveler.  Exposure 1/3200 sec. @ f6.3.  Distance about 70 feet, zoomed to 600mm.  Hand-held.

Killdeer - from camera

Killdeer – orig

Killdeer - cropped and edited

Killdeer – cropped and edited

Killdeer.  Exposure:  1/2500 sec. @ f9.  Distance about 45 feet.  Zoomed to 550mm.  Hand-held.

Northern Shoveler - from camera

Northern Shoveler – orig

Northern Shoveler - cropped and edited

Northern Shoveler – cropped and edited

Male Northern Shoveler.  Exposure:  1/2500 sec. @ f7.1.  Distance about 70 feet.  Zoomed to 600mm.  Hand-held.

Osprey - from camera

Osprey – orig

Osprey - cropped and edited

Osprey – cropped and edited

This Osprey was across the river and high in a tree.  I estimated the distance to be about 500 feet.  Exposure:  1/2500 sec. @ f6.3.  Zoomed to 600mm.  Hand-held.

Great Blue Heron - orig

Great Blue Heron – orig

Great Blue Heron - cropped and edited

Great Blue Heron – cropped and edited

Great Blue Heron was across the river near the bank, estimated distance 400 feet.  Exposure:  1/2500 sec. @ f9.  Zoomed to 480mm.  Hand-held.

Eastern Bluebird - orig

Eastern Bluebird – orig

Eastern Bluebird - cropped and edited

Eastern Bluebird – cropped and edited

The Eastern Bluebird was in a tree about 70 feet away.  Exposure was 1/2500 sec. @ f10.  Zoomed to 425mm.  Hand-held.

Yellow-rumped Warbler - original

Yellow-rumped Warbler – original

Yellow-rumped Warbler - cropped and edited

Yellow-rumped Warbler – cropped and edited

Yellow-rumped Warbler.  Distance to subject was about 70 feet.  Exposure:  1/2500 sec. @ f9.  Zoomed to 425mm.  Hand-held.

American Robin - original

American Robin – original

American Robin - cropped and edited.

American Robin – cropped and edited.

The Robin was only about 50 feet away I think.  Exposure was 1/2500 sec. @ f6.3.  Zoomed to 550mm.  Hand -held.

Not all photos were zoomed to the 600mm length, as I sometimes think more about the composition when I look through the view-finder, so I really forgot to check the zoom length.

My own conclusion is that I intend to use this lens instead of my Canon 500mm f4 lens.  It was easy to hand-hold it and the auto-focus is as fast.  The VC (vibration control) is as efficient as the IS (image stablization) in the Canon lens.  As far as the sharpness in the images, I can see no noticeable differences in it and my more expensive L series lenses.  I love the lighter weight, too.

Big Year update:

#94  Brown Creeper

#95   Clay-colored Sparrow

#96   American Robin

Best Birding ‘Big Day’

Birders often try to have a Big Year, where they try to see how many different species of birds they can observe in one year.  Some may try for one month.  Ann and I are always trying to see how many we might see in one day.  Our previous record was 44.  Today, Sunday February 9, we saw a new record of 48.  We were gone from the house for about four hours and a half.  However we only added one more to our on-going list of our Big Year.  It now stands at 94 after adding a Brown Creeper today.

It was great fun, as I also got some nice photos, which some days I fail to do.  We saw a Verdin again, and I finally got it in my viewfinder, as well as a nice shot of a Western Bluebird.  Heck, why don’t I just show you a few highlights.

Verdin - at feeder at San Angelo State Park.

Verdin – at feeder at San Angelo State Park.

We decided to make a stop at San Angelo State Park.  There we saw the above pictured Verdin.  This is the first time I have ever seen one at a feeder, as usually they are timid and keep pretty much to themselves.

Western Bluebird - showing off it's beautiful plumage.

Western Bluebird – showing off it’s beautiful plumage.

The Western Bluebird was scratching in the grass, and I guess I disturbed it and I caught her (it is a female), beautiful plumage as she tried to fly.

Great Egret - triumphant with his catch.

Great Egret – triumphant with his catch.

When this Great Egret caught this fish, I thought he was going to come out of his shoes, so to speak.  You can see that his feet left the water.  I love these beautiful birds.

Killdeer -  he was doing a bit of feeding, too.

Killdeer – he was doing a bit of feeding, too.

Red-tailed Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk.

High above it all, atop a dead tree, was this Red-tailed Hawk.

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

As for the Brown Creeper, I was unable to get a clear shot of it today, so I will show you the above shot that I got of it a couple of years ago.

Click an any image to see an enlargement.  Also if you are interested in seeing a complete list of what we saw today, here it is:

  1. Northern Mockingbird
  2. House Sparrow
  3. White-winged Dove
  4. Blue Jay
  5. Gadwall
  6. Bufflehead
  7. Northern Shoveler
  8. Northern Cardinal
  9. Western Meadowlark
  10. Great-tailed Grackle
  11. Great Blue Heron
  12. American Coot
  13. Ring-billed Duck
  14. Great Egret
  15. Osprey
  16. Double-crested Cormorant
  17. Mallard
  18. Green-winged Teal
  19. Cinnamon Teal
  20. Killdeer
  21. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  22. Brown Creeper
  23. American Pelican
  24. Belted Kingfisher
  25. Red-tailed Hawk
  26. Northern Harrier
  27. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  28. Greater Yellowlegs
  29. European Starling
  30. Black Vulture
  31. Northern Flicker
  32. Wilson’s Snipe
  33. Mute Swan
  34. House Finch
  35. Black-crested Titmouse
  36. Verdin
  37. Pyrrhuloxia
  38. Curve-billed Thrasher
  39. Canyon Towhee
  40. White-crowned Sparrow
  41. Chipping Sparrow
  42. Red-winged Blackbird
  43. Ringed-neck Duck
  44. American Wigeon
  45. Pied-billed Grebe
  46. Western Bluebird
  47. Eastern Bluebird
  48. Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Birding days are here again……

Finally after several days of chilly, undesirable weather, today was a great one.  After a great breakfast with friends, and with Ann getting the grocery shopping done, we were off to the local parks to see what we have been missing for the past week.

We were not disappointed.  From the birding aspect, we saw some 40 species.  We added three to our “Big Year” list, getting up to a new total of 93.  As you know, our 2014 goal is 210.  Will we make it, only time will tell.  It really doesn’t matter, as the fun is in the hunt.

We got a message from another friend that said there was an American White Pelican in the Middle Concho River.  We saw actually about a dozen of them near the spillway at the Twin Buttes dam.  I got several good photos of them.

Northern Pelican

American White Pelican

American Pelicans being photo-bombed by a Ringed-bill Gull.

American White Pelicans being photo-bombed by a Ringed-bill Gull.

We also saw our first Greater Yellowlegs of the year.  I was surprised it took so long for us to see one of these.  Usually there are more of them around.  This one decided to pose on a pedestal of his choosing.

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Amidst all of the action, a pair of American Coots were taking a leisurely Saturday afternoon cruise.

American Coots

American Coots

So it was nice to have a nice warm, (75 degree) afternoon to go birding again.  The forecast is about the same for tomorrow, so we may go out again, because Monday brings another cold front.  But they say spring is just around the corner, so we will be checking the corners.

Big Year list additions:

#91  Inca Dove

#92  Greater Yellowlegs

#93  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Click on any image to see an enlargement, and enjoy.

Osprey Bringing Dinner Home

I wrote recently about photographing birds in flight.  I also had read several posts on other people’s blogs on the subject.  I thought you may be interested in seeing these photographs that I pulled from my archives.

It is a series of images that I took of an Osprey coming in to snatch his meal from the water.  I first published these photos about three years ago. I was using my 100-400mm lens.  I acquired the osprey in my auto-focus just before he started his dive.  I had only to press the shutter that was set for hi-speed burst, then pan the camera as I followed him to the water.  He was faster than I expected and my first image had him already with the fish in his talons.  Except for the first and final photo these images are right from the camera.

Osprey on the hunt.

Osprey on the hunt.

Osprey - making contact

Osprey – making contact


After he was in the air with the fish securely in his talons, he then circled around to make this victory pass.  I was lucky to catch him as he passed in front of me.  This image is the final cropped and edited photo.

Get the fry pan ready, Mama.

Get the fry pan ready, Mama.

I hope you enjoyed this series of a creature of the wild, doing what comes naturally.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Birding before the storm…….

Well, I don’t know how much of a storm it will be, but getting extremely cold, (for here), tomorrow.  High predicted 38 degrees.  That’s after us having the hottest temp in the nation yesterday of 85 degrees.  Today was almost as warm, but a beautiful balmy day.  What to do.  What to do.  Go birding, of course.

First we decided to visit the blind at San Angelo State Park.  There we saw basically just the regulars, but not much in the way of anything new.  Like going into a tavern and seeing all the regular locals at the bar, but no new pretty girls coming in.  I did get a nice photo of a House Finch.

House Finch

House Finch

After that we headed for our usual spots at Lake Nasworthy.  Two parks, Spring Creek and Middle Concho, are usually pretty good at producing a nice variety for us birders.  Today was no exception.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Ann spotted the Great Horned Owl.  We knew one was hanging around, but we didn’t know which tree it would be in.  It was in a sleepy mood.  Whooooooo could blame him. 🙂

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron was busy looking for breakfast, or was it lunch.  No matter.  He probably didn’t know the difference.

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

This American Wigeon was doing a bit of searching on his own.  I don’t know what the American Coot was doing.  He may have been jealous of the wigeon’s colors.

Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon Teal

A Cinnamon Teal gliding placidly along showing off.

Wilson's Shrike

Wilson’s Snipe

This Wilson’s Snipe was in a very shallow area near the bank of the river.  I almost didn’t see him as they are so tiny.  Actually, they measure 10 inches, but half of that is it’s bill.

All in all, we saw about 35 different species.

We added three more to our 2014 West Texas Big Year list.

#88  Mourning Dove

#89  Cinnamon Teal

#90  Blue-winged Teal

Enjoy the photos, and click on any of them to see enlargements.