Canon 7D Mk II and Tamron 150-600mm, another comparison


As many of you know I have coupled my Canon 7D Mark II with a Tamron 150-600mm lens.  I have been learning much lately about that new camera, and with that lens I have been excited about the image quality.  This is a photo that I shot a couple days ago.  First I show you the original, straight out of the camera, but converted from the RAW format.  The 150-600mm lens was zoomed out to the 600mm mark.  Notice there is no loss of sharpness at that end, like some zooms have when fully extended.  The second image is my cropped finished version.  I did no sharpening whatsoever.

Original female Northern Cardinal

Original female Northern Cardinal

cropped female Northern Cardinal

cropped female Northern Cardinal

Notice the image retained the sharpness after cropping.  One more thing, there is a distinct lack of noise.  I must say that this one of the rare times that I was able to crop and use an image without any other editing.  ISO was 500, exposure 1/1000 sec @ f6.3.  I am finding that this new 7D Mark II is leaps and bounds better than the original 7D.

In other news, I did send my Tamron 150-600mm lens off to the factory.  Not that it needed anything, but since my lens was one of the first built, I found there was an updated firmware available for it to further speed up the auto-focus, so I thought why not take advantage of it.  I will say that I was already was impressed with it’s fast auto-focus, so I am anxious to see how much more it can be improved.  So I will miss it for a few days, but I have my Canon 100-400mm zoom lens as a backup and I will put a 1.4 teleconverter on it.   I will make do.

Birding South Llano River State Park


Note:  This post is best viewed on your computer.  You can then click the images to see the fine detail in the fourteen different enlargements.

We have visited the South Llano River State Park on a few other occasions, but I have never posted about it.  It is located about five miles south of Junction, Texas.  Junction is about 95 miles southeast of San Angelo.  What I like about visiting that park is that they have four distinct blinds.  It seems that each blind has it’s own characteristic.  Each presents it’s own lighting positives or negatives, depending on what time of day you visit each one.  Plus, it seems that, although it may be my imagination, sometimes you might find a bird in one blind, that you won’t find in the others.  So we always visit each blind each time we make the trip.

On our visit this past weekend, it seemed that the Agarita Blind, (they each have a name), seemed to have the most bird activity.  On other days one of the others may be more bird active.

But as I said, with so much activity in the Agarita Blind, we didn’t spend much time at the others.  Here is a sampling of the birds that I photographed, in no particular order.

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

Northern Cardinal - female

Northern Cardinal – female

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow

Western Scrub Jay

Western Scrub Jay

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Bewick's Wren

Bewick’s Wren

Black-crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

American Goldfinch - adult breeding female

American Goldfinch – adult breeding female

After arriving back in San Angelo, we drove by our “K-Mart Creek” and saw this Norther Pintail to finish our day.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

All in all, it was a great way to start the week, and we added six more to our 2015 Big Year list, to bring our new total to 92.  I hope you enjoyed this.  I appreciate any and all comments.

Birding before the rains……


The forecast for yesterday was cloudy with an 80% chance of rain.  Well, for me that meant there was a 20% chance that it wouldn’t rain.  Ann and I ate breakfast and it hadn’t started to rain yet, so we were thinking that maybe we were home free.  We decided to head out.  On the way, we saw some ducks in a pond behind a nearby Firestone store.  We saw Green-winged Teals and Northern Pintails there.

Northern Pintail with Green-winged Teal in the background.

Northern Pintail with Green-winged Teal in the background.

We had not been to San Angelo State Park in several days so we decided to go to the the bird blind there.  We were hoping to see a Spotted Towhee that had been reported there.  It would be an addition to our 2015 Big Year list.  We were not disappointed as it did make an appearance, and the other bird species were quite active, considering the oncoming cold front.  We were able to see  many other species.  We were not so lucky in seeing a Verdin, that also had been reported earlier.  With the skies being heavily clouded the light was somewhat low.  However I was able to come away with these images.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

female Northern Cardinal eyeballing that upside-down peace sign created by that hanging branch of a Cholla plant.

female Northern Cardinal eyeballing that upside-down peace sign created by that hanging branch of a Cholla plant.

A feisty Spotted Towhee

A feisty Spotted Towhee

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

Black-crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

Shortly after that final photo was captured, it started to rain.  We skedaddled out of there.  We were happy to head home, as I felt we had come away with some nice images and we added two more to our 2015 Big Year list; Spotted Towhee and Northern Pintail.  We are now at 86, with “only” 124 to go to make our goal of 210 by December 31.  Should be a piece of cake.  Right?  Yeah, right.  Stay tuned…… 🙂

Weekend Birding Photos


Ann and I took advantage of the nicer temperatures this past weekend.  It was nice to get out to do a little birding.  One thing we enjoyed was the antics of this Red-breasted Nuthatch.  It was in a some brush, and not very close.  It presented some lighting problems but I managed to get some shots.  Here is one of them.  Performing without a net or safety ropes. 🙂

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

We went back on Monday, tried to find it again.  I played his call on my iPad, but we only attracted some wrens and an Eastern Phoebe.  Go figure.

The juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron was back near his favorite area.  I don’t know why we don’t see it more often as when we do, he is nearly always in the same place.

juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

On the way home, we saw this Great Blue Heron in a nearby pond.  At first he was just strolling looking for a likely meal, but eventually he tired of that and decided to take flight.  My Canon EOS 7D Mark II with a Tamron 150-600mm lens grabbed it at about 1/4000 sec. at f6/3, ISO 400.  Love that combination.

Great Blue Heron taking flight.

Great Blue Heron taking flight.

More in a few days.  Enjoy.

 

Birding Uvalde – Return trip


We first made a trip to Uvalde back in October of 2014.  Since then we have always wanted to return, as we felt that there were many birds that we missed seeing and also missed getting good photographs.

Ann recently had a birthday on January 10, so she decided a trip back to Uvalde would be her birthday present.  Not that we needed an excuse to go back.  I was ready.

We left early Monday morning the 12th.  A usual two and half hour trip, it took us about two hours longer.  Of course, we had a breakfast stop in Sonora, but when you are also birding along the way………need I say more?

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

We got into the Live Oaks Bed & Breakfast around 1:00, then called our good friends, Bob and Anna Shackleford, and told them we were in town and on the way over to their place.  Not only does Bob has his own bird blind, he is also well informed about birding in the area.  The afternoon was beautiful so we spent some time in the blind, then sat on the porch of their home, visited, and took photos of birds in the yard.  One of them was this Great Kiskadee.  A new lifer for us as we had never seen one before.

Great Kiskadee

Great Kiskadee

From inside his Chicken Coop Blind, I got these images of a Long-billed Thrasher and a Green Jay.

Long-billed Thrasher

Long-billed Thrasher

Green Jay

Green Jay

As we were leaving Bob’s home he mentioned that there were two Couch’s Kingbirds hanging around his neighbor’s yard.  We drove down the road about 100 yards, and sure enough there was one of them.  I maneuvered my car so I could shoot a photo.  By then he had turned an had his back to me, and as I got him in the viewfinder he flew.  He was another lifer as again, it was another new bird for us.  I was disappointed in not getting the photo, but there is always a next time.

We made plans to meet again at Bob’s and Anna’s place to spend the day birding on Tuesday.  We woke that morning to a very cold day.  But after breakfast, we headed over, determined to make the best of it.  Since we decided it was too cold to sit in the blind, Bob suggested he take us out on some ranch land that he knew of, saying there was a good chance of seeing some Sandhill Cranes.

We we were warm and comfy in our little Ford Escape.  It has high clearance and we drove all over that ranch.  If Bob hadn’t been with us, I would surely have gotten lost.  Of course, if he hadn’t been with us, we probably wouldn’t have gotten on the ranch to begin with.  Anyway, I did get some images of the Sandhill Cranes, albeit very distant ones.  They were at a distance of nearly 300 yards.  Both of these image are heavily cropped.

Flyover of some Sandhill Cranes

Flyover of some Sandhill Cranes

Pair of Sandhill Cranes

Pair of Sandhill Cranes

After we decided that I couldn’t get any closer to the cranes we continued driving through various pastures and and other areas of the ranch.  As we drove, I was able to get a few more photos of other birds.

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

Leaving the ranch, Bob took us down some other back roads that look promising.  Along there we saw a couple of raptors.

Harris's Hawk

Harris’s Hawk

Then this magnificent Red-tail Hawk took off from another nearby tree.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

We had planned on getting together again on Wednesday, but not only was it still cold, it was very drizzly.  Bob called us in our room and told us that Anna was feeling ill and we felt it was not in our best interests to try to get out in the weather.  Ann and I spent the rest of the day in our room, watching the Cardinals, Thrashers, and Cactus Wrens cavort outside our window.  We left the following morning, Thursday, and headed back to San Angelo.  Despite the weather, we felt that we really had a great time anyway.  We saw a total of 47 bird species for the trip, 25 of which were to be added to our 2015 Big Year list.  We also added those two lifers.  My life list total is now at 280.  As for our 2015 Big Year list, since we got back we added a couple more and we have a total of 80 as of this writing.  As I mentioned before, our new goal is 210 for this year.  Piece of cake.  Right?  Yeah, sure. 🙂

Harris's Hawk

Harris’s Hawk

I hope you enjoyed this post and the photos.  By the way, I have my 2015 calendar for sale.  Twelve gorgeous, knock-em dead, photos suitable for framing if you should desire.  If you are interested in buying one contact me, or mail a check for 25.00 that also covers all taxes and shipping to Bob Zeller, 4401 White Ash Ln., San Angelo, TX 76904-4528.  You will not be disappointed.

Happy Birding!

 

Ah, The Surprises of Birding…….


One thing that I love about birding is that no outing is the same as another.  You never know what to expect.  You can go a few days and not see anything interesting, then the next day, you see several little surprises.

Today was a great example.  We had went out a bit Sunday, saw several of the usual residents, but nothing about them was interesting.  Today, since it looks like the last sunny day for awhile we decided to go spend a few hours looking for better photo opportunities than we had before.

The biggest surprise was coming upon this Cooper’s Hawk, enjoying a bath in shallow water.  This was something I had never seen before.  He would seemingly sit in the water for a bit, then start splashing around like a sparrow would.

Cooper's Hawk enjoying a little bath.

Cooper’s Hawk enjoying a little bath.

Cooper's Hawk, just splashing around.

Cooper’s Hawk, just splashing around.

Then as we drove into Spring Creek Park we remembered that we had seen an owl in a live oak tree previously, but dense foliage prevented any useful photograph.  Today, guess what!  He was waiting for us, sitting on an open branch posing for his portrait.  I was able to get my vehicle about 25 feet away and get several shots.  Ya gotta love them eyes. 🙂

Great Horned Owl portrait.

Great Horned Owl portrait.

Another bird that I have had extreme difficulty getting good close-ups of,  is the Belted Kingfisher.  Always the bird was too far away and as I would attempt a long shot, he would delightfully wink at me and head for another tree.  Today, I finally got a chance.  Our driving path took us closer to the water, and there he was, sitting on a branch over-hanging the creek and watching intently for a wet meal.  This was the closest that I had ever been, and I was sweating bullets when I got him in the view-finder.  Again, luck was with me and I was able to get this nice close-up plus a few others.

Belted Kingfisher watching for a meal.

Belted Kingfisher watching for a meal.

So even if you have a so-so day at birding, heck, get out there again as you never know what you will be confronted with.

If you reading this on your computer, click the images to see some very nice enlargements.

Happy Birding!!

The day the ice was gone…..


Saturday morning we woke with the sun shining.  The ice was nearly all gone, and a-birding we must go.  We were accompanied by some lady friends/birders/photographers, Christie McCorts-Chambers and Julia Stewart.  Full of enthusiasm, we set a goal of 40 species for the day.

We made a quick stop at the bird blind at San Angelo State Park first.  We saw just the usual resident birds, doves, sparrows, etc., but we had heard that there was a Spotted Towhee nearby.  It didn’t show, so we headed to the north portion of the park, about nine miles away.  With such a nice day, we hoped have a better sighting of the rare Lewis’s Woodpecker that has been hanging around past few weeks.  Fortunately, it was still there, and I was finally able to get acceptable images.

Lewis's Woodpecker

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker in flight.

Lewis’s Woodpecker in flight.

You know, when you get right down to it, the Lewis’s is not the prettiest of the woodpeckers.  But we can’t all be great looking. 🙂

After checking out the area there, we headed to the local parks in the Lake Nasworthy area.  Here are a few highlights from there.

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Ring-necked Duck

Ring-necked Duck

For birding, the day was great as we saw a total of 41 species total.  We added 17 to our 2015 list bringing it to a total of 44.  A nice start to the year.  As for the photography, with 20-30 mile winds, we didn’t really get that many opportunities, or I should say that, in honesty, I didn’t get very many keepers.  I am picky about the pictures that I show you.

But it was nice to have such a beautiful day, even though the high winds were cool.  The company was great and it was great fun.  And I will never complain about seeing 41 species in one day.  Click on the photos to see enlargements.

‘T’was the day after New Year’s Day


Today, January 2, was gloomy, freezing, icy, wet, and all that goes with it.  We woke up – again- with everything covered with a coat of ice.  Another day of staying in.  Right??  Wrong.  Hey, we’re birders and we always find a way.  We were anxious to get started on our Big Year 2015 list.

After sitting around all morning trying to stay warm, we decided that we could stay warm in the car.  The streets and roads were not in bad shape as long as we stayed off the high-speed loop and avoided icy bridges.

Osprey - note ice-covered branches.

Osprey – note ice-covered branches.

We waited until about 1:15 and decided to wend our way to the local parks around Lake Nasworthy to see what we could from the car.  We didn’t figure that we would see much.  A very light freezing drizzle accompanied us throughout.  The temperature was steady at 34 degrees F.  I kept the windshield wipers on very slow and we drove slowly through the ice-covered environment.

Surprisingly, we did see a good variety of birds, including the Osprey pictured above.  We avoided driving through the soft mushy ground along the fence lines so we didn’t see any of the small kinglets or wrens that may have been there.

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

There were several grackles, starlings and meadowlarks on the ground.  In the water there was an abundance of Double-crested and a few Neotropic Cormorants.  Frankly, I was surprised to see the Neotropics here this time of year.

We spooked a Red-tailed Hawk from a tree just above the car.  I failed to see him in time to get a photo.  A few Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets made their way through the gloom.  The lighting was definitely the best for photography, not to mention the mist that I tried to stay from the camera.

We drove through the dampness for about three hours and netted 27 species for the day.  It was actually quite fun.  We were cozy in the car, only opening the windows for closer looks, the closing them again.

So we are off and running for the year.  Now to finish up this post, get some sleep and go again tomorrow morning……after an hour of so to get thing thawed again.

Again, you will be able to follow our Big Year progress by clicking on my Big Year 2015 page above.