Pre-Leap Year Birding


Ann and I have been able to get out a bit the past three days, so I thought I’d get a post published by the end of the month, which normally would have been today the twenty-eighth, but will have to leap another day into the twenty-ninth.  Don’t you just love the way I come up with these titles to my posts.  Hey, it beats throwing darts at my dictionary.

Anyway, here are a group of fun photos from the past few days.  Mostly from around the parks at Lake Nasworthy, i.e. Middle Concho Park and Spring Creek Park.  Enjoy them and click on any photo to see enlargements.

First up is a Black-crowned Night Heron at Spring Creek Park.  About 200 yards away across the water.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

Another photo of two more Black-crowned Nigh Herons, at another nearby location.  In this one you can see a juvenile, with the nearly hidden adult to right center.

Black-crowned Night Herons. A Juvenile and an adult.

Black-crowned Night Herons. A Juvenile and an adult.

A Northern Shoveler glides along in the waterway near Spring Creek Park.

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

The masked bandit, a Loggerhead Shrike looking for trouble to get into.  Very feisty and vicious little birds, they love to capture there prey, and impale them on barbed wire or thorny plants.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Dark-eyed Juncos are very hard to photograph.  They are constantly on the move and don’t sit very long on any spot.  I got lucky when this one sat long enough on a wire fence to get a good image.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Eastern Phoebes are around in great numbers.  Easy to find, and relatively easy to photograph as they like to pose; at least for me.  Maybe I have a way with birds.  Maybe I am the Bird-Whisperer.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Chipping Sparrow.  I don’t know how they got that name.  Maybe somebody just threw darts at a dictionary.

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  One of my all time favorites of the tiny birds.  Sometimes the male displays a little red crown.  Sometimes the male decides not to show the little red crown.  But great fun trying to get a photograph.  They really move fast and quickly.  By the time I get the camera aimed at the spot he is/was in, he is in another.  But with patience I do get lucky, and I did in this photo.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Well, that’s it for this post.  I hope you enjoyed the photos.  As I said, click on any image and you will be rewarded with some nice enlargements.

My Code of Ethics


It has come to my attention that an individual on FaceBook has been writing disparaging remarks about how, in his opinon, I mis-treat wildlife.  I will not divulge his name, only refer to him as Mr. Doe.  The wildlife in question is a Great Horned Owl in Spring Creek Park here in San Angelo, Texas.  A female has been sitting on the nest for a few weeks.  I have shared the information with a couple of other local birders.  Mr. Doe contends that I shouldn’t have passed this information along, but in the birding community that is called SHARING.  He calls it wildlife harassment.

Of course, everyone that knows me, know that nothing could be farther from the truth.  I, and the other birders that I mentioned,  live by a certain code of ethics when viewing and photographing wildlife of any kind.  I won’t go into great detail, but if you click the links in the next two paragraphs you will know how I feel about the treatment of all wildlife, not only birds.

A friend of mine, Deb Tappan of Knoxville, Tennessee, is, like me, a professional photographer.  She wrote a Code of Ethics (click the link) for her blog and has given me to permission to share it.  It is something that all wildlife photographers should read and heed.  I, myself, try live by it.

In addition, Deb has written other Ethics (click the link) articles that outdoor enthusiasts may find of interest.  While you are there, check out the galleries of photos by this extraordinary nature photographer.

I am going to add a page to my blog called Code of Ethics.  You will be able to refer to these articles anytime by clicking on that page at the top of this blog.

Great Horned Owl - female on nest.

Great Horned Owl – female on nest.

Above is the owl that is mentioned in this blog.  Since I took this photo, I drive by several times a week.  I can see her from the car and I don’t usually stop.  Any photo that I would take would only be a duplicate, as there only one angle where one can get a glimpse.  Surprisingly, the tree is next to the road, children play nearby, people camp under it.  She so far is unperturbed by the activity.  I hope she stays contented completely through her birthing term.  I will be anxious to see some of her offspring sitting on the branches in a month or two.

Birding South Llano River State Park


On Wednesday morning, Ann and I, accompanied by a birding friend, Randy Hesford, decided to head to South Llano River State Park for a few hours of birding.  We set out at 8:00 for the 90 mile drive.  The skies were bright and sunny, with a slight breeze.

We arrived there at approximately 9:30, checked in at the headquarters and headed for the first of the park’s four blinds, the Agarita blind.  Immediately we found that it would be a great place to photograph birds.  Many were in attendance and we saw a lifer for Ann and I.  An Olive Sparrow.  We were quite lucky, as it scurried from beneath some scrubby brush, stay around for about two minutes, then disappeared to never be seen again that morning.  Fortunately, I got a photograph.

Olive Sparrow

Olive Sparrow

That brought my life list up to 286.  Not great, but respectable.  I still may get to 300 during my lifetime.  Much higher if I was able to travel to the southeastern part of the state and to the gulf coast.  Time will tell.

Anyway to get on with my story, we were kept busy at the Agarita blind.  I managed to get quite a few photographs before we headed for the second of the four blinds, Juniper blind.  There we saw a Western Scrub-jay and Dark-eyed Junco.  They only made very brief appearances and I didn’t get photos.  Only a few other birds made appearances there and at the the third and fourth blinds, the Acorn and Lora’s blinds.  We were mildly disappointed in that, but we were perhaps rushing the season.  We are used to seeing much more at all four blinds.  Some more photos that I captured were

the Field Sparrow…….

 

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow

the Spotted Towhee…..

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

an American Robin…..

American Robin

American Robin

a Northern Cardinal….

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

a female Northern Cardinal……

Northern Cardinal - female

Northern Cardinal – female

and a Black-throated Sparrow.

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

In addition to all of the above, we also saw at the blinds, a Black-crested Titmouse, Pine Sisken, Whitewing Dove, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Chipping Sparrow, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a White-crowned Sparrow.  In addition, Randy spotted a  Brown Thrasher, and a Carolina Chickadee.  Ann and I missed those, much to our dismay.

After leaving the blinds, we drove through the park and along the river where we saw a Belted Kingfisher, a Ladder-backed Woodpecker, a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and a Bewick’s Wren.

That was all that we actually saw in the park itself.  Along the highway coming and going, we added Common Raven, Black Vulture, Northern Mockingbird, American Kestrel, and Turkey Vulture.  So in total for the trip, we saw only a total of 28 species.  I am sure when we return later in the spring we will be seeing much more.

After we left the park, we drove into Junction and stopped at Lum’s Barbeque restaurant.  We satisfied ourseves with huge chopped barbequed beef sandwiches, topped with onions and tasty jalopenos.  A great finish to a fun trip.

Until the next time, Happy Birding!!

 

Great day of birding? Owl say!!!!


What a great day of birding Ann and I had today!  In the end we saw a total of 47 species.  For us here in San Angelo, that is a fine total.  We birded for only five hours, from 7:00AM until noon.  But what was great for me, I came away with some fine photos that I am about to show you.  Of course, I didn’t photograph all forty-seven species.  Dream on, Bob, dream on.

We began the day at the far southern edge of Spring Creek Park, where we saw that rare Gray Catbird that has been hanging around there.  I almost spilled my coffee grabbing for my camera, as we had just arrived at that spot.  I missed the shot, save for a blurred one for identification.  It looks like we were in for an exciting day.

I started munching on my burrito that I had picked up at Jack and Jill Donut Shop.  Things quieted for a bit so I had time to finish that.  Then an Orange-crowned Warbler showed up.  I had my Canon 7D Mark II and Tamron 150-600mm lens ready and I rested it on my bean bag window rest and came away with an acceptable photo.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

Then a Black-crested Titmouse showed itself in a nearby tree.  I looked like it had a hard time surviving the wind we had lately.

Black-crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

We stayed in that area for about 45 minutes, giving me time to scarf down that burrito and finish my coffee.  Things started to dwindle off.  We had seen several species by that time, mainly Northern Mockingbirds and Yellow-rumped Warblers.  We cruised along the bank of the water and spotted this juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron across on the other side.  I managed to get this photograph.  I am rather proud of it, if I do say so myself. 🙂

Black-crowned Night Heron - juvenile

Black-crowned Night Heron – juvenile

By then the light was getting better.  There was a high thin cloud cover.  Excellent for photography.  We decided to check on the Great Horned Owl’s nest that we had spotted a couple of days ago.  As usual the male was about 100 yards away guarding the area……..

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

………when it wasn’t falling asleep…….

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Here is a look at the female peeking out of the nest in another nearby tree.  I think she is looking at her spouse, hoping he would be awake if called upon.  By the way, for these photos, I left the car, setting my camera on a tripod.

Great Horned Owl - female on nest.

Great Horned Owl – female on nest.

We decided to take our leave.  We had enough photos and I didn’t want to draw a crowd, so we quietly left and headed for Middle Concho Park.

On the way, as we drove out Red Bluff Road, we spotted this Osprey in a tree over looking a large pond.  It was having it’s breakfast, too.  A fish of some kind.  I managed to get off of the road, into a spot where I could get a photo from my car window.

Osprey

Osprey

We drove on into the park and immediately saw some White-crowned Sparrows, Curve-billed Thrashers and several Western Meadowlarks.

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

Continuing on through the park, a hawk flew over the car, into a Live Oak tree.  That got my attention and I was determined to get a photo.  Of course, immediately it took off, but we were able to track it down to another tree and I got a photograph of from it’s back side.  It turned out to be a Cooper’s Hawk. I was hoping it would be a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but the flattish head and the eye that was set forward told me otherwise.

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Farther on this, Vermilion Flycatcher lit in a nearby tree branch.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

By this time were about finished for the day and decided to head for the house.  On the way out, we checked on the Osprey and it must have been satisfied with it’s meal, as it was now just resting a bit.  Just what Ann and I needed after a successful birding day.

Osprey

Osprey

I hope you enjoyed the photos and my narrative.  Click on any image to see enlargements.

 

Happy Birding!!

American Robin – A sign of spring?


In my previous post, I posted a photo of an American Robin.  It was the first that I had seen this year.  Yesterday, I saw another.  Are they really a harbinger of spring?

American Robin

American Robin

Actually, the range maps show they are residents of most of Texas, including my area, the year around.  I guess they don’t like to show unless the weather is on the mild side.  Of course, that could also be said of me. 🙂

While we were in the area at Spring Creek Park here in San Angelo, we decided to have another look for the nest of a Great Horned Owl.  Our friend, Randy Hesford, showed us where it was at.  It turned out that the nest is down in the fork of a tree, and can’t be seen unless the female is on the nest, as only her head shows.  I took this shot.  The light was in the wrong place at this particular time.

Great Horned Owl - female on nest.

Great Horned Owl – female on nest.

As you can see, she really blends in, and is very difficult to spot.  It will be really fun to watch for the young owlets to fledge in a couple of months.

Earlier we visited the water treatment ponds at Eldorado, Texas, about 40 miles south of here.  A plethora of water fowl were in attendance.  The ponds are huge, about 250 yards across.  Of course, the ducks are usually on the far side, too, making photography difficult in the bouncing waves.  I didn’t get any photos of them on the water that I was really proud of.  I did get this shot of some Northern Shovelers in flight.

Northern Shovelers

Northern Shovelers

Nearby, this American Kestrel took flight.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

Back in San Angelo, I had an opportunity to photograph the state bird.  The Northen Mockingbird.  For some reason or other, I have a tendency to ignore these birds, probably because there are so many of them.  However, I liked the pose that this one presented.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

That’s it for this time.  Enjoy the photos.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

 

Happy Birding!!

Valentine’s Day Weekend birding


While trying to get my new computer up and running, I just had to take a few breaks to get out for some birding and photography.  I needed to relieve the stress. But I certainly have a feeling of accomplishment.  I had a few glitches and problems, but along with encouragement and help from my dear friend, Deb, up in Tennessee, and my wife, Ann, the job got done.

Because of time limitations, we just hit the local parks for a few hours.  I managed to come away with a few usable photos.  Also I believe we added about three more birds to our 2016 list.  We are at 103 now for the year.  The weather was really gorgeous.  Hard to believe it is only mid-February.

First a Pied-billed Grebe in Lake Nasworthy at Spring Creek Park.  These little guys are cuties.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

A Great Blue Heron at same location.  He sat on this buoy for quite awhile.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

A Northern Flicker pecking away at something on the ground.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

One of several Black-crested Titmouses along the brushy fence line.  They re cute, but very feisty.

Black-crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

The first spring American Robin for us, at Middle Concho Park.

American Robin

American Robin

I hope you enjoy these photos.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

‘Till next time, Happy Birding!

Brief Post – Great Horned Owl


This post will be a bit brief.  I received my new computer a few days ago, and I am in the process of setting it up, installing programs and files, and all of that complicated technical stuff….. 🙂

But before I shut down the old computer, Ann and I  got out for  few minutes one morning.  Can’t say for sure which day.  Right now I am in a bit of a brain-fried fog.  But, I got very lucky at Spring Creek Park.  As we drove through, Ann exclaimed, “Bob, there’s an owl!”  Sure enough, there in plain sight, with no obstructions and about 25 feet above the ground was this huge Great Horned Owl.  He was sitting on a branch of a mesquite tree.  I stopped and turned off the engine.  He posed for me for several minutes while I took several images.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

I was amazed how long and patient he was.  I could hear some faint”hoot, hoots” coming from some nearby pecan trees.  I suspect that he was guarding a nearby nest, but were not able to see it.  After about 15 minutes I decided to leave him alone.  As magnificent as he looked, I didn’t feel the need to stay.  I didn’t want to agitate him further, event though I was about 30 yards away and hunched down in my car.  When we drove off, he was still there, watching us intently.  But I was content, feeling that I got the best photo of a Great Horned Owl that I have ever had.

If you click on the image, you will see a very nice enlargement.

Happy birding!!

Pre-Super Bowl Images


I don’t know if I will go out birding tomorrow, so I will show you some photos from yesterday and this morning.  Of course, there is the possibility that I may get out Sunday morning, but if I do, I will show them in my Post-Super Bowl post. 🙂

These photos were all captured at Spring Creek Park here in San Angelo.  In no particular order, as we were just taking our time driving around.  Click on any image to see enlargements.

This is one of the bluest Western Bluebird that I have ever seen.  It was probably due to the early morning light.

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebird

We saw this Red-tailed Hawk across the water about 200 yards away.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

He didn’t hang around long.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Also across the water about the same distance, this Great Horned Owl sat on a bunch mistletoe in a mesquite tree.  We had been following him around all morning.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Last but not least, was the cute little Orange-crowned Warbler perched in the early morning sun.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

That is probably it for the weekend.  Hope you enjoyed the photos.

Happy Birding!!

Red-tailed Hawk – My favorite raptor


One of my favorite targets when I go hunting with my camera, is the Red-tailed Hawk.  I love all the raptors, but this one always makes me excited when I see one.  Then, I am all over myself, trying to get that special image.

Yesterday, I got another opportunity.  Cruising by the water at Spring Creek Park we spotted this Red-tailed Hawk across the water, about 150 yards away.  I wheeled the car around so my driver’s side would be directly across from his perch in a tree.

I put my SafariSack, a large bean-bag window rest, on the sill and rested my Canon 7D Mk II and Tamron 150-600mm lens on it.  As I focused in and started to press the shutter, he flew off the my left.  I continued to press the shutter as I did a quick pan.  I got off about ten shots in the space of two seconds.  This image is the only one of him that was completely within the frame, and even then he was in the upper left of the image.  I had to crop roughly 40 percent to get this composition.

The remarkable thing about it, my shutter speed was only 1/640 sec. At an aperture of f8 and the ISO at 250, it turned out to be an amazingly sharp photo.  I believe it to be one of my best of a Red-tailed Hawk.  This is pretty much how it came out of the camera.  No adjustments needed except for a minor touch-up with FocusMagic.  Did I ever tell you how much I love my Canon 7D Mark II?

Red-tailed Hawk in flight.

Red-tailed Hawk

This morning Ann and I took a quick trip out there again.  Really cold, about 32° when we got there.  No raptors, save for a Cooper’s Hawk that did a flyover.

I did get a few small bird photos.  This juvenile White-crown Sparrow decided to show me his back-side.

White-crown Sparrow - juvenile

White-crown Sparrow – juvenile

An American Goldfinch perched on a tree branch a few feet away from the car.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

The Gray Catbird is still hanging around, too.  This image as he was spotted deep in the brush.

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

Good start to the year……..


This past weekend, the last of January, Ann and I decided to see if we could add a few more to our 2016 list. We did, and ended up with 98 for the month.  Not bad, but heck, that’s better than last January when we only had about 75.  So we’re happy with the start.  Oh, I know what some of you are thinking.  If we lived in east or south Texas we probably would have about 150 already.  But it is what it is.  We love being where we are.  We love the challenge of actually having to go out and hunt for the birds.

So back to the details.  We started out at Spring Creek Park.  We had been told of a location where a Great Horned Owl was nesting.  We had no trouble finding it,but it was located about seventy-five yards back in the trees.  I lugged my camera and tripod back in to find a line of sight where I had a somewhat un-obstructed view.  Not easy to do.  I wanted to be able to train my long lens on the nest. Here is the result, from about 50 yards.

Great Horned Owl on nest.

Great Horned Owl on nest.

I will continue to monitor the nest to see some young ones come along soon.  The adults incubate the eggs for 30-45 days.  Then they will feed them for another month or so.  I also want to scout the area for another view, perhaps more free of tree branches, but still far enough away so as not to disturb the owl.

After photographing the owl for about fifteen minutes, I stole away quietly.  We then head for another area near the water where we had seen a bit of activity the past several days.  There in the early morning light we saw this happy Carolina Wren.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

singing Carolina Wren

singing Carolina Wren

Nearby, several Cedar Waxwings flew into a tree.  One of them obliged me by flying down to perch near the water for a few minutes…….

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

as did this Northern Mockingbird.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

After the tree was free of the waxwings, this little Eastern Phoebe decided to stop by.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

After spending about two hours there, we decided we had time to drive to the north portion of San Angelo State Park.  It had been several weeks since we had visited that area. We had the place to ourselves.  That part of the park isn’t visited as much since it was much farther away.  We spent a couple of hours there, too.  We love to get off the beaten paths and drive through the boonies.  We spotted this Ladder-backed Woodpecker working hard at something.

Ladderbacked Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker – female

Also a Vesper Sparrow…..

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

…….and a juvenile White-crown Sparrow.

White-crowned Sparrow - juvenile

White-crowned Sparrow – juvenile

So that’s about it for this post.  Hope you enjoyed it.  I welcome any comments.  Also, click on any image to see enlargements.