Spring is Here!!


Spring sprung a few days ago.    There are reports of some of the arriving summer birds, but I haven’t seen very many of them yet.  But soon, we will be having orioles, buntings, and other colorful birds to watch for.  In the meantime, here are a few photos that I managed to get during the past few days.

We drove to San Angelo State Park as we had heard of some Scissor-tailed Flycatchers that had arrived there.  We missed them, but I got some nice sparrow photos.  (Click on any photo to see some nice enlargements.)

This Song Sparrow was having a difficult time in the wind.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

This Vesper Sparrow was having an easier time…..

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

…..and this Black-throated was taking it pretty calmly.

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Wandering down in the grass, this Greater Roadrunner was having a great time doing a bit of hunting.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

Back out at Spring Creek Park, we had to check on our owls.  There was nothing we could see on the nest, as it is pretty high up in a tree, but the parents to be were taking a break in a nearby tree.

Great Horned Owls

Great Horned Owls

While we were there in the park, we decided to check out the brushy areas, where we can usually find some of the tiny birds.  We saw several kinglets, but the only photos I came up with was of this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

After getting those photos we cruised along the water and was treated with this Great Blue Heron, about 200 yards away across the water.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

That’s about it for this post.  We’ll get out and about again in the next few days, after completing some yard chores.

Until then, Happy Birding!!

I don’t remember the last time I have mentioned this, but I would like you to know that ALL of my photos that you see on any of my posts are for sale.    Also I still have copies of my book, “Birds, Beasts and Buttes”, and my DVD of 100 of my best photos.  Just e-mail me at bobzeller@pobox.com. for more info.

 

Great Horned Owl update plus


Hi all.  It’s been another week gone by since my last post.  Trying to catch up with our yard chores, so we haven’t got out as much as we would like.  But in between errands we managed to make some short trips through the local parks.  We checked in on the Great Horned Owl nest at Spring Creek Park.  The mother is still sitting on her eggs.

Great Horned Owl - female on nest.

Great Horned Owl – female on nest.

About seventy-five yards away, the father is still keeping a sharp lookout for any threats.  As you can see, though, he does take much-needed siestas.  He really blends in with the surroundings.

Great Horned Owl - alertly keeping an eye out.

Great Horned Owl – alertly keeping an eye out.

Here are a few other images from that area.

I finally got a nice photo of a White-eyed Vireo.  They are another elusive, tiny bird.  This was the first time in many years that I had this opportunity to photography one.  I must give credit to our fellow birder friend, Randy Hesford, for pointing it out to us.

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

Also, we spotted this Marsh Wren.  It is the first decent photo I have of one of these species, too.

Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren

In the same reeds that we saw the wren, this Lincoln’s Sparrow made an appearance.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

There is an area near the south entance to Spring Creek Park, where we have observed some Black-crowned Night Herons.  Over the past few years, we have seen adults and juveniles.  This photo shows that one of the young ones is starting to show some maturing.  It is a first-year, I believe.  Notice that he/she is losing some of that baby brown, and developing the black back of an adult.

Black-crowned Night Heron - first year

Black-crowned Night Heron – first year

Driving farther along the wider expanse of the water, I saw this Great Blue Heron about 250 yards away.  I hate to pass up a nice scene with one of my favorites of the herons.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

One windy afternoon, we ventured out to San Angelo State Park, and checked out a few birds in a short drive-around.  This is another photographic first for me.  I had never had to opportunity to capture some Tree Swallows.  There were around 100 sitting on some high lines.

Tree Swallows

Tree Swallows

To finish up the day, we checked the water level at O.C. Fisher Lake and saw a few Least Sandpipers scampering along the end of a boat ramp.

Least Sandpipers

Least Sandpipers

That’s about it for this post.  I hope you enjoyed the images.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.  I’ll be back in a few days.

 

Ruby-crowned Kinglet and friends


I am waiting for the spring migration to begin, as are many birders.  It is that time of year when we start getting some new birds moving, either through, or arriving here for the summer.  We all need the excitement to forget about all of the winter doldrums.

Having said that, perhaps I am a bit over-anxious.  After all, this is still mid-March so it will be a couple of weeks or more until it gets exciting.  So, I just go out and look for excitement.  This time, it was in the form of three Ruby-crowned Kinglets that Ann and I spotted on Monday.  It is always fun trying to photograph these tiny birds.  Rarely sitting still, and flitting from one branch to a nearby twig or fence.  So, it was a a bonus when one of them starting to show it’s red crown.  I got several images, but it took me about seventy attempts and I came away with only about four usable photos.  Here are two of the best.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

A few days earlier, we had received several thunderstorms so the local parks were pretty well saturated.  Not wanting to spend time driving through the mud, we opted to go to San Angelo State Park. We checked into the blind to see what was hanging out.  I really don’t like the blind when the sun is bright, as there is a problem with harsh shadows.  However, I figured it was better to get poor shots than no shots at all.  I was able to correct the light in the following photos.  Not too bad, after all.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

This photo of the Fox Sparrow is not up to my standards, with the grass being a distraction, but this was the first time I ever had the opportunity to photograph one.  It is uncommon here, and was only visible for a few short minutes.

Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

We left the blind for a quick drive around the area.  Pickin’s were a little slim.  I guess the birds had not fully recovered from the storms.  We did come across this pretty Black-throated Sparrow.

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

I got lucky with catching this Yellow-rumped Warbler on the wing.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

That ended our day at San Angelo State Park.  I hope to get back out in the next few days and have better hunting.  Until then, Happy Birding!!

The Shot that Started it All.


Most of you don’t know it, but I used to be just a flower and landscape photographer.  I had absolutely no interest in photographing birds.  That changed in October of 2006, just only about ten years ago.  We were visiting our dear friends, Deb and Paul, in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Deb is an excellent photographer, too.  She, at that time, was shooting with a Nikon Camera while  I had my Canon.  (Deb now uses Canon equipment).  We were discussing the attributes of each brand when  I saw some birds in a large evergreen tree outside of their living room window.  I decided to try and shoot some photos, and Deb generously took the screen off and opened the window for me.  I started shooting and this image of a House Finch is the very first photo of any bird that I have ever taken.

House Finch

House Finch

A few minutes later, I followed up this one of a Red-bellied Woodpecker, the second bird photo that I had ever taken.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Those two photos really got me hooked on bird photography, and birding in general.  I had never realized how many beautiful birds there were in the avian world.  The experience taught me that if a person opens his or her eyes and really looks, they can discover that there are wonders in nature all around us.  Of course, I still love my landscape photography, especially when I get to go to the beautiful Big Bend area of west Texas.  But even while there, I am always on the lookout for some great bird photo opportunities.

With the wind and some thunderstorms, the birding has been slow, but here are some images from the past few days.  These were taken at San Angelo State Park.  I prefer to not use the blind there, although I do go there on occasion.  I have much more fun hunting and photographing from my car.  I can catch the birds in more natural settings, sans bird feeders, etc.

Canyon Towhee

Canyon Towhee

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Lark Bunting

Lark Bunting

All in all, I would say that I have come a long way in the past ten years.  I hope you agree.  Be sure to click on any image to see an enlargement.

Happy Birding!!

900th Post – Blue Gray Gnatcatcher


This is my 900th post that I have written since I got started on this blog about seven 7 years ago.  It was at the urging of my wife Ann, and my dear friend and fellow photographer, Deb Tappan, in Tennessee that I decided I would give it a try.  Now I have a great following with readers in 161 countries at last count.  It has been great fun, but I am still at a loss about how I ever was able to think of 900 subjects and titles to write about.  But, hopefully I can continue and be able to reach 1000.

It seems be fitting that I feature one photo of a bird that has challenged me all of those years to get a great image.  The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is a very tiny bird. It is fast, quick, never sits still.  Always on the move.  By the time I have the camera focused in the spot where he is or was, he is off to another spot.  And so it went, time after time.  But a couple of days ago, at Spring Creek Park, he may have gotten a little tired and because he stopped for a few more seconds.  I finally got this result.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

But he was not alone.  During the past few days we have been able to see several species, and I was able to get a few more nice photos, such as this Lark Bunting.

Lark Bunting

Lark Bunting

We spotted this Osprey later, as we entered the Middle Concho Park.

Osprey

Osprey

Followed quickly by this Golden-fronted Woodpecker.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

After that, the birds got a little scarce, possibly because the wind had come up.  But on the way out of the park, the Osprey apparently had done a little fishing and he was perched on a tree limb enjoying his lunch.

Osprey

Osprey

So there you have it……number 900.  Now, on towards number 1,000.  Perhaps I will make it by another year. 🙂

Click on any photo to see an enlargement.

 

Happy Birding!!

White-throated Sparrow – A Lifer


To a birder, a lifer is a bird that has seen for the very first time.  Hence, we saw a White-throated Sparrow on the 29th of February, for our first time.  It was at Spring Creek Park, scratching in the grass.  It was that it was all alone that got our attention to check it out.  It is a rare bird here, but not unusual to see on on ocassion.  Anyway, it brings my life list total to 286.  The photo isn’t really great.  As you can see, it was right at the edge of shade and bright sunshine.  That makes for difficult exposures.  But what a great start to a fun couple of days birding.

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

As we drove through the park we spotted two photographers, both with the requisite camo clothes, tripods, and huge lenses.  Like I used to have.  They had out-of-state plates on their car.  Anyway, they had flushed that female Great Horned Owl off of it’s nest and it was resting high in a tree.  I stopped, got my little ‘ole 150-600mm lens out and nailed a great shot as it thankfully headed back to it’s nest.  I hand-held the camera and I was dressed in plain old clothes.

female Great Horned Owl heading to the nest.

female Great Horned Owl heading to the nest.

I think those two guys were part of a huge bunch that was harassing the owl on Sunday afternoon.  That group was headed up by the Mr. Doe that was instrumental in saying that I harassed wildlife by sharing the info to knowledgeable birders.  Well, ’nuff said about that.

We continued on through Spring Creek Park then headed to the Middle Concho Park that is located just across the water, but since there is no bridge, it is about an eight mile drive around to get to it.

Here are a few more images from around that area.  Click on any image in this post to see some very nice enlargements.

First, is this little Pied-billed Grebe.  They just swim around, occasionally diving under the water for something and usually coming up with nothing.  But what the heck…..they look like they are smiling and happy.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

This Roadrunner was along the road, (where else?), looking for tidbits for lunch.  Since the little ground squirrels are coming out of hibernation, he should be able to start eating better very soon. 🙂

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

Can you take another owl?  This is the male that is supposed to guarding the nest where the previous female resides, sitting on the eggs.  He looks bored.  Wonder if he will make it another month or so.

Great Horned Owl - male

Great Horned Owl – male

A lot of these Meadowlarks hanging around now.  There are usually a few European Starlings tagging along.

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

There are also a lot of these Yellow-rumped Warblers here, too.  They will be leaving in mid-May, to return in October to spend the winter.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

The Sapsuckers can confuse a lot of people.  They look like the average woodpecker.  They used to confuse me, too, until I started to look for that white ‘stripe’ down the side of their feathers.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Let’s finish up with one of favorites.  I love photographing herons.  This is the same juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron from my previous post.  He has found a home across the water from Spring Creek Park. Always about 200 yards away. I imagine that his adult parent is watching from another hidden spot. This time he was more in the open, aiding me in getting a better image.

Black-crowned Night Heron - juvenile

Black-crowned Night Heron – juvenile

Well, that is about it for this post.  I had fun writing it and I hope you had fun reading it.

‘Til then, Happy Birding!!