Elusive Great Horned Owl

Birds continue to be a little sparse around here, but Ann and I have to keep them honest so we continue go on our little jaunts through our favorites sites.  Not only is it still great fun, but healthy as well.  But my rehab exercises are starting to pay dividends.  They have helped me feel better.  In fact, I saw my doctor a few of days ago for a checkup.  He said, “Bob, you are in”awesome” shape.”  Of course, except for terminal pulmonary fibrosis, incurable Marfans Syndrome, polymysemia which is under conttrol, and osteoporosis for which I think there is an app.  In other words, I am in pretty danged good shape considering the shape I am in. 🙂

But I digress.  Saturday, when we ventured out to Spring Creek Park, we weren’t seeing much, but Ann exclaimed “Stop!”  When she says that I stomp the brake.  She pointed out the a large live oak tree on the left.  She said “There’s an owl!”  At first, I didn’t see it, but after looking to where she was pointing, I did in fact spot it.  It was in the open but the harsh morning sun was casting glaring highlights and deep shadows.  I took several exposures, which although I didn’t know it at the time, they ended up being tossed in the digital waste basket.

We continued on and ran into a couple of new birders, Natalie Bryan and Kristina Phluger.  We told them about the owl.  They were pretty excited as they had never seen one in the wild.  We invited them to follow us, and we drove back to where we had originally spotted it.  Alas! It wasn’t there.  But, Ann with here sharp eye, saw that it had moved to another place.  As we watched, it flew about 200 yards to another resting place.  We could see where it went, so we drove a bit closer, where we had an open shot with our long lenses.  I took several more photos, trying to get a shot that avoided the leaf that was over the owl’s face.  I had to settle for this one.  Not too bad.  I hope you like it.


Great Horned Owl

After that, we decided to check out Twin Buttes Reservoir.  Pretty much the same results.  No birds to speak of, except for this Red-tailed Hawk atop a utility pole.  You know that I have a weakness for photographing them.


Red-tailed Hawk

Well, keep your eyes and fingers crossed.  Birding will soon improve.

’til then, HAPPY BIRDING

Patience a Definite Virtue

I recently posted on Facebook, a couple of photographs that I captured of a pair of Red-tailed Hawks, perched side-by-side on a dead tree.  I received many comments of congratulations, several of which mentioned on how lucky I was.  I am deeply appreciated of those compliments, although I know that there are many that think that I just have to aim the camera, click the shutter and then publish the snapshot.  I wish it were that easy.  I am good, but not that good. 🙂


Well, first, I was definitely lucky to come upon the two hawks together like they were.  However, the pose that I eventually got had nothing to do with luck.  They both, as birds do, were constantly moving their bodies and eyes.  Fidgeting their heads here and there.  My goal was to capture both of them looking to my right at the same time, wanting to get their heads in profile.

Well, I did indeed reach my goal, but to get there I had to patiently sit and take around one hundred exposures, while nervously wondering if the birds would fly too soon.  I finally gave it up after about twenty minutes.  I was far enough away, about 150 yards, that there is no way I was disturbing them.  I don’t think they ever noticed me in my car.


These two images were the only ones that met my personal standards.  My point is that patience can make the difference between a mediocre photo and a truly great image.  So yes, luck did get me to the opportunity.  Then it was up to me to finish the job.

For those that are interested, my wildlife set-up is my Canon 7D MkII with a Tamron 150-600mm G2 zoom lens.  For several years I owned a $7,000 Canon 500mm prime lens, but age caught up with me and I had problems handling it in the confines of my ‘mobile’ bird blind, AKA my Ford Escape.  My settings for most wildlife is usually TV or Shutter-priority mode.  My shutter speed is usually high, from 1,000 to 5000 per second, set at hi-speed so I can shoot in bursts.  Auto ISO rounds it out and I usually get great results.  My right thumb is usually on the main EV dial, so I can make adjustments on the fly if need be.  I crop a lot, and do minor editing is Photoshop CS5.  (Try all that with a telephone.) 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this post and the images.  Prints are available, of course.  Just click the My Gallery button at the top of this page for more information, or contact me at bobzeller@pobox.com.

‘Til the next time,


Quail of west Texas

Where are all of the birds?  Ann and I have been going out a couple times a week and we are finding a scarcity of birds in our area.  San Angelo State Park is usually a great birding venue but we have been lucky to see only a dozen or so species on recent trips there.  The same goes for Spring Creek Park.  We have been visiting on several morning to Twin Buttes Reservoir and have been rewarded with raptors, though.  That is always fun.

But absent of exciting news about local birding, I decided to reach back in my files and write about the local quail.  They are always fun to watch and photograph.

Most frequent sightings of quail in this area are of the Northern Bobwhite.  We have seen them in the brush and in trees.  The adults are are very watchful of their young, always herding the little ones around.  We have seen an adult literally stop traffic, while it’s mate escorts the kiddos across the road.  They can be found throughout the central and eastern part of the United States.  The following three photos were captured at San Angelo’s State Park.


Male Northern Bobwhite


Female Northern Bobwhite


Northern Bobwhite in tree.

The Scaled Quail is another that is found in the Concho Valley, albeit not in as greater numbers.  They primarily reside in the desert southwest.  They get their name from the pattern of their feathers.  They are also know as Blue Quail for the bluish tint they sometimes display in certain light.

We were prowling around Lake Balmorhea, in west Texas, when I spotted a small flock of them.  Near a fence there was a pile of dirt.  Two of them climbed atop the pile. Then as I was getting a photograph, a third wanted to get in on the act and joined them.


Scaled Quail


Scaled Quail

The photo below was taken at another location.


Scaled Quail

The Gambel’s Quail is found from far west Texas, into New Mexico and Arizona.  We hadn’t been lucky to see any in our travels until we visited Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.  The photo below is one of my images from there.


Gambel’s Quail

On a later trip to Presidio, Texas, we spotted this Gambel’s Quail as we were approaching the outskirts of the city.


Gambel’s Quail

Last, but definitely not least is the beauiful Montezuma Quail.  In Texas, they are seen in the Davis and Quadalupe Mountains in the far west of the state.  But knowing where they are and finding them is a matter of luck and timing.  It took us about four visits to the area before we finally saw our first one.  We were visiting a friend that resides in the upper elevations of the Davis Mountains.  He had a bird viewing site of his own and allowed us to watch for awhile.  After a couple of hours of viewing and photographing other species, a couple of the tiny Montezuma Quail wandered down to his water feature.  My heart leaped at the chance to photograph them.


Montezuma Quail.


Montezuma Quail

I really hope you enjoyed this post and the photos.  As for me, I feel so fortunate that I live in an area that I can get out into the wild to photograph God’s creatures, and share them with you through this blog.

Until the next time,






The Snipe – Master at Camouflage

I went to a high-end hunting supply store, searching for a camouflage shirt.  I couldn’t find one.

I am not a credit to my profession; that of a wildlife photographer.  I never got into wearing camo gear.  I don’t know why.  Anyway, if you come a’lookin’ fo me, I am easy to find. 🙂

But a creature that is a master at camouflage is the Wilson’s Snipe.  They can blend in with the environment in which they live.  You can be looking right at it and not know it is there.  That happened to me once.  I was searching the reeds along the side of a creek.  I spotted what I though was a dark spot on a leaf.  After staring at it for a few seconds, I realized that I was looking into the eye of a snipe.

Much has been said about the snipe over the years.  People have been subject of a prank and told to go on a snipe hunt.  The idea was that there was no such thing as a snipe, or so they thought.  Similar to a new airman being told to go get a bucket of prop wash.  If that puzzles you, send me an e-mail and I will explain. 🙂

The snipe is a very tiny sandpiper, about 10-11 inches in length, with a bill that is nearly as long as it’s body.  They like to forage in shallow water or mud, looking for larval insects, crustaceans, earthworms, or mollusks.  They probe with their bills, sometime going deep enough that the bill is covered up to their eyes.  Then they swallow their prey without withdrawing the bill from the soil or water.

Here are a few images from my files to illustrate their talent to hide in plain sight.


Wilson’s Snipe




Wilson’s Snipe


Wilson’s Snipe

In other news, I had mentioned that I was doing rehab exercises at Shannon Clinic to strengthen my lungs and help my breathing in my fight with pulmonary fibrosis.  I just purchased a recumbent bicycle of my own so i can continue rehab at home.  I hope you love the picture.  By the way, I am feeling great so no reason to worry for awhile.


My bike and me. 🙂

As you can see I am enjoying my ‘ride’ quite immensely. 🙂

Well, that’s it for this post.

Until then, HAPPY BIRDING!!!!



The Magnificent Osprey

I love photographing the raptors.  One of my favorites is the Osprey.  I can usually find one or two near the local lakes; either Lake Nasworthy, O. C. Fisher Lake, or Twin Buttes Reservoir.  Lately I have been seeing some around the latter.  They winter in the southern half of Texas, but occasionally can be seen in warmer months.  They dine exclusively on fish.  They forage by flying over the water, then diving and snatching their lunch with sharp talons.

They are a fierce looking birds, as my photo below shows.


Osprey with fish lunch

He was high on a utility pole, about 75 yards from me and my camera.  Fortunately, he was pretty intent on eating, so I was able to take my time and get several esposures.

They are a beautiful bird in flight.  I captured the photo below on another occasion.  He had finished eating and was just doing a bit of sight-seeing.  Photographed in the early morning sunrise.


Osprey in flight

Here is another image of one watching, just sitting and a’grinning.  I got this capture early this morning.


Below are a couple of images from several years ago, when I got lucky and caught one in flight, clutching his meal.


Osprey in flight


Osprey in flight

I hope you enjoyed my little post about one of my favorite birds.  Feel free to comment.  I enjoy hearing from you.

Until the next time.