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.

Gray Catbird quest finally realized.


In search of that elusive Gray Catbird, Ann and I have been getting up with the chickens, about 6:30 in the morning.  We get dressed then head to the Jack and Jill Donut Shop for some coffee and a burrito to go.  We then headed to the area near Spring Creek Park where the catbird had been spending several days.  We had seen it once previously, but I was on a quest to get a photograph.  Anyway, Friday morning we followed the same routine.  But again, the Gray Catbird failed to make an appearance.  In case you were wondering about the excitement, the catbird is very rare to this area.  It’s normal range is much more to the east.

We decided to sit and wait and see what else might shot up.  We weren’t disappointed.  This Orange-crowned Warbler made a stop in the reeds.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

The light was really low this early in the morning so I boosted the ISO to 5000.  My Canon 7d Mark II handled it very nicely with minimal noise.  I also got these two Lincoln’s Sparrow images.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

A Yellow-rumped Warbler perched in a nearby tree.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

A Northern Mockingbird checked out his territory from a log near the water.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

We probably spent nearly two hours at this location, but when we decided that the catbird had left the building, we moved on.

We hit the brushy areas in the park.  At one point, we saw another birder friend, Randy Hesford, waving us to stop.  We drove near to him where he was peering into the brush.  We got out of the car and carefully walked over to see what he was looking at.  There it was.  A Gray Catbird!  It was moving all over in the tangled bushes.  After several attempts, I finally was able to get it in focus.

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

Not the greatest photo, but I had to work with what was in front of me.  At least, I finally got my picture.

We continued to stroll along the brush line and caught a few other small birds.  This Ruby-crowned Kinglet seemed to have an attitude.  I was surprised that his red crown wasn’t showing.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Another Yellow-rumped Warbler posed for me.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

We also so a variety of other small birds while there, but failing to get anymore usuable images.  Some birds that we saw were a Verdin, Hermit Thrush, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe to name a few.

After that foray, we headed to Middle Concho Park and I will save the pictures from there for my next post.

Click on any image to see enlargements.

 

Happy Birding!

An exciting weekend……


Ann and I woke up early this morning.  The weather look great, so we had this great idea, to get out to Spring Creek Park early enough to get a look at a Gray Catbird the has been seen regularly.  We got to that designated spot about 7:15.  Alas!  Just as we drove near we spotted a grayish bird fly across the water.  We don’t know if that was the catbird or not, but after 30 minutes of waiting and watching, we decided to get back home for breakfast.  We missed him, but we will try again tomorrow morning.  So stay tuned.  But all was not lost.  During the time it took to get there and watch, we observed a Song Sparrow, Osprey, Ringed-bill Gull, Northern Cardinal, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Mockingbird, Wild Turkey, and several White-tailed Deer.

Over the weekend, we got out a couple of times and although the birding was not great, I got some nice looking photos if I do say so myself.  Here’s a re-cap.

On Friday we got out for a little while but not much was stirring.  However, I got lucky and came up with this nice photo of a Dark-eyed Junco.  This is a slate-colored variety.  He was back-lit and in the shade, but with a little finagling in my digital darkroom I was able to correct the lighting.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

On Sunday, things were a little better but not as good as usual.  However we decided to hit Spring Creek Park and Middle Concho Park.

First up was this Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

This Great Blue Heron was standing a log and not doing much of anything, but just staring.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Before leaving the lake area we drove by the little beach area at Mary Lee Park.  I tried my luck at photographing gulls in flight.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

That was it for the Lake Nasworthy area.  We had plenty of time, so off to the San Angelo State Park we went.  We drove around through the area where they had burned off the unwanted Mesquite trees and brush.  Not much stirring, I imagine because of the loss of so much habitat.

We headed in the direction of the Burkett multi-use area.  Along the way it finally got real exciting.  Off to the right of the road was an American Kestrel clinging to the top of stem from a bush.  I was hesitant because these birds are known to not hang around very long.

But since he appeared to be just enjoying himself, I decided to take a chance.  I turned right and drove into this rough area, carefully avoiding driving over any prickly pear.  I swung around enough so I could photograph from my driver’s side window.  One thing I have learned, folks, is to never get out of the car.  The birds will fly for sure.

So, I was in position, about thirty yards away.  Believe it or not, he continued to sit and sway in the wind, at times staring at me.  I managed to get off about forty shots of varying poses.  Here are two of them.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

I love this one………

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

After those forty shots, I was getting brave and decided to do what I tell people not to do.  I got out of the car. Hey, I wanted creep closer.  Instantly, the kestrel took flight.  Of course, I knew it would.  Will I ever learn??

But that ended our day on an exciting note.  It was definitely the highlight of the day.

I hope you enjoyed the story and the photos.  Click on any of them to see nice enlargements.

Happy Birding!!

Footnote:  I always try to live by the rule that you should never disturb the wildlife.  I violated that principal by trying to get out of the car.  I didn’t need to get closer.  I had all of the shots I wanted.  My long lens gets me as close I need to be.  I should have stayed in the car and drove away.  So, in recflection, I am sorry for my actions.

 

The Day the Birds Stopped Co-operating


We just had a day of fun birding, seeing a good variety of species, but for the photography, it was somewhat of a bust.  I missed shots or they were to far away to get good close-ups.  But I am not complaining.  A bad day birding beats a good day of sitting in my office at the computer.

At one point, we spotted a Cooper’s Hawk high in a tree, about 65 feet off of the ground.  It’s back was toward me.  As I was maneuvering my mobile blind, AKA my Ford Escape, I startled a Great Horned Owl in a tree branch right in front of me.  I hadn’t seen it.  It instantly flew off, and that startled the Cooper’s hawk, and it, too, left the scene.  I missed two great opportunities there.

But not to be discouraged we drove on.  We stopped and parked near the water’s edge where a Gray Catbird had been seen previously.  We spent about 15 minutes just sitting and watching.  We never did see the Catbird, but just as we were about to leave, we spotted a splash of yellow about 125 yards across the water in thick brush.  With our binoculars we discovered at Common Yellowthroat flitting around.  I put my super zoom camera lens on it, but it was really to tiny and too far for a decent shot.  But, doggone it, I am going to show you what I got, anyway.  Look very close, and you can see the Yellowthroat in the center of the picture.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

At one point, Ann was looking across the water, and said she could see an owl.  I scoped out the trees over there and I couldn’t see it.  I moved the car along and had another look.  Sure enough, after a few minutes of carefully scanning the trees with my binoculars, I finally saw it, too.  How Ann was able to spot it so easily, is beyond me.  I stopped the car, and turned off the engine so I could steady the camera better.  It was about 175 yards away.  I was able to get a fair shot of it.  At least, it made up for the previously missed owl photo.  Here is the heavily cropped photos.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Also, again across the river, (what is it about all of the birds appearing across the river) we spotted a Belted Kingfisher.  Just a dot of white until we put the binoculars on it.  I decided for another long range shot, this from about 150 yards.  Not bad.

Belted Kingfishe - female

Belted Kingfisher – female

Again, at another location across the water, we could barely make out this Black-crowned Night Heron.  I am so thankful for my long Tamron 150-600mm lens.  I am really giving it a workout today.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

Some photos along the water came out much better.

This Wilson’s Snipe was not doing a great job of hiding from me.

Wilson't Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe

A Pied-billed Grebe glides silently and happily on the water.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

A Great Blue Heron rest on a log across the water, but at a much closer location.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Back into the more wooded areas we caught a few smaller birds.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Pine Warber

Pine Warbler – female

White-crowned Sparrow - juvenile

White-crowned Sparrow – juvenile

I hoped you enjoyed this post.  Click on the images to see enlarged photos.

 

Happy Birding!!

Birding Eldorado Water Treatment Ponds


As you know, Ann and I recently took a five day trip to the Big Bend area.  Upon returning, we were barely unpacked, when our friends Sid and Suzanne Johnson called from Eldorado.  They had been birding the water treatment ponds a few days before and had seen a Black Scoter, Least Grebe, Common Golden-eye, and a Sora.  Holey Moley, Batman!!  All four of those are relatively rare to these parts.  That was Tuesday morning.  We had errands and chores to do so we were unable to go immediately, even though we were pretty excited!

So, keeping our eyes and fingers crossed that the birds would stay longer, we finally got away Wednesday morning.  Eldorado is only about 40 miles away from San Angelo, and easy 30 minute trip. :-)

We met up with the Johnsons and headed to the ponds.  There were ducks of all descriptions there.  The water was fairly calm and it made for somewhat easier photography.  I say somewhat easy, because the ducks are always on the other side of the pond, but nevertheless, with my long lens I was able to come up with some images.  Alas, we found only two of the four fore-mentioned species, the Black Scoter and the Least Grebe.  Oh well, two out of four isn’t bad.

Here are those images plus a few others that I managed to photograph.

Least Grebe

Least Grebe

Black Scoter

Black Scoter

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup

American Pippit

American Pippit

Wilson's Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe

Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren

Along with those birds we saw Buffleheads, Redheads, Ruddy Ducks, Northern Pintails, Ring-necked Ducks, Green-winged Teals, Northern Shovelers, Red-winged Blackbirds, and a Great Blue Heron.  I think that about covers it.

Anyway, it was much fun!  I hope to get back down there soon and look for those that we missed. :-)