Bird activity at Spring Creek Park

The weather has cooled and birding has improved over the past few days.  It is hard to believe that just four days ago on the 18th, San Angelo had a record-breaking high of 97°.  It broke the old record of 92 set back about 100 years ago by five degrees.

So anyway, a few days ago, Ann and I went to Spring Creek to check out the birds there.  What fun we had.  First we came upon a Red-tailed Hawk just as it flew from a tree in front of us.  I quickly watched to see where it landed.  Luck was with us and it landed in a tree about another 150 yards away.  It had it’s back to me and it was back-lit, but I did get this photo as it looked back at us.

Red-tailed Hawk - 1/2000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 6400.

Red-tailed Hawk – 1/2000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 6400.

A few minutes later, we saw several Cattle Egrets along the edge of the water.  I got out of the car, and keeping trees between me and the birds I tried to get within camera range.  They were skittish and I only managed to get a photo of this one that was slower than the rest.

Catttle Egret - 1/2000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 160.

Catttle Egret – 1/2000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 160.

As we circled through a horseshoe drive portion of the park, we spotted this Vermilion Flycatcher in a smal live oak next to the road.  It was on the opposite side of the car so I couldn’t shoot through the window easily.  I got out of the vehicle, placed my bean-bag on the roof of the car and got a pretty decent image, if I do say so myself.

Vermilion Flycatcher - 1/2000 @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 160.

Vermilion Flycatcher – 1/2000 @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 160.

Also along the water, we saw a Spotted Sandpiper hopping along.

Spotted Sandpiper - 1/2000 sec, @ f6,3, -0.3 EV, ISO 320

Spotted Sandpiper – 1/2000 sec, @ f6,3, -0.3 EV, ISO 320.

It is always fun to run across a roadrunner.

Greater Roadrunner - 1/1600 sec. @ f6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO 160.

Greater Roadrunner – 1/1600 sec. @ f6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO 160.

Greater Roadrunner - 1/1600 sec. @ f6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO 160.

Greater Roadrunner – 1/1600 sec. @ f6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO 160.

After leaving the park, we saw this Osprey looking out over the water, hoping to see an early lunch.

Osprey - 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, -0.3, ISO 1000.

Osprey – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, -0.3, ISO 1000.

After having so much fun that day, we decided to return the following day.  Immediately, we saw a Great Blue Heron in the water.  I liked it’s pose and as I turned the car to get a good shooting angle, a large Osprey flew down and scared the heron off.  The Osprey decided to stay awhile and stayed in the water where the heron had stood.  It apparently like the water temperature so it decided to bathe and get itself clean.  It flopped around, shook it’s wings, dove under the water for an instant than shook itself dry again.  It repeated this several times.

Osprey - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, -0.3, ISO 320

Osprey – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 320

Osprey - 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3, - 0.3 EV, ISO 1000.

Osprey – 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3, – 0.3 EV, ISO 1000.

Osprey - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 250.

Osprey – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 250.

Finally, it took off and landed a few yards away to dry off.

Osprey - 1/2000 sec. @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 800.

Osprey – 1/2000 sec. @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 800.

This whole sequence took place about 150 yards away from my camera position.  In retrospect, I wish I had videoed the whole time.  But I didn’t want to take a chance of missing the whole thing, while trying to set up my camera for recording.  I ended up with about 150 different exposures, and perhaps after reviewing all of them, I may find some more interesting images.

Meanwhile, up in the trees away from the water, this Great Horned Owl slept through the excitement.

Great Horned Owl - 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

Great Horned Owl – 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

We ended our little foray into Spring Creek Park by getting an image of one of my favorite birds, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - 1/2000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 250.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – 1/2000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 250.

I hoped you enjoyed this post.  Click on any image to see some amazing enlargements.


‘Til the next time, Happy Birding!!


Snowy Egrets and more…..

This morning, after resting the weekend from our Fort Davis trip, (more on that later), we ventured out to the local parks.  What a nice surprise we got when we got to Spring Creek Park.  There we found two Snowy Egrets wading in the water.  It was the first time this year we had seen any of these wading birds.  They are not rare, but they are hard to find.  They are also hard to photograph in the early morning sun.  Click on any photo to see some nice enlargements.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

As I mentioned above, we spent most of last week in the Davis Mountains of west Texas.  The birding was slower than we expected.  I guess Ann and I tend to rush the season sometimes, and I perhaps we may have been a couple of weeks early.  Never the less, we added three more species to our 2016 list and one more lifer.  The lifer, a Black-bellied Plover, we saw in a plowed field that had water standing in it, about a mile east of Balmorhea, Texas.  There were some other water birds there including another first of the year for us, a Western Sandpiper.

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover

We stopped at nearby Lake Balmorhea, where we have had good luck in the past.  Again, I feel we were a couple of weeks early.  Usually, in the fall and winter, it is teeming with all sorts of egrets, herons, grebes and other duck species.  We did see some Cattle Egrets and Clark’s Grebes, plus some other common resident sparrows and other birds.

Cattle Egrets

Cattle Egrets

Clark's Grebe

Clark’s Grebe

After arriving in Fort Davis and getting settled in to our room at the Davis Mountains Inn we spent a couple of days mostly relaxing.  Birding in the mornings until about 3:00 PM then retiring to our room to rest of the day and evening.  Here are some more of our birding highlights.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow.


Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

We did see many more birds than the above, but they were mostly too far off for any decent photos, or they were elusive, and flew away too quickly.

The village of Fort Davis continues to be one of our favorite places to vist, along with the Davis Mountains and Davis Mountains State Park.  As on other visits, we enjoyed staying at the Davis Mountains Inn.  This time we met some great people that we enjoyed visiting and eating with.  Walt and Carol Kraatz from Fort Worth, and Mike and JoJean Ray from Fredericksburg, Texas.

That’s it for this post.  Happy Birding!!

Running late again……..

After a very action filled ten days, I am finally back to write another post.  Sorry about the long delay, but things happen.  Currently, our A/C is not running.  We have contracted to have a new complete unit installed, but that won’t happen until next Tuesday the 11th.  The installing company did loan us one window unit, and fortunately the temps here are in the low 90s and will be in the 80s in a couple of days.  So we cope.  Also, about ten days ago, I was eating a chicken salad from Wendy’s and unfortunately I bit down on a tiny bit of something hard, perhaps a bone, and I chipped one of my front teeth.  I know have a cute little gap, much like that little “What Me Worry” guy on the front cover of Mad Magazine many years ago.

Of course, part of my delay is that birding was quite slow for a few days. We would go out and wonder where did all of the birds go.  So, for a change of pace, we made a trip to South Llano River State Park.  It is noted for the great birding there.  It really wasn’t that great their either, but with what I got there and what I have photographed the past three days, I feel I can contribute to a nice post for you.  I know you like a lot of pictures.

Right now there are a couple of Great Kiskadees hanging out around Spring Creek Park, here in San Angelo.  A fellow birder, Randy Hesford informed us of them back on September 25.  Kiskadees are very rare here.  Anyway,we went out the following morning and spotted them about 200 yards away across the water.  We were hoping they would come to our side, but they stayed where they were so I tried to get photos with my Tamron 150-600mm lens.  Here is one those distant photos.  Heavily cropped so the image quality is not very good.

Great Kiskadee - 1/1250 sec @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

Great Kiskadee – 1/1250 sec @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

Nearby a Great Blue Heron was grazing.

Great Blue Heron - 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400

Great Blue Heron – 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400

There was nothing more happening, so we went home.  The following morning we were back to see if the Kiskadee were still there.  I got another shot from a little farther away, but it shows both of the birds.

Great Kiskadees - 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

Great Kiskadees – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

On the following day, we decided to go to San Angelo State Park.  We were a little later than usual, so we didn’t know how successful we would be.  But luck was with us as we drove along one of the many roads there.  We had been seeing a Kingbird, in the area.  We were thinking Western Kingbird.  But after thinking about it, we realized it was all alone, and we remembered that most of them had already left.  So as you suspect, I had been ignoring it.  But I decided to try and get a good photo and look at it closer.  Well it turned out to be a Cassin’s Kingbird, a bird seldom seen here.  It goes to show you, during migration, anything can show up, such as those Great Kiskadees.  Here, I might add that Randy Hesford saw and photographed a Couch’s Kingbird hanging out with the Kiskadees.  Another rarity.  So here is the photo of the Cassin’s Kingbird.

Cassin's Kingbird - 1/1000 sec, @ f7.1, ISO 200.

Cassin’s Kingbird – 1/1000 sec, @ f7.1, ISO 200.

After driving through the State Park and not getting anything more interesting, we decided we still had time to go to Middle Concho Park.  There I was able to photograph this gorgeous Vermilion Flycatcher.  The amazing part was that I happened to drive close by this tiny live oak tree.  A brilland flash of red caught my left eye.  There, only about eight away, was the tiny bird sitting.  I  quietly got my camera off of my lap and started shooting.  He must have sat there for around three minutes.  He then moved to another branch, just a little farther away, maybe ten feet.  Again, I was able to take my time a get several more images.  Here are two of them.  I hope you like.

Vermilion Flycatcher - 1/1000 sec. @ f5.6, +0.7 EV, ISO 2500

Vermilion Flycatcher – 1/1000 sec. @ f5.6, +0.7 EV, ISO 2500.

Vermilion Flycatcher - 1/1000 sec, @ f6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO 3200

Vermilion Flycatcher – 1/1000 sec, @ f6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO 3200.

The next day we decided to go to South Llano River SP.  They have four different bird viewing blinds.  We usually try to hit all four, as we can see a variety of birds at each one.  We have had better days there, but we saw enough to make the trip worthwhile.  Here are a few images from that little jaunt down to the Junction, Texas area.  Randy Hesford accompanied us, and while were there, we ran into another birder friend, David Hunt.

Northern Cardinal - 1/1000 sec. @ f5.6, +1 EV, ISO 2500.

Northern Cardinal – 1/1000 sec. @ f5.6, +1 EV, ISO 2500.

Yellow Warbler - 1/800 sec, @ f6.3, +0.3, ISO 400.

Yellow Warbler – 1/800 sec, @ f6.3, +0.3, ISO 400.

Vermilion Flycatcher, female - 1/1000 @ f5.6m -0.3 EV, ISO 100.

Vermilion Flycatcher, female – 1/1000 @ f5.6m -0.3 EV, ISO 100.

Black-throated Sparrow - 1/1000 sec, @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 400.

Black-throated Sparrow – 1/1000 sec, @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 400.

Back to San Angelo.  On October 2nd, my 82nd birthday, thank you very much, we decided to run to the State Park again.  I came away with this nice close-up of a Grasshopper Sparrow.

Grasshopper Sparrow - 1/800 sec. @ f5.6, +0.7 EV, ISO 160.

Grasshopper Sparrow – 1/800 sec. @ f5.6, +0.7 EV, ISO 160.

On October 4th, we decided to go back to Middle Concho Park to check on the Vermilion Flycatchers.  I got this shot of a female of the species.

Vermilon Flycatcher, female - 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO 640.

Vermilon Flycatcher, female – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO 640.


Ladder-backed Woodpecker, female. 1/1000 sec. @f7.1, ISO 1000.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker, female. 1/1000 sec. @f7.1, ISO 1000.

In attendance was this Ladder-backed Woodpecker female.

So that is it for this post.  It is lengthy, and I hope it made up for my lateness.🙂

Please click on any image to see some great enlargements, especially if you are viewing this on a computer.

How I edit my images

After publishing my post about how I shoot my bird photos, I thought it would be nice to do a follow-up about how I finish up, or editing my images for final publishing.  Believe it or not, regardless of what you have heard or read, cameras DO lie.  When a RAW image comes from the camera, it often looks flat, without that snap. and with bland colors.

I am going to show you how I obtained a beautiful photo of a Northern Bobwhite.  It began when I was driving through San Angelo State Park, and spotted some of these quail in a fallen tree about 50 yards away.  This is the original photo from my Canon DOS 7D Mark II with a Tamron 150-600mm lens.

Northern Bobwhite on tree branch

Northern Bobwhite on tree branch

It was early morning, there was broken shade and the subject was partially back-lit, the light coming slightly from the left.  Exposure was 1/1000 sec @ f7.1 with an ISO 1000.  I added one stop of EV adjustment to ensure enough light on the subject bird, the one in the center of the frame.  It was too far away to zoom in any closer. I had the lens maxed out at 600mm.

Now I am going to tell about how I do my editing.  First, no, it is not an old family recipe handed down.  It may not be the best method, but it is what works for me.

I have been told that I am pretty unorthodox with my editing.  I just like to keep things simple, and not have to do anything complicated.  The first thing I do is to load my images into a program called FastStone Image Viewer.  I like that little (free) program.  It is, for me, a great place to put my image files.  Great for organizing, and most of all, I can convert my RAW files there.

So after loading the images from my camera, I then convert the RAW file to the JPEG image that you see above.  After conversion, I save that JPEG file to a folder in FastStone Image Viewer.  I told you that I liked that organizer.  Now unlike a lot of photographer that use Lightroom,  I use Photoshop 5, having gotten it at half-price several years ago, when the dropped the price when Photoshop 6 came out.

After opening a file in Photoshop, my first step in my workflow is to check it out using the Shadows and Highlights tool, making any minor lighting adjustments there.  Then I like to use the Curves adjustment tool to tweak the exposure more, for contrast, etc.  I have another plug-in, Topaz DNoise, and excellent tool for removing any visible noise.  After that, it is time to check out the focus, and tweak the sharpness, if necessary.   Personally, I don’t like Photoshop’s Unsharp Mask. I use a plug-in called FocusMagic.  It gives a photo a pleasing natural sharpness.

After doing all of that, which usually takes me only a few minutes, here is my finished product.  Do you like it?  Click the image.

Northern Bobwhite - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +1 EV adjustment, ISO 1000.

Northern Bobwhite – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +1 EV adjustment, ISO 1000.

Now, that looks like the Northern Bobwhite I saw when I drove by that broken down tree.  Click the image, and the one above, to see enlargements that show more detail.

So now you have it.  You know what tools I use.  It will only take you to learn how to use them.  In other words, I teach you all you know.  I don’t teach you all I know.   Now as the photo doctor said, “If you have a problem, take two pictures and call me in the morning”.

How I Shoot Birds (With my Camera)

I have been asked many times about how I capture my images.  Well, to begin with, I no longer use the big Canon 500mm that you see in my photo at the head of this blog.  That camera and lens set-up got to big for me after using it for about twelve years.  At 82 years of age, there are times that those heavy lenses are to much.  (However I still wear a camo cap.)  I like to keep that photo, though.  It makes me look macho, don’t you think.

For my bird photography, and other wildlife, I basically use a Tamron 150-500mm zoom lens.  With it attached to one of my two Canon EOS 7D Mark II cameras, I get comparable photos to what I got with the 500mm.  I either use a tripod, or when shooting from my car, my favorite way, a SafariPack bean bag on my window sill.  When I want to walk or hike, to make things a bit lighter, I use a Canon 100-400mm lens in place of the Tamron, sometimes carrying a monopod.

When shooting, I go against what a lot of purists would do.  I seldom shoot in Manual mode.  Why in the world, would I do that when I have a high dollar camera that is designed to figure the exposures for me?  That’s why I paid the big bucks.  When shooting wildlife, lighting situations change by the minute.  There is no time to make quick decisions or I lose the shot.  I use Manual mode for flowers, landscapes, etc.  My subjects are not constantly on the move then.

But make no mistake, I don’t use AUTO either.  With my set-up I have found that what works best for me, with my Canon 7D Mark II, is to shoot Shuttter Priority, that’s Tv on your camera dial.  Depending on the time of day, or lighting, I generally set the shutter anywhere from 1/1000th or 1/2500th of a second, I use auto-ISO, and auto-white balance. The camera generally gives me a large aperture at those settings.  I like to shoot in high-speed bursts.  I use spot-exposure.  I usually use spot-focus, but I am ready to toggle the button to go to zone-focus if I need to acquire a fast moving bird or animal that is in the open.  Oh, one more thing.  As I shoot, I always have my thumb on the back dial, so I can quickly adjust the Exposure Values on the run, should all of a sudden the bird is backlit, or deep in the shade.

I am not recommending that you use the same set-up.  I am only saying what works for me with my own camera/lens combination.  As you can see, by looking at my results on this blog, I have been very sucessful with it.  I will say that I tried using Aperture Priority, (Av), and my results were mixed.  Not as consistent as I have gotten with Shutter Priority.

Perigrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

I photographed this juvenile Peregrine Falcon as he was lifting off to begin flight.  Exposure was 1/1250 sec @ f6.3, +0.3 EV adjustment, because of it was slightly backlit.  ISO was 125.   Click the image to see an enlargement.

If you have any comments or questions, I would be happy to hear from you.

Happy Shooting!!


Let’s blog for another year.

In my previous post I mentioned that it was the seven year anniversary of this blog.  After much soul-searching, horn-blowing, champagne-drinkin’ and general partying, I have decided to go for another year.  Or at least make it until my 1000th post, which this one is my 927th.  Or which comes first.  We will whoop it up then and make another decision if need be.

The birding is still a bit slow, considering the time of the year.  I guess it is because of the continuing high temperatures here in San Angelo.  I think the summer birds got tired of the heat and left town.  Their replacements, the fall and winter birds, decided to delay their visit because it is still darned hot here.

But, we still get out several days a week, hoping to get to see something new or get good photos of any hangers-on.  Here are a few recent images that I am proud of.  I was using my Canon EOS 7D Mark II.  Lens was my Tamron 150-600mm.  I will begin to try to put my exposure data under each photo.  It is something new that I thought I would try.  Several of my readers say that they would like to know how I shoot my photographs.

We stopped near a shrubby area at the Isabelle Harte Multi-use area of San Angelo State Park.  We spotted some bird activity within, and after waiting a few minutes, this Yellow Warbler came out of the branches into view.  It was early in the morning, and the bird was backlit, thus the reason of the one stop EV adjustment.

Yellow Warbler - 1/1000th sec. @f7.1, +1 EV, ISO 1000.

Yellow Warbler – 1/1000th sec. @f7.1, +1 EV, ISO 1000.

This bobwhite was about 30 yards away, partially backlit and shaded by some tree branches.

Northern Bobwhite - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +1 EV adjustment, ISO 1000.

Northern Bobwhite – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +1 EV, ISO 1000.

This Vermilion Flycatcher was high atop a tree branch, pretty far off, but my Tamron 150-600 long lens helped me out.

Vermilion Flycatcher - 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 160.

Vermilion Flycatcher – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 160.

There are still several Scissor-tailed Flycatchers in San Angelo State Park.  Most of them we have found lately are the short-tailed juveniles, but we did come upon this adult.  One of my favorite birds.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 250.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 250.

This morning we heard, before we saw it, this Cactus Wren.  Very rare for me to get so close to one.  Another one that was heavily backlit by the morning sun.

Cactus Wren - 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +1.7 EV, ISO 320.

Cactus Wren – 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +1.7 EV, ISO 320.

I hope you enjoy my post today.  I would love to hear your questions or comments, so let’s hear what you have to say.

Happy Birding!!


Seven years and still counting. A one, anna two, anna three……… :-)

Yesterday I celebrated my 7th anniversary of beginning this blog.  In those years I have accumulated 45,320 readers in 164 countries.  Together they have visited 205,231 times.  This will be my 926th post.  I still don’t know how I have been able to come up with that much subject matter.  I cheat by putting in a bunch of pictures to fill it up.  I also try to make catchy titles that get your attention.  But whatever works.  Anyway, I really appreciate my readers and fellow bloggers that make the job easier.

Migration has started and the fun has begun.  For example, yesterday Ann and I visited San Angelo State Park.  Up in the Isabelle Harte picnic area we spotted some activity in a group of live oak trees.  We had gotten up early, got a cup of coffee and a burrito to go at Jack N’ Jill Donut shop.  We took that with us, and when we spotted that forementioned activity in the trees, we decided that would be a great place to just watch and eat our little breakfast.

Well, we were kept busy as we spotted several birds and warblers in the trees, including Yellow Warblers, Wilson’s Warblers, Nashville Warblers, Least flycatchers and the highlight of the day, an American Redstart, which was a lifer.  Also we saw a Willow Flycatcher, another lifer. What a thrill!

This morning we returned to the same spot, with another burrito and coffee, hoping to catch some more new birds for the year.  We missed the American Redstart as I wanted to get some photos, but it was not present. I  failed at getting photos of it yesterday.  Try as I may, I could not get it into my viewfinder fast enough.  It kept flitting in and out of the leaves, teasing me.  Anyway to digress, we were not disappointed otherwise.  I got nice photos of a Great Crested Flycatcher.

Then just before we were leaving, a Peregrine Falcon flew overhead.  It was flying low and I suspected it was about to light somewhere near.  We drove out of the trees and about 100 yards away, it was sitting atop a picnic table shelter.  Surprisingly, I was able to drive up to about 25 feet away.  It was a juvenile bird and was still trusting humans.  I circled the shelter in the car at a distance, getting shots from different angles.  He just perched and watched me for around 15 minutes.

In other news, I came across three more photos from our Uvalde trip last month.  Here they are.

White-tailed Haek

White-tailed Hawk

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

Green Jay

Green Jay

The following are photos that I have gotten since my last post.  We have visited local San Angelo parks including Spring Creek Park, Middle Concho Park, and of course, San Angelo State Parks.

Bullock's Oriole - female

Bullock’s Oriole – female

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Northern Cardinal - female

Northern Cardinal – female

Canyon Towhee

Canyon Towhee

Great Crested Flycatcher

Great Crested Flycatcher

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon lifting off from perch.

Peregrine Falcon lifting off from perch.

That’s it for this post.  I still have more photos to go sort through and of course, I hope to get some more nice ones in days to come.  So stay tuned…….  It looks like many more burrito and coffee breakfasts to come.🙂

I would like to mention to you to click on any image to see enlargements.  Also any photo you see on my posts are available as prints.  Contact me if you are interested.