I Love Love Migration!


Boy Oh Boy, do I love this time of the year!  I don’t know why, but there seems to be an abundance of birds around the lakes and parks here in San Angelo.  It could be that all of the violent storms in east Texas could have pushed more migrating birds in this direction; or it could be that Ann and I have, with practice, developed our birding instincts and sharpened our eyes.  Whatever it is, I have been pleased at all of the photographs I have been managing to capture.

So enough talk, and let’s get to them.  Remember to click on any image to see enlargements, especially if you are viewing this on a computer.

I am going to start off with this action photo of a Western Kingbird.  By the way, it was the first of that specie that we have seen this year.  A new arrival, and a beauty.

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

I chose that picture to get you excited and so you would watch with anticipation for the next photos.  The next photo is of the same bird, just relaxing.

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

From Mary Lee Park at Lake Nasworthy, some Willets.

Willets

Willets

Willet in flight

Willet in flight

From K-Mart Creek.  My name for the water in the bar ditch near the old K-Mart site, a Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

The next few photos are from other local parks and San Angelo State Park.  This is a Canyon Towhee.

Canyon Towhee

Canyon Towhee

This Cotton-tailed Rabbit seems to be thinking, where the heck did all of these birds come from?

Cotton-tailed Rabbit

Cotton-tailed Rabbit

Great Horned Owl.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Bell’s Vireo sings from a tree branch.

Bell's Vireo

Bell’s Vireo

Yellow-headed Blackbird grazing in the grass.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Black-crowned Night Heron staring at the water, hoping to catch a meal.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

Last but certainly not least, this image of a cute Grasshopper Sparrow.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow

You may remember that Ann and I saw 44 species on a recent outing.  Today, April 21, we surpassed that with a total of 50 for four hours of birding, and that doesn’t count the rabbit.:-)

I hope you enjoyed the photos.  A reminder, any and all photos are available for sale.  Just contact me, if you would be proud to have one of my works hanging on your wall.

 

Happy Birding!!

Surprising San Angelo State Park


Back in about 2007 the water was high in O.C. Fisher Reservoir at the park.  Mesquite, cactus, and other trees and plants were in abundance.  There was plenty of fish in the lake and the park was healthy.  All species of wildlife thrived.  A person could go out there to go birding or to photograph that wildlife with great success.  It was nothing to see an osprey or a hawk on any given visit.

Then the great drought hit the area.  It has been only a couple of years or so ago that the lake was bone dry.  Not a drop of water to be seen.  You could walk across the lake without getting your feet damp.  Then it was decided to destroy most of the mesquite and underbrush.  That was done with several controlled burns.  The park took on the image of a burned-out forest fire.

Then several months ago, we were blessed with a deluge.  Huge amounts of rain fell on the North Concho River watershed, and the lake, in days, got back to the level of 2007, and perhaps a bit more.  We are now getting some more periodic rainfalls and the park is coming back.  Everything is looking much greener.  Of course, it will be much longer for the fish to return in large amounts, but the birds and wildlife is making a great comeback.  And that is what this post is all about.

Ann and I spent the past couple of days there checking out the birds.  Yesterday, we saw 44 different species of birds, and we didn’t even stop at the bird blind.  We probably could have added a few more there.  We just took a very leisure drive throught the south section of the park.  Here are a few images from that drive.  As always, click on any image to see beautiful enlargements, especially if you are reading this on a computer.

Driving near the area where the ‘buffalo roam’, in other words the fenced off part of the park where the bison are kept, we were surprised to see a couple of Cattle Egrets meandering near the animals.  This specie is not around every year, but I love their plummage.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

The Bobwhites were calling and we could hear one nearly every part of the park we visited.  this one was in a nearby tree.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

A Pyrrhuloxia quietly watching over the area.

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

A Curve-billed Thrasher.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

This Greater Roadrunner was calling, perhaps for a mate.  First time I had come across one making any kind of a sound.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

In another area we were surprised by four Yellow-headed Blackbirds.  Another specie that we hadn’t seen in a couple of years.  During migration it not unusual to come up with some surprises.  They were deep in the grass so photographing them was difficult.  Here is one of the better images.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Driving towards the boat ramp, actually the only one of more than a dozen that is actually near the water, we spotted this Killdeer in the parking lot.  We discovered that it was sitting on two eggs.  This bird is peculiar in that it doesn’t use a nest per se.  It just picks a spot on the ground, usually a gravel surface, and drops the eggs there.

Killdeer sitting on two eggs.

Killdeer sitting on two eggs.

And speaking of eggs and young birds, we have been returning to Spring Creek Park periodically to check on the offspring of a Great Horned Owl.  Here is my latest photo, taken two days ago.  It appears to be around four weeks old in my humble opinion.  As you can see it is standing on the nest.  It’s ears are beginning to shape up.  It won’t be long before it ventures out farther on a tree limb.

Great Horned Owlet

Great Horned Owlet

That’s it for this post.  Try to make it out to San Angelo State Park soon, and you may see some of these 44 species that Ann and I saw yesterday:

  • White-winged Dove
  • Blue Jay
  • Great-tailed Grackle
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Mourning Dove
  • Cactus Wren
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  • Barn Swallow
  • Canyon Towhee
  • Song Sparrow
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • House Sparrow
  • Northern Bobwhite
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  • Killdeer
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • American Coot
  • Gadwall
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • House Finch
  • Lark Sparrow
  • American Pippet
  • Common Raven
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Curve-billed Thrasher
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird
  • Black Vulture
  • European Starling
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Black-throated Sparrow
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Black-crested Titmouse

 

 

 

South Llano River SP report


We traveled to the South Llano River State Park as we had planned.  However, we picked the wrong day to go.  The morning that we left, was the morning that the weather decided to take a wrong turn.  A cool front moved in and strong winds changed to come out of the north.  Needless to say, the birding there was not up to the usual standards for that park.  But that didn’t keep birders, including us, away.  The blinds were crowded with “snow-birds”.  Those people from the northern states that spent the winter there and hadn’t decided to go home yet.  I can’t say that I blame them from hearing reports of winter staying longer in the northern states.

A few pictures that I managed to get.

American Robin

American Robin

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

We did manage to add three more photos to our 2016 list.  That helped salvage the day:  A Black-chinned Hummingbird, a Purple Martin, and a Yellow-throated Vireo.

Back here in San Angelo, we got out to bird in the local areas.  We saw various birds, including a 1st year Orchard Oriole.  It was too far away for a decent photo, although I got a salvageable image to make an ID.  That was another for our 2016 list.  Also we spotted another owl’s nest and I got this photo from about 75 yards away.  It is tightly cropped for the close-up.

Great Horned Owl - female on nest.

Great Horned Owl – female on nest

Driving around the San Angelo State Park I picked a couple more images.

White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

That’s about it for the past few days.  Migration is starting so we will be watching for some Bullock’s Orioles and perhaps some Painted Buntings and several more species by the end of the month.  Let’s hope.:-)

Happy Birding!!

Fun April Birding


Migration is underway and we are still waiting for many spring birds.  Scissor-tailed Flycatchers have been sighted.  We saw three ourselves, but too far away for photos.  However, Ash-throated Flycatchers are beginning to appear in large numbers.  I got my first nice photo of one a couple of days ago.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

We had to make our regular stop at Spring Creek Park to check on our family of Great Horned Owls.  We caught the female off the nest, taking a break from caring for junior.

Great Horned Owl - female

Great Horned Owl – female

Meanwhile, back at the nest it is ‘home alone’ all over again.  The kid seems to be gaining weight.  I would estimate him to be about three weeks old.

Great Horned Owlet

Great Horned Owlet

Later, back on the nest, the mother seems to be daring me to step over that twig.

Great Horned Owl - mother on nest

Great Horned Owl – mother on nest

I would like to mention that for these photos, I was around fifty yards away.  With my long lens, there is no need for me to get closer and agitate the birds.

Nearby, I captured this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in some bushes.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

We headed to San Angelo State Park where I managed to capture a few more resident birds.

Driving along the base of the O. C. Fisher Reservoir dam, Ann spotted a Rock Wren flitting around the rocks.  I had never been able to get a nice close-up of one before.  Up on those rocks, they are hard to see, and difficult to get one in the viewfinder of my camera.  But my perseverance paid off, and I was able to get this one, again with my long 150-600mm Tamron lens.  The image is still quite cropped to get this close-up.

Rock Wren

Rock Wren

Elsewhere in the park, I got these photographs.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

American Robin

American Robin

We finished the day by catching this hard to spell and hard to pronounce,  Pyrrhuloxia.

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

So that’s all for today.  Tomorrow we are off to the South Llano River State Park.  Reports are coming in of several migratory birds there.  Plus, there’s alway great food at Lum’s Bar-B-Que before coming home.  I’ll report on the journey in a few days.

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!!