Waiting for spring birds…..


But aren’t we all, waiting for the spring birds?  We are never satisfied.  A few months ago we were waiting for the winter birds.  So it goes, year after year, watching the changing seasons and migratory trends.

But since the spring birds haven’t arrived, Ann and I decided to go look for the winter residents that are still here.  Unfortunately, we picked a very windy day.  It was sunny and the temps were moderate, but the strong breezes kept the birds at a minimum.

We at first, thought of heading out on the nearby country roads, as we had heard of some nesting Golden Eagles about twenty some miles south of us.  Now, that would have been something, but with the high winds, and the fact that the directions we had to the location were wrong, it turned out to be a bust.  We have new directions so maybe soon we can be successsful.

So we head to our usual haunts, the local parks near Lake Nasworthy.  As was the other areas, the 25 mph winds and stronger gusts kept most of the avian population down.  However, there we did see a few that gave cause to some nice photographs.

A couple of Great Blue Herons, in two different locations.  Usually we see a combined total of around 6-8 when going out there.  This one was hunkered down out of the wind next to the lake bank.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

This one was in a more sheltered area.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

This Pied-billed Grebe unperturbed in a calmer area of water.  He was far off and the image is very tightly cropped, so the image quality has suffered.  I show it because it was the only duck on the open water, except for a few Double-crested Cormorants.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Back in the trees this Cooper’s Hawk thought he was out of sight of me.  I had seen him a few minutes earlier in the open and he took flight to this location.  I actually had to search for an opening that I could focus between some trees.

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

I, at first, considered that it might be a Sharp-shinned Hawk, and I really hoped that that was what it was as I could have added it to my 2015 list.  But, alas, and I am an honest man, but to me the large size and the flatish head tells me it is indeed a Cooper’s.

Cold wet days are in store again for us so I don’t know if I will have a post by the weekend.  We shall see.  After that we are heading west to Fort Davis Mountains on Monday with hopes of getting some fine photos and seeing some of the winter birds there.  We will be returning next Thursday so it may be a week before my next post.  Until then, stay warm and dry and, Happy Birding!

A little nonsense, and some neat photos.


It has been exactly a week since my last post.  Birding hasn’t been too exciting those seven days, mostly seeing the usual resident birds around.  I did get some nice photos to show you, but I will get to them in a moment.  Stay with me here.

First, I decided to prowl my archives to see what little surprises I might find.  How about a little humor to start the week.  These two photos are several years old.  I have already posted them on FaceBook but I know a lot of you readers haven’t seen them yet.

"Safe!! He slid in under the tag!"

“Safe!! He slid in under the tag!”

That caption speaks for itself.

Dueling snowplows.

Now that I have you in a good mood, here are some photos from the past week, all taken around the local parks here in San Angelo.  We started out at Spring Creek Park.  That is where I and Ann spotted this Osprey.  About 300 yards away across the river and into the woods.

Osprey

Osprey

This Great Blue Heron was across the river, too, but only about 250 yards away.

Greata Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

These Yellow-rumped Warblers are scrambling around on the ground, making for an easier photograph.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

This Eastern Phoebe is my favorite of the bunch.  He posed for me in several spots.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Titmice are one of the most difficult for me to photograph, they are so quick and flighty.  This one hesitated for a few extra seconds making it easy for me to get the shot.

Black-crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

This Great Egret came flying down the river.  I quickly just aimed the camera and got lucky to lock the focus.  I rattled off a few shots and this was the last one as he was almost out of sight.

Great Egret

Great Egret

Another little bird that is hard to photograph, is the Dark-eyed Junco.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

We’re in a deep-freeze here with light freezing rain, today so I won’t be getting out for a day or two, when the sun might shine again.  Fortunately, the cold doesn’t last long here.  I hope you enjoyed the photos.  I hope to write another post by the end of the week.

Great birding day in San Angelo


What a difference two days can make.  As you may remember, we did not have a quality day on Friday the 13th.  Well, Sunday turned out a bit different.  However, we had doubts early in the morning.  It was damp, drizzly and very overcast.  We checked the weather radar and it looked that the rains were on the way east. So we decided to get out, knowing that we could return if things got worse.

We headed towards the San Angelo State Park blind about 9:30.  By the time we got there the drizzle had stopped but still heavily overcast.  But for photography, I like the overcast, as the usual harsh shadows are eliminated.  Here are a few highlights from the bird blind.  (For this post all photo were obtained with my Canon 7D Mark II and Tamron 150-600mm lens. Click on any photo to see enlargement).

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal - female

Northern Cardinal – female

Pyrrhuloxia - female

Pyrrhuloxia – female

Pyrrhuloxia - female

Pyrrhuloxia – female

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia – male

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

Northern Bobwhite - female

Northern Bobwhite – female

Northern Bobwhite - male

Northern Bobwhite – male

Spotted Twohee

Spotted Twohee

After getting all of the above photos, we decided to go to the North Unit of the park.  We wanted to see if the Lewis’s Woodpecker was still in residence.  It is way out of range for that specie, but it arrived here in San Angelo in November.  Apparently the climate agrees with him.

We were in luck, however the sky was still very overcast.  The bird was hanging out in his favorite adopted trees, but he likes to stay at the top, about 35 feet above the ground  This makes for difficult photos as I had hand-hold the camera and lens and shoot almost straight up into that cloudy sky.  All I could see was a silhouette, so I boosted my ISO way up to 1600 and added 2.33EV adjustment.  That was still not enough to give a good exposure, so I finished it up in my post processing.  Here are the results.  Not great but the best I could get under the circumstances.

Lewis Woodpecker

Lewis Woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker

Lewis’s Woodpecker

We didn’t see too much else of interest there, so we drove out to Spring Creek Park.  Driving around there the best photo op was of these Cedar Waxwings.

Cedar Waxwings

Cedar Waxwings

Upon heading for home, we again stopped at the beach at Mary Lee Park.  The Ring-billed Gulls were again wheeling around in the air or snoozing in the sand.  I like this one of a gull in flight.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Not a bad day considering the weather.  In all, Ann and I saw 40 species, plus we added a few more to our 2015 list, which now total 98.

Friday the 13th Birding


Friday the 13th fell on a Friday this month.  Does this scare me.  Of course not.  I am not suspicious of stuff like that.  I ain’t afraid of the dark, either, nor am I afraid of the creatures that lurk under my bed.  However, I keep my feet under the covers just in case.  I also don’t walk under ladders since I once fell off of one once.  Luckily, I was standing on the bottom rung at the time.

So with that in mind, Ann and I decided to throw caution to the wind and go birding.  We thought we would get lucky.  Well it depends on what you could call lucky.  On the unlucky side, there weren’t many birds.  It was a beautiful day and I can’t understand that.  We did see 32 species, but most were flyovers, or on the move in the trees, or too far to consider even trying to photograph.  Most of what I did try to shoot were, save for a few exceptions, very far away, up to 250 yards, and that doesn’t make for good closeups.

On the lucky side, I was able to make lemonade out of the lemons.  Thanks to my 150-600mm Tamron zoom lens, I was able to get some cropable (is that at word?) images.  Here is an example.  This Red-tailed Hawk was of those distant ones.  Here is the original image, and keep in mind, this is through my long lens.  Imagine what it looked like at with the naked eye.

Uncropped image of a Red-tailed Hawk

Uncropped image of a Red-tailed Hawk

Cropped imge:

cropped Red-tailed Hawk

cropped Red-tailed Hawk

We continued driving and saw these at Spring Creek Park.  This female Northern Cardinal gave me problems with the lighting in the shadows.  It was mid-morning and the sun was bright.  I was able to correct it in my post processing.

female Northern Cardinal

female Northern Cardinal

A few minutes later we spotted this Great Horned Owl.  Same shadow problems.  But heck, I was happy to get the photos any way I can.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Below the trees a male Northern Cardinal was scratching in the grass and leaves.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Then cruising along the water, looking across about 200 yards away again this Great Blue Heron was standing and just gazing.  Heavily cropped like the hawk photo above.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

High above, about another 250 yards away, a Black Vulture was enjoying the light, warm breeze.  Again heavily cropped.

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

On the way home we stopped again at the beach at Mary Lee Park to check on the Ring-billed Gulls.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Well that’s it for tonight.  Going to bed, with my feet under the covers, because you never know………. (cue Friday the 13th music.)

New Photos, plus some from the past.


We went birding on Sunday and decided to visit San Angelo State Park first.  While we were at the blind a Cooper’s Hawk swooped in on a raid to try to snatch one of the smaller birds.  As far as I know he was successful, but he decided to hang around for awhile.  He never showed himself in an open pose, but I could see him peeking out from branches about one hundred feet away.  I was able to get this shot.

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

We then drove through the North section of the park, intent on seeing the Lewis’s Woodpecker again.  Again, he was still in the area, but not high in some trees where he has been hanging around since early November.  So we drove around looking for him, then when we were in another area. about 500 yards away from the original spot, we saw him in the distance.  Too far for a photograph.  Other than that, Sunday was mostly a bust as far as getting any good pictures.

On Tuesday, Ann and I drove out to the parks around Lake Nasworthy.  Birds were again a little scarce but there were many Great Blue Herons.  I had received my Tamron 150-600m lens back from the factory, where they had upgraded the firmware in it, and I was anxious to try it out.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Also we stopped by the the beach at Mary Lee Park to see if there were any gulls besides the resident Ring-bills.  Occasionally a Herring Gull or a Boneparte’s Gull will make an appearance, so I always check.  No other gull species but we did see a Forster’s Tern in the distance, sitting on a buoy.  This Ring-billed Gull was practicing his hand-stand.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Since I didn’t get many new bird photos for you, I decided to add some more from my archives.  Here are a few that may be new to you.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Red-naped Sapsucker

Red-naped Sapsucker

Pine Sisken

Pine Sisken

I nearly identified this Hermit Thrush as a Swainson’s, as I thought the eye-ring was more ‘buffy’ in appearance and the spots were more triangular, consistent of a Swainson’s.  But the coloring of the feathers really favor a Hermit Thrush.

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

 

Leaking pipes and a Red-tailed Hawk…….


Just realized that I haven’t posted to this blog since January 29.  But I guess I could be forgiven as Ann and I have been busy.  It started on Friday, January 23, a little over two weeks ago.  I was working in my office at the computer when I little wet spot on the carpet caught my eye.  Thinking that our little Shi-tzu, Susie, had an accident, we started soaking up water.  However, after using up an entire roll of paper towels, we decided that was a little too much water for a little 13 lb. dog.

We called a plumber who came promptly and diagnosed the problem as a leak in the hot water line above the slab.  He turned off the water, and except for turning it back on for short few minute intervals, we were basically out of water until the following Tuesday morning.

Then the repairs were made then.  I won’t go into details how they did the repairs, will say that several holes were cut in our walls to locate the problem piping.  As I write, repairmen are here repairing the holes in the dry wall.

During the past several days while all of this was going on, we didn’t get out much.  Besides it has been pretty dang cold on some of those days.

However, on one of our short forays we were at Middle Concho Park.  As we approached one area near a small inlet from the river, we spotted a Red-tailed Hawk on the ground.  He was trying to snack on an American Coot that he apparently had captured moments before.  I approached him carefully with our car, keeping some trees between us.  I was able to get in position for this photo, from about 150 feet away.

Red-tailed Hawk with deceased prey.

Red-tailed Hawk with deceased prey.

We watched him for a few minutes.  He eventually sensed that he was being watched and he took flight.  He headed for another tree nearby, but on the way he dropped the Coot.  He decided to stay on the tree limb for awhile.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

He was somewhat shaded in this photo, but I guess that he decided to help me out, and moved to a better open position on another limb so I could get a better shot.  I was probably about 200 feet away at this new location.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

This was a much better position.  We then watched him for awhile from a spot behind some trees hoping to catch him as he left the perch to retrieve his meal.  It didn’t happen so we drove away and left him alone.  I think we were far enough away to avoid distressing him, but I didn’t want to take chances of doing so.

These photos were taken with my Canon 7D Mark II.  The lens was my older Canon 100-400mm lens with a 1.4 teleconverter attached.  I discovered that it doesn’t focus as fast, with the teleconverter, as my new Tamron 150-600mm lens.  That lens is on it’s way back from the factory where I had sent it for a free firmware update.  It should be back “Tuesday before 8:00PM” says the tracking.  That really means that it will be delivered at 8:00PM. :-)

Canon 7D Mk II and Tamron 150-600mm, another comparison


As many of you know I have coupled my Canon 7D Mark II with a Tamron 150-600mm lens.  I have been learning much lately about that new camera, and with that lens I have been excited about the image quality.  This is a photo that I shot a couple days ago.  First I show you the original, straight out of the camera, but converted from the RAW format.  The 150-600mm lens was zoomed out to the 600mm mark.  Notice there is no loss of sharpness at that end, like some zooms have when fully extended.  The second image is my cropped finished version.  I did no sharpening whatsoever.

Original female Northern Cardinal

Original female Northern Cardinal

cropped female Northern Cardinal

cropped female Northern Cardinal

Notice the image retained the sharpness after cropping.  One more thing, there is a distinct lack of noise.  I must say that this one of the rare times that I was able to crop and use an image without any other editing.  ISO was 500, exposure 1/1000 sec @ f6.3.  I am finding that this new 7D Mark II is leaps and bounds better than the original 7D.

In other news, I did send my Tamron 150-600mm lens off to the factory.  Not that it needed anything, but since my lens was one of the first built, I found there was an updated firmware available for it to further speed up the auto-focus, so I thought why not take advantage of it.  I will say that I was already was impressed with it’s fast auto-focus, so I am anxious to see how much more it can be improved.  So I will miss it for a few days, but I have my Canon 100-400mm zoom lens as a backup and I will put a 1.4 teleconverter on it.   I will make do.