What?? Shoot birds on an overcast day??


I have been thinking about the subject of this post for quite awhile.  Photographing birds on a heavily clouded, overcast day.  Today was one of them.  It reminded me of a close friend that almost refuses to try any photography if the sun isn’t shining.  The way to be sucessful is to forget about the color of the sky.  Think about the subject, your birds, and focus (pun intended) on photographing them, and not on the color of the sky.  If you want to photograph a blue sky, wait for a clear day.  If you want to photograph birds, be prepared to do just that.  You just do what you usually do.  In my case, I shoot shutter priority, set the shutter on about 1000/sec or higher depending on the lighting. I set auto ISO, and just let that exposure float along.  That is basically how I shoot birds regardless of the weather.

I also am prepared to boost the EV adjustment to the right about 1/3 or 2/3 stops.  Sometimes it may be necessary to go higher.  It may produce higher ISO exposures, but what’s the big deal?  Most popular SLRs have no problem with that.  It’s not going to keep me at home.  Like I said, just shoot what you would do on a normal day; cope with the usual exposure problems.  Focus on the birds and let the exposures fall where they may.  YOu will notice also, that in overcast weather, the color is nicely saturated.

On the subject of high ISOs, I know of a photographer that refuses to shoot if it is a high ISO day.  Hogwash!!  What kind of a photographer thinks that.  Not the kind that is very successful.  I hope my friend that doesn’t like overcast days, will think about what I have said, and go give it a chance.  Other than that quirk, she is a talented photographer.

Okay, now that I am through ranting, I will tell you about today.  I woke up with a forecast for the day, of cloudy with a 20% chance of rain.  The forecast held true.  It was very cloudy, looking like it could rain at any time.  In fact, a few times there was a hint of a few sprinkles on the windshield.  But they disappeared in a minute or two.  As usual, I didn’t want to stay home.  I am shooting with my Canon 7D Mk II and a Gen 2, Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  I will post the exposure data along with each image.  Click on any of those images to see enlargements.

We started out at Spring Creek Park at about 8:00 AM.  We were apprehensive about whether we would see any birds at all.  Most of the tiny birds were keeping themselves hidden.  However there were a few other hardy ones.  This yellow-shafted Northern Flicker was in a bush and I was able to get him in focus.

Northern Flicker - 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 6400

Northern Flicker – 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 6400

The resident Great Horned Owl made an appearance again.

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

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

After seeing that owl, we decided to go to San Angelo State Park, since it was pretty wet in and we were driving through some sloppy areas.  The state park provided some more paved roads.

White-crowned Sparrow - 1250 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV, ISO 1000.

White-crowned Sparrow – 1250 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV, ISO 1000.

Northern Cardinal, female - 1250 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 4000.

Northern Cardinal, female – 1250 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 4000.

As were taking a little drive through one of the picnic areas, we happened to glance towards the lake and saw hundreds of American White Pelicans and what looked like hundreds more of Double-crested Cormorants.  In this photo, I decided to change to aperture priority an set the camera to f8 to provide more depth of field, to capture more of this vast armada of water fowl.  This is just a small portion of the crowd.

Pelicans and Cormorants - 1/800 sec. @ f10, ISO 1000

Pelicans and Cormorants – 1/800 sec. @ f10, ISO 1000

That exposure set-up worked out fine, but I made a rookie error and forgot to set the camera back to my original setting of Shutter priority for the rest of the session.  But no harm, no foul, as the following photos came out very nice.  Buy this time, it was getting near noon, but the weather hadn’t changed except for the temperature, which was a little warmer.  Still very cloudy with occasional mist.

Eastern Meadowlark - 1/800 sec, @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 1250.

Eastern Meadowlark – 1/800 sec, @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 1250.

Curve-billed Thrasher - 1/1000 sec. @ f8, +0.7, ISO 1600.

Curve-billed Thrasher – 1/1000 sec. @ f8, +0.7, ISO 1600.

Lincoln's Sparrow - 1/640 @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

Lincoln’s Sparrow – 1/640 @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

As you can see, you can get great photos if you dis-regard the cloudy skies and just take what comes at you.  My ISOs varied, of course depending on whether the bird was in the open or in open shade or in the brush completely.  I came home happily with some good results for my efforts.  One additional thing I should mention, I am not foolish enough to shoot if it is raining.  Cameras and water do not mix well.

I hope you enjoyed this post and the images.  As I said, click any of the images to see some very nice enlargements.

Until the next post, Happy Birding!

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.

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.

 

A few more older images…….


Well, I am still going through old files and I found a few that were taken back in 2014.  I re-edited them, and you may not have seen them before.  But have a look.

This Northern Cardinal is one of the best that I have ever photographed of this species.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

I love the fierce look of the Curve-billed Thrasher.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

Everybody loves a Greater Roadrunner.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

The Golden-fronted Woodpecker is the most predominant of the species in this area.  To me, also the most photogenic.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

I love the way the Common Nighthawk chooses to perch parallel to the branch rather than across it like other birds do.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

This Yellow-billed Cuckoo looks as he is distracted by something above him.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

I think the female House Finch has a certain beauty all of her own.

House Finch - female

House Finch – female

Finally, here are a couple of shots that I captured just this morning, December 1, 2015.

Yellow Sapsucker

Yellow Sapsucker

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

That’s it for this post.  Click on any image to see enlargements.

Cooler weather, better birding……


Cooler weather is here and along with it there have been an influx of some new winter birds arriving.  We have been driving around the local parks over the weekend, but on Monday we decided to drive down to the South Llano River State Park.  It has always been a great place to see and photograph birds.

Here are a few images from there and around here the past several days.  Please click on the images and you will see some amazing enlargements.

Let’s start with a couple from San Angelo State Park.

I was fortunate to get this image of a female Belted Kingfisher.  We were driving along the nearly dry Concho River.  There was about 75 yards of trees and brush between us and the riverbed.  We heard the bird first and that made us do a little searching.  Finally, through the brush and branches I spotted her.  She was watching the water below, something we couldn’t see, and her mind was on that.  She was completely oblivious to us, as she probably couldn’t see us anyway unless she happened to peek back through the brush.  I was able to get the center focus point of my camera on her.

female Belted Kingfisher

female Belted Kingfisher

We made a brief stop at the bird-blind and I was able to get this shot of a Lincoln’s Sparrow.  I think this is my best image of this particular specie.  That also may be true of the above Belted Kingfisher.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

On Monday morning, we made our sojourn to South Llano River State Park.  We were not disappointed.  We visited three of the four blinds there.  Here are some of the results.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Black-crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

The following are two photos of an Orange-crowned Warbler.  At first, I didn’t recognize it.  I had forgotten about the orange crown the is very seldom seen, but shows up in these images.  It took me a bit to realize  what I was looking at.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

male Lesser Goldfinch

male Lesser Goldfinch

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow

It was a fun day.  However, we missed seeing a Painted Redstart that had been seen and photographed two days before.  Rats!!  I am always too late.  I was at the airport the day that my ship came in.  Oh well, those things happen and I will have a lucky day soon.  On second thought, I think I am having lucky days all the time.  I am 81 years old, I can get out and crawl through the weeds and have a great wife that (will help me get up) and loves to accompany me to the great outdoors.  What more could I want.

I hope you enjoyed the images as much as I enjoy going and getting them.

Happy Birding!

Happy 6th Anniversary Texas Tweeties!!!


I just realized that this Texas Tweeties blog is six years old today.  My, oh, my, how time flies. This is my 860th post.  I must ask myself, how in heck did I come up with something to write about 860 times?  It all started when my dear friend, Deb Tappan, up there in Knoxville, Tennessee told me that I should write a blog.  And, of course, my wife, Ann, chimed in and said, “Do it, do it!”  Well, I couldn’t very well turn down my two best friends, could I?

Me and my two best friends, my wife, Ann and Deb.

Me and my two best friends, my wife, Ann and Deb. (photo by Paul Tappan.)

I wanted a catchy name that would connect with the birds and birders.  Deb came up with name Texas Tweeties.  At first, I thought people would confuse that with Twitter.  But that hasn’t been the case.  For the record, I don’t Twitter.  I might tweek, squeak, whistle, burp and make other funny noises, but I don’t Twitter.

So I jumped in and got my writing juices flowing.  I don’t remember what my first post was about, but I thought afterwards, heck, this ain’t so hard.  This is from a guy that for many, many years, I was such an introvert that my worst fear was that someone would ask me to say grace before a dinner occasion. 🙂

Anyway, 6 years, 860 posts.  As of this date, I have been read by 181,394 people in 161 countries, and I only write in one language.  There must be a heck of a lot of bi-linguals out there.

But I am having a bunch of fun doing this.  Of course, the blog is about photography, too, but my wildlife and birding pursuits go hand in hand with it.  I also, have been know to go off on a tangent and rant about some other thing, but as most of you know I stick to birding most of the time.

That being said, I must say that my friend Deb was the cause of me getting into bird photography.  Ann and I were visiting her home.  Outside her living room window was a large cedar tree of some type and all of these colorful birds were hanging around it and under it.  Deb encouraged me to open the window and take some shots with my camera.  Wow!  I was stunned with all of those colorful species.

Up to then, my bird vocabulary was ducks, pigeons, or sparrows.  My major photography interest was flowers and landscapes.  Well, my world changed after that visit.  I started photographing birds as often as possible.  Then, I needed to be able to know what I was photographing, and voila!!, another friend got Ann and I into the birding hobby.  You know, learning to identify them.  Holy Mackeral!!  I found that there are in the vicinity of 914 species of birds in North America, nearly 649 of them found in Texas alone, and 383 recorded sightings here in Tom Green County where I live.  So far, I have learned to identify ony 283 species.  I don’t have and accurate figure on how many of them I have photographed but probably near that last number.

Anyway, I am getting away from the purpose of this post and that is to celebrate another Texas Tweeties birthday.   I appreciate all of my readers, from near and abroad, for staying with me and continuing to hopefully, enjoy my meanderings, my strange jokes and my photographs.

Let’s try for another year. Happy Birding to all!!