Bell’s Vireo and others


The spring migration has started and we are beginning to see the arrival of our spring and summer birds.  One of them is the Bell’s Vireo.  We saw our first of the year a couple of days ago, right on schedule according to our Concho Valley Birding Checklist.

We were driving out near the Twin Buttes Reservoir and as we neared some brushy habitat, Ann said she could hear the singing of some Bell’s Vireos.  We could hear them, but we couldn’t see them.  Ann had her iPad with her, where we have an iBird Pro Birding app, that we use for bird identification.  It also has recorded bird songs.  She decided play Bell’s Vireo’s song to see if it would answer.   And answer it did.  It came farther into the open so we could get visuals of it.  It also perched a few times while it was singing and I was able to get some photos.  We then left the area after I got several exposures.

Playing recorded calls to lure birds, has always put me into a quandary.  I don’t believe in baiting birds or any wildlife to get photos.  But putting my purist beliefs aside, I feel that as long as  person doesn’t overdo it, or put the bird in any stress,  playing the songs should be fine.  Personally, as soon as I get the pics to satisfy me I leave the wildlife alone.

So, anyway, here are the most recent photos of the shy Bell’s Vireo.

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Bell’s Vireo

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Bell’s Vireo

Here are some more photos of other species that I have gotten since my last post.

We spotted this Great Horned Owl in the crotch of a large pecan tree.  She may have been sitting eggs, but that we have not been able to confirm.  She was high up and only this face was visible to me.  I was able to set up about 75 feet away, to give me a good shooting angle with my long lens.

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Great Horned Owl

The Bullock’s Orioles are making themselves visible again, but so far this is the only photograph that I have been able to get.

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Bullock’s Oriole

This female Ladder-backed Woodpecker was poking her head in and out of this hole.  Could there be young ones in there?  Stay tuned.

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Ladder-backed Woodpecker, female

I hope you like this shot of an Ash-throated Flycatcher.  I must say that I love the pose.

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Ash-throated Flycatcher

I think that is it for this post.  I hope all of you have a Happy Easter weekend.  Be safe.

HAPPY BIRDING!!!

 

 

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Sparrows of The Concho Valley


Since spring migration isn’t in full swing yet, I have been prompted to do this post about this common, seemingly boring species of birds.  Sparrows are in huge abundance.  In the Concho Valley birding check-list there are 27 species of sparrow and towhees, that can be found around this area in which I live.  I am still learning to identify them individually, but it is not easy, as they each have their own individual field marks and nuances.  I have to consult my guides quite frequently.

So, having said that, here are some notable photographs that I have taken of these birds that people mostly ignore.  These are twenty-three of the most commonly seen here, albeit some are harder to find than others.  There are a few not listed that are rareities and don’t appear in this area except for rare occasions or migration, such as the Olive Sparrow that I have included.  Anyway, these photos show that all sparrows are not created equal.  You will also see that the other sparrow relatives, ie. juncos and towhees are included.

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

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Black-throated Sparrow

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House Sparrow

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Grasshopper Sparrow

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Cassin’s Sparrow

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Vesper Sparrow

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Fox Swamp

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Field Sparrow

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White-crowned Sparrow

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Chipping Sparrow

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Lark-Sparrow

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Lark Bunting – female

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Rufous-crowned Sparrow

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White-crowned Sparrow – juvenile

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Swamp Sparrow

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Clay-colored Sparrow

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Savannah Sparrow

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Song Sparrow

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Dark-eyed Junco

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Canyon Towhee

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Spotted Towhee

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Green-tailed Towhee

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Whitae-throated Sparrow

I have included this photo of an Olive Sparrow.  While not seen in the Concho Valley, it did appear just a few miles south at the South Llano River State Park.

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Olive Sparrow

 

So now you have seen my entire collection of sparrows that I have seen and photographed in my twelve years of birding around the the Concho Valley of west Texas.

By the way, in my quest to reach 200 different sightings for the year, as of today I have reached at total of 120.  Eight months to go.

I hope you enjoy this collection that I have put together.  Comments are welcome, and I would love to hear from you.  It lets me know that there are a few readers out there. 🙂

To subscribe and get notified when I write a new post, see SIGN ME UP, in the right margin.

‘Til the next time, HAPPY BIRDING!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Better late than never……


When I signed off on my last post, I promised that I would be back in a very few days with some more images.  Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans……..  Shortly after that post, the weather made some drastic changes.  We had rain, hail, wind, fog, cold temps.  Everything but snow, and there were probably a few areas that it, too, occurred.  Anyway, all is well now.  As a matter of fact, yesterday was a beautiful, gorgeous day.  Definitely a day to give you spring fever.

And it did.  Ann and I got out to San Angelo State Park and spent around four hours.  On the birding side, we saw 39 species.  Not a bad day.  It included getting a lifer, number 303 if you’re counting, and adding 6 more to our yearly total, bringing it up to 111.   It was an Eurasian Wigeon.  Also a couple of Western Grebes flew in to join the party.  Unfortunately, they were too far out in the lake to get any halfway decent photos.  Just enough to make identification.

Here is a tiny shot of the Eurasian Wigeon.

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Eurasian Wigeon

But I will digress a bit.  In the few days prior to yesterday, I was a bit more successful in getting some new photos.  For starters here is a male Pyrrhuloxia from the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.

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Pyrrhuloxia

Also at the bird blind this Golden-fronted Woodpecker decided to show off a bit to that on-looking male House Finch, who looked duly impressed.

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Always a showoff……

After tiring of that, he decided to play a bit of hide and seek.  Here I caught him peeking.

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Golden-fronted Woodpecker

As we drove through the park after leaving the blind, we spotted this Black-throated Sparrow trying to hide from me.  Not doing a good job of that.

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Black-throated Sparrow

Back out at our favorite spot a little later, this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was hard at work at Spring Creek Park.

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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

So, that is all for this time.  The weather look promising again, so after getting a few things done around the house, I might be back out there in a few days.  Watch for me and give a holler if you see me.

HAPPY BIRDING!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After The Freeze


This morning we finally woke up to a partially sunny sky.  Warmer temperatures, too.  Quite happy with an opportunity to get out after being house-bound for three days, we dressed, had a quick cup of coffee, and headed for Rosa’s to pick up some burritos.  From there we headed to Spring Creek Park to do a little birding.

The birds were happy, too, as we were well rewarded by the days end.

But to begin with, at first we thought the birds weren’t going to be active.  But as we progressed to an area where we usually don’t bird, they came alive.  A lot of Robins, Meadowlarks, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.  But the highlight came as I saw a different bird dip into the brush.  I quickly aimed my long lens in to see what it was, and promply fired the shutter for a quick burst.  It was a Gray Catbird.  A very rare specie for this area and first I had seen in a couple of years.

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Gray Catbird

By then we had seen about 25 different species, but not in the way of good photographs.  We thought about heading home, but the day was still young so we decided to head to the park area around Twin Buttes Reservoir.  It had been several weeks since we had visited there.  First we saw a Red-tailed Hawk in a distant tree, but it flew before I had a chance to get a shot.

We drove on and flushed a flock of Lark Buntings, most of them female.  I guess the males will be along later.

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Lark Bunting, female

Then a Curve-billed Thrasher appeared high in a tree.  The height was no problem, but I usually don’t like shooting at an upward angle.  I almost always end up with some kind of butt shot, but this one turned out acceptable.

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Curve-billed Thrasher

A little American Kestrel was atop a small tree, and the wind was blowing him a bit.  I tried to get a shot before he headed for a new location.

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American Kestrel

But we weren’t done.  After we got to the lake, and marveled at how large it was getting, we noticed about a hundred American Pipits in the large parking lot.  Also there was a good helping of Killdeer, plus a handful of Western Meadowlarks.  We turned around to had back and saw this beautiful Pyrrhuloxia.  This may be my favorite photograph of the day.  I can’t identify what he had in his mouth, but I feel he wasn’t about to give it up.

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Pyrrhuloxia

We finished the day with a total of 41 species.  I happily got a few keeper photos.  That is what is important to me.  W also added two more to our “Big Year” total.  We are at 101 now.  Since the weather is going to hold nicely for the weekend, we will head back out tomorrow and Saturday to see what will surprise us.  Boy!  Ain’t birding fun??

So for now, that’s it.  But tune in after the weekend for another episode. I will bring you up to date with our weekend findings.

Until then……HAPPY BIRDING!!!

More on 1,000th post


Referring back to my post yesterday on my 1,000th post, I feel that I neglected to mention that my success is attributed to the support of all of my loyal readers. You have stayed with me through all of these ten years and I intend to keep going until I can no longer hold a camera.  Having said that, this my 1,001th post. 🙂

I have had 236,457 views, by 63,291 visitors from 178 countries.  2, 874 persons have even subscribed so they get an e-mail whenever I write a new post.

In case you are unaware, you, too, can subscribe.  At the right, where it says “sign me up”, just click there and enter your e-mail address.  That simple.  Free.  No obligation. Period.  You can cancel anytime.

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Eastern Bluebird

Until the next time, HAPPY BIRDING!!!

Post Number 1,000 – Yee-Haw


This is my 1,000th post since I started this blog back on September 11, 2009.  My wife, Ann and my dear friend and fellow photographer, Deb, (her website) both talked me into writing articles about photography and the great hobby of birding.  I had no writing experience of this nature and I was a little apprehensive.  However, after I got started, I discovered I could just type away and let my thoughts flow.

Looking back, though, I wonder how in the world was I ever able to think of a different subject 1,000 times.  But, as you have known, I have come up with some catchy titles.  Some very easy, some with a little tongue-in-cheek humor.  Ann accuses me of having a weird sense of humor.  If you don’t catch my puns the first time, well, I am sorry. 🙂  I do have one reader, Beth, from Winters, Texas that catches them all, and gets a chuckle out of all of them.

During the ten years duration of this blog, so far, I have went through about three different cameras and more lenses than I can count.  Well, that is an exaggeration but you get the picture. (pun intended).  I love getting into new equipment.  I can also look back and see how my photography and photo editing has greatly improved over the time.

I have always tried to include photographs in each of my posts.  This article will be no different.  I think I will celebrate this fine occasion with a few of my best.

This bobcat has to rank up with one of my favorites.  I shoot a lot of wildlife; mostly birds, but I can’t resist photographing an animal as beautiful as this.  Especially when one gives me such a great opportunity as this.  We were outside of Middle Concho Park here in San Angelo, when he strolled through the brush and sat down and gave me a staring look. And great poses.  As most of you know, I shoot from my mobile photo blind, i.e. my Ford Escape.  It enables me to get closer than I would if I was on foot.

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Young Bobcat

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Young Bobcat

One of my favorite haunts to do landscape photography is Big Bend National Park.  It is a spectacular, magical place.  Desert scenes, mountains, canyons to many to count.  All of which was created by something akin to the ‘big bang’.  This photo shows some of remnants of a long-time ago volcanic episode.  I guess the photo shows some of my Ansel Adams influence.  The boulders strewn among mountains of ash.

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“Texas Moonscape”

Also in Big Bend National Park, we were heading west towards Santa Elena Canyon, when I looked through my rear-view mirror.  As the sun was setting in the west, of course, it was reflecting back towards Mule Ears peak.  I stopped the car and took this show.  Never forget to look behind and see what you might have missed.

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Of course, this photo has to be one of my most interesting and challenging experience.  We were with friend out near Lake Nasworthy dam, and some herons and other birds were grazing in some rocky pools near the foot of the dam.  I observed this guy doing a little fishing.  I watched him for a while as he would dive his head quickly and come up with a fish.  I put my camera and long lens on a tripod from about 75 feet away.  With the camera set on high-speed shutter, when he started to dip his head I pressed and held the shutter at about 20 frames per second, through his process. This is my lucky result, as he quickly shifted the fish so he could swallow it head-first.

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Great Blue Heron

When photographing birds, nothing is more exciting that shooting the raptors.  The Red-tailed Hawk ranks as one of my favorites.  We were traveling north towards Ballinger, Texas one day when this creature rose from the grass on the left side of the road.  I had my camera on my lap.  I quickly drove right onto the shoulder, and grabbed it in time to catch the action as it flew by.

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Red-tailed Hawk

From the big to the little.  Photographing the tiny birds presents an exciting challenge.  Especially the Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  To me probably the fastest, quickest of them all.  Always on the move, flitting through the sometimes dense brush.  By the time, you think you have a shot, he disappears from the viewfinder, and he is on another branch or twig.  But perseverance pays off.  The red crown sometimes shows up on the crown making the result more exciting.

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Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Well, I think that wraps up this latest, but not my final post.  I will continue on and see how far this journey takes me.  So stay tuned for my 1,001th entry in a few days.

To see more photos, click my Gallery button at the top of this page.

Happy Shooting!!

 

 

The Feisty Titmouse….and more


In Texas there basically two Titmouse species,; the Tufted, found in the eastern part of the state, and the Black-crested that hangs out in the western part.  So here in the San Angelo area you will find the Black-crested Titmouse the year around.  A very feisty bird, I have seen many a licensed bird-bander get his hands scratched when trying to retrieve one from the mist nets that they use to trap them.  Trying to photograph one, is a feat in itself.  A fast moving bird in the brush, it is hard to keep in the viewfinder of a camera.

However, I have met the challenge several times.  Here are a few images of one that I got recently in the past week.

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Black-crested Titmouse

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Black-crested Titmouse

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Black-crested Titmouse

Besides getting photos of the titmice, I found many more photo opportunities.

Everybody loves the Great Roadrunner.

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Great Roadrunner

Western Meadowlarks have are around in great numbers.  I happened to see this one in a tree.  Not unusual, but I see most of them on the ground.

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Western Meadowlark

The Canyon Towhee, while not a really colorful bird, does have a certain beauty of it’s own.

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Canyon Towhee

The black-masked Loggerhead Shrike is another nasty bird.  Also know as the ‘butcher bird’, it captures it’s prey, then impales it on thorns or barbed wire to save it for a later meal.

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Loggerhead Shrike

American Robin, as American as apple pie and Chevrolet.  Always a harbinger of spring.

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American Robin

The Great Blue Heron; one of my favorite birds to photograph.  They can always be found around our local rivers and lakes.  It is always a nice thing to catch one in perfect light, such as this one.  About 150 yards away across the water, I think this is one of my personal favorites.

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Great Blue Heron

Osprey.  I love to photograph the raptors, and the Osprey is no exception.  This one gave me a nice frontal view.

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Osprey

The Say’s Phoebe is not a rare bird here, but neither is it a bird that has a large presence, so it is nice to come up on one.  A birder friend gave me a tip on where to find this one.  I went to that location, played his song on my iPad app, and he presented himself for this photo.  I love it when it is this easy.

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Say’s Phoebe

Well, I hope you enjoyed this latest collection.  I want to thank you readers and my Facebook friends, that comment so very favorably on my photography.  It is what keeps me excited about writing these posts.  So keep those letters and comments coming in. 🙂

By the way, you can subscribe and receive a notification of when I write a new post by going to ‘SIGN ME UP” on the right side of this page.

I’ll be back in a few days.  Until then………HAPPY BIRDING!!!