Swainson’s – the forgotten hawk.

Well, the Thanksgiving holiday is over.  Now I am contemplating the Christmas season.  However, I think that began long before Thanksgiving, considering all of the commercial ads I have seen the past several weeks.

Anyway, we have been out birding on several occasions, only to come home empty handed.  Where are all the birds, someone once said.  I guess they are around, keeping in hiding until the weather makes up it’s mind as to what it wants to do.

So, I am staying busy going through thousands of old files, and making surprising discoveries.  In the past, I come home from a shoot, load the photos, sometimes several hundred.  I look at the best, then forget the others until I have time, like now, to go back a take closer looks.  Like now.  I forgot about red-tails, osprey, falcons, and went through my old files of the Swainson’s Hawk.

They are nearly the size of a Red-tailed Hawk, and just as photogenic as them.  I guess the fact that there are more red-tails around San Angelo, is why I tend to see the more. of them.   Anyway, here are a couple new/old photos of Swainson’s Hawks that I have never published.


Swainson’s Hawk


Swainson’s Hawk

Those two I have never published.  However, here is one that I did publish about two years ago, and one of my favorites.


Swainson’s Hawk

As you can see, the Swainson’s Hawks are pretty exciting to see also.

So, as I said, Thanksgiving is past and the following photo shows that a turkey is thankful that he did not end up on the platter as he is getting the heck outta’ here. 🙂


Rio Grande Wild Turkey

And with that, I am outta’ here, too.  See ya back here in a few days.

Elusive Great Horned Owl

Birds continue to be a little sparse around here, but Ann and I have to keep them honest so we continue go on our little jaunts through our favorites sites.  Not only is it still great fun, but healthy as well.  But my rehab exercises are starting to pay dividends.  They have helped me feel better.  In fact, I saw my doctor a few of days ago for a checkup.  He said, “Bob, you are in”awesome” shape.”  Of course, except for terminal pulmonary fibrosis, incurable Marfans Syndrome, polymysemia which is under conttrol, and osteoporosis for which I think there is an app.  In other words, I am in pretty danged good shape considering the shape I am in. 🙂

But I digress.  Saturday, when we ventured out to Spring Creek Park, we weren’t seeing much, but Ann exclaimed “Stop!”  When she says that I stomp the brake.  She pointed out the a large live oak tree on the left.  She said “There’s an owl!”  At first, I didn’t see it, but after looking to where she was pointing, I did in fact spot it.  It was in the open but the harsh morning sun was casting glaring highlights and deep shadows.  I took several exposures, which although I didn’t know it at the time, they ended up being tossed in the digital waste basket.

We continued on and ran into a couple of new birders, Natalie Bryan and Kristina Phluger.  We told them about the owl.  They were pretty excited as they had never seen one in the wild.  We invited them to follow us, and we drove back to where we had originally spotted it.  Alas! It wasn’t there.  But, Ann with here sharp eye, saw that it had moved to another place.  As we watched, it flew about 200 yards to another resting place.  We could see where it went, so we drove a bit closer, where we had an open shot with our long lenses.  I took several more photos, trying to get a shot that avoided the leaf that was over the owl’s face.  I had to settle for this one.  Not too bad.  I hope you like it.


Great Horned Owl

After that, we decided to check out Twin Buttes Reservoir.  Pretty much the same results.  No birds to speak of, except for this Red-tailed Hawk atop a utility pole.  You know that I have a weakness for photographing them.


Red-tailed Hawk

Well, keep your eyes and fingers crossed.  Birding will soon improve.

’til then, HAPPY BIRDING

Patience a Definite Virtue

I recently posted on Facebook, a couple of photographs that I captured of a pair of Red-tailed Hawks, perched side-by-side on a dead tree.  I received many comments of congratulations, several of which mentioned on how lucky I was.  I am deeply appreciated of those compliments, although I know that there are many that think that I just have to aim the camera, click the shutter and then publish the snapshot.  I wish it were that easy.  I am good, but not that good. 🙂


Well, first, I was definitely lucky to come upon the two hawks together like they were.  However, the pose that I eventually got had nothing to do with luck.  They both, as birds do, were constantly moving their bodies and eyes.  Fidgeting their heads here and there.  My goal was to capture both of them looking to my right at the same time, wanting to get their heads in profile.

Well, I did indeed reach my goal, but to get there I had to patiently sit and take around one hundred exposures, while nervously wondering if the birds would fly too soon.  I finally gave it up after about twenty minutes.  I was far enough away, about 150 yards, that there is no way I was disturbing them.  I don’t think they ever noticed me in my car.


These two images were the only ones that met my personal standards.  My point is that patience can make the difference between a mediocre photo and a truly great image.  So yes, luck did get me to the opportunity.  Then it was up to me to finish the job.

For those that are interested, my wildlife set-up is my Canon 7D MkII with a Tamron 150-600mm G2 zoom lens.  For several years I owned a $7,000 Canon 500mm prime lens, but age caught up with me and I had problems handling it in the confines of my ‘mobile’ bird blind, AKA my Ford Escape.  My settings for most wildlife is usually TV or Shutter-priority mode.  My shutter speed is usually high, from 1,000 to 5000 per second, set at hi-speed so I can shoot in bursts.  Auto ISO rounds it out and I usually get great results.  My right thumb is usually on the main EV dial, so I can make adjustments on the fly if need be.  I crop a lot, and do minor editing is Photoshop CS5.  (Try all that with a telephone.) 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this post and the images.  Prints are available, of course.  Just click the My Gallery button at the top of this page for more information, or contact me at bobzeller@pobox.com.

‘Til the next time,


Quail of west Texas

Where are all of the birds?  Ann and I have been going out a couple times a week and we are finding a scarcity of birds in our area.  San Angelo State Park is usually a great birding venue but we have been lucky to see only a dozen or so species on recent trips there.  The same goes for Spring Creek Park.  We have been visiting on several morning to Twin Buttes Reservoir and have been rewarded with raptors, though.  That is always fun.

But absent of exciting news about local birding, I decided to reach back in my files and write about the local quail.  They are always fun to watch and photograph.

Most frequent sightings of quail in this area are of the Northern Bobwhite.  We have seen them in the brush and in trees.  The adults are are very watchful of their young, always herding the little ones around.  We have seen an adult literally stop traffic, while it’s mate escorts the kiddos across the road.  They can be found throughout the central and eastern part of the United States.  The following three photos were captured at San Angelo’s State Park.


Male Northern Bobwhite


Female Northern Bobwhite


Northern Bobwhite in tree.

The Scaled Quail is another that is found in the Concho Valley, albeit not in as greater numbers.  They primarily reside in the desert southwest.  They get their name from the pattern of their feathers.  They are also know as Blue Quail for the bluish tint they sometimes display in certain light.

We were prowling around Lake Balmorhea, in west Texas, when I spotted a small flock of them.  Near a fence there was a pile of dirt.  Two of them climbed atop the pile. Then as I was getting a photograph, a third wanted to get in on the act and joined them.


Scaled Quail


Scaled Quail

The photo below was taken at another location.


Scaled Quail

The Gambel’s Quail is found from far west Texas, into New Mexico and Arizona.  We hadn’t been lucky to see any in our travels until we visited Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.  The photo below is one of my images from there.


Gambel’s Quail

On a later trip to Presidio, Texas, we spotted this Gambel’s Quail as we were approaching the outskirts of the city.


Gambel’s Quail

Last, but definitely not least is the beauiful Montezuma Quail.  In Texas, they are seen in the Davis and Quadalupe Mountains in the far west of the state.  But knowing where they are and finding them is a matter of luck and timing.  It took us about four visits to the area before we finally saw our first one.  We were visiting a friend that resides in the upper elevations of the Davis Mountains.  He had a bird viewing site of his own and allowed us to watch for awhile.  After a couple of hours of viewing and photographing other species, a couple of the tiny Montezuma Quail wandered down to his water feature.  My heart leaped at the chance to photograph them.


Montezuma Quail.


Montezuma Quail

I really hope you enjoyed this post and the photos.  As for me, I feel so fortunate that I live in an area that I can get out into the wild to photograph God’s creatures, and share them with you through this blog.

Until the next time,






The Snipe – Master at Camouflage

I went to a high-end hunting supply store, searching for a camouflage shirt.  I couldn’t find one.

I am not a credit to my profession; that of a wildlife photographer.  I never got into wearing camo gear.  I don’t know why.  Anyway, if you come a’lookin’ fo me, I am easy to find. 🙂

But a creature that is a master at camouflage is the Wilson’s Snipe.  They can blend in with the environment in which they live.  You can be looking right at it and not know it is there.  That happened to me once.  I was searching the reeds along the side of a creek.  I spotted what I though was a dark spot on a leaf.  After staring at it for a few seconds, I realized that I was looking into the eye of a snipe.

Much has been said about the snipe over the years.  People have been subject of a prank and told to go on a snipe hunt.  The idea was that there was no such thing as a snipe, or so they thought.  Similar to a new airman being told to go get a bucket of prop wash.  If that puzzles you, send me an e-mail and I will explain. 🙂

The snipe is a very tiny sandpiper, about 10-11 inches in length, with a bill that is nearly as long as it’s body.  They like to forage in shallow water or mud, looking for larval insects, crustaceans, earthworms, or mollusks.  They probe with their bills, sometime going deep enough that the bill is covered up to their eyes.  Then they swallow their prey without withdrawing the bill from the soil or water.

Here are a few images from my files to illustrate their talent to hide in plain sight.


Wilson’s Snipe




Wilson’s Snipe


Wilson’s Snipe

In other news, I had mentioned that I was doing rehab exercises at Shannon Clinic to strengthen my lungs and help my breathing in my fight with pulmonary fibrosis.  I just purchased a recumbent bicycle of my own so i can continue rehab at home.  I hope you love the picture.  By the way, I am feeling great so no reason to worry for awhile.


My bike and me. 🙂

As you can see I am enjoying my ‘ride’ quite immensely. 🙂

Well, that’s it for this post.

Until then, HAPPY BIRDING!!!!



The Magnificent Osprey

I love photographing the raptors.  One of my favorites is the Osprey.  I can usually find one or two near the local lakes; either Lake Nasworthy, O. C. Fisher Lake, or Twin Buttes Reservoir.  Lately I have been seeing some around the latter.  They winter in the southern half of Texas, but occasionally can be seen in warmer months.  They dine exclusively on fish.  They forage by flying over the water, then diving and snatching their lunch with sharp talons.

They are a fierce looking birds, as my photo below shows.


Osprey with fish lunch

He was high on a utility pole, about 75 yards from me and my camera.  Fortunately, he was pretty intent on eating, so I was able to take my time and get several esposures.

They are a beautiful bird in flight.  I captured the photo below on another occasion.  He had finished eating and was just doing a bit of sight-seeing.  Photographed in the early morning sunrise.


Osprey in flight

Here is another image of one watching, just sitting and a’grinning.  I got this capture early this morning.


Below are a couple of images from several years ago, when I got lucky and caught one in flight, clutching his meal.


Osprey in flight


Osprey in flight

I hope you enjoyed my little post about one of my favorite birds.  Feel free to comment.  I enjoy hearing from you.

Until the next time.


Okay, You talked me into it…….

Hello, to all my dear readers.   I am answering your call to resume posting here.  I was overwhelmed with notes and comments of good wishes.  I hadn’t realized how many people really read my posts regularly.  Thanks very much to all so very much.  Does this mean I have to return the gifts?  Gee, I really like the car.

So, I am glad to be back, writing my “whimiscal” posts, as dear reader Michelle Edwards put it..  I really do enjoying writing, especially when I feel healthy and happy.

The weather has been a bit on the nasty side the past few days here in San Angelo, but I have tried to not let that stop me.  This photo that I am featuring in this comeback post is a Red-tailed Hawk, that I photographed during a faint, cold mist.  Fortunately my long lens has a rain hood.

We, Ann and I, were driving out near Twin Buttes Reservoir when off to the left was the hawk sitting on a dead tree branch.  I was able to maneuver the car off the road into position for a good photo.  He was about 150 yards away.  I thought I was somewhat hidden behind some brush, but apparently he, with his magnificent keen vision picked me out.  I got off a couple of exposures as he perched, but then he decided to leave the building.  I quickly continued shooting and got this photo as he push off.  I hope you like it.


Red-tailed Hawk.

Referring to the rehab the mentioned above, I will explain.  As you know I have been diagnosedd with Pulmonary Fibrosis.  I have had problems with getting short winded when doing physical activity.  The rehab involves going to Shannon Pulmonary Clinic three times a week, and using their workout machines.  A regimen of twelve weeks, of which I have four weeks left.  They are designed to help me control my breathing and strengthen my lungs.  The trainers are great, I haven’t fallen off the machines yet, and I am feeling much improvement.

So, I will end this post with that.  I will try to write more posts at least one per week, perhaps more often.  I am taking all of this one day at a time.

By the way, I have been adding new photos to my gallery.  I would appreciate any purchases that you might make.  Click this link, https://bobzeller.wordpress.com/photo-album-guide.  Or click the button at the top of this page.  You can always contact me at bobzeller@pobox.com for more information.

Now I need to see if I can return that car by Priority Mail. 🙂


Say it isn’t so, Bob

It has been four months since my last post, so I know you are wondering what in the world is going on with old Bob.

As some of you may or not know, I was diagnosed early this year with pulmonary fibrosis.  Not good, but not necessarily bad.  There is no cure, but the prognosis is that I still have hopes of staying on the top side of the sod for a few more years.  How many more depends on how slow, or fast, it progresses.

I am not worried, nor am I going to dwell on it.  I have just turned 85 and am still going strong, at least in my own estimation.  However, I have slowed down.  I tire easily and get short-winded.  To that end, I am taking a twelve week session of pulmonary lung rehab.  Three times a week, I go in for an hour of workouts that are designed to mak my breathing easier.

The workouts are going quite well, and I haven’t fallen off of any of the machines yet. 🙂  The staff that is working with me at Shannon Medical Center are very friendly and professional.  They know what they are doing.  I am actually having fun and I look forward to each workout.  I twist, jump, skip, and roll……. and that is just getting into my workout clothes. 🙂

As you can see, I still have my sense of humor and that is a big help.  I think they say, “a laugh a day, keeps the doctor away”, or something like that. 🙂

The point of this is that this will probably be my last post.  Time will tell.  I intend to keep up with my photography as best as I can.  I now photograph from my car exclusively.  Drive-by shooting, you might say. 🙂  (credit my friend, John English for providing that bit of humor).  The camera is starting to get a bit heavier.  Anyway, I will be still posting the results to my gallery, that you can access by clicking that little button at the top of this page.

I want to thank you, all of my readers for your support through all the years.

I will close with this photograph that I captured just this morning.  A Great Blue Heron photographed here in San Angelo near Lake Nasworthy.


Great Blue Heron

Bob Zeller

October 9, 2019


And the Rains Came…..

So much for doing a lot of birding since my last post.  We have had tornadoes, rain, thunderstorms, more rain, and more rain.  Hopefully the rainy season will desist soon and we will be back to a more normal spring and summer.  We were lucky.  The EF2 tornado struck another part of town and we were spared with only losing a large limb out our large live oak tree.  Fortunately, no deaths occurred.

A Glossy Ibis was spotted near Twin Buttes Reservoir by some birding friends, Jean and Larry Haller.  It was the first sighting of this bird in recorded history for Tom Green County.  They were nice enough to tell Ann and me about it.  We have made several trips out there to try to see it, but so far for naught.  We only live about three miles from the area, so it is easy for us to jump in the car and go have a look.  The ibis is probably gone now; heading back to the gulf coast where he belongs. 🙂

During a trip yesterday, we saw some American Avocets near the boat ramp.  I took this photo.  I love these birds.  They appear so graceful.


American Avocet

We are still trying to reach our goal of 200 species for the year.  Right now we are 145.  So with 55 to go, we still nearly eight months to fill it.  However, we could do with some travel to west Texas to catch those birds in that area.  But most likely, that will not happen.  My health is trying to put a damper on such journeys.  I am slowing down and I tire more easily.  I believe it is part to pulmonary fibrosis with which I have been diagnosed with, and maybe it is old age.  Anyway, we will see what happens.

While going through some old photos, I came across this one from about three years ago that I thought you’d like to see.  I love the beauty and grace of the Great Egret.


Great Egret

And another, from nine years ago.  This Red-shouldered Hawk had a nest down near Christoval, Texas.  I was fortunate to get several shots.


Red-shouldered Hawk

So there you have it, folks.  That’s all for this post.  I’ll be back in a few days with some new images……..I hope.  Please let the rains hold off for awhile.

’til then, HAPPY BIRDING!!!



Painted Buntings – Stars of the show

In the past couple of weeks we have visited Twin Buttes Reservoir on several occasions.  Since the lake has received much needed water from storms the past few months, it has produced a plethora of birds.  Also, it is the middle of migration, so birding there has been great fun.  I have had some great photo opportunities.  Of course, the bird that gets the most attention is the Painted Bunting.  Her are the results of those forays.

These are from Monday, May 6, Twin Buttes Marina Park.

This Painted Bunting was flitting around in the brush and I caught him as he was ready to fly off.


Painted Bunting

Sandpipers are my nemesis when it comes to identifying them.  But after checking my guides I believe I have it right.  A Semi-palmated Sandpiper.


Semi-Palmated Sandpiper

On May 9, we again made a trip to the marina.

I caught this Painted Bunting sitting on a branch of a nearby tree.


Painted Bunting

We can always hear the Bell’s Vireos before we can see them.


Bell’s Vireo

Back on May 13, we are having fun, still at Twin Buttes.

I spotted this flight of American Avocets zip past us and head over the lake.  As they wheeled around to come back, I was ready for them.


American Avocets

What??  Another Painted Bunting?


Painted Bunting

Back again on May 15.  Are you tired of the Painted Buntings?  I hope not as here is another.


Painted Bunting

We were startled to see this Cooper’s Hawk on a fence post as we drove by.  I stopped the car and we were only about 20 feet away.  I was happy to be able to photograph him out the passenger side window.  I was afraid to get out of the car as he might have flushed.


Cooper’s Hawk

Another bird that we heard before we saw him.  These quail can really blend in with their surroundings.  But we just followed the sound and got the shot of this Northern Bobwhite.



These little Least Sandpipers were all over the parking at Twin Buttes Marina.  Scurrying here and there.


Least Sandpiper

This next photo of the Yellow-throated Vireo was photographed a few days later at Spring Creek Park.  This bird is around all year, but this is the first time I have ever had the chance to photograph one.  They are very shy and hard to find.


Yellow-throated Vireo

On another short trip to San Angelo State Park, we were rewarded with great views of the Dickcissel.



That does it for today’s post.  I really hope you enjoyed this little photography journey.  You can bet that I enjoyed getting the photos.

Until the next time…..HAPPY BIRDING!!!!