Making lemonade from a lemon. And other stuff.


Since my last post I have been making several excursions to San Angelo State Park, in search of usable photos.  I have gotten several, but one stands out for me.  I was at the bird viewing blind at the park.  I had my Canon 7D MarkII, with a 150-600mm Tamron lens, mounted on my monopod.  While watching, I spotted a Northern Bobwhite in the distance, about 100 feet away, beyond the water feature.  As a whim I took the photo, not thinking about it being a saleable photo.  But after I got home and put in the computer in preparation for post editing, I realized that I might be able to make something out of it.

Here is the original.  Notice it looks a little bland and washed out and overall, not a very impressive  photograph.

Original Bobwhite photo

Here is the finished product, after cropping for composition, and just adjusting the contrast, a little color saturating, and lighting adjustment.  What fun!!

Northern Bobwhite

Okay, that’s your lesson for the day.  Don’t give up on what you may think is not a usable photograph.  Just some creative cropping and minor adjusting, can give you some surprising results.

I am still looking through my images from our Davis Mountains trip.  Here is another photo of a beautiful Scott’s Oriole.

Scott’s Oriole

And another shot of one of those feisty Acorn Woodpeckers.

Acorn Woodpecker

Going through some of my photos from past years, I sometimes come upon one that I didn’t initially care for.  But after taking a second look, and doing some re-editing, I can sometimes surprise myself.  Such was the case with this Carolina Chickadee that I photographed back in 2014.  I realized that my editing skills weren’t as good then as I am today.  Of course, advancements in software and techniques really help.

Carolina Chickadee

Click on this and the other photos and see some enhanced enlargements.  It make a huge difference in viewing them.

Until the next time, Happy Birding!!

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“It was a dark and dreary night…….”


Okay, I am trying to write a new post here.  But words are failing me.  Actually it is really a dark and drizzly day here.  Woke up to a light rain and so far at 11:00AM we have received over an inch.  Not a really good day for bird photography.  Water and camera lenses do not mix well.

So I think I will just show you a few more recent photos that I haven’t posted yet.  If you are on Facebook you may have seen them already, as I like to post there occasionally.  By the way, if you can view this post on your computer, please remember to click on the images.  You can see some great enlargements that way.

I had posted another image of this Bobcat earlier.  I originally ignored this one as I didn’t like my first impression of it.  But now, after looking at it again, it has grown on me and I really like it.

Bobcat

Bobcat

But that’s the way I am.  I find that sometimes I can go back through my archives and spot another picture that I didn’t like at first, then after processing it I sometimes get a nice surprise.

So here’s another from our recent trip to Fort Davis.  I usually like to really get close up to my birds, but in this image I found that I like the composition.

Female Ladder-backed Woodpecker dangling from branch of a century plant.

Female Ladder-backed Woodpecker dangling from branch of a century plant.

Another Acorn Woodpecker.  I love these guys.

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker

How about a couple more of that magnificent Snowy Egret that we saw at Balmorhea State Park.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Hey, who is this masked man. 🙂

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Well, I think that will be all for today.  I don’t want to use up all of my good stuff or I won’t have anything for my next post.  I hope you enjoy this one.

Ft. Davis and Davis Mountains Revisited


Well, after our aborted trip last month, we finally got it right this time.  We arrived at our destination, the Davis Mountains Inn Bed and Breakfast around 1:30 on Monday afternoon.  That’s our room behind the french doors on the right.

Davis Mountains Inn

Davis Mountains Inn

Since we had a couple of hours to kill before checking in, we decided to visit the Davis Mountains State Park, and have a look at the bird viewing center.  Within a short time we caught glimpses of the following.

Summer Tanager - female

Summer Tanager – female

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

While all of that was going on, this squirrel decided to have a look, too.

Squirrel

Squirrel

After spending about an hour and a half there, it was time to go check in at the inn.  We had a nice room, with a king-sized bed.  It also had a jacuzzi which we didn’t use, mainly because of a previous experience with one, that we had at another place.  But that’s another funny story, for another time.  Remind me to tell you all it about sometime.

Because of a family emergency with the owners of the inn, they were unable to cook breakfast for us the following morning.  However, they also own the Fort Davis Drug Store in Fort Davis.  It doubles as a restaurant, so they paid for our meal there.

Following breakfast we decided to take the scenic loop that goes northwest towards the heart of the Davis Mountains, then circles south of them and eventually returns to the city of Fort Davis.  This loop goes to the McDonald Observatory atop Mt. Locke, elevation 6,791 feet, and about a mile above the desert below.

Approaching Mt. Locke and the McDonald Observatory

Approaching Mt. Locke and the McDonald Observatory

Atop Mt. Locke

Atop Mt. Locke

View from Mt. Locke

View from Mt. Locke

McDonald Observatory

McDonald Observatory

The last time we had visited the observatory a few years ago, we were accosted by a wintery blast as a blue norther blew in as we were atop the mountain.  We hastily made for the visitors center where we were forced to buy some warm jackets.  This time it was cool, but comfortable.

As we continued around the drive heading back towards to Fort Davis, we saw several birds, and added to our 2014 Big Year List, a Canyon Wren, Wilson’s Warbler, and the Acorn Woodpecker, bringing our current total to 185.  Another 15 to go, and we still have three months left.

We also saw this peculiar collection of boulders.  You have to use your imagination to wonder how these ended up in this position.  They are about 15 feet tall.  I wish I had posed Ann in the photo so you could see the size.

Boulders

Boulders

After getting back to the inn, we decided to take a well-deserved nap. Following that, we then went into Fort Davis, which was only a half mile away, and ate a patty melt at the drugstore slash restaurant.  Another filling meal, then relaxed on the patio before turning in for the evening.

On Wednesday, after a scrumptious breakfast of poached eggs and sausage, we went back to the Davis Mountains SP.  Here are a few of the highlights of that visit.

Lesser Goldfinch - juvenile male

Lesser Goldfinch – juvenile male

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker

Say's Phoebe

Say’s Phoebe

We then made a short trip to the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and it was humming with hummingbirds.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird or possibly a Black-chinned.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird or possibly a Black-chinned.

female Rufous Hummingbird

female Rufous Hummingbird

On Thursday morning, it was time to say goodbye to the Davis Mountains.  I am sure we will return soon.   In all we saw a grand total of 45 different species at various times of our journey.

Catch Me If You Can – Photographing the Tiny Birds


A lot of the images that I got last week were of those tiny, hard to find little birds that flit around in the dense shrubs and bushes.  I think you know what I am talking about.  You watch some dense foliage, see a branch or twig move unnaturally, then try to see what is in there.  I can usually, eventually see the hidden bird.  Photographing it is another challenge.

Wilson’s Warbler

I am usually photographing from my vehicle.  I have my Canon 7D and 500mm lens resting on the window.  I use it after I have had an inital location with the binocular.   I set the camera to use only the center focus point.  When I can locate the bird, I try to get that focus point on the bird and then take the shot.  If the foliage is extra dense, I sometimes have to use a bit of manual ‘help’ to keep the focus.

These images illustrate how hard some of these little birds can be to see.

Bell’s Vireo

Townsend’s Warbler

Yellow-breasted Chat

All of the images have been drastically cropped.  In a few, I didn’t know what I had until I got them into the computer and magnified them enough to ID them.  It is always nice to be able to get shots of birds that are more exposed in the open, like the two below.

Acorn Woodpecker

Clay-colored Sparrow.

So I hope you enjoy this little narrative, and the images.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

The Audacious Acorn Woodpeckers


Well, we had a grand time this past week visiting the Big Bend area of southwest Texas.  As most of you know, Ann and I visit that place on average of a couple of times each year.  The sights there never fail to amaze us.  The ever changing light in the canyons and mountains, to the varied wildlife that we come upon, whether it is beasts or birds.

On this trip, we hoped to time the bird migration so we might see a few new species.  The winter population hadn’t started to arrive yet, so in one sense the bird numbers were down.  On the other hand with the summer species that were still around and a few migratory ones that were traversing through we saw a total of 59 different birds.  Of those we added three new “lifers”, birds that we had never seen before.  Plus, I got some new photographs of birds that I had photographed on earlier occasions.  The Acorn Woodpecker is a good example of that.

Acorn Woodpecker

My previous images of the Acorn Woodpecker were taken on a trip to Davis Mountains State Park a couple of years ago.  Of those shots, they were nice close-ups but they were taken in a blind, where they were pictured at bird feeders.  I think you will enjoy these two images as they were taken in the wild, up in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park.

Ann and I had driven up into the area that is referred to as the ‘Basin’.  It is a valley type area at an elevation of about 5,000 feet, surrounded by mountain peaks.  We parked in the lot by the lodge, and took a stroll down towards the Window Trail.  The ‘Window’ being a V-shaped formation that looks out over the Chihuahuan Desert.  Anyway, along the way there was a dead tree nearby, and the two woodpeckers were there.  One of them was at the very top, the other down on a lower branch.  I was very much surprised that I was able to get so close.  I was using my Canon EOS 7D, with my 100-400mm lens.

I took a few shots from farther away at first, just to be safe and have something.  Then progressively I moved a bit closer, then closer still, until I was only about 20 feet away.  One thing in my favor, was the quietness of the area.  There were no other people in sight.  Probably because of the MOUNTAIN LION ALERT signs that were posted nearby.  But it is naturally quiet up there anyway.

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker

Stay tuned.  In the upcoming few days, I will be posting more photos from our trip.  I hope you will enjoy them.

Quiz #5 – Results


Here are the results of the fifth Bird ID quiz.  This one was a bit tougher for some people, however most of you got it right.  Here is the original picture of the bird in question.

Red-naped Sapsucker

Red-naped Sapsucker:  (The correct guess).   25 votes

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker   1 vote

Red-headed Woodpecker   2 votes

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker   1 vote

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker   5 votes

So that does it for this week’s quiz.  I thank everyone for participating.  On Monday I will publish Quiz #6.

Ladder-backed Woodpeckers


You, my dear readers, are giving me some large shoes to fill.  Melissa (her blog) says I am an “awesome dude”.  Cindy (her blog) says I have a “magnetic personality”.  My friend Ross McSwain (his website) says “Bob, you are the best bird photographer that I have ever come across”.  Of course, he is a personal friend of mine and he better danged well say that. 🙂

Anyway, after all those fine words, I find it difficult to keep coming up with subjects to write about.  Each day, I stumble through my images and try to find some that I haven’t shown you.  Or a story that I haven’t told you.  On that subject I could actually think of many stories, but I have to decide which ones are fit for print.

So, today, I came across these photos of the Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Picoides scalaris).  They were taken on various occasions during my travels across west Texas and here at San Angelo State Park.  At one time, pre-birding days, I thought any woodpecker with a red head was a Red-headed Woodpecker.  Not so.  The Ladder-backed Woodpecker has a red head, but so has the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Acorn Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker and the Red-breasted Sapsucker.  Some others have litle red spots but we won’t count them.

I tossed in the names of the sapsuckers, because they look like woodpeckers.  So the mystery deepens even more.  How about this?  The Red-bellied Woodpecker doesn’t have a red belly.  Not that you would notice.  I think there is a pink tinge in the lower abdominal area.

Now if you look at the “ladder back”, you can also see the same patterns on the Gila Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, and lest we forget, those sapsuckers.  So, IDing the woodpecker species can get a bit tricky.  So I guess if I can ID them correctly, that make me an “awesome dude.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

So there you have it.  I am sure that someone will tell me about other distinctive differences that I missed, but this is my story and I am sticking with it. 🙂

Click on any image to see an enlargement.  Have a great time enjoying them.