Birding Eldorado Water Ponds

One place that Ann and I always enjoy visiting is the Water Treatment Ponds at Eldorado, Texas.  About forty miles south of our home in San Angelo, it is consists of five huge ponds, each about 200 feet by 300 feet.  I think one of them is even larger.  Anyway, you never know what you will find when you visit.  We have had times when the birding was scarce.

This time proved to be a bit different.  It was cool, overcast and windy when we left and didn’t really expect to see much, but we felt that it may be worth the trip.  We sometimes tire of the routine birding locally and just like to get away for awhile.

Savannah Sparrow on fence.

By the time we arrived it had warmed a bit, and the wind had abated somewhat.  The clouds were still overhead, and I really don’t mind that as the light is softer for photography.  Some of the winter duck types have arrived there, such as Gadwalls, Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shovelers.  These we haven’t seen in San Angelo yet, but I guess they are on their way.

There were numerous Savannah Sparrows on the fences, and we saw several overflights of other birds that we couldn’t identify, however there were several Blue-winged Teal arriving.

At one point we were were driving slowly and watching the close shoreline, looking for Wilson’s Snipes.  They are difficult to see and we were not successful in sighting any.  However we saw an American Bittern, a few yards ahead with it’s familiar head stretching upward.  Wanting to get a photograph, I crept a slowly as I could, but it still managed to detect me.  By the time we reached the location where we had seen it, it had nearly disappeared.  Upon close examination, though, I spotted it in the grasses, nearly invisible.  I managed to get several photos of it.

American Bittern – trying to be invisible.

A few yards farther along was one of two Great Egrets that we had seen.

Great Egret at Eldorado Water Treatment ponds.

One of the highlights of the day was spotting this Merlin.  I got several images of it and I wasn’t sure of the identification until I got home and could get a closer look at it in the computer.  It is very similar to the Prairie Falcon.  But when it spread it’s tail, I could see the wider, bolder stripes.


But this gives you an indication of the variety of birds that can be seen there.  We also saw about three Great Blue Herons, a Double-crested Cormorant. an American Kestrel, a few swallows and some other un-identified birds.  In all, according to Ann’s list that she always keeps, we saw twenty-four species in about two hours.  Here is a complete list.

  1. House Finch
  2. Great Egret
  3. American Coot
  4. Northern Shoveler
  5. White-winged Dove
  6. Northern Mockingbird
  7. American Kestrel
  8. Turkey Vulture
  9. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  10. Ruddy Duck
  11. Eared Grebe
  12. Double-crested Cormorant
  13. Pied-billed Grebe
  14. Wild Turkey
  15. Blue-winged Teal
  16. Savannah Sparrow
  17. Gadwall
  18. American Bittern
  19. Barn Swallow
  20. Great Blue Heron
  21. Killdeer
  22. Merlin
  23. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  24. Red-tailed Hawk

Middle Concho Park Re-visited

Yesterday Ann and I decided to go back to Middle Concho Park to see if there was any action, now that we have had a little rain there.  One thing that impressed us was how green everything was.  That is what a couple of inches of rain can do.  There still wasn’t a heck of a lot of bird activity.  I guess we’re anxious for the fall migration.

However, we got lucky and spotted a Vermilion Flycatcher.  And even better, it sat long enough for me to get the big gun out of the back seat.  I had to lean against a tree so I could hand-hold it steady enough.  I knew I wouldn’t have time to set up a tripod, and I didn’t want to press my luck.  The bird looked a bit bedraggled and weather-beaten.

Vermilion Flycatcher

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens with 1.4 tele-converter
  • 1/2000 sec. @ f5.6
  • ISO  800
  • Lens focal distance  700mm
  • Metering – partial
  • Shutter priority

On leaving the park, there is a marshy, wetland area.  Lots of reeds, cattails, water lilies.  I got out of the car to try to get some photos of the blossoms, when I spooked an American Bittern from the growth right in front of me.  He flew about 80 yards away but still stayed visible for me to get this shot.

American Bittern

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/2500 sec. @ f5.6 – minus 1/3 EV adjustment
  • ISO 400
  • Lens focal distance  400mm
  • Metering – spot
  • Shutter priority

After that little excitement, I went ahead and took this shot of one of the water lily blossooms.  They were all bright yellow, and the sun was beating down from almost overhead.  I would have prefered an overcast or cloudy sky, but I try to make do with what I have to work with.

Water Lily Blossom

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/2500 sec. @ f10 – minus 1/3 EV adjustment
  • ISO 400
  • Lens focal distance  190mm
  • Metering – spot
  • Shutter priority

After that, before coming home, we stopped at a new nearby restaurant, The Stillwater Bar and Grill.  It’s located right on the water.  We sat on the patio, enjoyed the scenery and had a fine lunch.  It was a nice way for us to cap off a nice morning.  Ann and I heartily recommend it if anybody is out that way.