Birding in San Angelo and number 199.


Thinks are looking up here in San Angelo in west Texas.  Several days ago I posted about the golf course at San Angelo Country Club, because I didn’t have any new birds to report.  Birds seemingly were scarce, and we didn’t see as many as we used to do.

Things changed today.  Ann and I are getting ready for my upcoming reception and book-signing at the Art Gallery in Fort Davis, so we haven’t had much time to bird.  This afternoon about 1:00 PM we decided to take a break and head to the parks at nearby Lake Nasworthy.  We birded until about 3:00, or about two hours and saw thirty-six species.  Wow!  What an improvement over the past few weeks.

The highlight of the day was spotting a Red-shouldered Hawk.  In our local checklist, it is listed as “uncommon – usually present but hard to find”.  We were about to leave Spring Creek Park when Ann spotted it on a tree branch, staring down into the weedy brush.  I quickly drove ahead about fifty yards, made a U turn and pulled back up so I could get a photo from my driver’s side car window.

Just as I got my Canon 7D Mark II with the Tamron 150-600mm lens lined up, the bird apparently spotted some prey in the brush.  He dove down and was out of sight for a few minutes.  We waited a bit and were ready to leave, when he flew from the brush and was visible through our windshield as he headed for the other side of the road.

I could see him far into the woods, so I turned the car around and drove back over.  I couldn’t get a bead on him from the car, so I got out and walked to the treeline.  I could spot him about fifty yards away in the the mesquites, sitting on a branch with his back to me.  I hand-held the camera and squeezed off a few shots, just seconds before he took off again.  I really didn’t know if I had good results until I got the images loaded into my digital darkroom.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

It turns out that I got lucky.  The red shoulders aren’t very visible but the Sibley’s guide says that they aren’t always visible on an adult.  Besides, when he flew over our windshield, we definitely saw the unmistakeable burnt-orange underparts.  By the way, this was to be our 199th bird on our quest to reach 200 species for the year, so we were pretty happy with that.  Of course, in any other year, we would have already seen a Red-shouldered Hawk by this time.

I also was able the get this beautiful female American Goldfinch.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

She was in the brush along the treeline in Spring Creek Park.  There were various other small birds, Dark-eyed Juncos, Black-crested Titmouses, Bewick’s Wrens, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, but I was unable to get usable photos of any of them because of the thick brush.

We also saw along the way, a flyover of a Red-tailed Hawk, a Northern Flicker, a Forster’s Tern on a buoy in the lake, and the other usual woodpeckers, sparrows, cormorants, and American Coots.

This may be the last post from me for a few says.  We will be leaving for Fort Davis on Thursday morning and not returning until next Tuesday.  I may have some new photos for you on our return.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker and more


Since we had better weather for a couple of days we have been to our local parks a couple of times.  Today, Saturday, of course, the weather has changed, getting cooler then downright cold for the next six days or so.  Anyway, I managed to get a few photos of some of the smaller birds, plus a pretty nice shot of a Great Blue Heron.  I will show them here starting with three images of a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, which I think is one the most photogenic of that species.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

This Savannah Sparrow flew from a tree into the edge of the water.  It is one of my better shots of one of these.  It usually is difficult to get such close-ups of them.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

The same goes for the American Goldfinches such as the one pictured below.  I was lucky with this image.  The bird was in dense brush, inside a fence line.  I think I took 30 shots, before I got one that showed nearly the whole bird in focus.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

There was still a lot of water standing in the roadways and this Western Meadowlark decided that it wasn’t too cold for a bath.

Western Meadowlark - taking a bath

Western Meadowlark – taking a bath

I have always had difficulty getting decent photos of swans.  Usually the ones around here are on open water, making getting good compositions hard to come by.  Also there is the problem of getting the exposure good because of the whiteness of the feathers.  I believe this image of the two Mute Swans is a bit more interesting with the rocks in the background.

Mute Swans

Mute Swans

What can I say about the Great Blue Herons.  I always enjoy trying to get interesting images of them.  We ate at the ‘Golden Arches’ for breakfast early Thursday morning.  It was cold, drizzly, and a bit dark.  When we left the restaurant, Ann noticed the heron in the little arroyo adjacent to the parking lot.  Of course, I just happened to have my camera in the car, so I got it out and managed to get several images in the very low light.  I like the photo especially the way the wet weather saturated the colors.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Click on any of these images to see enlargements.

By the way, I still have copies of my highly acclaimed book, “Birds, Beasts and Buttes”, available.  To order autographed copies, contact me at bobzeller1@aol.com.