Summer Birding at San Angelo State Park


I have been birding at San Angelo State Park for about ten years.  I have seen highs and lows.  The highs were in the years of 2007-2008.  Then O. C. Fisher lake started drying up.  Gone were a lot of the water loving birds, herons, ducks, etc.  You could literally walk across the lake and not get your feet wet.  Then there was a program where spraying was done to kill the mesquite.  Those trees and shrubs started dying and losing foliage, which was cover for some birds.  About that time, we had some welcome storms that brought water back into the lake.  The water reached the levels of 2007.  That was welcome as the water fowl started to return.  But now with withering temperatures we had recently, the lake is slowly dropping again.

I am not saying that birding is bad, but the birds that once were plentiful have had their numbers decreasing.   There was a time when we would always see large numbers of hawks, osprey, and other birds of prey.  Now we rarely see a raptor.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any.  It is just to show that they are scarce.  In our searches we have discovered one Swainson’s Hawk, two Red-tailed Hawks, and until yesterday we knew of only one Great Horned Owl that was hangout near the Isabell Harte picnic area.  That increased by one yesterday when I tell you of a nice experience we had.

Great Horned Owl

Yesterday morning, Ann and I decided to got to the park early, to check out the bird blind.  It had been recently damaged in a storm, but it was now open again to the public.  We drove down the lane to the structure and turned into the little parking area.  Lo and behold, sitting on the fence next to the blind and about ten feet from the door, was the Great Horned Owl, pictured above.  We sat in the car, or what I call our mobile blind.  I was able to get that shot and several others from there.  I was only about 35 feet from the bird, and to get out of the car would probably spook it.  We observed it for about 10 minutes, not wanting to disturb it.  However, after a few minutes, a volunteer that puts birdseed in the feeders drove up.  That spooked the owl and off he flew.  but it was an amazing experience, to be that close.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

We were at the blind for about an hour and we saw Painted Buntings, Northern Bobwhite,  Northern Cardinals, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Curve-billed Thrasher, Bell’s Vireo, Bewick’s Wren, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, (pictured above) and the usual doves, sparrows, etc.

After leaving the blind, we took a drive all through the park, seeking birds that don’t frequent the blind.  Here are a few photos from those drives during the past couple of weeks.

Blue Grosbeak

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Of course, I have so others that I haven’t processed yet, and some others that are just throw-aways.  But we saw around 40-45 species in the past couple of weeks.  Others that deserve mentions are Common Nighthawks, Western Kingbirds, Scissor-tailed Flycatachers, Black-throated Sparrows, Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Greater Roadrunner, Wild Turkey, Pyrrhuloxia, Canyon Towhee, Bullock’s Oriole, plus the various doves and sparrows.

Looking back at what I have written, I suppose that I may have painted a bleak picture of the birding.  But then I realized that most of the birds are here, just not in large numbers, such as the raptors.  You just have to look a bit harder to see them.  But, isn’t that the fun of the hunt????

So, I believe the birding at San Angelo State Park, is alive and well.

For information on purchasing prints click on the Bob’s Gallery button at the top of this page, or this link:https://bobzeller.wordpress.com/photo-album-guide/

Happy Birding!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Catch me live, in living color…..


To begin this post, I would like to let you know that yesterday, Thursday June 29, I was honored to be featured and interviewed on a local TV program, Concho Vally Live on KLST.  I spoke about photography, and showed several of my photographs.  Here is a link to see that interview if you want to finally meet and see me up close.  You will see that I am not the handsome hunk that you thought I was.  http://www.conchovalleyhomepage.com/concho-valley-live/photography-talk-with-bob-zeller-concho-valley-live-june-29-2017/754138109

It went pretty well except the person in charge, loaded the photos so they would loop rather than show individually, so each photo showed for only 5 seconds.  You will see that I had a difficult task to try to describe  of them.  Ashley Cunha did a great job doing the interview, though.   But I must say, she had the advantage of reading from the teleprompter, whereas I had to wing it.  I hope you enjoy seeing the show.

In other news, many of you have probably heard about the storm that hit San Angelo a week ago.  It was really devastating, millions of dollars damage through out the city.  We were one of the lucky ones.  Our flag pole got snapped in half, a portion of our fence blew down, and our roof lost a couple of shingles.  Other parts of town lost building, roofs, signage, etc.

San Angelo State Park, where we do most of our birding, and where I get many of my photographs, sustained major damage.  Trees uprooted, RVs destroyed or damaged.  The trails are impassable for the present, and of course closed until cleanup can be completed.  The park itself, was closed for about three days, then it opened yesterday, but only to travel paved roads.  Most of the RV sites have been cleaned up.  Here are a few photos that showed the damage.  The bird blind took a “direct hit’ I was told.  The roof was partially blown off and the fence was down.  I wasn’t permitted to take the trail back there to get a photo.

San Angelo SP storm damage

San Angelo SP  storm damage.

San Angelo SP storm damage

San Angelo SP

Fortunately, there were no serious injuries.  One lady obtained a cut on her head, when she got slammed around when her RV trailer got tipped over.  For me, this was one of the worst storms I had seen in years, in terms of the widespread damage.

This morning Ann and I finally made a serious attempt to see some birds and for me to get a couple of photographs.  Birding was slow but a couple of shots made it worthwhile.  Here are those results.

Swainson’s Hawk

Common Nighthawk

That is all for this post.  To see more photos, or make purchases, click the “Bob’s Gallery” button at the top of the page.  Enjoy!

Burrowing Owl and other stuff.


Drizzly, chilly and over-all a gray day.  So it is a good day to get caught up on my blog.  We have been getting out pretty regular so I did get some new photos to post.  The highlight of the week was getting to see a Burrowing Owl.  A friend had spotted one a few miles west of Eldorado.  He gave us directions and we drove down on Thursday to see if we could locate it.  Sure, enough, it was where he said it would be.  We had difficulty seeing him a first as he was behind a road culvert, just peeking his head over to see what we were up to.  Here is my first image.  Click on it and the following photos to see enlargements.

Burrowing Owl peeking at me.

Burrowing Owl peeking at me.

We stayed in the car, using it as a blind. I was only about twenty feet away.  The owl eventually started exposing himself so I could get more photographs.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

The last one may be my favorite, although I took many photographs, about one hundred.  It was hard to resist.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Now for the other ‘stuff’.  Back here in town, at Spring Creek Park.  Again, we were out there early, with our coffee and burritos.  This Orange-crowned Warbler was one of the first to make an appearance.

Orange-crowned Warbler. 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

Orange-crowned Warbler. 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

Then a Fox Sparrow.

Fox Sparrow - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +0.3, ISO 1600

Fox Sparrow – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +0.3, ISO 1600

Back down by the water, this Marsh Wren emerged from the reeds.

Marsh Wren - 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 3200.

Marsh Wren – 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 3200.

A few minutes later, the shy, elusive Common Yellowthroat decided to let himself be seen.  It is such a cute little bird, only about three inches long.

Common Yellowthroat - 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 3200.

Common Yellowthroat – 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 3200.

That’s about it for the photos this week.  You can buy prints and other merchandise featuring my photography here at FineArtAmerica.  Or click the link under my Galleries in the right side of this page.  I have added the photograph of the Burrowing Owl.  Available in many of the gifts, including a nice coffee mug.  Just click on the image you like, and a menu will appear with a list items for purchase.  I would certainly appreciate your business.  If you have any questions, e-mail me at bobzeller@pobox.com.

Seeing the Nature Around Us


No that the fall and winter birds are starting to arrive, birding is getting exciting.  It is always great fun, but when you have new birds to look for it really gets the adrenalin flowing.

This morning I am going to show you a few images from the past week or so.  First up is this Pyrrhuloxia that I photographed at the blind at San Angelo State Park.  These birds are often confused with the Northern Cardinal.  One key thing I look for, if the bird is far away and I have difficulty making the ID, is that the Pyrrhuloxi has a yellow bill, whereas the Northern Cardinal has an orange bill.

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

On our trip to Abilene last week I managed to capture this image of our state bird, the Northern Mockingbird.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

The Northern Mockingbird is one bird that I tend to ignore, as I do most others that are common and plentiful to the area.  But they really have a distinct beauty about them.

Speaking of rather common birds.  The Common Grackle comes to mind.  But who says that even they can’t  be beautiful.  Witness the following photo that I captured Sunday morning.  The light was perfect in catching the bluish hues of this “Bronzed Grackle” subspecies.

Common Grackle

Common Grackle

We saw several of these grackles, but that is an understatement.  They were everywhere.  But venturing into Middle Concho Park, we came across some Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.  There were about twenty-five of them, but what was exciting was that there were also seven chicks among them.  As we watched, the adults flew onto a shoreline close by, leaving the little ones in a little huddle in the middle of the water.

A pair of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

A pair of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Black-bellied Whistling Duck chicks

Black-bellied Whistling Duck chicks

These little guys just huddled together for mutual protection.  Also in Middle Concho Park, we spotted some Blue Jays high in a tree.  For some reason or other, Blue Jays are quite plentiful in the San Angelo area this year.  This image isn’t all that great, but I managed to reach it with my long lens.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

We then drove over to Spring Creek Park, and got a big surprise and it was the highlight of the day.

We were driving along the edge of the woods, and Ann noticed something on the ground about one hundred and twenty yards ahead of us.  We put the binoculars on it and discovered it was a Bobcat sitting and resting.  I immediately stopped the car so I could think of a plan that to use to capture images of it.

First I turned the car to the right so I could get some distant shots from my drivers side window.  After that I put the car in gear and started creeping farther along, trying to stay to the right, and to put a couple of trees in between me and the cat.  After what seemed forever, I finally

Bobcat

Bobcat

got within better shooting distance, still about forty yards away.  I didn’t want to get any closer for fear of spooking him.  I managed to get several shots of him, sitting and or crouching.  I had turned the engine off and Ann and I just sat there admiring this beautiful creature, before he ambled off to get some water in the nearby river.  The above shot is one many that I got.

By the way, my equipment set-up is a Canon EOS 70D with a Tamron 150-600mm lens.  I used it with all of my photos here.  With this combination I can keep my distance from the birds or animals.  I hate to put any stress on the wildlife I capture.  I just like to get my photographs then leave them to their natural environment.

I love just getting out and driving and observing nature.  If you take the time to look up or look around you, it is amazing what you might get the chance to see.

Enjoy the photos, and click on any of them to see enlargements.

Sometimes I get lucky…….


It is always nice to be at the right place at the right time.  Case in point.  Ann and I were prowling through Spring Creek Park, trawling for bird photo opportunites.  As we neared the fence line separating the park property from the wooded area we spotted movement which proved to be a bobcat moving deeper into the woods.  I stopped our Ford Escape and tried to get a better look.  The cat stopped about thirty-five yards into the brush, turned and peered back at me.  I could see his head, which was surrounded with branches, twigs, etc.  I started to drive on, thinking there was no way I could get a photo.  But I changed my mind and stopped the car again.  By resting my Canon 70D with the Tamron 150-600mm lens on the driver’s side window, I could barely get the center focus point on his head.  I pressed the shutter and hoped for the best.  Here is the result.  I hope you like it.

Bobcat

Bobcat

Exposure was 1/1000 sec @ f6.3,  ISO 2500, 600mm.

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Airport


Boy, I bet you’re curious after that title, ain’t ya?  Well, I just gotta get your attention, one way or another.

First, I have a few new images to show you.  Several birds and more, and some of them even co-operated this morning.

Red-tailed Hawk in tree

Red-tailed Hawk in tree

This Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) was across the river about 200 yards away.  I didn’t think I had a prayer of getting a usable photo, but as you can see, I was wrong.  I pulled my vehicle close to the river bank and turned off the engine.  Any small vibration can throw the focus off on long shots.  I used my 500mm lens with a 1.4 tele-converter on my Canon EOS 7d for the shot.  I steadied the set-up on my side window and made the shot.  The image was severely cropped.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

We also spotted this Ruby-crowned Kinglet, (Regulus calendula).  He was more in the open than the one that I photographed a few days ago.  Today he was in a ‘leaf-less tree’, one that lost it’s leaves for the winter.  Pretty high off of the ground, but still made a decent photograph.

Wilson's Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe

Later as we crept along a shallow area, inches from the edge, I spotted this Wilson’s Snipe, (Gallinaga delicata), laying at the edge of the water.  He sensed our presence and froze in position, thinking, and rightly so, that he was camoflaged enough to make himself invisible.  He was only about 7 inches long and was very difficult to spot.  A cute little fellow.

C-17 Globemaster III

C-17 Globemaster III

During our birding tour a fairly large bird, was making practice approaches to the nearby Mathis Field airport.  It turned out to be a C-117 Globemaster III, (Aeroplanus gigantus), one of the largest aircraft in the United State Air Force inventory.  I decided to see if I could get a meaningful photograph of it.  We decided to head to the airport to see what I could come up with.  I stationed ourselves near a ditch at the end of the runway, on Knickerbocker Road.  I wanted to get the aircraft just as it went directly overhead, just before it touched down.  Wow!!  What an experience.  In the viewfinder, it looked like it was right on me.  I stayed with it and fired off a sequence of photos.  Then I ducked!!  Of course, it was probably only 50 feet over my head, but it certainly felt closer.  I hope you like the image.  I like the way the camera exposed the clouds behind the plane and darkened the sky above.

Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Birding a record-breaking day.


The weather here has been great lately, as I have mentioned before.  Ann and I got out yesterday for a few hours, and birds, along with spring, were in the air.  Our birding exploits netted us 45 species, which broke our daily record of 44  set last year.  It was hard to believe for a January day.  But when the temps get to the mid 70s, even the birds are happy.

Photographically, it was somewhat of a bust.  Oh, I got photos, but I am, as a photographer, always looking for presentable, saleable images, i.e., photos that are good enough for my Fine Art Gallery, but none of those were to be had.  However, strictly for birding bragging images, here are a few that I captured.  Click on any of them to see an enlargement.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Above, this Ladder-backed Woodpecker was enjoying himself.

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

As was this Brown Creeper.  It seems they love to work the underside of the branches.

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

This Greater Yellowlegs was feeding along the river’s edge.  Really hustling, and paying no mind to anything around him.

We also saw an American Goldfinch.  I was unable to get an image of it, as it was too quick for me.  However, I will show you one that I shot at an earlier date.  Below that is a photo of a Lesser Goldfinch, that I came across in my files during my search for the previous mentioned American.  I thought you’d be interested in the comparison.

American Goldfinch - female

American Goldfinch – female

Lesser Goldfinch - male

Lesser Goldfinch – male

For you birders that are interested in the birds that are found around this west Texas city, here is a complete list of what we saw.

  1. Northern Mockingbird
  2. Double-crested Cormorant
  3. Eastern Bluebird
  4. Western Meadowlark
  5. European Starling
  6. Oranged-crowned Warbler
  7. Killdeer
  8. Belted Kingfisher
  9. Pied-billed Grebe
  10. American Coot
  11. Northern Shoveler
  12. Bufflehead
  13. Vermilion Flycatcher
  14. House Finch
  15. Great Blue Heron
  16. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  17. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  18. Black-crested Titmouse
  19. Black-bellied Whistling Duck
  20. Mute Swan
  21. Great Egret
  22. Mallard
  23. Red-tailed Hawk
  24. American Goldfinch
  25. Great Horned Owl
  26. Northern Cardinal
  27. American Robin
  28. White-crowned Sparrow
  29. Brown Creeper
  30. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  31. Gadwall
  32. Green-winged Teal
  33. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  34. Eastern Phoebe
  35. Greater Yellowlegs
  36. Wilson’s Snipe
  37. Northern Flicker
  38. Bewick’s Wren
  39. Wild Turkey
  40. Ring-billed Gull
  41. Black Vulture
  42. Spotted Sandpiper
  43. White-winged Dove
  44. Great-tailed Grackle
  45. House Sparrow