A Happy Cloudy Day…..What??


I awoke Sunday morning, and to my pleasant surprise the skies were cloudy.  Now, you may say what’s the big deal with that.  Well, I will tell you.  With the overcast skies, the light will be great for photography.  With cloudy skies, you avoid harsh shadows or bright hot spots that you get on bright sunny days.  Having said that, most of my photography is done on those bright sunny days.  Here in west Texas, if I had to wait for those cloudy days, my cameras would lay collecting dust.  Like the song says, “…and the skies are not cloudy all day……”

The reason for my happiness.  I had decided that since I haven’t been feeling too well, I would just go sit in the blind at San Angelo State Park for an hour or two.  Now that blind; the way it is situated, has terrible light in the morning sun.  Trees break up the light into either bright sun or dark shadows.  Not many areas of open shade.  To get any photos of birds, they usually are bright on one side and dark on the other.  In other words, it is difficult to get a nice photo with well-balanced light.

But even away from the blind, I would prefer cloudy days over sunny days.  Nice even light on all subjects and saturated color.  Now I am speaking as a bird photographer.  I am not looking for nice blue skies, as that is not a necessity for bird photos.  For landscapes and scenics, well that is a different subject altogether.

All of the photos that you see here in this post were photographed on that cloudy Sunday morning.

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Yellow Warbler

This Yellow Warbler surprised us when it made an appearance in a nearby tree.  It is migrating from the south of Mexico and heading for it’s summer residence in middle United States.

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Northern Bobwhite

This Northern Bobwhite just wandered in from some nearby brush area.  Notice no harsh light from the rocky background.

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Northern Cardinal

Normally it would be difficult to get nice even light on this Northern Cardinal.  The reds really glare in open bright sunshine.

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Mourning Dove

For some reason or other, I usually pass up photos of doves as they are so plentiful, but the overcast light brought out the nice colors.

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House Sparrow

The same goes for this bird.  I have never seen a House Sparrow look so beautiful.

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Curve-billed Thrasher

I love this mean-looking bird.  There’s a new sheriff in town

These photos were all shot at an ISO of 1600.  Shutter speed was about 1/1000 sec. with the aperture wide open.  Canon 7D Mk II with a Tamron 150-600mm Gen 2 zoom lens.  Cropping and post editing with Photoshop CS5.

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Birding advice for San Angelo State Park


I live only three miles from San Angelo State Park, and most of you know from my posts, that I frequent the place four to five times a week.  I get a large percentage of my bird photographs there, but not where you would suspect.

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Red-tailed Hawk

Occasionally, I stop at the bird blind to see what species might have stopped by.  During those visits I often see birders from out of town, that are camping there. I have found that most of them go only to the blind to see birds.  They don’t know what they are missing.

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Golden-fronted Woodpecker

I don’t know exact numbers, but I would suspect that there are 200-300 species that can be seen in the park, depending on the time of year.  As you know, they come and go with the migration and changing seasons.  But just a handful visit the blind.  That area mostly draws seed-eaters.  Remember, I said MOSTLY.  Others will stop by on occasion, because of the water feature.

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Ruby-crowned Kinglet

On a regular basis, you won’t see hawks, owls, egrets, flycatchers and other non-seed eating species.  Oh, yes, as I said, on a rare occasion one of these will stop by, if only for a drink of water, or to snatch an innocent sparrow.

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Great Horned Owl

I would recommend to leave your campsite, get in your car and just drive slowly over the twenty something miles of roads.  Watch the trees and brush for movement and you can get some pleasant surprises.  It is always fun to come upon some warblers, kinglets or gnatcatchers darting around.

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American White Pelicans

O.C. Fisher Lake is another great spot.  Pelicans, egrets, herons, grebes and other water birds can be seen at or from the shorelines.

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American Avocet

So my advice is to spend a couple of hours just cruising the park.  You will be surprised how many bird you can see.  After that, go to the bird blind and pad your lists. 🙂

For prints of these and some of my other work click HERE.

Until my next post, HAPPY BIRDING!!!

 

Rumors of my passing are unfounded…..


Yes, I am still around and I have realized that it has been about two months since my last post.  To be truthful, I have considered discontinuing this blog.  I guess it was probably that I had the winter blues, etc.  Anyway, I just couldn’t get myself pumped up to write.  But I still had people reading my older posts, and some others subscribed, hopeful for new articles to come.  I decided to give it another try.

Then, about the tenth of March, about midnight, I was awokened with the urge to go to the bathroom to relieve myself.  As I started to rise from the bed, all of a sudden I was hit with a ferocious attack of vertigo.  Have you ever heard someone say, that the room was spinning?  Hey, it happened.  I couldn’t focus on anything, because it kept whizzing past my eyes and on around the bedroom.  I was so off balance I couldn’t get off the bed.   My wife called 911, and the EMTs were there in minutes.  The fire station is only about six blocks away.  They helped me, carried me to the bathroom so I could finish what I started out to do.  This while the room was still spinning and I couldn’t focus on anything.  Needless to say, I then got very nauseous, along with all that goes with it.

I will spare all of the details, except to say I am sorry for the EMT who had to clean the ambulance afterwards.  Not a fun trip.  I was kept in the hospital for a couple of days while, with the help of anti-nausea meds, I finally could walk without looking like Tim Conway.  Anyway, I have had problems with my dizziness and off-balance since then.  I have an appointment on April 30, (three days to go), at West Texas Rehab where they are going to do some therapy that will hopefully cure it once and for all.

Through all that, I haven’t done much with my birding and photography.  I have been only able to get to the field for periodic short trips, when I have little periods of near normalcy for maybe an hour here and there.  Here are a few photographs that I managed to get in those little forays.  Just click and scroll down.

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Great Egret in breeding plumage.

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Vesper Sparrow

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Greater Roadrunner

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Pied-billed Grebe

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Merlin

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Canyon Towhee

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Cinnamon Teal

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Loggerhead Shrike

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American Kestrel

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Bell’s Vireo

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Grasshopper Sparrow

Most of these photos were captured around the San Angelo area.  There have been reports of Painted Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, various warblers and other spring birds coming in the past few days.  So hopefully, by my next post, I will have gotten several photos of those birds.  That should be sometime next week.

I hope you enjoyed this brief post and the photographs.  Until my next post………

Happy Birding!!! Continue reading

Raptors ‘R’ Us – Part II


Okay, getting back to my chatter about raptors……..  I believe I left off with discussing the Red-tailed Hawks.  I might as well add this photo that I captured a couple days ago, after I published part I.

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Red-tailed Hawk

Another hawk that is similar to the Red-tailed, is the Swainson’s Hawk.  In fact, when I got into birding and was new, I often confused the two.  They are a stately bird.  That dark bib is one of my favorite markers for this specie.

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Swainson’s Hawk

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Swainson’t Hawk

I love watching the Northern Harrier.  Some people refer to him as the Grey Ghost. It hunts by flying low over the grasslands.  It’s eyes seemingly never leave the ground.  I have found them very difficult to photograph, but in truth, I have had few opportunites to do so.  When I do see one, it usually takes me by surprise, as it flies by.  However, I am proud of this photo that I captured on a trip to the Davis Mountains.  I spotted it from my car as it was streaking across the land.  I stopped the car, and caught it as it turned around and made a return flyby.  Not one of my best technically, but I do like the composition.  It is readily identified by that large white spot on it’s rear.

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Northern Harrier on the hunt.

One raptor that is rarely seen here in the Concho Valley is the Crested Caracara.  Sometimes known locally as a Mexican Eagle.  It is more familiar in south and central Texas.  It is a peculiar looking bird, and it sometimes can be seen hanging out with the vultures, eating road-kill along the highways.  I did get a few photos while visiting our friends at Uvalde, Texas.  He is not wearing a toupee.

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Crested Caracara

Another hawk that favors the southern part of the state, is the Harris’s Hawk.  I was able to capture several images of this bird when visiting Uvalde.  It seemed that it was everywhere.  Of course, as usual, I was hunting them from the car.

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Harris’s Hawk

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Harris’s Hawk

There are two hawks that confuse birders and cause great debates about identification of the two.  I am talking about the Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk.  They are very similar.  I will offer a photo of each here.  The Cooper’s has the black-cap on a flattish shaped head.  Also the eyes are set forward more.  The Sharp-shinned lacks the black cap and has a more round head shape.  Even then, I imagine that I will get letters disputing my IDs.  I am definitely no expert, but this is my story and I am sticking to it. 🙂

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Cooper’s Hawk.

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Sharp-shinned Hawk

The Red-shouldered is a slightly larger bird.  It is easily identified with that red area on the shoulder.  This one was photographed at the Hummer House Bird Sanctuary in Christoval, Texas.

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Red-shouldered Hawk

The White-tailed Hawk is one that I know very little about.  It usually lives in far southeast Texas.  However, I photographed this one near Uvalde.  A friend helped me with the identification.

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White-tailed Hawk

Before I forget, I must include the Osprey, a fish-eating raptor.

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Osprey

Getting into some of the smaller hawks, I have seen and photographed a Merlin several times at San Angelo State Park.  At only ten inches tall, they still look formidable.  You can see that look of innocence, though.  Here are two of my favorite photos of one.

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Merlin

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Merlin

Ah, my definite favorite of the tiny hawks is the American Kestrel.  Beautiful marking.  A very feisty raptor that can sometimes act benign and easy to photograph, or often as not, give me a merry chase through the countryside.  It depends on his mood.  This particular image is one of the latter.  I was in a mini-van at the time several years ago, driving through San Angelo State Park.  Ann was with me, and this little bird moved from tree to tree, finally stopping and giving me nice views of his tail feathers.

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American Kestrel

Finally, I am going to end this raptor series with one of the fastest falcons on the planet.  We were at San Angelo State Park, watching the brush for some warblers, when something flashing by caught my eye.  It zipped past some trees and out of sight with great speed.  I told Ann, I just have to go see if I can see if and where that bird might have  landed.  She started to protest, but I had the keys and was driving.  The effort paid off, as we didn’t go far.  It had landed atop a picnic table shelter.   I was able to get shots from afar, but since it didn’t move, I was able to maneuver in closer with the car.  It continued to sit as I took several photos.  I discovered then that it was a young bird.

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Peregrine Falcon

Here is an adult that I photographed a few years back.

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Peregrine Falcon

This concluded my 2-part series about the raptors of the Texas bird world.  There are a few more species, but as of this date, I have yet to see or photograph.  When I do, you will be the first to know. 🙂

So on this date, December 31, 2017, I want to wish everybody a fantastic Happy New Year and best wishes for a great 2018.

Happy Birding!!!

Photographing the tiny birds


I love getting out in the field and photographing raptors when I can find them, but there is something to be said about shooting the tiny birds, too.  It is such a challenge.  Most of them can only be found in dense brush or small trees.  I have found that I get the best results if I just use only a single focus point when using my Canon &D Mk II.  If I use more like the five-point or nine-point, there is too much clutter in the branches to get the bird in focus.  Of course, with the single-point, the trick is to get that fleeting little bird in the viewfinder.  Also for your information, I use my Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens.  For my settings I shoot Shutter Priority at usually 1/1600 or 1/2000 sec.  I set the ISO at Auto, at a maximum of 1600, and the aperture just floats pretty much wide open.  I keep my thumb on the big dial on the back of the camera, so I can adjust the Exposure Value quickly if needed.

My post-processing is quite simple.  It is a secret recipe handed down.  I just crop for composition, then adjust the lighting and/or the contrast, and perhaps tweak the color saturation.  I then adjust the sharpening to compensate for any loss when I crop close.

I have been able to come upon a couple of areas where I have been successful in spotting several species of those tiny variety.  Here are a few of those, plus a few of my other images that I captured the past ten days.  I hope you enjoy.

The Pine Warbler is somewhat rare for the San Angelo area, although they are spotted occasionally.  This one surprised me when I was observing an area of cat-tails near Lake Nasworthy.  It is the first one of this species that I have seen this season.

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Pine Warbler

Nearby in the same area, this House Wren popped into view.  Wrens sometime give me a hard time in trying to identify them.  This was early morning, and at first I thought it was a Marsh Wren, but after perusing my Stokes’ guide I was able to discern the correct ID.

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House Wren

I got real lucky with the light when photographing this Bewick’s Wren.  Again, we were early getting to San Angelo State Park, and the morning sun was at a perfect angle.

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Bewick’s Wren

The goldfinches are starting to arrive.

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American Goldfinch

The Lincoln’s Sparrow is one of my favorites of that species.  Easily identified with that beige coloring in the breast.

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

Another easily identified sparrow, the White-crowned.

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White-crowned Sparrow

We were in an area favored by the Spotted Towhee when this Green-tailed Towhee showed.  I was quite thrilled as it is another rarity here in the Concho Valley.  The wind was blowing a bit, and it fluffed up it’s crown.

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Green-tailed Towhee

As I said, we were in the area so this Spotted Towhee decided it needed to show off a little bit, too.  He appeared on an upper branch so I was able to get a nice background of the nice blue sky.

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Spotted Towhee

Before we left to come home, I spotted this Red-tailed Hawk making a fly-by.  I couldn’t resist getting this last shot.

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Red-tailed Hawk

That is all for this post.  I hope you enjoyed my narrative and the photographs.  I appreciate any and all comments you might have.

Enjoy the snowfall. 🙂

Happy Birding!!

All in a Day’s Work


Somebody mentioned to me a few days ago, that I was good at making bird photos into a work of art.  I appreciate compliments like that, but it is all in a day’s work.  Some days are a bust when I am out looking for good photos.  On the other hand, when I have great days, it makes it all worth while.  Such was a recent day, when, although the birding was slow, the quality of what little we saw was great.

We were roaming through the local city parks, here in San Angelo.  It was cloudy, even a little foggy when we left the house.  Our first stop was at Spring Creek Park, but there wasn’t much to see.  The birds were in hiding, I guess, because of the dampness.  The fog lifted a bit as were were leaving so we headed to Middle Concho Park.  The skies brightened then although it stayed cloudy.

It made for nice even lighting.  We came upon this Vermilion Flycatcher and he was quite nice to give me some good poses.  It looked like we might have a pretty good day after all.

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Vermilion Flycatcher

This House Wren was in a brushy area near the water.

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House Wren

The most fun of all was seeing this bobcat.  In a large open area outside of the park, we had seen two bobcats from a distance.  Too far for photos, I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to get photographs.  They were both on the run, heading for the brush, so I wouldn’t have been too sucessful anyway.  We were beginning to leave the area, when I happened to look to the left into the brush.  I was thrilled to see this young Bobcat, laying there looking contented, and staring right at me.  It was one of those one-in-a-million chances.  I was about 150 feet away.  I stopped the car, turned off the engine, and proceeded to take as many photos as I wanted.  He didn’t move too much, except for opening and closing his eyes.  I surmise he had just finished a sucessful morning hunt, and was resting.  Anyway, after getting about 50 exposures, I drove away and let him sleep.  As beautiful as he was and I enjoyed watching him, there was nothing to gain by staying.  I hate to disturb or agitate any wildlife.

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Young Bobcat

After leaving that park, we decided to head for home.  However, luck was still with me, and as we rounded a bend in the road, off to the right there was a wetlands area.  In a tree overlooking the water was this beautiful Osprey.  I drove down the road further, copped a U turn, and came back, driving in the weeds on the left side of the road.  I wanted to photograph him from my drivers’ side window.

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Osprey

So, anyway, I love days like that, when I turn a lemon into lemonade.  But I have been busy since my last post, so here are a few more memorable photos that I have gotten since then.

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Lark Bunting

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American White Pelicans at O.C. Fisher Lake

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Black-throated Sparrow

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American Robin – pale adult

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Great Blue Heron

That’s all for this post.  Now, I would like to mention that Christmas is coming so how about checking out my on-line store.  Not only can you get prints of my work in any size, but also home accessories like coffee mugs, tote bags, etc., all featuring my photography.  Click on “Bob’s Gallery”  at top of this page for more information on how to purchase.

Also, I have several of my 2018 calendars left.  They make great stocking stufffers. Click here for info. https://bobzeller.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/my-2018-texas-tweeties-calendar/

More from the San Angelo State Park


The San Angelo State Park has been our most productive area in the past couple of weeks of birding.  Here are a few of my most recent images.

This Merlin was really nice to pose for me for several images.  When we spotted it, an American Kestrel was sitting on the same branch.  Upon spotting us, the kestrel immediately flew off.  The Merlin was in the act of finishing a meal, and from the looks of a yellow claw that we saw him devour, I suspect he had just finished off another kestrel.  This turned out to me one of my best photos of this species……..if I do say so myself.

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Merlin

A Curve-billed Thrasher, perched in a tree.  It was a chill morning for this one, and he didn’t feel like moving.

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Curve-billed Thrasher

The cooler weather didn’t bother this American White Pelican.  Usually they are out more in the middle of the lake, but this one was a bit closer, making for a nice photograph.

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American White Pelican

Mourning Doves are very plentiful in the park, and I usually pass them by because they are so common, but I decided that this one deserved to be seen.

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Mourning Dove

This Cactus Wren seemed to be working on it’s nearby nest.

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Cactus Wren

In one area of the park, there is what we have named our ‘warbler bush’.  It seems that we can always see a warbler, kinglet or some other small bird there.  We just need to park and watch patiently.  This time we were not disappointed and saw many of these Orange-crowned Warblers.

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Orange-crowned Warbler

It is always nice to see a Pyrrhuloxia.  Locals that can’t pronounce the name, simply call it the desert cardinal.

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Pyrrhuloxia

Click on my “Gallery” button at the top of this page to see more photos, and information for purchase.  I add more images frequently, so keep checking.  I hope you enjoyed these and would love any comments that you wish to make.  Also refer to my last post if you are interested in purchasing one of my 2018 calendars.

Happy Birding!!