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

The Menacing Curve-billed Thrasher


Going through old images again from the past year or more.  I decided to give some press time to this fierce looking bird.

Actually, the Curve-billed Thrasher isn’t really menacing.  But you wouldn’t believe it by looking into the adult’s eyes.  They are a bright reddish orange, and along with it’s curved bill, it looks downright mean.  Also, it’s call is a meek sounding tweet, not a growl.

I took this image of an adult nearly a year ago as it was hunkered down in some grass.

Curve-billed Thrasher - adult

Curve-billed Thrasher – adult

Last September I came across this juvenile, pictured below.  At first I thought that it may have been a Sage Thrasher.  Since it was photographed here in San Angelo, a ‘sage’ would been away from it’s usual area which is farther west.  But after looking at it closely, I found that it was indeed a juvenile Curve-billed.  Notice the paler, or yellow eyes that was one of the deciding marks of a younger bird.

Curve-billed Thrasher - juvenile

Curve-billed Thrasher – juvenile

Curve-billed Thrasher - juvenile

Curve-billed Thrasher – juvenile

Thanks for visiting my blog again.  Click on any image to see some enlargements.

Black-crowned Night Heron on the hunt.


Sometimes when I am out doing a little birding, and hopefully a little photographing, too, I come across little surprises.  Such was the case this morning as I was cruising through Spring Creek Park.  I was traveling along the shore of the creek, about 175 yards across at this point, and I happened to see a light colored blob of something in the brush on the other side.

juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

Putting the binoculars on it, I discovered that it was a juvenile Black-crowned night Heron.  He was partially hidden by branches, as he stared down at the water.  I wanted to try and get a better photo of him more out in the open.  I drove down the shore a little bit and found a spot where I could aim my 500mm len through the brush on my side, and also get a better open shot of the bird.  This is the result of that maneuvering around.

juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

I really like this as I got a better side view of the heron.  The photo below is what he will look like when he grows up.  I took this photo a few years back along the Tennessee River at Knoxville, Tennessee.

adult Black-crowned Night Heron

adult Black-crowned Night Heron

Click on any image to see an enlargement, and while your clicking check my new Fine Art gallery.

Images from a beautiful day……


We have had some very beautiful weather the past few days.  It is a very nice respite from the cold days that we had previously.  Ann and I got out to do a little birding, and I got some new photographs.  That was a bonus, as I hate to come home from birding empty-handed.

First up, I got very lucky getting this photo of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  It was in some thick brush along a fence at Spring Creek Park here in San Angelo.  We were in the car and maneuvered close to the fence, about 15 feet away.  We saw the bird in there, flitting around, and eventually it exposed itself long enough that I was able to get a few images.  If you look close, you can see the tiny red crown, that is usually concealed.  I hand held my Canon EOS 7D with a 100-400mm lens for the shot.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Along the way, we saw several Yellow-rumped Warblers on the ground and in the trees.  This is another tiny bird that moves quickly and is hard to photograph.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Another bird that we usually see on almost every visit to the lake parks, is the Great Egret.  This image was really under-exposed, so I decided to not correct it, but to just adjust the lighting of the egret itself.  It now appears like it is wading in moonlit waters.

Great Egret

Great Egret

We also saw this Ladder-backed Woodpecker working away in a mesquite tree.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Lastly, how could I not show this image of one of my favorite subjects, the Vermilion Flycatcher.  The wind was up a bit, and he seemed to be enjoying the swaying of the small tree branch.  I also like that I was able to get a catch-light in the eye.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

I hope that you enjoyed these photographs.  Click on any of them to see an enlargement.  To see more of my images, click on the “Fine Art” logo in the left side of this page.  There I have some galleries for you to browse.

Red-tailed Hawk and Swainson’s Hawk


More about my favorite subjects, the raptors.  These two species of hawks, the Red-tailed and the Swainson’s, can cause ID difficulties to the unsuspected.  They are similar in shape and sizes.  The adult Red-tailed is easy to identify by checking out the red tail.  But beware, the younger ones have yet to get that color into the tail.  As for the Swainson’s, the adult has that unmistakeable brown bib.

Anyway, here is an adult Red-tailed Hawk that I photographed Thursday afternoon at Middle Concho Park here in San Angelo.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Here is a Red-tailed Hawk in flight that I photographed several months ago.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

Below are a few images of the Swainson’s Hawk.

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

The next photo isn’t too great aesthetically, but we happened to come across the adult Swainson’s Hawk protecting her baby from he brutal 110 degree Texas sun that day, about a year ago.

Adult Swainson's Hawk shielding her baby from the hot sun.

Adult Swainson’s Hawk shielding her baby from the hot sun.

Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Here is something new that I have added to my blog.  Click here to see my new website featuring my Fine Art Gallery.  I have just started adding photos to it so you will have to check it periodically, as it is a work in progress.  I hope you like it.  From there you just gaze at my work, and if you get interested in buying, you can also do that.

Porcupine up a tree


A few days ago, my friend Ron Dudley wrote a post (click) about his encounter with a porcupine.  It reminded me of my own encounter with one a few years ago.  I really can’t remember if I had written about it at the time, but today is as good as any to mention it to you.

Ann and I were on our way to the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.  As we turned down the little lane leading to the place, Ann glanced to the right and exclaimed about an indistinctive blob in the fork of a tree.  I stopped the car and we gazed at it wondering what the heck it was.  It was only about 20 feet away.  I put the binoculars on it and lo and behold, I saw a face.  I told Ann, I think that it’s a porcupine.  I had never seen one close up before.

I put my 24-105 lens on the camera and got out of the car to approach it.  The fork of the tree was only about 5-6 feet from the ground.  That put the animal right at eye-level.  I took several shots of it then.  It was asleep or maybe just drowsing.  Anyway, it didn’t move but I felt that it was staring at me.  I put my hand out to “pet” it, then decided that I didn’t really want to disturb it.  An aside note, if you do pet a porcupine, don’t move your hand against the grain. 🙂

Here are a couple of images from that encounter.  My only disappointment was that the porcupine was back-lit as you can see, so I had trouble getting detail in the face.

Porcupine in tree

Porcupine Portrait

A year or so later, I came across this porcupine crossing the road.

Porcupine crossing road.

Prairie Dogs say the dog-goned-est things


I was looking at all of my Prairie Dog images today, and in my devious mind I imagined what these little guys were thinking. 🙂

These were all photographed at San Angelo State Park, San Angelo, Texas.  Click on the images to see enlargements.  Enjoy.

"Do these pants make me look fat?"

"OMG, I soooo love these things!"

"I hope I don't look too suspicious".

"Someday this will all be yours".

"Should I was my hands before supper?"