Bird of the Week – Greater Roadrunner

Today I have picked the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) as my Bird of the Week.  I was able to get some photographs recently and I will show them here.  This bird is in the cuckoo family, and better known as the bird that is always trying to outwit the wolf in the cartoons, with his familiar “Beep, beep!”

Greater Roadrunner

The Stokes Field Guide to Birds of North America describes the Greater Roadrunner as a large, very long-tailed bird with relatively long neck and thick legs.  The skin behind the eye is bluish, and sometimes  other colors show up in certain lighting. 

Greater Roadrunner

Other traits is that the roadrunner doesn’t require water.  He gets moisture through his diet.  He can fly short distances, mostly gliding with his wings and tail spread.  His voice is not the comical beep, beep, but actually a deep mellow cooing wooh wooh whoa whoa.  He loves the arid areas of the south and southwest parts of the country.

Greater Roadrunner

I hope you have enjoyed this narrative and pictures.  If you have, please leave a comment.  Click on any images to see enlargements.  Now I am outa here.  Beep! Beep!  🙂

Bird of the Week – Red-tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk(Buteo jamaicensis)  This is the hawk that which all other others are compared.  The benchmark, so to speak.  It is one of the largest of the hawks, perhaps the largest.  You can often see it perched along the roadside,  on utility poles, trees, or other high points.  It hunts mostly mammals from these perches, and also from the air.  They are a beautiful bird in flight, their red tail glinting in the sun. 

This image was shot during a trip to Ballinger, Texas.  The hawk was in the grass along the roadside, apparently in the act of feeding on something.  As I slowed, he started to fly.  I was prepared with my Canon EOS 40D with a Canon 100-400mm zoome lens.  I was able to lock-on my auto-focus and pan with him as he flew, continually pressing the shutter.  ISO 400, 1/3200 sec. at f6.3.

Red-tailed Hawk

Sibley’s describes them as stocky, broad winged, with bulging secondaries.  The adult has the distinctive red tail, where the juvenile is much paler.  It sports a length of 19 inches, a wingspan an impressive four feet and one inch.  It weighs in at 2.4 lbs.  More information on these gorgeous birds can be found by clicking on the link at the beginning of this post.

This image was photographed with my Canon EOS 40D, hand-held with a Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter.  Exposure was 1/800 sec. at f6.3 with ISO of 400.

Red-tailed Hawk

I hope you enjoy this information about a majestic bird.  Click on either image for an enlargement.  In the future, my Bird of the Week posts will be on Thursdays, instead of previously mentioned Fridays.

Happy birding!!

Bird of the Week – Great Egret

Today I inaugurate my new series Bird of the Week.  Hopefully each Friday, I will post a photograph of a bird that I will choose at random.  I will provide a photograph or two, along with some useful information.  I think this may become informative for all, including myself, as I will be doing a bit of research to provide information.  Also you may click on the Bold Bird Name to go to a Wikipedia link for detailed info, if available.  My own resources will be my handy Bird Guides.  So here we go.

Great Egret. (Ardea alba).  The Great Egret is one my personal favorite water birds.  Long-legged and graceful.  Tall, slender and long-necked.  Length 39″, wing-span 51″, weight 1.9 lbs.  All white, yellow bill and black legs and feet.  When foraging, they will walk slowly thru open water or reedy areas, watching for fish.  When they spot their quarry, they use their bill as a spear, instantly stabbing their prey.

This first photo was taken along the Concho River in downtown San Angelo.  I was walking along the bank.  I spotted the egret flying down the river.  I hand-held my Canon 7D with the 100-400mm zoom lens.  I picked him up in my view-finder, the auto-focus locked on, and I just panned with him as he flew by.  I got lucky, with the background.  When this image was captured, the background was blurred of course, but also there was a large building completely in shadow.  Hence the completely black background.  The stats are ISO 1600, 1/500 sec at f9.

Great Egret

 This image ISO 100, 1/640 at f8 .  Canon 7D, 100-400mm zoom lens.

Great Egret

This final shot is an older one that I shot with a Canon Powershot SX10 that I tried for awhile.  ISO 80, 1/640 at f5.7  

Great Egret

Click on any image for an enlargement.

Bell’s Vireo (Vireo bellii)

We got a little serious birding in this morning at San Angelo State Park.  Saw twenty-two species.  Highlights were the Bell’s Vireo (Vireo bellii) .  I got a few good images of it, even though it kept itself in the branches of a tree.  There were several hundred American White Pelicans on O. C. Fisher Lake.  We saw six Loggerhead Shrikes out there, plus the Meadowlarks are arriving.  We also saw a Belted Kingfisher near the Wells-Fargo bank, near Southwest Blvd and Loop 306. 

Here are a couple of images of the Bell’s Vireo.  These were photographed with my Canon 7d and Canon 100-400mm lens.  Click on either one for an enlargement. 

Bell's Vireo

Bell's Vireo

Happy Birding!!

Photographic and Bird Musings

Musings.  Steve, over at Photographyfree4all said he enjoyed my musings.  I like the sound of that word.  It makes me picture my self in an easy chair, leaned back with a pipe in my mouth, looking upward and musing.  However, I don’t smoke anymore.  I did many years ago when I was a kid, but never a pipe.  Okay, so I did try a pipe.  But I just didn’t look right with a pipe in my mouth.  Pipes look best in the mouths of professors.  Especially when they are looking up with them in their mouth and they are saying “hmmmm” and musing.  🙂

So here I am musing, I guess.  I would rather call it just rambling on.  I was just thinking (or musing) how I told Raymond at Braxisphotography that I took a lot of pictures from my car.  I hadn’t really thought much about it untill I brought it up, but some of my best images were captured from the front seat of my van.

My van, like most vehicles nowadays, has individual front seats in front, so my Canon 7D with the 500mm attached, sits on the floor beside me between the seats.  On my lap is another Canon 7D with my 100-400mm lens attached.  So I am ready for anything that may happen to appear.  My dear friend Deb, from Tennesse, kids me about stopping in the middle of the road to take a photograph.  I tell her that I absolutely do not stop in the middle of the road.  It is usually in one lane or the other. 🙂

So as an example, I was driving along on US67 heading for Ballinger one day.  Sid and Suzanne Johnson were in the back seat.  All of a sudden, Sid hollered out there was Red-tailed Hawk in the grass on the left.  Sure enough, there sitting near the road in the grass on the left was this beautiful hawk.  I stopped immediately, in the middle of the lane, after checking my mirrors, of course.  Hey, I may be crazy but I’m not stupid.  🙂  Anyway, I grabbed that camera off my lap and I was ready to go.

The following is the resulting image.  Actually one of many images, as I had that 7D on high-speed multiple shooting at 8 frames per sec.  This one is one of the best.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

Okay, enough rambling (or musing)  for me today.  Check with me tomorrow and I might have some more “a-musing” musings.  Hey, that’s catchy, don’t ya think”  🙂

Black Vulture re-visited

When I wrote yesterday’s post I did not have an image of a Black Vulture.  Well, lo and behold, this morning when out for a drive, what did I spot in a tree.  You guessed it, a Black Vulture.  The ensuing photograph is posted here for your enjoyment.  Am I lucky or what??  🙂

Black Vulture

In other news, also while out there cruising near O. C. fisher lake I picked up another lifer, A Marbled Godwit  (Limosa fedoa)  wading near the shore.  Then at the bird blind, yet another lifer, a Nashville Warbler (Vermivora ruficapilla).

I have no images of either the Marbled Godwit or the Nashville Warbler.  But perhaps I’ll get lucky soon on getting those.

Happy Birding!!!

Just Singin’ in the Rain

A couple of photographs of a Black-chinned Hummingbird, singing (actually humming) happily in the rain.  They were under a mister and getting pretty wet.

Black-chinned Hummingbird


Black-chinned Hummingbird


These energetic birds were photographed at Dan and Cathy Brown’s ranch at Christoval, Texas.  I used my Canon 7D with  a 500mm lens and a 1.4 tele-converter.  It was mounted on a Manfrotto tripod with a Wimberley gimbal head.  Shooting distance was about 40 feet.  Click on either image to see and enlargement.

The Mysteries of Bird Identification

I photographed this Greater Yellowlegs last winter sometime.  I don’t remember the exact date.  I do remember it was in “K-mart  Creek” doing some foraging.  I edited and filed it away, printing myself an 8×10 before doing so.  I claimed it was a Greater Yellowlegs and I still do.  Click image to enlarge.

Greater Yellowlegs

My previous post was about identifying Sandpiper type birds.  So before publishing that post, I carefully went over each of the six images that I had culled to put in the article.  I compared all the markings, colors, etc., with the information  in my Sibley’s guide book.

I checked out the Greater Yellowlegs.  Everything went fine, until I noticed that according to Sibley, the bill should be slightly upturned.  Oops!  The bird in my picture showed a straight bill, and matter of fact, there is a slight downturn on the tip of the bill..  Hmmmm.  Must be a trick of light.   I pondered a bit, didn’t think much of it.  After all, I am a novice birder and I probably wasn’t looking at the picture right. 

Then I noticed a little note at the bottom of the next page.  It said that the Greater Yellow legs rarely had bright orange legs.  Oops again!  My bird has bright oraange legs.   I then started looking through all of the sandpiper pages and couldn’t find any thing else that resembled my picture until – uh oh!  What is this??  A Spotted Redshank.  Right on the next page to the Greater Yellow Legs.  Bright yellow legs – check.  Straight bill with a tiny downturn on the tip – check.   But no!  It simply cannot be.  Spotted Redshanks are thousands of miles away.  Not a chance that this was one. 

What to do.  What to do.  After all, I am a novice birder.  Us novices simply don’t have the knowledge about these things, so it had to be something else.  I have embarrassed myself a few other time by jumping to conclusions and I am not jumping to conclusions here.  But I also didn’t want to mis-identify any picture in my post.  So, I simply swallowed my pride, and even though I KNEW it was a Greater Yellowlegs (what else could it be?) I opted to confirm it with the experts. 

First I e-mailed the picture to three local people that I knowwould know, and they probably wouldn’t laugh too hard at me for asking such a preposterous question.  Then for good measure, I e-mailed Mark Lockwood, with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, and is a darned good bird expert.  I got a prompt back from Mark, who confirmed that it was a Greater Yellowlegs.  Of course, I should have known that!  Before I heard from the other three, I promptly e-mailed and thanked them for their time.  Therefore, I didn’t have to read their e-mails, telling me that  I erred again and were stifling their snickers. 🙂

So I KNOW that it is a Greater Yellowlegs.  How do I know??  Because the experts told me so, and by the way, I am not trying to discredit these people.  They are all friends of mine and they are experts in their field.  And it is too far-fetched to believe a Spotted Redshank would ever show up here.  I am definitely not saying it is one of those.  I would be laughed out of town and not get asked to the Annual Birders Ball.  🙂

But how do they know it is a Greater Yellowlegs?   No slightly upturned bill that I can see.  Bright yellow legs.  The mystery deepens.  (cue eerie music here)  What have I missed??  Danged if I know.  So the mystery is, how in heck do they know??  🙂

Porcupines in trees, Peregrine Falcons aloft

A little excitement for Ann and I.  First we came across a Porcupine in a mesquite tree.  It was a little sleepy-eyed.  I worked around it for about half an hour trying to find a point whereas I could focus through the tree branches.  There was pretty dense brush.  I picked a spot where I could see a little between some branches, and where I wouldn’t have to be bothered with a pesky Diamondback Rattlesnake crawling on my feet.  I tried hand-holding my 100-400mm lens but then opted to just set up my 500mm on a tripod.  The first picture is the one I got this morning, looking at it head-on.  The second photo is one I shot about one year ago.  A much easier photograph to get.



 After spending time there, we loaded up and headed around near the boat ramp to check on the Roseate Spoonbills.  All three of them are still hanging around.  While there, we spotted a Peregrine Falcon, and possibly another.  It was racing all over the lake, from one end to the other, harrassing other birds, and hunting.  At one point, an American Kestrel took after it and we had a little “dogfight” until one or both gave up and they broke it off.

On the way out of the park we saw this beautiful Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.  Click on any photo to see an enlargement.  Enjoy.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Persistency equals great photos!

You probably remember that for the past ten days, I have been stalking a couple of Roseate Spoonbills that arrived here recently from the gulf coast.  They have been hanging around O. C. Fisher lake, but usually so far out that it was difficult to come up with great images.

But this morning, we found a spot where I could get the best photo yet.  No more crawling, mucking thru mud, mesquite brush and shoulder high weeds, trying to avoid critters like rattle snakes and bobcats.  This place required just a 500 yard hike along the shoreline.  Ann carried my tripod and I lugged the big 500mm with a 1.4 tele-converter.

The Roseate Spoonbills were about 100 yards off shore on a little spit of dirt and gravel about 30 feet wide.  Keeping company with them was a magnificent Great Blue Heron.  With my lens a working 700mm I was practically able to fill the frame.  For all three photos I had the ISO at 400, F16, at 1,250th of a second, minus 1/3 EV.

I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed taking the shots.  Click on either image for an enlargement.

Roseate Spoonbills and Great Blue Heron


Roseate Spoonbills and Great Blue Heron

Roseate Spoonbill and Great Blue Heron