Common Yellowthroat and more…….

We’ve been getting out for a couple of hours each day.  Birds are still not plentiful, but it seems that I am able to get at least one good opportunity each day.  Here are a few highlights from the past few outings.

First, of all of them, this is my favorite.  We were at Spring Creek Park, driving along the bank near the reeds when I spotted movement.  With the binoculars, I could only make out that it was one tiny bird, but not a definite ID.  I finally gave up on it, and we drove out the Spillway Road.  After getting another image of a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher there, we decided to have another go at seeing that tiny bird again.  This time luck was with us, and the bird hopped out into the open for a few seconds.  I was ready and snapped several images of this juvenile (first fall) male Common Yellowthroat. I would have liked to seen a male adult, but none were to be seen.

Common Yellow-throat - juvenile

Common Yellowthroat – juvenile

Here is the image of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher that I captured a few minutes before on Spillway Road.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Loggerhead Shrike photographed somewhere in San Angelo State Park.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Belted Kingfisher on high line over looking that water near Spring Creek Park.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

The Summer Tanager game me fits trying to see it and identify it.  It was in a dense live oak tree and I could only get little glimpses of a head, then a tail, then an eye.  Finally she showed herself and I got this image and a few others.  I nearly goofed on the ID, at first thinking it was an Orange-crowned Warbler.  I failed to look carefully as the size of the bill should have told me I was wrong.

Female Summer Tanager

Female Summer Tanager

This female Northern Bobwhite at San Angelo State Park thought she was hidden from me.

Northern Bobwhite - female

Northern Bobwhite – female

That’s all for this time.  Click on the images to see enlargements.

Happy Birding!!

Ah, The Surprises of Birding…….

One thing that I love about birding is that no outing is the same as another.  You never know what to expect.  You can go a few days and not see anything interesting, then the next day, you see several little surprises.

Today was a great example.  We had went out a bit Sunday, saw several of the usual residents, but nothing about them was interesting.  Today, since it looks like the last sunny day for awhile we decided to go spend a few hours looking for better photo opportunities than we had before.

The biggest surprise was coming upon this Cooper’s Hawk, enjoying a bath in shallow water.  This was something I had never seen before.  He would seemingly sit in the water for a bit, then start splashing around like a sparrow would.

Cooper's Hawk enjoying a little bath.

Cooper’s Hawk enjoying a little bath.

Cooper's Hawk, just splashing around.

Cooper’s Hawk, just splashing around.

Then as we drove into Spring Creek Park we remembered that we had seen an owl in a live oak tree previously, but dense foliage prevented any useful photograph.  Today, guess what!  He was waiting for us, sitting on an open branch posing for his portrait.  I was able to get my vehicle about 25 feet away and get several shots.  Ya gotta love them eyes. 🙂

Great Horned Owl portrait.

Great Horned Owl portrait.

Another bird that I have had extreme difficulty getting good close-ups of,  is the Belted Kingfisher.  Always the bird was too far away and as I would attempt a long shot, he would delightfully wink at me and head for another tree.  Today, I finally got a chance.  Our driving path took us closer to the water, and there he was, sitting on a branch over-hanging the creek and watching intently for a wet meal.  This was the closest that I had ever been, and I was sweating bullets when I got him in the view-finder.  Again, luck was with me and I was able to get this nice close-up plus a few others.

Belted Kingfisher watching for a meal.

Belted Kingfisher watching for a meal.

So even if you have a so-so day at birding, heck, get out there again as you never know what you will be confronted with.

If you reading this on your computer, click the images to see some very nice enlargements.

Happy Birding!!

Notes from a Saturday morning

I and Ann ate our usual breakfast at McDonald’s and that’s where it all started, I guess.  Some bully stole my toy from my Happy Meal™.  You can’t trust those 6-year olds.  Anyway, I had forgotten that this particular morning was when the Concho Valley Photo Club had their monthly meeting.  I had recently told them that I would join.  So after getting home, I realized that the skies were a bit cloudy, my favorite conditions for photography.  Forgetting about the meeting, I decided to head for my local favorite birding areas.  Ann opted to stay home and work on finishing up some glorious looking afghans she is making for gifts.

As I was driving into Middle Concho Park, I was greeted by five small dogs of a breed that I was not familiar.  At the same time a truck rushed by me, going in the opposite direction.  My first instinct was that somebody had just dumped the dogs on the road to get rid of them.  Thankfully, as I continued on my way, I passed a campsite where a lady said they were hers.  I was tempted to say that she shouldn’t be letting them run loose, for their own safety, but by then the dogs had returned to her.  I am not a trouble maker.

Weekends are usually busy at the parks, with day visitors and weekend campers.  This day was no different.  I was approaching a large area where there were about eight campers and motorhomes parked tightly together.  Obviously, a family reunion or something of that nature.  I was about seventy-five yards away when I spotted an Osprey high atop a dead branch of a tree, overlooking this group.  It was feeding on a fish.  I backed off about twenty-five yards, turned the car so I could shoot from my drivers side window with my Canon 7D and 500mm lens.

Osprey feed on fish.

Osprey feed on fish.

I took several images from a distance of about 100 yards.  But because of the clamor or the people below, who were completely oblivious of what was going on above them, the bird decided to take his meal elsewhere.  My lens was still focused on him so I held the shutter down.  Unfortunately, with no time to make a great composition, I clipped his wing.  But I feel that the images are still exciting, as you can still appreciate the action.

Osprey taking off.

Osprey taking off.

Osprey in flight.

Osprey in flight.

Notice how the Osprey always positions the fish so the head is always pointing forward.  I guess they feel they are more streamlined that way.

As I continued on my way I saw some beautiful Great Blue Herons on the other side of the river.  They are one of my favorite wading birds.  This one was just enjoying the beautiful weather.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Here is an image of a Belted Kingfisher watching the water from a power line across the river.  These guys are amazing.  When they spot a small fish, they dive at high speed, crashing into the water at seemingly a hundred miles per hour.  It is a wonder that they don’t get a concussion.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

I decided to call it a day, and when leaving the area, what did I see over a wetland area?  Of course, another Osprey sitting in a dead mesquite.  Even though most of our winter birds haven’t arrived yet, it was still a nice way to end an exciting morning.

Osprey in dead mesquite.

Osprey in dead mesquite.

My apologies to my fellow members of the Concho Valley Photo Club.  I will try to make it next month, unless……….. 🙂

Click on any image to see enlargements.

2013 – And so we begin………..

Well, Ann and I decided not to dwell on last year anymore, but get back in the saddle and head off into the new year.  Birding -wise, we got off to a great start yesterday.  The temp only reached the mid 40s, but with not much wind it wasn’t all that unpleasant to be out.

We spent a little less than three hours and we saw a total of 37 species.  With a goal of reaching the 200-plus figure for the year, that is always a nice psychological beginning.  I also got a couple of nice images, including one of my best Belted Kingfisher photos to date.  I like it even though the tip of the bill is close to being nipped off.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

I followed that up with this image of a Greater Yellowlegs.  I am always amazed with the Canon 7D and the Canon 500mm F4 lens and 1.4 TC set-up.  This bird was across the river about 150 yards away or more, and showed up as just a tiny spot in the viewfinder.  I had figured there was no way that I was going to get a good usuable photo.  The camera, with it’s 18MP, gave me a great file to work with.  I was able to crop it and still have this sharp image.

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Click on either image to see an enlargement.

If you are interested in the total species we saw, here is a complete list.  By the way, we only saw 194 species during 2012.  I had thought that surely we could have made the 200 mark.  Maybe this year……  We have a bit more experience now, and hopefully we plan to visit some east Texas areas that are teeming with new birds.

  1. Black-bellied Whistling Duck
  2. Gadwall
  3. American Wigeon
  4. Mallard
  5. Northern Shoveler
  6. Ring-necked Duck
  7. Bufflehead
  8. Mute Swan
  9. Pied-billed Grebe
  10. Double-crested Cormorant
  11. Great Blue Heron
  12. Great Egret
  13. Northern Harrier
  14. Red-tailed Hawk
  15. American Kestrel
  16. Merlin
  17. American Coot
  18. Killdeer
  19. Greater Yellowlegs
  20. Ring-billed Gull
  21. White-winged Dove
  22. Belted Kingfisher
  23. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  24. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  25. Eastern Phoebe
  26. Black-crested Titmouse
  27. Bewick’s Wren
  28. Eastern Bluebird
  29. Northern Mockingbird
  30. European Starling
  31. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  32. Northern Cardinal
  33. Red-winged Blackbird
  34. Western Meadowlark
  35. Great-tailed Grackle
  36. House Finch
  37. House Sparrow

Birding Middle Concho Park and Spring Creek Park

You have heard me tell you several times how much Ann and I enjoy going to Middle Concho Park, and it’s sister park, Spring Creek Park across the river.  It seems that there is always a chance to see something different.  Of course, that is because of the changing seasons, different birds are there at different times of the year.  There are over 380 species of birds that can be seen in the Concho valley,  and I dare say that most of them can be seen at these parks, at one time or another, depending when you happen to visit.   You may get lucky and spot one of the Horned Owls like the one pictured below.

Great Horned Owl

We spotted this owl high in a tree in Spring Creek Park.  There was a lady nearby, walking a small dog, unaware of what was perched above her head.  She laughed when we told her why I was pointing my camera up there.

Belted Kingfisher

This Belted Kingfisher was cavorting along the river and finally lit on a power line that crosses the water.  Nervously, I hurriedly set my Canon 7D with 500mm lens with a 1.4 tele-converter on my drivers side window sill and got the shot before it flew off looking for another place to fish.

Great Egret

On another day we saw several Great Egrets.  This one was across the river and I was able to get the shot.  Another wading bird that you can see almost every day of the year, is the Great Blue Heron like the one pictured below.

Great Blue Heron

The Osprey is another bird that thrives on fish, and the catfish in these waters are one of his favorites.  Here one sits on a tree branch enjoying his dinner.

Osprey enjoying catfish dinner.

Another raptor that frequents these parks is the Red-tailed Hawk.  One morning Ann and I witnessed three of them.  Two were flying through the trees close together in Middle Concho Park, while the third was across the river perched high in a tree.  Watch out for low flying birds.

Red-tailed Hawk

Of course we can’t ignore the smaller birds, can we.  These parks teem with species like, Eastern Bluebirds, Robins, Warblers, etc.  Below is a Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

The best way to appreciate the birding here is to just drive very, very slow through the area.  Watch the treetops, watch for un-natural movement in the branches of the live oaks, use your binoculars, and listen.  Sometimes we come to a complete stop, and discover there are tiny birds all around us.  At least we can hear them or see the branches move.  We then put our binoculars to work to locate the source.

Eastern Bluebird

These two parks are maintained very well.  The grass is mowed on a regular basis and early in the week the park employees are always on the job picking up trash left over from the careless individuals that use the place on weekends.  They seem to not see the trash cans that are placed about forty feet apart all through the park.

Northern Cardinal

We find that the best time to do any birding is on the weekdays.  On any given day you literally may have the park all to yourself.  Have fun.  Click on any of these photos to see some nice enlargements.

Great Blue Heron plus Two

I thought you’d enjoy a nice brief post with a few photographs to enjoy your weekend.  They were taken between my birthday on October 2 and October 4.  Hey, did I tell you that I turned 78 on that day on the 2nd?  Darn, I must have forgot.  They say that you lose two thing when you get old.  One is your memory.  I can’t remember what the second one is.

Great Blue Heron with fish

Anyway, we were driving around Middle Concho Park, checking out the rising level of the water.  We got over 7 inches of rain finally. and things are looking good.  This Great Blue Heron was enjoying himself, too, partaking of the goodies in the water.

Great Egret

This Great Egret was watching for the same thing, but I didn’t hang around long enough to see if he was as successful.  I love this reflection.

Belted Kingfisher

In another area we saw three Belted Kingfisher flying around and arguing over territorial rights.  This one finally perched across the river to catch it’s breath.

Click on any image to see an enlargement.

P.S. My Blurb publisher has offered a 20% discount on my book, “Birds, Beasts and Buttes”.  Click this link, Bob”s Book.  Use the code  FANS  at checkout.

The birds are coming! The birds are coming!!

We are finally starting to see some more birds arriving again.  Where we would see just empty waters at Middle Concho Park, here in San Angelo, Texas, we are seeing now a few more waterbirds, and other migratories.

Wood Ducks

Our latest trip allowed us to see some Least Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, and four Wood Ducks.  On that latter one, I got an improved photo over the one I showed in a previous post.  We also saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and possibly a second one.  I was unable to get a photo, but the red nape and center white feathers on it’s back were pretty distinctive.

Swainson’s Hawk

We also saw a flyover of about a dozen geese, but I was unable to identify them, as they were moving pretty fast.  I got a pretty good image of a Swainson’s Hawk, and also one of a Belted Kingfisher as he was intent on watching for a meal in the waters below him.

Belted Kingfisher

In the case of the Wood Ducks and the Belted Kingfisher, the birds were quite a distance away and I had to rely on some creative cropping to get these close-up images.  My old friend, the Great Egret, was still hanging around and I have a hard time resisting getting more images of him.

Great Egret

So that’s it for this post.  It is raining this morning, but later, if it clears out, I may make another run to see what is arriving today. 🙂

A Kingfisher, a Sandpiper, a Killdeer, and a Coopers Hawk….

All of them walked into a bar.

The bartender said, “What it this, a joke?”

Okay, so I have a hard time getting started on writing these posts.  I admit it.  But the above mentioned birds are the ones that Ann and I saw Friday morning on a drive around Middle Concho and Spring Creek Parks.  The water is still low there, down about 24 inches.  However there is hope that it will rise a bit soon, as water may flow again from Twin Buttes Reservoir.  Behind that dam, water is being pumped from the south pool, which is higher, to the lower south pool.  The south pool is where the gates are that release water downstream to Lake Nasworthy and these parks.

First up, we spotted a Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquatus) on a wire over the river, but before I could get set up for a shot, it flew to the other bank and perched in a tree. With the help of my Noodle on the window sill, I was able to train my Canon EOS 7D and 500mm lens with a 1.4 tele-converter on it.  As the bird was quite tiny anyway, from that distance, and I couldn’t crop it as tight as I would have liked..  This image is the result.

Belted Kingfisher in tree

Driving further on, we came upon a small inlet that was nearly dry, but there was a Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria) grazing in it.

Solitary Sandpiper

Sandpipers are one of my least favorite shorebirds to try and identify.  When we first spotted it, my first immediate thought was Greater Yellowlegs.  But then after getting several images, and consulting my Stokes Guide to birds of North America, I felt comfortable IDing it as the Solitary Sandpiper.

In the same area were a couple of Killdeers (Charadrius vociferus).  One was an adult, the other a juvenile.  The adult was nearer the open water.

Killdeer – juvenile

Killdeer – adult

Just before we decided to call it a day, we glanced toward a grassy picnic area, and there was a hawk in the shadows, walking in the grass.  He was about seventy-five feet away.  I got the camera and 500mm lens up on the Noodle and window sill again and snapped a few images before it flew off.  As I mentioned, the bird was in the shadows, but there was a bright background making exposure difficult.  I really wasn’t able to get a true identification as a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) until I got it in the computer and was able to brighten the exposure.

Cooper’s Hawk

Click on any image to enjoy enlargements.

A Prickly Experience

Yesterday, Wednesday, Ann and I decided to make a return trip to Spring Creek and Middle Concho parks.  The weather was nice, turned out to have a high of 71.  We called Jodie Wolslager, our birding and photographic friend and asked her to join us.  She just recently received her Canon 500mm f4 lens and was anxious to get some inaugaurative photos.  And guess what, with her first shot with it, she nailed a shot of a Great Blue Heron in flight.

It was a real fun day.  The birds were active.  Lots of surprises.  But the biggest surprise was as we were making a cruise through Spring Creek park, a Porcupine mozied out of the woods.  It was the first time I ever saw a porcupine live (not roadkill), in the open and walking around.  Jodie and I both got out of the car and keeping far out of the way so not to panic it, we followed until it returned to a tree at the edge of the woods.  It promptly climbed it, found a fork about 10 feet above the ground, then got comfortable.  Here are a couple of my images.


Porcupine in tree

Later, I was also able to get these images of a juvenile Belted Kingfisher.  It was pretty far away, so I used my 2X tele-converter on my 500mm lens, hand-held.  I am not completely happy using that set-up because of the manual focus.  I was able to save the photos with editing, but I may be better off just using the 1.4 tele-converter, where I have auto-focus, and then just cropping closer.  It’s fun to experiment with different methods, though.

Belted Kingfisher - juvenile

Belted Kingfisher - juvenile

For the birders out there who might be interested, our total count for about three hours was 28.  A lot of that time was spent doing photography, though.

  • 1.   Vermilion Flycatcher
  • 2.   Great Blue Heron
  • 3.   Double-crested Cormorant
  • 4.   Northern Shoveler
  • 5.   American Coot
  • 6.   Eastern Bluebird
  • 7.   American White Pelicans
  • 8.   Northern Harrier
  • 9.   Cooper’s Hawk
  • 10. Western Meadowlark
  • 11.  Pied-billed Grebe
  • 12.  White-winged Dove
  • 13.  Common Grackles
  • 14.  Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  • 15.  Red-winged Blackbird
  • 16.  Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  • 17.  Cedar Waxwing
  • 18.  Savannah Sparrow
  • 19.  Lesser Goldfinch
  • 20.  House Finch
  • 21.  Northern Mockingbird
  • 22.  Ring-billed Gull
  • 23.  Mute Swan
  • 24.  Black Vulture
  • 25.  Wild Turkey
  • 26.  Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • 27.  Cinnamon Teal
  • 28.  Osprey

But a fun day was had by all, and that’s good, because it looks like the weather is not going to be very favorable for the next week or so.  One more thing has happened since I started writing this post this morning.  Ann happened to look outside, and she saw what we decided was a Cooper’s Hawk, grab a White-winged Dove and fly into the trees with it.  I ran out, but all I saw as the hawk flew off, was a shower of feathers.

Click on any of the images for enlargements.  Talk at ya agin’ soon. 🙂

Hey, I’m just a kid………

I came across this humorous photo that I took several months ago, at a little downtown park here in San Angelo.  The Belted Kingfisher is trying to decide if he should wait until the park ranger is gone.  Click image to see enlarged.

Belted Kingfisher hoping to do a little fishing