A return to the Big Bend


We got back to San Angelo Friday afternoon, after a five hour drive from our Casita at Far Flung Outdoor Center in Study Butte, Texas.  We were exhausted, not from just the trip, but from the great four days that we spent in Big Bend National Park and Chisos Mountains of west Texas.  We saw a great number of birds, although not as many as we had hoped.  But considering it is winter time, we should be glad.  We added five more to our yearly list, including a lifer, a Bushtit.  We are at 108 for the year as of now, and my life list is up to 294.

But apart from the birding, I was also able to get some nice landscape photos from that beautiful area.  I am usually in the birding mode, and I tend to not notice the majestic scenes of Big Bend National Park.  This time I made it a point to enjoy that aspect much more.

Here are a few photos from our memorable journey.  Click on any of them to see pretty enlargements.

There were plenty of Red-tailed Hawks.

Red-tailed Hawk - 1/1600 sec, @ f6.3, ISO 250.

Red-tailed Hawk – 1/1600 sec, @ f6.3, ISO 250.

We saw plenty of White-crowned Sparrows, too.

White-crowned sparrow - 1/640 sec. @ f9, ISO 250.

White-crowned sparrow – 1/640 sec. @ f9, ISO 250.

We also saw numerous of these Loggerhead Shrikes.

Loggerhead Shrike - 1/1600 sec, @ f6.3, ISO 200.

Loggerhead Shrike – 1/1600 sec, @ f6.3, ISO 200.

The grandeur of Big Bend National Park is amazing.  Photo opportunities at every turn.  This photo is from a very high lookout point along the Ross Maxwell Highway.  Probable altitude around 5,000 feet.  You can look across the top of Kit Mountain and see the opening in the 1500 foot cliffs that mark Santa Elena Canyon, a distance of around 20 miles away.

Sotol Vista - 1/320 sec. @ ff10, +0.7 EV, ISO 200.

Sotol Vista – 1/320 sec. @ ff10, +0.7 EV, ISO 200.

This is a typical desert scene.  Cerro Castellan is in the distance.

Desert Landscape - 1/640 sec. @ f8, +0.7 EV, I SO 200.

Desert Landscape – 1/640 sec. @ f8, +0.7 EV, I SO 200.

Here is close-up detail of Cerro Castellan.

Cerro Castellan - 1/200 sec, @ f5.6, -0.3, ISO 200.

Cerro Castellan – 1/200 sec, @ f5.6, -0.3, ISO 200.

When eating a breakfast of burritos and coffee in the morning in the ghost town at Terlingua, this cactus wren was happily singing near by.

Cactus Wren - 1/3200 sec, @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, IS O 2000.

Cactus Wren – 1/3200 sec, @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, IS O 2000.

From the window formation in the Chisos Mountains, altitude 5,000 feet, looking west, you can see forever.

Window View - 1/3200 sec, @ f5.6, +0.3 EV, ISO 250.

Window View – 1/3200 sec, @ f5.6, +0.3 EV, ISO 250.

I hope you enjoyed these image of our little vacation.  We are hoping to back again soon.  Now it is back to birding for a couple of months.

Now that Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us, why don’t you have a look at my gifts in my FineArtAmerica store.  Not only prints of my images, but coffee mugs, bags, and other nice gifts featuring my photography.

Happy Birding!!!

 

On the Road Again…….


As we do each year at this time, we get to thinking about traveling.  So, next Monday, January 30, we are going to make another trip out to the Big Bend area of Texas.  Essentially, it will be to Big Bend National Park, but we will also be taking in some of the surrounding sights.  We’ll see the ghost town of Terlingua, parts of the huge Big Bend Ranch State Park, and travel one of the most scenic drives in the country: the El Camino Del Rio, (the river road) from Lajitas to Presidio, Texas.  We will have four days of scenic photography and birding.  I should come home with plenty of material for a future blog post.

Of course, most of you know that we have already made numerous trips to that area.  Sometimes, we go to the Davis Mountains, which lies just north of our current destination.  I am sure we will be returning there in a few months, too.  But, this time, we will be staying again at the Casitas at Far Flung Outdoor Center, located in Study Butte, just down the highway from the ghost town.

Our birding destinations will be in Big Bend National Park.  Favorite spots include the Sam Nail Ranch, Cottonwood Campground, Rio Grand Village RV campground, Dugout Wells and the Chisos Mountains.  We hope to add many birds to our 2017 list.  Our goal again is 210.  To date we are at 100 even.

Here are a few more photographs more photos that I have captured this month.  Click any image to see an enlargement.

I photographed this Osprey on New Year’s Day.  A nice way to start the year.

Osprey - 1/1250 @ f6.3, _0.3 EV, ISO 1000

Osprey – 1/1250 @ f6.3, _0.3 EV, ISO 1000

The Common Yellowthroat is a shy, tiny, elusive, colorful little bird that likes to hangout in swampy reeds, etc.  He only makes an appearance whenever he darned well pleases, and that is not very often.  It took Ann and I several mornings, of getting to the location where was last sighted, then just watched and waited.  When he showed I was ready and he was out for only about one minute, then he was back in his hidey-hole once again.

Common Yellowthroat - 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 400.

Common Yellowthroat – 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 400.

I believe I photographed this Vesper Sparrow at San Angelo State Park.

Vesper Sparrow - 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 500

Vesper Sparrow – 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 500

Just before the entrance to Middle Concho Park, there is a small pond surround by cattails and reeds.  Most of the time it is empty of birds, save an occasional heron, but this time there was a male and female Hooded Merganzer swimming casually around.

Hooded Merganzer - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 250.

Hooded Merganzer – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 250.

The female is a pretty little thing, too.

Hooded Merganzer - female - 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3 -0,3 EV, ISO 200.

Hooded Merganzer – female – 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3 -0,3 EV, ISO 200.

This Fox Sparrow dropped by for a drink from a puddle of water in Spring Creek Park.

Fox Sparrow - 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO 250.

Fox Sparrow – 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO 250.

The wind was getting up a little when I photographed this Great Egret, just hanging out.

Great Egret - 1/1250 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV, ISO 400

Great Egret – 1/1250 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV, ISO 400

I do believe that is it for this post.  It is most likely my last until I return from our vacation and February 3, unless I can squeeze a little quicky before we leave.  But I will mention, as it nears Valentine’s day, I would appreciate it if you would consider the many gifts in my (click) FineArtAmerica store.  If you love my photography, whether it be birds, beautiful landscapes or flowers check it out, you can find decor, useful items, or photographic prints.  You can also click the link under Bob’s Galleries in the sidebar.  Thank you.

Visiting the Big Bend – Part One


We just returned from a glorious trip to the Big Bend area of Texas.  That is the place where the Rio Grande makes that bend from flowing southeast to flowing northeasterly.  In that Vee shaped area is the Big Bend National Park, and adjacently, Big Bend Ranch State Park.  It is a harsh, isolated, but beautiful environment.  There you will find the wild Rio Grande cutting through narrow canyons with cliffs up to 2,ooo feet high.  The Chisos Mountain range is the center piece of the national park, with high peaks laced with hiking trails and home to black bear, mountain lions, and other wildlife.

This is where Ann and I, along with our dear friends from Tennesse, spent five wonderful days.  In this post, and part 2, I am going to show you some of the scenic land, along with some of the avian activity.  I will, for the most part, let my photos do the talking. They are random highlights from our adventure, and in no particular order.  Also, click on any image to see enlargements.

This is a view of the Chisos Mountains from about twenty miles.

Road to the Chisos

Road to the Chisos

A Cactus Wren looking for meal in the bark of a desert plant.

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

Greater Roadrunners abound in the area.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

Along the Rio Grande is a trail that leads to a natural hot springs bath, built back in the early 1900’s by J. O. Langford.  He was seeking relief for his own ailing health.  The original rock walls are still in place, and tourists can sit and dip their feet or slip on a bathing suit and go all the way.

Indian Pictographs

Indian Pictographs

Hwy 170, of which a portion is in Big Bend Ranch State Park, is known as one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the country.  The following two images are from that highway.  Across the river, of course, is Mexico.

Along the Rio Grande

Along the Rio Grande

Colorado Canyon

Colorado Canyon

A Say’s Phoebe perches on an ocotillo branch.

Say's Phoebe

Say’s Phoebe

When driving through the Big Bend stay alert.  You may see a scene like this sneak up on you.  A Red-tailed Hawk, having lunch in some high rock croppings.

Red-tailed Hawk at lunch.

Red-tailed Hawk at lunch.

I hope you are enjoying our journey, so far.  I am working at processing more of my photos from the trip and will be publishing Part Two in a few days.  Watch for it!!

 

 

 

Birding the Big Bend – Part I, Fort Davis


Over social media such as FaceBook I have seen comments from many people who have never visited the Big Bend area, wanting more information about birding, lodging, the national park, and other areas of interest.  So I have decided to do a couple of posts telling about our experiences and favorite stops.

Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon – Big Bend National Park

Ann and I have two main areas of interest when we visit the Big Bend area of west Texas.  One is the biggest area near the bend of the Rio Grande.  That includes Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park.  Our other favorite area, that I will write about in this post, is Fort Davis. In the area there are the Davis Mountains, Davis Mountains State Park, McDonald Observatory and Balmorhea.  I should also include the actual Fort Davis, one of the best preserved frontier forts in the country._MG_1609 036-net-fort-davis-bsob-zeller

An ideal trip for Ann and I would be to leave from San Angelo, head south to Sonora, and take I-10 west until finding Hwy 17 that leads to Fort Davis.  Traveling on I-10 is typical as Interstate travel can be.  The fun starts when you make the turn off onto Hwy 17.  You will travel through Balmorhea, then head through the beautiful Davis Mountains into the city of Fort Davis.

There are several places to stay in Fort Davis.  At the Davis Mountains State Park there is the Indian Lodge.  Nearby is the Prude Ranch and Fort Davis Motor Inn.  Ann and I prefer to stay at the Davis Mountains Inn, a nice little bed and breakfast.

Davis Mountains Inn

Davis Mountains Inn

We like to eat at the historic Fort Davis Drugstore.  Great food, and upstairs is the Drugstore Art Gallery, where yours truly, (that’s me) has numerous prints for sale.

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker – Davis Mountains State Park

Birding is great at the Davis Mountains State Park, about seven miles northwest of town on Hwy 118..  There are two recently renovated bird blinds and plenty of birds.  On occasion, if you are lucky, you might spot some Montezuma Quail.  That place is one of our favoite birding areas.  The blinds are very good at attracting birds.  You can elect to sit inside and observe through the windows, or sit in the convenient stools outside.

Southwest of town on Hwy 118 is the Chihuahuan Nature Center and Botanical Gardens.  When we last visited it was literally humming with various species of Humming Birds.  There is also some very nice hiking trails.

Black-chinned Hummingbird - female

Black-chinned Hummingbird – female

One of our favorite things while in the area, is to take the Wildlife Viewing Loop.  It is a 75 mile drive heading northwest on Hwy 118, going by the McDonald Observatory high in the mountains.  A few miles later you will see a park on the left at Madera Canyon.  Pause there for awhile as it is a very good birding area. A Stellar’s Jay, was just seen there just a few days ago.  After that continue the loop, bearing left to Hwy 166, always looking out for the hawks and other birds and wildlife that inhabit the area.  You will end up back in Fort Davis, ready for a good meal at the Drugstore or a pizza from Murphy’s Pizza.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

After a good night’s sleep, a trip to Balmorhea sounds like a nice side journey.  The drive is north on Hwy 17 for about 40 miles.  We love that trip, because the drive itself is a great birding drive.  Hawks in abundance; Aoudads and Pronghorned Antelope line the mountain ridges.  And who can not stop to photograph Wild Rose Pass.

Wild Ross Pass

Wild Ross Pass

As you approach Balmorhea, you will see Balmorhea State Park.  It is small and it’s main feature is the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool.  But it also has a wetlands area where you can see some great birds.  East of town, is Lake Balmorhea, where during the colder months many species of water birds, ducks, egrets, herons, grebes, etc. can be found.  A Bald Eagle is usually seen hanging around, too.

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup

Be sure to schedule your Balmorhea trip to include lunch at the Bear Den. It bills itself as “the cutest restaurant in town”.  Great Tex-Mex food and cold beer.

In the evening, you might be interested in driving south to Marfa, where you can see the famous “Marfa Lights”, that mysteriously glow after sundown in the direction of the Chinati Mountains.  We have see them every time that we have visited there.  Very strange, indeed.  They are just east of town on Hwy 90 where the Texas Highway Department has erected a special viewing area.

After a couple or three days here, we are ready to go south to the area of the Big Bend National Park.  That area will be the subject of Part II.

Vermilion Flycatcher and others.


This post is best viewed on a computer or device where you can click the photos and see nice enlargements.

Since my last post, Ann and I have mostly been hanging around the local area, looking for more new birds and new photo ops.  I guess we are still unwinding from our Big Bend trip.  The weather here has been fickle, as well.  Around 90° one day, down to a current 51° as I write this around noon on April 28.  A chilly day for west Texas.

Yesterday, though, it was pretty nice, albeit a bit windy.  I caught this Vermilion Flycatcher darting among the trees at Middle Concho Park at Lake Nasworthy.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Also nearby, was this Great Blue Heron.  One of my favorite wading bird subjects.  We watched him fish for awhile, but he never came up with anything worthy of eating.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

A few days earlier we were at the south portion of the large San Angelo State Park.  We stopped at the blind but didn’t see anything of interest, but visited with some nice folks from South Dakota.  We left there and decided to just drive through the park, as we sometimes see much more than we will at the blind.  We were not disappointed.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

When I started to drive away, this Bobwhite started singing so I stopped the car and took another shot.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

We continued along and finished our drive with this Chipping Sparrow, who were available in great numbers.

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

Well, that’s all for this one.  In the words of that former California governor, “Ah’ll be boch”.

Greater Roadrunner, Orioles and others


Here are a few images that I have gotten since we got back from our Big Bend adventure.  We have been watching for new summer residents of the avian variety.  While doing such searching I was able to get a few other images for your enjoyment.  We found this Greater Roadrunner at San Angelo State Park.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

The Bullock’s Orioles are starting to arrive.  I had seen a female a few weeks earlier, but now there are many of the bright colored males.  They are still hard to photograph among the trees but nevertheless, I managed a couple.

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

I love the Golden-fronted Woodpeckers.  They seem to be everywhere all the time and they are so photogenic.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Same bird, different pose.  He was trying to show me his better side.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

A Lincoln’s Sparrow.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

A couple of Lark Sparrows.

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

The Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are arriving in large numbers and they will be seen soon all over the country-side.  I got a couple of images today.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Last, but not least, a Killdeer playing in the water at a mudhole near Twin Buttes Reservoir.

Killdeer

Killdeer

Enjoy the photos and I will be back soon with a few more.

Nighthawks – A Mother and Child


Today has been a drizzly day.  We started to the blind at San Angelo State Park, then thought better of it.  From the direction of the wind, I knew that the drizzly rain would be blowing right back into my lens.  Then, besides, we considered that the birds probably wouldn’t be very active.

So back to the house.  Rats!  Just couldn’t think of anything to write about so started browsing through my archives.  I came across these images that I had taken several years ago, long before I started shooting RAW.  The JPEG files looked good so I started editing them

But here is the story.  About 8:30AM one morning, I got a call from a lady that was opening up her store over near the Village Shopping Center.  She had parked in back of the building, and was going to enter her rear door.  As she walked up, she spotted to creatures on the ground near the structure.  She called me and asked me to come over and identify them.

As I drove up then, at first I couldn’t make out what they were from the car.  As I walked up, though, I recognized them immediately.  They were an adult Common Nighthawk and a young one. Nighthawks don’t nest in the usual sense.  They lay there eggs on the bare ground, usually in some pebbles, etc.  I suspect the nesting area of these two were nearby, at the base of the building wall somewhere.  But there was no way of knowing for sure.

I got my cameras out of the car and commenced trying to get photos.  At first, the chick skittered away from the mom.  I tried to keep a reasonable distance, as I could see he/she was getting stressed.  Finally, the mother moved back closer.  These are two of the many exposures I was to get.

Adult Common Nighthawk with chick

Adult Common Nighthawk with chick

Common Nighthawk chick

Common Nighthawk chick

I hope you enjoy this post and photos.  Ann and I are leaving Monday morning to go back to Fort Davis.  As you know, we tried this trip a couple of weeks ago, but had to return home after I had a medical problem.  Looking back, I believe that I had got bitten by some spider, etc., and had an allergic reaction.  But all is well now, and I hope to have success in getting some new photos of the birds from that area.  So I won’t be blogging until later in the week, probably around next Friday.