Nothing could be finah, than to see a Carolina…..

A Carolina Wren.  That’s what I am talking about.  We have seen several over the weeks, but never was able to get a quality image.  This one posed quite beautifully for me on a fence post before moving inside the wire fence.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

It was good day for birding.  We saw 28 species including our first of the year sighting of a Vermilion Flycatcher.  Yesterday we saw our first Bullock’s Oriole, a female at the north unit of San Angelo State Park.

Today, though, we headed to Spring Creek Park and that is where we saw the above Carolina Wrens.

Here are some photos from the past few days, since my last post to this blog.

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow



Northern Flicker (red-shafted sub-specie)

Northern Flicker (red-shafted sub-specie)

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

How about another photo of an Osprey.  This time is being protective of that fish dinner he is working on.



So now the weather is more spring-like and I think we will be seeing more of the spring and summer species arrive.  Our 2015 Big Year list stands at 118 right now.  Our goal by December 31 is to reach 210.  With nine months to go it should be no problem……right??

Until the next post…….Happy Birding

The Forgotten Dickcissel

When I got into birding about five years ago, I was told that I would be finding that there were many species that I had never heard of.   Well that certainly proved to be right, when we were birding with experienced birders and they mentioned the possibility of seeing a Dickcissel.  What??  What the heck is a Dickcissel??  A bird that Richard Cissel discovered???  No, it turned out to be another of the 854 species found in this country.  I don’t know how it got it’s name.  Maybe I’ll look into it.

Pair of Dickcissels.

Pair of Dickcissels.

Anyway it is a bird that is found in the rural areas in grasslands and shrubs.  About two years ago, we came across this pair while driving along a quiet highway.  They are about six and a half inches, and because of their coloring and quickness they don’t immediately catch your attention.  They have yellow breast with a black bib, but unfortunately in these photos it doesn’t show up.  And these are the only photos I have of them.





Enjoy the photos and click on any of them to see an enlargement.

Update:  In my quest to see 210 different species during 2014 I have added two more.

#42  Northern Pintail

#43  Blue Jay

I should add several more in the next few days.  Ann and I are leaving tomorrow morning, Jan. 9, to spend the weekend in the Big Bend country of west Texas.  Ann wanted to spend her 75th birthday on the 10th  there.  I won’t be doing another post until early next week.

More Spring Surprises

Tuesday afternoon, I got a call from my good friend Carl Williams.  He lives just a few houses down the street me.  He informed me that he had driven by our now familiar “K-Mart Creek”.  It is so named by the bar ditch that runs by an empty K-Mart store about four blocks from us.  He told that there was a Yellow-crowned Night Heron wandering about the place.

I high-tailed it down the street to get a good look.  The Yellow-crowned Night Heron, (Nyctanassa violacea), is somewhat of a rarity around these parts, so I was anxious to have a look and maybe get a few photographs.  Have I told you that I always have my camera with me?  

At first, I only saw the bird as he was facing away from me.  I was on the store parking lot at the time and was able to aim my 500m lens and 1.4 teleconverter out the drivers side window and get this shot.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

After getting this shot, I decided to try to get around for a frontal view.  I took my camera with the 100-400mm lens attached and proceeded to cross the little bridge, giving the bird a wide berth so he wouldn’t spook.  By then he had moved closer to the bridge, and by being very quiet, I was able to get the shot below from there.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

But the surprises weren’t over.  I got back in the car, drove a few yards and discovered a Wilson’s Snipe, (Gallinago delicata), poking around in the water under a large tree.  I had to settle on trying to aim my 500mm lens (again with the 1.4 tele-converter) between some tree branches to get the shot.  By using only the center focusing point, the job isn’t too tough.  Below is one of several images that I was able to get.  These little guys are quite the cuties.

Wilson's Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe

My publisher has announced a $10.00 discount on my book, “Birds, Beasts and Buttes”.  Click on this link:   Use Promo Code SHARE10 at checkout.  Offer good through March 31.

San Angelo residents, call me 325-944-1839.  I have some autographed books on hand.  The sale price is 47.95 hardcover, 37.95 soft-cover, plus sales tax.

Return to K-Mart Creek

About four blocks from our home there is a vacated K-Mart store.  It has been empty for a few years, the parking lot overgrown with weeds.  It is located in the southwest part of San Angelo, on the frontage road that runs paralell to Loop 306.  Between the parking lot and the frontage road is a borrow ditch, or “bar-ditch” as we call them here in west Texas.

There is usually water running there, drainage and run-off, etc.  Birds of different species frequent the place.  Ann and I started referring to it as K-Mart Creek.  There would be herons, egrets, ducks and various others.  During the last year, during our terrible drought, it was dry most of the time, and there were very few birds.  Now with recent rains there is a little water and birds are beginning to return to the creek and the surrounding grasses.  A few days ago we spotted several Northern Pin-tailed Ducks.

Northern Pintail

This morning as we were coming home from breakfast, we decided, as we do often, to check out the ‘creek’.  There were no ducks this time, but in the brush along with a couple of White-winged Doves, there was this Eastern Phoebe.  We were in the parking lot side of the ditch, and the brush was on our side of the ditch.  I was able to use my Canon 7D with my Canon 100-400mm lens for the shot.  I also used the same set-up previously for the image of the Northern Pintail above.

Eastern Phoebe

Please click on either image to see nice enlargements.  Exposure data follows:

Northern Pintail: 1/1250 sec. @ f5.6, +0.3EV, ISO 800

Eastern Phoebe: 1/500 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7EV, ISO 1000

80 Degrees – Gotta Get Out

We just had to do it.  We had to take advantage of 80 degree high temps and get out and commune with nature.  Our little journey took us to the little parks out at Lake Nasworthy, here in San Angelo.  Among the highlights was a rarity and another lifer for me, a Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus).  However, I couldn’t add it to my list because, it seemes that somewhere I had already added it.  I don’t know how it happened because I knew I had never laid my eyes on it before.  It is a rare sight in San Angelo.  So now it is official and my life-list total still stands at 239.

Common Yellowthroat

Image via Wikipedia

We also saw another bird that really isn’t a rarity but is difficult to find and see, let alone try to photograph.  It was a Common Yellowthroat, (Geothlypis trichas).  It is a tiny bird that hides itself along creek banks or reeds, just peeking out momentarily before scooting back into the foliage.  Since you asked, no, I didn’t get the photograph, but I will perservere someday.  This pictures is courtesy of Wikipedia.  (He takes pretty good pictures, too.) 🙂

Photographs of the Red-headed Woodpecker and a Green-winged Teal, both gave me problems.  They were both terribly back-lit.  Too far away for a flash.  I boosted the EV but it wasn’t enough, so I had to resort to trying to correct them in Photoshop.  I think they are both acceptable, or I wouldn’t be publishing them here.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Green-winged Teal

Farther along our little tour I spotted this Great Blue Heron across the river.  I have this weakness for those herons and love to photograph them.  The lighting was much better so if it doesn’t look good, I have no excuse.

Great Blue Heron

We spent three hours driving through Spring Lake Park and Middle Concho Park.  We ended up seeing a total of 33 species during that time.

  1. American Coot   35
  2. Bufflehead   1
  3. Northern Mockingbird   4
  4. Blue Jay   1
  5. Pied-billed Grebe   7
  6. Double-crested Cormorants  20
  7. Northern Shovelers   24
  8. Cinnamon Teal   1
  9. European Starling   6
  10. Common Grackle   2
  11. Great-tailed Grackle   3
  12. Black-crested Titmouse   2
  13. Great Blue Heron   3
  14. Green-winged Teal   2
  15. Common Yellowthroat   1
  16. White-crowned Sparrow    4
  17. Yellow-rumped Warbler   6
  18. Northern Cardinal   1
  19. Ladder-backed Woodpecker   1
  20. Golden-fronted Woodpecker   3
  21. Red-headed Woodpecker   1
  22. Black Vulture   2
  23. Eastern Phoebe   3
  24. Western Meadowlark   10
  25. Red-winged Blackbird   6
  26. Eastern Bluebird   13
  27. House Finch   6
  28. Red-tailed Hawk   1
  29. Ring-billed Gull   101
  30. American Robin   18
  31. Cedar Waxwing   13
  32. Gadwall   10
  33. Osprey   1

Click on any image to see an enlargement.  Hope you enjoy. 🙂

The Day of Many Photographs

I try to be a bit witty sometimes with titles of my posts, but this past Saturday was a day that was memorable.  All kinds of photo ops.  I won’t say to much more, but just show you some of the results.

Photos mostly taken at Spring Creek or Middle Concho Parks here in San Angelo.  The exceptions are the second and third photos which were taken at a small downtown lake.  We were just driving around through the parks, and the birds seemed to be exceptionally cooperative.  Click on the images to see great enlargements.

Black-crested Titmouse

I got lucky, as I often do, as the Black-crested Titmouse was only about 20 feet from the car window.  He was completely oblivious of me.

Lesser Scaup - juvenile

Ring-necked Duck - female

Golden-fronted Woodpecker - female

Sharp-shinned Hawk

The Sharp-shinned Hawk gave me an exposure problem.  On the good side, he was perched only about 20 feet from the road-side.  The bad part, there was a limb that was casting a shadow over his head.

Great Blue Heron on log

Great Egret on the hunt

Both the Great Blue Heron and the Great Egret were about 150 yards away on the opposite side of the river.

Belted Kingfisher

Singing Eastern Bluebird

I decided not to include EXIF information in this post.  I just didn’t want to add the clutter.  If any of you want to know how I shot any particular image, just mention it in your comment.  And I do hope that you will comment.

Birding in the New Year

Well, like a lot of other bloggers have said in their posts, 2011 is over and we are all making plans for 2012.

My birding goal of species seen for 2011 had been 200.  The number of species that I had hoped to see in the year.  My actual total turned out to be 194.  I should have been paying closer attention and maybe I might have reached 200.  But I got slow in keeping up with my count, and if I had realized I was so close, I may have made a big push at the end.  So we start all over again, and my goal now for 2012 is 225,and the first one I saw Monday morning on our back patio, was a White-crowned Sparrow.

White-crowned Sparrow

Later in the day, I decided I didn’t want to sit and watch football games.  I got restless, thinking about my new goals, so I thought I better get off my butt and get started.  We drove to Middle Concho and Spring Creek Parks.  It was very quiet, as in no people around.  They’re all home watching football games.  We had the place practically to ourselves and we managed to pick up 32 more species, to give us a start of 33 on our goal.

Red-tailed Hawk

One of those 33 was this Red-tailed Hawk.  As we were leaving the park, he was sitting in the grass on the other side of a little slough that branched off of the river.  We were about 75 yards away, and I managed a few grab-shots.  Nothing to write home about, but then he took off and landed in a tree back on the other side back in the boundaries of the park.

I turned around, drove back 100 yards or so, and pulled off the road.  I picked up my Canon 7D with a Canon 100-400mm lens, got out of the car and started hiking.  I could see the tree that he was in but I needed to circle around so I had better light, as the the sun was starting to get lower in the sky.  As I circled I kept a distance of about 60 yards between me and the tree, so as not to startle the bird.  When I was in a good position, and I had a good line of sight through the tree branches, I started creeping closer.  I would take a shot or two, then advance another 10 yards or so.  This image was one of my final shots, taken from about 20 yards.

So with a nice hawk photo and some other good species seen, I felt we were off to a good start.  I got photos of a Cinnamon Teal and a Blue-winged Teal,  both of which I failed to get a good image of last year.  And how about this, they were swimming next to each other.  That in itself wouldn’t be unusual, but it was the only Blue-winged Teal on the river, and there was only one other Cinnamon as well.  This is one of the images that I captured of the two.  I don’t usually post photos of such poor quality, but I just wanted to show you the pair.  The sun was low and I was shooting almost into it making for exposure difficulty.

Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teals

Here is the list of our 33 species to start the year.

  1. White-crowned Sparrow  5
  2. Northern Mockingbird  4
  3. American Coots  50+
  4. Golden-fronted Woodpecker  4
  5. Great Egret  2
  6. Yellow-rumped Warbler  6
  7. Black-crested Titmouse  2
  8. House Finch  16
  9. Western Meadowlark  27
  10. Great Blue Heron  4
  11. Northern Shovelers  9
  12. White-winged Dove  11
  13. European Starling  12
  14. Pied-billed Grebe  2
  15. Double-crested Cormorants 10
  16. Cinnamon Teal  2
  17. Great-tailed Grackle  18
  18. Common Grackle  12
  19. Eastern Bluebird  15
  20. Red-tailed Hawk  1
  21. Black Vulture  2
  22. Ring-billed Gull  20+
  23. American Robin  7
  24. Cedar Waswing  18
  25. Northern Flicker  1
  26. Killdeer  1
  27. Curved-bill Thrasher  1
  28. Red-winged Blackbird  12
  29. Gadwall  4
  30. Belted Kingfisher  1
  31. Eared Grebe  1
  32. Song Sparrow 15
  33. Blue-winged Teal  1

So the year is off an running.  So stay tuned for new posts about photography, wildlife, birding, and of course more photographs

By Request – Northern Bobwhite

On one previous post I invited anyone to submit requests if they happened to want to see photos of one particular bird.  So in yesterday’s post, Carolyn Rutherford asked if I had some images of some Northern Bobwhites.  So without further adieu, here is a selection of images of the Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginanus) that I captured over the past three yearsAll were photographed at San Angelo State Park, San Angelo, Texas.  Carolyn, enjoy.

1. Northern Bobwhite in tree

2. Northern Bobwhite in a tree

3. Northern Bobwhite

4. Northern Bobwhite - female

5. Northern Bobwhite

6. Northern Bobwhite

Exposure information:

Image 1.   Canon 7D, 100-400mm lens, 1/200 sec. @f13 -0.3EV, ISO 400.  Partial metering with aperture priority.

Image 2.   Canon 7D, 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter, 1/500 sec. @ f13 +0.3EV, ISO 800.  Spot metering with aperture priority.

Image 3.   Canon 40D, 100-400mm lens, 1/400 sec. @ f5.6, ISO 640.  Center-weighted average with aperture priority.

Image 4.   Canon 7D, 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter, 1/2500 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 800.  Partial metering with shutter priority.

Image 5.   Canon 7D, 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter, 1/2500 @ f5.6, -0.3EV, ISO 2500.  Partial metering with shutter priority.

Image 6.   Canon 7D, 100-400mm lens, 1/500 sec. @ f11, -0.3EV, ISO 2000.  Partial metering with aperture priority.

Eldorado Water Treatment Ponds – Willet

Willet. (Tringa semipalmata).  There are two species of this shorebird.  The Eastern Willet and the Western Willet.  These photos of course, are of the Western species. They are larger and more stockier than the greater Yellowlegs.  And of course, they have gray legs.  They prefer to stay around wet prairies and fields.

I am into birding as much as I am into photography.  These photos may not be as esthetic as I may like them to be, but they do represent what a Willet is supposed to look like.  They were both taken when we made our trip to the water treatment ponds at Eldorado on Wednesday.  I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get as close to him as I did.

As I am want to do, when photographing birds, I make sure that I can stop the action if necessary.  Shorebirds, sandpipers, and others are always on the move, feeding and bobbing around.  So I opted to shoot in shutter priority, which doesn’t always provide the depth of field, or the larger apertures that I sometimes like.  You know, the larger openings that would provide me a more blurred background.  But having said that, the rocky background probably was to close to the bird to make much difference anyway.  I was shooting at f6.3 and I could only go to f5.6 with my set-up.  But, nevertheless, I think you will enjoy these images.

The photo EXIF data is the same for each one.  You may click on either image to see an enlargement.



  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens with 1.4 tele-converter
  • 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3
  • ISO 500
  • Lens focal distance  700mm
  • Metering – partial
  • Shutter priority

Llano, Texas – Bald Eagles

About two and a half years ago, Feb. 7, 2008, to be exact, Ann and I, decided to make a trip down to Llano, Texas, a distance of 130 miles.  A pair of nesting Bald Eagles have been going there annually, for the past six or seven years, always using the same nest.  We had been there a few months previously, when they had arrived to start re-building the nest.  During that time, we had watched them haul up branches, sometimes the size of 2x4s.

This time we were interested in seeing the young eaglets.  We got glimpses, but they were pretty tiny, and mostly hidden from view.  To see the eagles, a person has to watch from the side of Highway 71, about 7 miles from Llano.  For best viewing use binoculars or long lenses.  Because of the large amounts of people that flock to see the eagles, the highway department has cleared a spot off the road to allow for parking, so is not to impede traffic.

As usual, there were 3 or 4 other photographers there, each with a long lens set-up because the nest is about 200 yards from the highway, high in a tree.  Some were using Nikons, but I didn’t hold that against them. 🙂  Seriously, we were all friends and enjoyed swapping tales and talking photography.  For best lighting it is best to get there early in the morning.  Also, to get the better spot to set up a camera. It can get a bit crowded.

It was pretty cold and nippy that morning, so it wasn’t long before Ann opted to sit in the car and read a book.  I was thankful that I had dressed for the coolness.  At least, the sun was bright and shining.

As we watched, one of the adults was going and bringing food for the young ones.  We watched him/her bring up a whole leg of a deer, a large duck or goose, and a large fish of some kind.  Those kids were going to be well fed.

I got many images, of course, but none that really showed much of the eaglets.  As I said, they usually were hidden by one or both of the adults, and also because of the depth of the nest.  By the way, those eagles nests, or aeries, are huge.  This one probably measured 8 feet across.  I have chosen this image to show you.  First the original, to show you how far away it was.  Remember I was using the equivelent of a 700mm telephoto lens.  The second photo is of course, my cropped and edited version.

Bald Eagle from 200 yards thru 700mm lens

Bald Eagle - cropped close-up

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens with 1.4 tele-converter – tripod mounted
  • 1/1600 sec. @ f7.1
  • ISO 400
  • Lens focal distance  700mm
  • Metering  – pattern
  • Aperture priority
  • Bogen-Manfrotto tripod
  • Wimberley II gimbal head

Click in either image to enlarge.