Happy Decoration Day


Of course, we all know that it is now known as Memorial Day.  Originally called Decoration Day, to be observed celebrating and honoring the dead, military and civilian.  It was, and is,  a tradition to decorate the graves with flowers, flags, etc.  The name change happened around 1968.

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Your’s truly, of course. My old hat has stood the test of time.

I am not good at selfies, but I thought I would toss this one to show that I am standing the test of time, too.  Ann says I should have smiled a little more to show off my new teeth. 🙂

My oldest memories of Decoration Day, as it was called when I was a child, was of my Dad and I listening to the Indianapolis 500 Auto Race.  The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, as it’s motto states.  The first time was probably about 1938.  I would have been four years old, and my dad was a big fan of that annual race.  It wouldn’t matter what we were doing, fishing, washing the car, or sitting in our living room, there was always a radio present so we could listen.  Then in later years, of course, we would be watching on television.  Thus, that is what I did yesterday, as I have done all those years, except for a couple of years during my military deployment.

The race has changed over the years.  The cars are faster but safer.  Back then the speeds were barely over 100 mph, but the gradually improved.  I remember when A. J. Foyt turned laps at the amazing speed of 160 mph.  Now, this year, qualifying speeds were around 230 mph.

Anyway, I had a most enjoyable weekend.  It started with a great telephone conversation with my dear best friend in Tennessee.  It had been perhaps a year or more since we had chatted by phone, but we keep pretty much in contact each month by e-mail.  She is also a very accomplished wildlife photographer, too.  So we always have things to talk about.  She and her husband are our closest friends.

We then spent a couple of hours birding at San Angelo State Park on Saturday morning.  The heat is starting to reach 100 degree temps, so the birding is starting to slow down.  The rest of the weekend we spent just hanging out at home, watching the Texas Rangers baseball games.

I did take a few hours to work on my  (click here) Fine Art America page, and my Gallery page that you access above.  I would so love to have some of you purchase my prints.  As low as 17.00 and change.  Buying is easy.  In my Gallery, I am putting direct links under each photo.  Click that link and a price list will appear, you only need to decide the size.  Or click the FineArtAmerica link above.

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Painted Bunting

Of couse, I must continue my habit of posting at least one of my photographs with each post.  The Painted Bunting is one of the most beautiful birds around here.  They will be present here for most of the summer, to brighten the upcoming hot dry days.

I hope that all of my readers have a safe but fun Memorial Day weekend.  Until the next time, HAPPY BIRDING!!!

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Birding advice for San Angelo State Park


I live only three miles from San Angelo State Park, and most of you know from my posts, that I frequent the place four to five times a week.  I get a large percentage of my bird photographs there, but not where you would suspect.

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Red-tailed Hawk

Occasionally, I stop at the bird blind to see what species might have stopped by.  During those visits I often see birders from out of town, that are camping there. I have found that most of them go only to the blind to see birds.  They don’t know what they are missing.

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Golden-fronted Woodpecker

I don’t know exact numbers, but I would suspect that there are 200-300 species that can be seen in the park, depending on the time of year.  As you know, they come and go with the migration and changing seasons.  But just a handful visit the blind.  That area mostly draws seed-eaters.  Remember, I said MOSTLY.  Others will stop by on occasion, because of the water feature.

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Ruby-crowned Kinglet

On a regular basis, you won’t see hawks, owls, egrets, flycatchers and other non-seed eating species.  Oh, yes, as I said, on a rare occasion one of these will stop by, if only for a drink of water, or to snatch an innocent sparrow.

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Great Horned Owl

I would recommend to leave your campsite, get in your car and just drive slowly over the twenty something miles of roads.  Watch the trees and brush for movement and you can get some pleasant surprises.  It is always fun to come upon some warblers, kinglets or gnatcatchers darting around.

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American White Pelicans

O.C. Fisher Lake is another great spot.  Pelicans, egrets, herons, grebes and other water birds can be seen at or from the shorelines.

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American Avocet

So my advice is to spend a couple of hours just cruising the park.  You will be surprised how many bird you can see.  After that, go to the bird blind and pad your lists. 🙂

For prints of these and some of my other work click HERE.

Until my next post, HAPPY BIRDING!!!

 

Lifer 301…..My Virginia Rail


In the world of birding, a lifer is a bird that an individual has seen for the first time in his or her life.  When I got into serious bird photography about ten years ago, I was only interested in photographing them.  In that vein, as I captured them on film, I found that I needed to be able to tell people what I was photographing.  I then started buying various guides so I could learn about the different species.  I also found that there are 383 different species just in my local area of the Concho Valley.  In my edition of Stokes Field Guide to Birds of North America, there are 854 species in the country.  Now get this, as of February 26, 2018, there are 648 species that can be seen in the state of Texas.  That is according to the Texas Birds Records Committee of the Texas Ornithological Society.    Wow!!  that is around 75% of the entire national count.  So if you want to see bird, Texas is the place to be.

Right now we are in the middle of spring migration.  Birds are moving north from Mexico, etc, to their northern homes.  Some stop here, others keep on moving more northerly.  So, the odds of seeing more unique birds is really great this time of year.  In the fall this is all reversed.

Anyway, as the years have gone by, I adopted the habit that most birders have, of keeping track of how many of these birds I have actually seen and have learned to identify.  Most I have photographed.  Others, I have observed closely with the help of more expert birders.  I have accumulated the “life list”.  I saw number 301 a few days ago.  It was my very first Virginia Rail, a very rare bird for the San Angelo area.

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Virginia Rail

At the time, we, Ann and I, were watching for a Sora, another marsh bird, that had been reported.  We had arrived early, with a burrito and coffee, at the area where the Sora had been reported.  It was a small marshy area with reeds and cat-tails; the perfect habitat.  The Sora is a very shy bird that doesn’t like to show itself often.  So patience is the key.  We sat there for about 45 minutes while we finished our breakfast.  We were about to leave, when Ann saw a little movement.  We got some teasing little peeks through the grasses, then….what the??  I saw an orange bill.  Hey, wait a minute, Sora’s don’t have orange bills.  A few seconds later, the Virginal Rail, pictured above finally ventured into the open.

The Virginal Rail and the Sora both winter in Mexico and east along the gulf coast.  They then migrate to spend summer the northern states.  It was during this migratory trip that they decided to stop off here in San Angelo.  Possibly traveling companions.  Anyway, a few minutes after this exciting event, the Sora that we were originally looking for came out of the reeds at almost the same location.

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Sora

So, getting a ‘tofer’ made for an exciting morning.  Getting great photos of each added a little sugar.  You can see my entire Life List by clicking on that button at the top of this page.

Until the next time

HAPPY BIRDING!!

 

A new (May)day dawns.


I have been doing a lot of thinking since my last post, considering what kind of changes I can make to keep my Texas Tweeties blog interesting.  Also since that post, I have acquired over one hundred new subscribers.  Of course, that shows me that I might not need to make major changes at all.  However, one thing I might do, is to sometimes touch on stories of my past, and I do have many.  For example, how many of you knew that I tried to be a piano tuner once?  Or an award winning paper boy? (Some great stories on that one.)  Just a couple of the things from my mysterious past.

Of course, my blog title of Texas Tweeties, is in line with my photography of birds.  A friend of mine chose that name for me.  However, it has nothing to do with Twitter and those kind of tweets.  You might say that I have been tweeting long before our president started tweeting.  I had considered once to change that title, but it caused too much of an uproard among my readers, so Texas Tweeties shall remain thy name.

Another major change is that I don’t do my own printing anymore.  My aging, but excellent Epson printer is giving me problems.  It has served me well the past few years, but I just can’t afford to replace it.  But not to worry, you can go to my FineArtAmerica site and order my work in any size you desire.  You also have the option of different types of paper, mats and framing.  You can also order coffee mugs and other home decor featuring my photographs.  Just go to this link FineArtAmerica, click the image you are interested in.  Drop-down menus will show sizes and prices.  You can order direct.

Oh, yes, before I forget about it, I have been feeling better. Not 100%, but getting there.  I am getting head movement therapy at the West Texas Rehab Center.  Hopefully my bouts of dizziness will subside.  But with feeling better, Ann and I got out a little in the past few days and got a few photographs.  My highlight was spotting this Common Yellowthroat.  They are very shy little birds.  They hang out in dense brush mostly.  You can hear them before you see them, or maybe never see them.  It can be very frustrating.  However, this one made an appearance for a few minutes, giving me ample time to get several exposures.

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Common Yellowthroat

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Common Yellowthroat

Also, while driving around the parks near Lake Nasworthy, we spotted this Great Egret in her breeding colors.

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Great Egret in breeding plumage.

Well, that is all for this post.  I’ll be back in a few days with more exciting stuff.

Happy Birding!!

Rumors of my passing are unfounded…..


Yes, I am still around and I have realized that it has been about two months since my last post.  To be truthful, I have considered discontinuing this blog.  I guess it was probably that I had the winter blues, etc.  Anyway, I just couldn’t get myself pumped up to write.  But I still had people reading my older posts, and some others subscribed, hopeful for new articles to come.  I decided to give it another try.

Then, about the tenth of March, about midnight, I was awokened with the urge to go to the bathroom to relieve myself.  As I started to rise from the bed, all of a sudden I was hit with a ferocious attack of vertigo.  Have you ever heard someone say, that the room was spinning?  Hey, it happened.  I couldn’t focus on anything, because it kept whizzing past my eyes and on around the bedroom.  I was so off balance I couldn’t get off the bed.   My wife called 911, and the EMTs were there in minutes.  The fire station is only about six blocks away.  They helped me, carried me to the bathroom so I could finish what I started out to do.  This while the room was still spinning and I couldn’t focus on anything.  Needless to say, I then got very nauseous, along with all that goes with it.

I will spare all of the details, except to say I am sorry for the EMT who had to clean the ambulance afterwards.  Not a fun trip.  I was kept in the hospital for a couple of days while, with the help of anti-nausea meds, I finally could walk without looking like Tim Conway.  Anyway, I have had problems with my dizziness and off-balance since then.  I have an appointment on April 30, (three days to go), at West Texas Rehab where they are going to do some therapy that will hopefully cure it once and for all.

Through all that, I haven’t done much with my birding and photography.  I have been only able to get to the field for periodic short trips, when I have little periods of near normalcy for maybe an hour here and there.  Here are a few photographs that I managed to get in those little forays.  Just click and scroll down.

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Great Egret in breeding plumage.

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Vesper Sparrow

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Greater Roadrunner

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Pied-billed Grebe

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Merlin

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Canyon Towhee

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Cinnamon Teal

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Loggerhead Shrike

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American Kestrel

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Bell’s Vireo

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Grasshopper Sparrow

Most of these photos were captured around the San Angelo area.  There have been reports of Painted Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, various warblers and other spring birds coming in the past few days.  So hopefully, by my next post, I will have gotten several photos of those birds.  That should be sometime next week.

I hope you enjoyed this brief post and the photographs.  Until my next post………

Happy Birding!!! Continue reading

Waiting for Spring


Cold weather here in San Angelo, with drizzle and freezing temps.  A few days ago it was near 80 degrees.  But wait.  In a couple of days it will be back to near spring temperatures again.  Such is living in west Texas.  Anyway, I am anxious for spring and the spring migration.  Needless to say, with the ups and downs of the weather, birding is pretty slow.

Because of that, my blog posts have been a bit slow, too.  But I am taking advantage of such lulls to get personal projects done.  I got my two broken front teeth replaced.  Crowns on those and the two adjacent canine teeth.  However one glitch.  When installing the four crowns, one that was supposed to go on one of the canines, accidentally fell off and I swallowed it.  Such fun.  Got x-rayed to confirm it and another is ordered.

But in between dental appointments and drizzly days, we did manage a few outings.  Here are a few images from those forays into the wild.

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Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owls had been missing from Spring Creek Park, where we had seen them the past few years.  Finally a couple of weeks ago, a pair finally show up.  This is the male.  The female usually takes flight and heads across the water.  I have not determined where or if they have  nest.

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Greater Roadrunner

For some reason, probably because of the changeable weather, it was a few weeks into the near year before we spotted a Greater Roadrunner.  Finally a fellow birder tipped us off of one at Middle Concho Park.  You can see, this one looks like a young one.

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Ladder-backed Woodpecker

This is one my better photos a Ladder-backed Woodpecker.  I have gotten some in the past, but I was never as satisfied with them as I am of this one.

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Ruby-crowned Kinglet

I never tire of trying to photograph these tiny kinglets.  It takes great effort and lots of photos to get one in focus.  The are feisty, fast little guys.  Constantly on the move.  On this one, I got a glimpse of the red crown that they expose occasionally.

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Golden-fronted Woodpecker

I believe the Golden-fronted Woodpecker is one of the most photogenic birds.  I love photographing them when I get the opportunity.  This one is a male, identified by the red crown atop the head.

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Eastern Phoebe

The ever-popular Eastern Phoebe.  Cute little guys.  Always around.

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Canyon Towhee

I was fortunate to catch this Canyon Towhee pretty close to me and singing his heart out.

That is all of the photos that I will to show at this time.  Again, I hope you enjoy all of my posts.  With nice weather on the horizon, I hope to get out in the field again soon.

Shooting from a blind or in the wild…….


I am a bit late with my first post of the year.  Not any huge reason for it, just a few scattered things that took up much of my time.  Of course, I could blame part of it on the weather which at times, has been a bit nasty.  Then there was a problem, not finished, that I am replacing my two front teeth with a bridge.  They had broken off and at first it looked that they would be extracted.  Then the dentist said they could be saved with a bridge.  So that was the option I decided on.  He did a root canal on each of them to start things.  Then there was the two-week healing time.  Then I went back last week to get ‘fitted’ for the new bridge.  Again, I am waiting for it to be finished, and finially on February 13, I will have a new shining smile.

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Great Horned Owl

So during that time, with those delays and the weather, I didn’t get out much.  However, on other projects, my calendar went well.  I still have a few left if anybody is interested.  Just contact me in the comments for more information.

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Cooper’s Hawk

I read an interesting post by a fellow nature photographer Jim Miller.  He frequents the various blinds and photo ranches around the state.  You can click here to read it.  If you like to photograph from bird blinds you will find it informative.  Personally, I don’t use blinds very often.  I prefer to get out in the wild and hunt down my photo opportunities.  I find it more fun and challenging.  The downside of photo blinds is you get so many photos that are repetitive, as the different birds resting on the same tree stump, etc.  But they do make nice posed portraits.  Also, there is the danger of including seed and feeders in the shots.  However, the better organized photo ranches try to avoid having that sort of thing in the camera’s line of sight.

Then there is the price.  It can cost anywhere from 150.00 and up to spend any time at those photo ranches.  Of course, there are perks. Comfortable chairs in a comfortable environment.  Well placed perches and seeds to lure the birds to the area.  You just have to sit back and wait for the birds to arrive.

Here in San Angelo there is a blind at the state park.  No cost to use it.  I use it on occasion, perhaps once in a two-month period.  It is decent and attracts birds.  However on that note, there are birds that are not attracted to bird blinds, simply because they are not seed eaters.  Examples are hawks, owls, flycatchers.  But even they, will occasionally make an appearance because of the water feature.

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Golden-fronted Woodpecker

All of the photos in this post are captured in the wild.  In fact, about 95% of the photos I have posted here over the years have been taken in the wild.  I travel the parks and back roads of west Texas, in my quest for wildlife photos.  I use my Ford Escape as a mobile blind, shooting from the window.  I use a SafariPack bean bag for stabilization by draping it over the window sill.  My set-up of choice is a Canon 7D Mark II with a Tamron 150-600mm Gen 2 zoom lens.

Here are a few more images from the past few weeks.  As I mentioned above, all photographed in the wild.

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Belted Kingfisher

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Red-tailed Hawk

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Northern Bobwhite

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American Kestrel

So, it doesn’t matter what your preference is.  Photographing from a blind, or doing as I do, prowling the wild.  It is the the final outcome that is important.  Whatever you enjoy doing the most.  I hope you enjoyed this post and the photos.  Until the next time……..

Happy Birding or Happy Shooting to all!!!