Photographing the tiny birds

I love getting out in the field and photographing raptors when I can find them, but there is something to be said about shooting the tiny birds, too.  It is such a challenge.  Most of them can only be found in dense brush or small trees.  I have found that I get the best results if I just use only a single focus point when using my Canon &D Mk II.  If I use more like the five-point or nine-point, there is too much clutter in the branches to get the bird in focus.  Of course, with the single-point, the trick is to get that fleeting little bird in the viewfinder.  Also for your information, I use my Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens.  For my settings I shoot Shutter Priority at usually 1/1600 or 1/2000 sec.  I set the ISO at Auto, at a maximum of 1600, and the aperture just floats pretty much wide open.  I keep my thumb on the big dial on the back of the camera, so I can adjust the Exposure Value quickly if needed.

My post-processing is quite simple.  It is a secret recipe handed down.  I just crop for composition, then adjust the lighting and/or the contrast, and perhaps tweak the color saturation.  I then adjust the sharpening to compensate for any loss when I crop close.

I have been able to come upon a couple of areas where I have been successful in spotting several species of those tiny variety.  Here are a few of those, plus a few of my other images that I captured the past ten days.  I hope you enjoy.

The Pine Warbler is somewhat rare for the San Angelo area, although they are spotted occasionally.  This one surprised me when I was observing an area of cat-tails near Lake Nasworthy.  It is the first one of this species that I have seen this season.


Pine Warbler

Nearby in the same area, this House Wren popped into view.  Wrens sometime give me a hard time in trying to identify them.  This was early morning, and at first I thought it was a Marsh Wren, but after perusing my Stokes’ guide I was able to discern the correct ID.


House Wren

I got real lucky with the light when photographing this Bewick’s Wren.  Again, we were early getting to San Angelo State Park, and the morning sun was at a perfect angle.


Bewick’s Wren

The goldfinches are starting to arrive.


American Goldfinch

The Lincoln’s Sparrow is one of my favorites of that species.  Easily identified with that beige coloring in the breast.


Lincoln’s Sparrow

Another easily identified sparrow, the White-crowned.


White-crowned Sparrow

We were in an area favored by the Spotted Towhee when this Green-tailed Towhee showed.  I was quite thrilled as it is another rarity here in the Concho Valley.  The wind was blowing a bit, and it fluffed up it’s crown.


Green-tailed Towhee

As I said, we were in the area so this Spotted Towhee decided it needed to show off a little bit, too.  He appeared on an upper branch so I was able to get a nice background of the nice blue sky.


Spotted Towhee

Before we left to come home, I spotted this Red-tailed Hawk making a fly-by.  I couldn’t resist getting this last shot.


Red-tailed Hawk

That is all for this post.  I hope you enjoyed my narrative and the photographs.  I appreciate any and all comments you might have.

Enjoy the snowfall. 🙂

Happy Birding!!

Ten Minutes at K-Mart Creek

It didn’t take long.  We had been observing a Yellow-crowned Night Heron near our local K-mart Creek, so named of the little drainage creek that usually flows by an empty K-mart building.  I, like Lisa Rest up in Chicago, Illinois, always have my camera with me.  Check her blog to see her amazing shots from the Windy City.

We hadn’t had time to stop on the previous sightings, so we decided to make a special trip, specifically to see if we could spot that bird.  We saw it immediately as we drove on to the parking lot.  I managed to get the two pictures that are below, then as we were about to leave, Ann spotted a Green Heron in an honey mesquite tree by the water.  It was obscured partly by foliage, but I have always maintained that if you can see enough of the eyes, get them in sharp focus, you can get a nice picture.

I hope you enjoy all of the photos.  Click on any of them to see an enlargement.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Green Heron in tree

Green Heron in tree

Juvie Northern Pintails at K-Mart Creek

I am in my continuing education mode in bird identification.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, there is a bit of a ditch adjacent to a now defunct K-mart building.  It usually has a bit of water in it from run-off, etc.  On Christmas morning, as we happened to drive by, Ann and I spotted what at first we believed to be some Gadwalls.  As I always due in these circumstances, I drove closer and got hold my camera that is always with me.  In this case, I grabbed the Canon 7D with the 100-400mm lens attached.  I was able to get several shots, using a smaller aperture for a better depth-of-field, to get all of the ducks in focus.

It wasn’t until I uploaded the images to my computer this morning that I realized that the birds weren’t Gadwalls.  But, I really wasn’t sure still, what they were.  After consulting my Stokes Field Guide to birds of North America, and my Sibley Guide to Birds, I was able to ascertain that they were juvenile Northern Pintails.  They had the gray legs, dark gray bills and more rounded heads than Gadwalls.

juvenile Northern Pintails

juvenile Northern Pintails

So I am learning my lessons.  I found that I shouldn’t be too quick to make identifications.  Especially when it comes to waterfowl. (and Gadwalls).  I do know that I have come a long way in the past four years, getting a little better with my IDs.  I can now, at least, tell the difference between doves and sparrows.  The sparrows are smaller, right??

So, anyway, I thought you would enjoy the photo.  Click on it to see an enlargement.

A Merlin and a Hummingbird

Yesterday Ann and I made a return trip to the blind at San Angelo State Park.  We wanted to see if the Ruby-throated Hummingbird was still around.  It was starting to get quite warm when we headed out.  We didn’t know that the heat would be another record breaker.  The record for the day was 102 set in 1908.  It turned out to reach 105 for a new record.  Today is expected to be the same story, with a new record of 106.  That’s pretty warm for a September day.  Relief is on the way, they say, with the highs only getting into the 80s this weekend.  Hooray for that.

But getting back to our little foray yesterday, on the way out we spotted a very small hawk, about ten inches tall, on some phone wires.  Thinking it may be a young hawk I stopped to get photographs, carefully pulling to the side of the road and turning on my blinkers.  I took the photo with my Canon 7D and 100-400mm lens.  After getting home later and examining the image closer, I believe it to be a Merlin, (Falco columbarius).  Unfortunately, I only have the frontal view for ID purposes.


Continuing on our way, we arrived at the park.  I set up my tripod and the 7D with my 500mm lens.  I was hoping for another shot at the Ruby-throated but it was nowhere to be seen.  However, a female Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri), made an appearance, allowing me to make several images.

Black-chinned Hummingbird – female

So, with the weather changing very soon, and with the beginning of the fall migration, things may be looking up for the near future.  I can’t wait to see what might happen to “fall” in.