It’s a Vermilion Flycatcher!!

It was about five years ago that I got into birding.  It was a by-product of photographing colorful birds.  Up until that time, I was really unaware of the beauty of those avian creatures.  In my mind, there were about four species of birds: i.e. ducks, pigeons, sparrows and hawks.  Then I found that there about 780 species in the United States alone.  Mind boggling.

Then after I got hooked, I had dreams of seeing certain birds that I had never seen before.  One bird that I longed to see was the Vermilion Flycatcher.  I had seen pictures, but never  a live one.  Friends that knew better would say, “Bob, they are out there, you just have to look closer”.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Then one day, I was startled to finally spot one.  I said, “so that’s what they look like”.  I watched it perch on a branch, suddenly fly down to snatch a bug of some type, then hurriedly fly back to it’s perch.  Now that I had finally seen one, it became easier after that.  So the point I am trying to make is that it is all in knowing how and what to look for.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

The same for Nighthawks.  Never had seen one until one day birding, a friend pointed it out as it was sitting on a tree limb.  Even then I didn’t see what she was seeing as all I saw at first, was the proverbial bump on a log.  The all of a sudden it seemed to materialize in front of me.  I had been looking at it bit didn’t know what I was seeing.  Now it is my turn to impress people by spotting them when they can’t.

Learning birds by learning their habits and behavior can be a huge help.  Ann can even identify birds by their sounds.  I hear a lot of obvious ones, but I am not becoming very proficient at it.  I am getting better at visually identifying birds in flight.  They all have different moves and also you can see different field marks that you may not see when they are perched or on the ground.  Case in point, the American White Pelican, when in or on the water appears to be all white.  But in the air, they show they beautiful wings that have contrasting black markings.

American White Pelican

American White Pelican

American White Pelican in flight.

American White Pelican in flight.

And then you have the Wilson’s Snipe.  It is really invisible.  It loves the marshy grasses around ponds, and I have actually stared one in the eye, and didn’t see him for what it was.  This one is a little bit more visible.

Wilson's Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe

So as you can see it is good to pay attention to all of the field marks, habits, and how they look and act in flight.

Now I have to study up on the behavior of those darned Clay Pigeons.  They zip through the air, but disappear so quickly that I don’t get a good look.

Happy Birding!!  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Were Having a Heat Wave…….

It has been so hot here lately, that the birds are even staying indoors.  They’re probably couch potatos, lounging there in front of the TV watching “Birders “R Us., or “How to Look Cute in Front of a Camera Lens”.  There are probably pictures of an Avian drinking Evian.  Cute play on words, eh??  Sheesh, how corny can I get?  I think the heat is effecting me. 🙂

So that is probably where they were when I went out to look for a few camera ops.  The temperature was showing 106 in the car.  Oh, what is a birder to do on days like this.  Well, I take the shots that I can, then move along.

Here are three photos that I managed to get yesterday.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

baby Vermilion Flycatcher on nest.  Heat didn't bother it.

baby Vermilion Flycatcher on nest. Heat didn’t bother it.

The nest in the above photo was only about 5 or 6 inches across.  I had difficulty locating it with the camera lens.  I was using my 500mm lens and only the center focus point.  Along with spot metering I was able to get the image.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Better days are coming.  “Owl be baaaack” later with more photos.

Click on any image to see enlargements.

Where have I been all week………

Darned if I know where I have been all week.  It has just been one of those times where time got away from me.  All of a sudden it is Saturday already.  I guess the holiday had something to do with it.  But, actually, holidays to Ann and I are usually just another day.  We have no relatives close to us.  So what is my excuse for not posting all week.  Darned if I know……

But here I am.  We got out a few days to do a bit of birding, between household chores.  You ought to see all of the acorns that we have been cleaning up.  We have two Live Oaks, (why do they call them live oaks, of course they’re live), and they drop acorns like you wouldn’t believe.  We sweep trash cans full and now I looked again when I went to check the mail, and it’s time to sweep them up again.  That’s a job for tomorrow.  Maybe.  Unless we go birding again.

So here are a few images from the past few days.  They are all tiny birds taken in the trees.  Danged hard to get the exposures right when they are hiding in the shadows.  It means more work in my digital darkroom to get it right.  I hate to have to do that.  But what the heck.  I have time on my hands. (when I’m not out sweeping acorns). 

We went to our usual place out at Spring Creek Park.  I drove through an area to be used to camping and we spotted this Brown Creeper.  We don’t see many of these, so it is always a nice surprise to spot one.  They climb the bark of trees looking for tiny morsels.  They keep going until they reach the top, then the fly back down to the bottom and start all over.  As you can see, the image is quite noisy, but I will post it anyway.

Brown Creeper

Later, we saw this sparrow.  At first I thought it may be a juvenile White-crowned Sparrow, but after getting it in the computer and adjusting the lighting so I could ID it, I discovered that it is a Chipping Sparrow.  He seemed to be staring right at me.

Chipping Sparrow

We saw this Bewick’s Wren on a fence post.  They are hard to photograph, usually flitting around too quickly, to get in the view-finder, but this one co-operated nicely for me.

Bewick’s Wren on post.

Again, I apologize for the quality of my images.  Not quite up to my standards.  All three were pretty dark and shaded, and trying to brighten them up with my software, produced a bit more noise that I like.  Sometimes I can’t make up my mind, whether this blog is about photography or the birding.  If it is about birding, then I shouldn’t be concerned about the quality of the photos, as long as you can see the birds.  On the other hand…………     Ah, I think I will quit worrying about such things, and just go with the flow. 🙂

Calling all Birders -Photo ID Challenge!!!!!

Here’s the deal.  This is not a contest.  However, I have a photo of what I think is a Cooper’s Hawk.  Karen (her blog), sent me a photo of what appears to me to possibly be another Cooper’s.  However, I am not certain, so I am posting both photos here.  Now I know there are a lot of birders out there.  I would like to hear from any/or all of you to read your opinions and comments.  My photo on top.  Karen’s on bottom.

Cooper's Hawk ??? )Bob's)

What hawk??? (by Karen)

There you have it.  Based on what you see in these photos, what do you think they are.  My personal opinion is that they are either Cooper’s Hawks, or Sharp-shinned Hawks.  BTW, the bottom photo was taken in the eastern United States.  The top one, of course, photographed here in San Angelo, Texas.  Click on either of them to enlarge.  So don’t be bashful, you won’t hurt anybody’s feelings.  Just give us your opinion.

Birding Big Bend Again March 2011 – Part I

Back from our favorite haunts again.  Our stay at the Lajitas House was just great.  Large, spacious, quiet and comfortable.  We sat and watched birds and quail come up on our patio.  At night the stars were so bright it was almost blinding.

Scaled Quail on the patio

The first day, Tuesday, we went into Big Bend NP to check out some birding places.  We stopped at the ruins of Sam Neal’s house that stood over 100 years ago.  The vegetation and trees are all grown up, but there is a little shaded area that is frequented by birds of all types.  Thrashers, thrushers, sparrows, towhees. 

Common Black-hawk

While there we visited with another birder/photographer, Cindy McIntyre,  ( from Maine.  She is a Big Bend NP ranger.  She had been to Rio Grande Village, an RV camping area on the on eastern side of the park.  She told us about two rare Common Black-hawks that were nesting there.  She said the site was easy to see, as the park service had the area marked with signage, to protect the birds.

Vermilion Flycatcher

So as you would guess, on Wednesday we headed over there.  Sure enough.  We spotted one hawk almost immediately.  It was sitting on a branch in plain sight.  A great photo opportunity, and I took advantage of it.  It was also another lifer for me, number 222.  Previously, I thought I had already reached 222 but found that I had erroneously added a Purple Finch to my list, when I have actually never seen that bird.

In a nearby area, we saw several Vermilion Flycatchers moving around.  They are tiny, flighty, creatures that can’t sit one spot more than a couple of seconds, and also dificult to get close to.  However, I was able to get my 500mm with a tele-converter, mounted on a tripod, about 35 yards away.

Click on any photo so see an enlargement.

Coming soon, Part II.  I will tell you some more about the trip and our experiences.

Sparrows, Sparrows, Sparrows

Since this blog is basically about birding, and bird photography, I have been sitting here pondering what to put in my next (this) post.  Thinking back, I didn’t know a sparrow from a pigeon before I got into serious birding.  Well, I guess pigeons were bigger, right?   Anyway, now I have come to appreciate just how many species of birds there really are.  In the area where I live, according to the people that know these things, there are thirty different species of sparrows alone.

To be perfectly fair, actually they are not all sparrows.  Four of those species classified in the sparrow family are towhees, three are longspurs, and one is a junco.  That still leaves twenty-two named sparrows, just here in the Concho Valley.  There are more than fifty species including other regions of the country. 

Like any other non-birder, I thought all sparrow looked alike.  Wrong!  Since I now consider myself a birder, albeit a little new at it, I have discovered that there are really many beautiful sparrows to be seen and photographed.  You can see from the following examples.

House Sparrow

Pictured above is the common House Sparrow (Passer domesticus).  Now I ask, isn’t this a pretty little bird.  Nice rich colors of brown, with that little patch of gray on his head, and that black chest, not to be confused with the Black-throated Sparrow.

Black-throated Sparrow

The above is the afore-mentioned Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata).   Another little cutie.

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus)  Another pretty bird with distinctive markings that you can’t miss.

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla).  So these are five of my favorites.  Now when you see a sparrow, take a closer look, and you may be surprised at what you see.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Blog Changes

I just wanted you to take note of some changes to my pages, as you can see listed across the top.   I have added a page with a list some fun places to stay at and visit.  In addition, since this blog is about birding, I have also added a page of birding sites.  Just open those pages and click on the links.  And of course, my galleries page has links to my two photo albums.

As for the snow falling across my blog, it will be a short winter, as the snowfall will stop on January 4.

Happy Birding!!

Saturday Morning Birding Tour

Just a few updates about our State Park Birding monthly tour today.  The weather was a bit chilly and windy, but we still had a total of eight people.  We also had a new-comer.  Brenda Liverick mistakenly thought that today was the day for the Bison Tour.  She instead joined us for the birding.  It turned out that she enjoyed very much.

The birds were staying down in the brush, I guess because of the windy, chilly weather, but neverless our sharpeyed birders spotted quite a few.  Besides the usual Red-winged Blackbirds, finches, etc., we also spotted a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  At one point several American White Pelicans took to the air and put on a great show.

In other news, Bill Yeates sent me this great photograph of a Female House Finch that he captured at the Llano State Park bird blind.   Thanks, Bill, for sending it.

House Finch - female

I hope to see more of our local birders for the next Adult Birding Tour in January.

San Angelo Birding Trip Sat. Dec. 4

I’ve gotten behind on my postss.  This is a busy time of the year for me.  I ‘ve been trying to get some birding time in, so when Suzanne and Sid Johnson said they wanted to get together Saturday it was a welcome respite.  We started at San Angelo State Park, at the bird blind, then  headed for the boat ramp.  I think we saw around 27 species in all at the park.

Following that we head for the park near Spring Creek Marina.  Lots of Eastern Bluebirds, Orange-crowned Warblers, Eastern Phoebes, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, and several others.  I forgot to mention, that we had stopped at what we call Huntington Lake, and there were waterbirds or ducks of almost every description.  Wigeons, Ducks, Merganzers, just to name a few.

All total for the five hours we spent was 43 species according to Ann’s count.  As for photos, I didn’t get too much as I got into the birding aspect more than usual.  I don’t think that any of what we saw presented a large photograph opportunity.  However, I did come away with a nice small image of a Belted-Kingfisher and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

Beltedd Kingfisher

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Click on either image to see an enlargement.

Happy Birding!!

Goldfinches have arrived.

Ann and I spent a couple of hours doing some birding at San Angelo State Park‘s bird blind.  We saw the collection of the regular birds that stay here year round, but was surprised by this winter adult American Goldfinch (carduelis tristis).  We actually spotted two.  Also of late, we have seen a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  Soon we should start seeing Pine Siskens.

adult winter American Goldfinch

But the target of many of my searches out there continues to evade me.  I am speaking of the Northern Harrier.  Again, I almost had a great shot of it as it appeared sitting on a fence.  But before I could get the camera on it, it was gone.  I rattled off a few shots as it left, but they were just blurred streaks.  I swear I heard it’s laughter as it went away.  I am determined to get a nice frameable photograph of that cotton-pickin’ bird.  I’ll get lucky soon.

Information on the Goldfinch photo is, 1/1600 sec @ f5.6, -1/3 EV, ISO 800.  Canon 7D with Canon 100-400 lens.  Edited in Photoshop Elements, Focus Magic, Topaz DeNoise.  Click on the image to see an enlargement.

My secondary quest, besides trying to add to my life list of 218, is to photograph all of those birds.  Cindy Kilpatrick, better know to you as “missus76k” in my blogroll, asked me how many of the 218 had I photographed.  Well in doing some checking, I think I have gotten about 190 images of that 218.  Of course, some of the photos aren’t anything to write home about, as quite a few were just good enough for identification.  But, eventually, I would like to have at least an 8×10 of each. 

Happy birding!!