Birding days are here again……

Finally after several days of chilly, undesirable weather, today was a great one.  After a great breakfast with friends, and with Ann getting the grocery shopping done, we were off to the local parks to see what we have been missing for the past week.

We were not disappointed.  From the birding aspect, we saw some 40 species.  We added three to our “Big Year” list, getting up to a new total of 93.  As you know, our 2014 goal is 210.  Will we make it, only time will tell.  It really doesn’t matter, as the fun is in the hunt.

We got a message from another friend that said there was an American White Pelican in the Middle Concho River.  We saw actually about a dozen of them near the spillway at the Twin Buttes dam.  I got several good photos of them.

Northern Pelican

American White Pelican

American Pelicans being photo-bombed by a Ringed-bill Gull.

American White Pelicans being photo-bombed by a Ringed-bill Gull.

We also saw our first Greater Yellowlegs of the year.  I was surprised it took so long for us to see one of these.  Usually there are more of them around.  This one decided to pose on a pedestal of his choosing.

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Amidst all of the action, a pair of American Coots were taking a leisurely Saturday afternoon cruise.

American Coots

American Coots

So it was nice to have a nice warm, (75 degree) afternoon to go birding again.  The forecast is about the same for tomorrow, so we may go out again, because Monday brings another cold front.  But they say spring is just around the corner, so we will be checking the corners.

Big Year list additions:

#91  Inca Dove

#92  Greater Yellowlegs

#93  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Click on any image to see an enlargement, and enjoy.

Amazing After Easter Birding Images

Tuesday dawned as a beautiful day.  Winds calm, temperature balmy.  A perfect day to get out and do some early birding.  A friend of mine wanted to go birding for the first time, to see what this hobby/pastime was all about.  I will simply call him John Smith as that is his real name.  I picked him up at his house about 8:45AM and away we went.  I took him on the usual tour that Ann and always make.  Ann, by the way, had to stay home and catch up on wifely chores, laundry, ironing, cleaning and the like.

Osprey in tree.

Osprey in tree.

We headed for Middle Concho Park and before we got there we had already seen about 7 species, including the Osprey pictured above, sitting on a tree branch overlooking a pond near Lake Nasworthy.  I think it was the same Osprey that I had photographed a few days ago, as it was on or near the same branch, but positioned slightly different for a better exposure.  (Click on any picture to see an enlargement.)

Ped-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Inside the park, we were surprised that the parks department had already had the place cleaned up from the hordes of people that cluttered the place over the Easter weekend.  We immediately saw plenty of birds, woodpeckers, grackles and even a Ruby-crowned Kinglet flitting in a small Live Oak.  Along the shoreline we saw the above pictured Pied-billed Grebe.  I love those little guys.  They seem to be smiling and having a good time.  A little farther along we saw the first of the season, for me, some Blue-winged Teals.

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

"The water sure is cold.""And deep, too."

“The water sure is cold.”
“And deep, too.”

We then proceed to leave Middle Concho Park and head over to Spring Creek Park.  It is actually just across the river, but with no bridge, you have to drive an approximate 7 mile trip around the lake.

Vermilion Flycatcher in tree.

Vermilion Flycatcher in mesquite tree.

Will driving in that park, we saw a Vermilion Flycatcher in front of us.  I didn’t have room, or the time, to maneuver the car so this photo was taken through the car.  I now am driving a brand new Ford Escape, and for some reason or other I had an easier time of getting a good focus through the glass.

Wilson;'s Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe

We proceeded to get a little closer to the shoreline, and as I drove, I told John that it would be nice to see a Wilson’s Snipe, since the habitat in that area was shallow and muddy.  Sure enough, I had hardly spoken when we spotted two of them.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

As if seeing the snipes was surprising enough, just a few minutes later, we saw thes Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.  So we had a really fun day.  John said he was hooked on birding and is chomping at the bit to do it again.  We ended up seeing a total of 36 species.  If you are interested, here are all of them listed.

  1. Pied-billed Grebe
  2. Ring-necked Duck
  3. European Starling
  4. Great Blue Heron
  5. Killdeer
  6. American Coot
  7. Blue-winged Teal
  8. Double-crested Cormorant
  9. House Finch
  10. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  11. White-winged Dove
  12. Mourning Dove
  13. Osprey
  14. Red-winged Blackbird
  15. Curve-billed Thrasher
  16. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  17. Chipping Sparrow
  18. Black Vulture
  19. Neotropic Cormorant
  20. Black-bellied Whistling Duck
  21. Wilson’s Snipe
  22. Wild Turkey
  23. Mallard
  24. Northern Shoveler
  25. Cinnamon Teal
  26. Gadwall
  27. Belted Kingfisher
  28. Northern Mockingbird
  29. Northern Cardinal
  30. Vermilion Flycatcher
  31. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  32. Red-tailed Hawk
  33. Barn Swallow
  34. Rock Wren
  35. Swainson’s Hawk
  36. Great-tailed Grackle

Images from a perfect day…..

Saturday began as a beautiful day.  It’s hard to beat 70 degrees and almost no wind around here.  I decided to try to get some images of some more birds at Middle Concho Park.  We went back to that brushy area along the perimeter of the park.  I was rewarded with a Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus).  It was the first I had seen this year.  But they have been around all winter, so they have evaded me, or I just wasn’t looking in the right places.  They will probably be gone by mid-April.  It was flitting in and out of the brush, and stopped momentarily on the barbed wire.

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

Across the river, there were about 25 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, (Dendrocygna autumnalis).  They were pretty spread out along the shore and in the water so I could only include these two in the frame.  At the distance, I used my Canon EOS 7d with 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  It is also heavily cropped.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Finally, this Northern Mockingbird, the state bird of Texas, appeared alongside of the car.  Couldn’t resist taking the shot.  Almost full frame.  My 100-400mm hand-held lens was perfect for this image.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Neither of these last two images would qualify as some of my best, as they are just a little more than grab shots.  But it was just great to get into the great outdoors.  Actually, we saw about 34 different species of birds, but as it happens most of the time ,they are on the move in the trees or making a fast flyby.  Just spotting a bird, does not equate to getting an image.

Just give a little whistle………..

We ran across a bunch of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, (Dendrocygna autumnalis), yesterday at Middle Concho Park.  There were probably about twenty-five of them, just sauntering along by the river.  They were whistling, too.  Really.  They seemed happy.  I got several shots of them before I went on my way.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Since I didn’t know how to whistle along with them, I decided to let them alone and continue downstream.  Or was it upstream.  Anyway, I was watching for the pair of Wood Ducks that I had seen a few days ago.  They were nowhere to be seen.  However, I got another image of a Great Egret to share with you.

Great Egret

More ducks and other water birds are starting to arrive from the north and I saw some Least Sandpipers and also I got this image of a Greater Yellowlegs, (Tringa melanoleuca).

Greater Yellowlegs

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

Whistling visitors to San Angelo

On Friday, Ann, I, and Jodie Wolslager decided we were going to ignore the 100 degree-plus  heat and spend the day doing some birding and photography.  Jodie had just purchased a new Manfrotto tripod and a Wimberley gimbal head, and was anxious to give botha trial run.

We headed for Spring Creek  Park first, spent a little time there, then after that we went to Middle Concho Park.  Both parks are adjacent to Lake Nasworthy.  The Chamber of Commerce personnel were at the lake, getting ready for the annual drag boat races, so it was difficult to reach some of our favorite areas.

However, we did come across these Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.  Though not a rarity, they are not here in great numbers, preferring the eastern part of the state.  Unfortunately, at the location of the ducks, there was also a proliferation of trash.  The first photo shows the original image.  The second is my edited version, more tightly cropped and missing the garbage.

un-edited original

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks - edited

Here are the pertinent photographic particulars.  You will notice that I reduced the EV exposure by a minus 1/3.  That was to tone down the sun-drenched rocks behind the ducks.  I cloned out the trash items in Photoshop CS5.

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens with 1.4 tele-converter
  • 1/400 sec @ f16 – minus 1/3 EV adjustment
  • ISO 400
  • Lens focal distance  700mm
  • Partial metering
  • Aperture priority
  • Camera mounted on Manfrotto tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

I hope you enjoyed the photos.  Click on either one to see an enlargement.

Another one for the life list……

Back in the spring, I think I had 187 birds on my life list, and I remember saying that I wanted to make 200 by the end of the year.  Being the novice that I am, I thought that was a reasonable goal.  Well, heck, today I registered number 214.  Gee whiz, and there are still two months to go.

Ann and I were able to spend an extra few hours at O. C. Fisher Lake this morning.  We have been busy with some other tasks so our birding was put on the back burner for a few days. 

Anyway, at the boat ramp I had set up my camera with the 500mm lens on it.  Ann had her spotting scope on her tripod.  She looked at an adjacent shoreline and exclaimed that she had spotted a Black-bellied Whistling Duck.  It was pretty far away.  I could see a bit of it through my camera lens, so I tried to get an image.  After bringing it home, and downloading it to the computer, then looking at Sibley’s book, I found that it was a Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons).  Here is the photograph, taken from about a quarter-mile away.

Greater White-fronted Goose

In addition while we were there, we spotted winter migratory new comers Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) and Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna).

Loggerhead Shrike

Eastern Meadowlark

I hope you have enjoyed the photos.  Click on either one for an enlargement. 

Happy birding!

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

The beautiful weather is still hanging around San Angelo, so it gave me a chance to get out and around for a few hours.  Ann and I went to a park out near Red Bluff to see what was around.  On the way out, Sue Oliver caught

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

sight of us and chased us down in her little red truck.  She told us the location of some Black-bellied Whistling Ducks near a public boat ramp.  We followed her directions and sure enough there they were, about 50 of them.  But they were actually in the yard of one of the residents of the area.  It turned out that I was acquainted with the man and he let me onto his lake shore property to photograph the ducks.  One of the photos is here.  It was the first time I had seen a Black-bellied Whistling Duck up close.  And they really do whistle.


We continued to the park to do a little late afternoon birding.  The previous day Jodie Wolslager had been with us and we saw a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, a Ladder-backed Woodpecker, a Belted Kingfisher, European  Starlings and several sparrows, and this cute Pyrrhuloxia pictured here.