Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Before I start, I wish to welcome all of the new readers that have subscribed to my blog in the past several months.  One of them, in particular, caught my interest.  Duane Sugarbaker, of my hometown of Muskegon, Michigan recognized my former street address there at 913 Fleming Avenue on this image inserted in my last post.  He well should have, as he lived at 901 of the same street.L1000216-band-card He and I and my brothers were childhood friends back in the ’40s.  Talk about a small world.  I haven’t seen him in around 65 years.  Duane, tell all the guys from our sandlot baseball team, hello. 🙂

This blog now has 1,472 subscribed readers, plus hundreds more who haven’t subscribed, in 150 countries.  It has received, since the beginning about four years ago, 111,295 hits.  Rats, I was going to give a prize for the 110,124th hit, but it got away from me.  Sorry about that. 🙂

Okay, now about today’s birding.  Ann and I decided to see if there were any birds about at Spring Creek and Middle Concho Parks.  We spent about two hours, and only saw 17 different species.  So much for the mid-summer doldrums.  Here is one photo of a Black Vulture wandering around in the grass.

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

However, one of the highlights was spotting a Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  They usually keep themselves hidden.  This one did so, partially, but I was unable to get a decent shot.  So I will show these images from my archives.  I don’t think I ever blogged about them, anyway.  If I did it was probably several years ago.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

They perch pretty much upright on the branch, usually with their bill pointing upward.  Their white breast stands out when you are looking for them in the trees.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

I don’t usually publish photos with birds and their tail cut off, but it didn’t hurt the composition in this photo, I don’t think.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

I hope you enjoyed the photos and the narrative.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Coming this weekend, Part III of my on-going Yakkety-Sax Man epic.  If you haven’t done so check out Part I and Part II.

Also, I have now sold nearly 100 copies of my book “Birds, Beasts and Buttes”.  They are still available from my Blurb publisher on the right side of this page.

Birding at Lake Nasworthy

Our two favorite spots at Lake Nasworthy to bird and to photograph birds, are at two of the parks there, Spring Creek and Middle Concho.  This past Sunday morning Ann and I decided to take in the nice weather and visit both places.  It was enroute home from those places that we encountered the Black Vultures that I featured in yesterday’s post.

We entered Spring Creek Park first, and we didn’t see many birds early on.  However, we saw about seventy Wild Turkeys further down the road.  They were drinking from the creek, then heading back into the nearby woods.  We didn’t see any of the herons or water birds that we usually come upon, but because of the beautiful weather, there were numerous fisherman in their boats, trawling along the water.  That probably spooked the wildlife somewhat.  But that is okay, as the park is for everybody.

But we persisted, continued driving slowly through both parks.  We finally came upon an area in Middle Concho Park, where amongst the trees there was more bird activity.  I stopped the car, got my camera out and set up a tripod in a small clearing where I would have a good view of nearby trees.  I was using my Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens with a 1.4 tele-converter giving me a working focal length of 700mm.

The trees were still pretty dense, so I could hear many birds, and see them flying between the trees, but I wasn’t very lucky at getting many photo ops.  I did finally get these two “keepers”.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker with pecan

This female Golden-fronted Woodpecker was making herself heard, then she flew up onto this dead limb, with a pecan in her mouth. Exposure 1/2500 sec. @f8 with ISO 400 and aperture priority.

Eastern Bluebird

Swinging my camera around on my Wimberley gimbal tripod head about 45 degrees, there was a flurry of activity and I spotted about a half dozen Eastern Bluebirds.  They were in a shaded area, and one of them settled on a visible branch.  Exposure was 1/1000 sec. @f8 plus 1/3 EV – ISO 400.  If I would have had the time, I probably would have opened up the lens a bit more, but with a little help in post processing I managed to get it lightened enough.

From the birding aspect, during the 2 – 3 hours we spent there we managed to see these 24 species:

So, all in all, we had a fun morning.  The weather was gorgeous, and it was wonderful just to get out and enjoy nature.  Click on either image to see an enlargement.

Those cute Black Vultures

Okay, so Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus), aren’t so cute.  I just said that so you would read this post.  Pretty sneaky, eh?  Anyway, Katie, (her blog), loves the Turkey Vultures and I had promised to do a post about them.  Well, I’m sorry, Katie, but they, the Turkey types are gone for awhile, so maybe you can learn to love these. 🙂  For the un-informed, turkey vultures have a red head and the black vultures are, well, all black.

Ann and I were at the Spring Creek and Middle Concho parks that are near Lake Nasworthy, doing some local birding when we came across these.  The light was pretty good, partly cloudy, so I could get some shots that were not over-run with harsh shadows.  They had been feeding on a nearby armadillo carcass  Their fast-food place is called Carrion Carry-out.  Okay, old joke, courtesy of Gary Larson, sorry. 🙂

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Even though the light was better, it still is difficult to bring out the details in the overall blackness of their coat when they are back-lit.

Photo Info:  Canon EOS 7d with 100-400mm lens, aperture priority, spot metering and auto ISO on all images.  The first was created at an earlier date, the bottom two were photographed Sunday morning.

Photo 1:  1/640 sec. @ f10 – plus 1/3 EV – ISO 320

Photo 2:  1/640 sec. @ f7.1 – plus 1/3 EV – ISO 800

Photo 3:  1/640 sec. @ f7.1 – ISO 1250

Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Vultures Over West Texas

We, who live out here in west Texas, know who they are and where they live.  They are there in the skies, on the ground, and nesting in the trees.  Most of all they are most familiar when they are eating at their favorite fast food place, the “Carrion Carryout”, aka your nearby highway. 

Turkey Vulture


But to other folks, they are an amazement.  We had family visitors a couple of years ago from Northern Michigan.  Seeing Turkey Vultures was one of their highlights of their visit.  They were also enthralled with our numerous Jackrabbits.  As you can see, our relatives are easily entertained.

Juvenile Turkey Vulture


There are two types of vultures around here.  The Turkey Vulture (cathartes aura), and the Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus).  The most common is the Turkey Vulture, easily distinguished by the red head on the adule.  The juvenile’s head is more gray.  The Black Vulture is, of course, all black, except for the wrinkled grayish head.  The Turkey Vulture can find it’s food by smell.

Turkey Vulture Warming it's Wings


In the early mornings, the vultures can be seen sitting in the open, maybe on fences or trees, with their wings spread to the morning sun, warming them to take flight.  They have been known to show some intelligence, such as when feeding on their road-kill, they do have the sense to fly off to avoid being struck by on-coming traffic.  Ann and I once observed a vulture, who was eating in the traffic ahead of us, instead of flying, he actually dragged his kill off the highway to get it out of the way.

I’m sorry to say that I do not have an image of a Black Vulture on file.  To see these above enlarged, just click on each image.

Happy Birding!!