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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A Happy Cloudy Day…..What??


I awoke Sunday morning, and to my pleasant surprise the skies were cloudy.  Now, you may say what’s the big deal with that.  Well, I will tell you.  With the overcast skies, the light will be great for photography.  With cloudy skies, you avoid harsh shadows or bright hot spots that you get on bright sunny days.  Having said that, most of my photography is done on those bright sunny days.  Here in west Texas, if I had to wait for those cloudy days, my cameras would lay collecting dust.  Like the song says, “…and the skies are not cloudy all day……”

The reason for my happiness.  I had decided that since I haven’t been feeling too well, I would just go sit in the blind at San Angelo State Park for an hour or two.  Now that blind; the way it is situated, has terrible light in the morning sun.  Trees break up the light into either bright sun or dark shadows.  Not many areas of open shade.  To get any photos of birds, they usually are bright on one side and dark on the other.  In other words, it is difficult to get a nice photo with well-balanced light.

But even away from the blind, I would prefer cloudy days over sunny days.  Nice even light on all subjects and saturated color.  Now I am speaking as a bird photographer.  I am not looking for nice blue skies, as that is not a necessity for bird photos.  For landscapes and scenics, well that is a different subject altogether.

All of the photos that you see here in this post were photographed on that cloudy Sunday morning.

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Yellow Warbler

This Yellow Warbler surprised us when it made an appearance in a nearby tree.  It is migrating from the south of Mexico and heading for it’s summer residence in middle United States.

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Northern Bobwhite

This Northern Bobwhite just wandered in from some nearby brush area.  Notice no harsh light from the rocky background.

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Northern Cardinal

Normally it would be difficult to get nice even light on this Northern Cardinal.  The reds really glare in open bright sunshine.

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Mourning Dove

For some reason or other, I usually pass up photos of doves as they are so plentiful, but the overcast light brought out the nice colors.

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House Sparrow

The same goes for this bird.  I have never seen a House Sparrow look so beautiful.

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Curve-billed Thrasher

I love this mean-looking bird.  There’s a new sheriff in town

These photos were all shot at an ISO of 1600.  Shutter speed was about 1/1000 sec. with the aperture wide open.  Canon 7D Mk II with a Tamron 150-600mm Gen 2 zoom lens.  Cropping and post editing with Photoshop CS5.

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!!!

 

Raptors ‘R’ Us – Part II


Okay, getting back to my chatter about raptors……..  I believe I left off with discussing the Red-tailed Hawks.  I might as well add this photo that I captured a couple days ago, after I published part I.

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Red-tailed Hawk

Another hawk that is similar to the Red-tailed, is the Swainson’s Hawk.  In fact, when I got into birding and was new, I often confused the two.  They are a stately bird.  That dark bib is one of my favorite markers for this specie.

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Swainson’s Hawk

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Swainson’t Hawk

I love watching the Northern Harrier.  Some people refer to him as the Grey Ghost. It hunts by flying low over the grasslands.  It’s eyes seemingly never leave the ground.  I have found them very difficult to photograph, but in truth, I have had few opportunites to do so.  When I do see one, it usually takes me by surprise, as it flies by.  However, I am proud of this photo that I captured on a trip to the Davis Mountains.  I spotted it from my car as it was streaking across the land.  I stopped the car, and caught it as it turned around and made a return flyby.  Not one of my best technically, but I do like the composition.  It is readily identified by that large white spot on it’s rear.

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Northern Harrier on the hunt.

One raptor that is rarely seen here in the Concho Valley is the Crested Caracara.  Sometimes known locally as a Mexican Eagle.  It is more familiar in south and central Texas.  It is a peculiar looking bird, and it sometimes can be seen hanging out with the vultures, eating road-kill along the highways.  I did get a few photos while visiting our friends at Uvalde, Texas.  He is not wearing a toupee.

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Crested Caracara

Another hawk that favors the southern part of the state, is the Harris’s Hawk.  I was able to capture several images of this bird when visiting Uvalde.  It seemed that it was everywhere.  Of course, as usual, I was hunting them from the car.

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Harris’s Hawk

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Harris’s Hawk

There are two hawks that confuse birders and cause great debates about identification of the two.  I am talking about the Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk.  They are very similar.  I will offer a photo of each here.  The Cooper’s has the black-cap on a flattish shaped head.  Also the eyes are set forward more.  The Sharp-shinned lacks the black cap and has a more round head shape.  Even then, I imagine that I will get letters disputing my IDs.  I am definitely no expert, but this is my story and I am sticking to it. 🙂

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Cooper’s Hawk.

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Sharp-shinned Hawk

The Red-shouldered is a slightly larger bird.  It is easily identified with that red area on the shoulder.  This one was photographed at the Hummer House Bird Sanctuary in Christoval, Texas.

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Red-shouldered Hawk

The White-tailed Hawk is one that I know very little about.  It usually lives in far southeast Texas.  However, I photographed this one near Uvalde.  A friend helped me with the identification.

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White-tailed Hawk

Before I forget, I must include the Osprey, a fish-eating raptor.

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Osprey

Getting into some of the smaller hawks, I have seen and photographed a Merlin several times at San Angelo State Park.  At only ten inches tall, they still look formidable.  You can see that look of innocence, though.  Here are two of my favorite photos of one.

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Merlin

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Merlin

Ah, my definite favorite of the tiny hawks is the American Kestrel.  Beautiful marking.  A very feisty raptor that can sometimes act benign and easy to photograph, or often as not, give me a merry chase through the countryside.  It depends on his mood.  This particular image is one of the latter.  I was in a mini-van at the time several years ago, driving through San Angelo State Park.  Ann was with me, and this little bird moved from tree to tree, finally stopping and giving me nice views of his tail feathers.

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American Kestrel

Finally, I am going to end this raptor series with one of the fastest falcons on the planet.  We were at San Angelo State Park, watching the brush for some warblers, when something flashing by caught my eye.  It zipped past some trees and out of sight with great speed.  I told Ann, I just have to go see if I can see if and where that bird might have  landed.  She started to protest, but I had the keys and was driving.  The effort paid off, as we didn’t go far.  It had landed atop a picnic table shelter.   I was able to get shots from afar, but since it didn’t move, I was able to maneuver in closer with the car.  It continued to sit as I took several photos.  I discovered then that it was a young bird.

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Peregrine Falcon

Here is an adult that I photographed a few years back.

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Peregrine Falcon

This concluded my 2-part series about the raptors of the Texas bird world.  There are a few more species, but as of this date, I have yet to see or photograph.  When I do, you will be the first to know. 🙂

So on this date, December 31, 2017, I want to wish everybody a fantastic Happy New Year and best wishes for a great 2018.

Happy Birding!!!