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.

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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.

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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.

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Bewick’s Wren

The goldfinches are starting to arrive.

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American Goldfinch

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

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

Another easily identified sparrow, the White-crowned.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!

Do You Know This Lady?? The mystery of the 1961 Yalova girl….


I am getting away from my usual subjects of nature and wildlife, to ask all of my readers in 168 countries, “Do you recognize this lady?”

Yalova Mystery Girl

It all started yesterday, when I received this sketch from one of my readers, Audra Yocum of Coweta, Oklahoma.  She was browsing a thrift store when she came across the picture.  She loves black and white pictures and decided to purchase it.  As a reader of my blog, she found a resemblance to a caricature of me that you can find in chapter 4 of my Yakkety-Sax Man page.  It tells of my musical experiences in Turkey.  She wanted to ask me if I recognized the lady.  Click HERE to read it.  Here is that sketch.

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Both caricatures were made at the same event.  I know.  I was there.  It was an event at the NCO club at Karamursel Air Force Base, about ten miles from Yalova, Turkey, which in turn, was about 60 miles west of Istanbul.  The event was a dance, and a troupe of performers from the USO had arrived to entertain.  Among them was a caricaturist that was making sketches of anyone in attendance that wanted one.  I have long forgotten his name.  That was 56 years ago.  Here is a close-up of his signature.

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I would like to believe that the lady pictured was a lady that was enjoying my saxophone music.  She is wearing her dancing shoes.  If she is alive, I would imagine that she is probably in 70s or 80s by now.

Anyway, the coincidence is so amazing.  I appreciate Audra letting me use her photo for this post.  She, like me, is interested in knowing who the lady is.  I didn’t recognize her as anyone I knew personally after all of these years.  She was probably a military wife, or girl friend.  Definitely not a child, as there were no children in attendance.

It will be interesting to see if anyone does happen to recognize her.

So, I hope you enjoyed this post, and are intrigued by the mystery.  I will get back to my regular programming soon. 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving from the Zellers


I just wanted to write a brief post to say that I am thankful for all of my readers in 168 countries.  I know that you non-U.S readeres don’t celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday, but it is special to us, as we do celebrate and give thanks for what we have.  As for my self, I am thankful that I have good health, including all of the parts that I was issued.  I still have my own knees, hips, tonsils, appendix, teeth and I have perfect eyesight except for reading.  I am missing some hair and a gallbladder, but, hey, I am 83.  You can’t expect me to be absolutely perfect.  I am also very thankful for my choice in picking a wife nearly 60 years ago.  Ann is the love of my life and my best friend.

But, really, I am so glad so many of you readers have stuck with me, and I am still welcoming new readers.  You have found that I have a quirky sense of humor, but on the other hand, you know I have a serious side, too.  As I have reached this age, I continue to have thoughts of stopping writing this blog.  I don’t know when I will write my final post, but you all will be first to know.

Ann and I continue to go out four or five times a week, seeking the enjoyment of seeing birds and wildlife, and getting more photos for your enjoyment.

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American Goldfinch

So that’s all for this post.  Time to dig into our Thanksgiving dinner.

Please click on my “Bob’s Gallery” button to see my newest and all of my photos.  If you would like to make purchases, the information is there for you.  I do appreciate all of you.

HAPPY BIRDING!!

 

HAPPY BIDRD

All in a Day’s Work


Somebody mentioned to me a few days ago, that I was good at making bird photos into a work of art.  I appreciate compliments like that, but it is all in a day’s work.  Some days are a bust when I am out looking for good photos.  On the other hand, when I have great days, it makes it all worth while.  Such was a recent day, when, although the birding was slow, the quality of what little we saw was great.

We were roaming through the local city parks, here in San Angelo.  It was cloudy, even a little foggy when we left the house.  Our first stop was at Spring Creek Park, but there wasn’t much to see.  The birds were in hiding, I guess, because of the dampness.  The fog lifted a bit as were were leaving so we headed to Middle Concho Park.  The skies brightened then although it stayed cloudy.

It made for nice even lighting.  We came upon this Vermilion Flycatcher and he was quite nice to give me some good poses.  It looked like we might have a pretty good day after all.

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Vermilion Flycatcher

This House Wren was in a brushy area near the water.

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House Wren

The most fun of all was seeing this bobcat.  In a large open area outside of the park, we had seen two bobcats from a distance.  Too far for photos, I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to get photographs.  They were both on the run, heading for the brush, so I wouldn’t have been too sucessful anyway.  We were beginning to leave the area, when I happened to look to the left into the brush.  I was thrilled to see this young Bobcat, laying there looking contented, and staring right at me.  It was one of those one-in-a-million chances.  I was about 150 feet away.  I stopped the car, turned off the engine, and proceeded to take as many photos as I wanted.  He didn’t move too much, except for opening and closing his eyes.  I surmise he had just finished a sucessful morning hunt, and was resting.  Anyway, after getting about 50 exposures, I drove away and let him sleep.  As beautiful as he was and I enjoyed watching him, there was nothing to gain by staying.  I hate to disturb or agitate any wildlife.

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Young Bobcat

After leaving that park, we decided to head for home.  However, luck was still with me, and as we rounded a bend in the road, off to the right there was a wetlands area.  In a tree overlooking the water was this beautiful Osprey.  I drove down the road further, copped a U turn, and came back, driving in the weeds on the left side of the road.  I wanted to photograph him from my drivers’ side window.

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Osprey

So, anyway, I love days like that, when I turn a lemon into lemonade.  But I have been busy since my last post, so here are a few more memorable photos that I have gotten since then.

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Lark Bunting

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American White Pelicans at O.C. Fisher Lake

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Black-throated Sparrow

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American Robin – pale adult

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Great Blue Heron

That’s all for this post.  Now, I would like to mention that Christmas is coming so how about checking out my on-line store.  Not only can you get prints of my work in any size, but also home accessories like coffee mugs, tote bags, etc., all featuring my photography.  Click on “Bob’s Gallery”  at top of this page for more information on how to purchase.

Also, I have several of my 2018 calendars left.  They make great stocking stufffers. Click here for info. https://bobzeller.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/my-2018-texas-tweeties-calendar/

More from the San Angelo State Park


The San Angelo State Park has been our most productive area in the past couple of weeks of birding.  Here are a few of my most recent images.

This Merlin was really nice to pose for me for several images.  When we spotted it, an American Kestrel was sitting on the same branch.  Upon spotting us, the kestrel immediately flew off.  The Merlin was in the act of finishing a meal, and from the looks of a yellow claw that we saw him devour, I suspect he had just finished off another kestrel.  This turned out to me one of my best photos of this species……..if I do say so myself.

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Merlin

A Curve-billed Thrasher, perched in a tree.  It was a chill morning for this one, and he didn’t feel like moving.

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Curve-billed Thrasher

The cooler weather didn’t bother this American White Pelican.  Usually they are out more in the middle of the lake, but this one was a bit closer, making for a nice photograph.

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American White Pelican

Mourning Doves are very plentiful in the park, and I usually pass them by because they are so common, but I decided that this one deserved to be seen.

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Mourning Dove

This Cactus Wren seemed to be working on it’s nearby nest.

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Cactus Wren

In one area of the park, there is what we have named our ‘warbler bush’.  It seems that we can always see a warbler, kinglet or some other small bird there.  We just need to park and watch patiently.  This time we were not disappointed and saw many of these Orange-crowned Warblers.

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Orange-crowned Warbler

It is always nice to see a Pyrrhuloxia.  Locals that can’t pronounce the name, simply call it the desert cardinal.

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Pyrrhuloxia

Click on my “Gallery” button at the top of this page to see more photos, and information for purchase.  I add more images frequently, so keep checking.  I hope you enjoyed these and would love any comments that you wish to make.  Also refer to my last post if you are interested in purchasing one of my 2018 calendars.

Happy Birding!!

My 2018 Texas Tweeties Calendar


My Texas Tweeties 2018 Calendar is now available.  My most beauatiful yet, in my estimation.  Just 27.00 including shipping.  For ordering information contact me at bobzeller@pobox.com. or comment below.  Many of you, in the past, have shown interest in obtaining prints of my work.  Now you can get 12 at a very reasonable price. 🙂

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2018 Texas Tweeties Calendar

Thank you for your  consideration.

Bob and Ann’s Great Adventure at San Angelo State Park


Ann and I are retired, as you all know.  Ann, after 38 years as office manager for the local Coca-cola Bottling Company;  me after two tours with the U.S. Air Force and several years as a self-employed business man.  Once, an owner of a lawn and landscape company and twelve years as a contractor for the San Angelo Standard-Times.  Now, even though I am retired, I am still a successful wildlife photographer, being published in several national publications.  But you can read more about my other shenanagans by clicking on many of the buttons at the top of this blog.

Now you may be wondering what we do with all of this time on our hands.  Ann is 78 years of age and I have just turned 83.  As you know we both have a love of wildlife, specifically birds at the present time.  So, since we live only three miles from San Angelo State Park, that is where we spend much of our time.

Our daily routine goes something like this.  I am usually the first to awake, around 6:00AM.  I get the coffee pot going, turn on the news to Fox and Friends, and check my iPad to see who is beating me at Words with Friends.  By 7:00, I have usually disturbed Ann enough that she awakens and joins me for another cup of coffee.

We discuss our plans for the day.  That usually includes discussing a birding trip, usually to the state park. So we decide to put off any chores that should be done around the house.  It can always be done the next day.  We get dressed, load up my cameras and assorted equipment.  She gets snacks and her bird listing note-book.  We head to Rosa’s Mexican Cafe for a breakfast burrito and taco to go.

We have an annual pass so it is economical to spend time at the state park, and we also have access to the gate combination in case we get there early.  After going through the gate, we head for one of the two boat ramps that are accessible to O. C. Fisher Lake.  There are about a dozen more ramps to the lake, but because of the extreme low level of the lake, they are about 500 yards or more from the water.  We like to park and watch for waterfowl while eating our breakfast.  We can usually get to see Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, American Coots, Great Egrets and assorted sandpipers and small sparrows.  One particular day, we were out of the car as I was trying to photograph some American White Pelicans.  Ann was a couple of feet behind me.  A Bobcat rushed through, chasing a rabbit, and almost knocked Ann off of her feet.

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Great Egret

When we have finished eating, we start our drive through the park, driving slowly at about 5 MPH.  This particular morning we decide to head for the Isabel Harte mulit-use area.  Trails, picnic tables, etc.   Taking some back roads to get there we can sometime see hawks, owls and other small birds.  One particular area we slow almost to a stop and look carefully for Verdins or Yellow-breasted Chats that have been seen.  We are always looking for that next surprise.

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Great Horned Owl

Once at the Isabel Harte area, we head for a favorite spot for warblers and other tiny birds.  It is basically just a large shrubby area.  We park so we have a good view.  With patience we can see and photographer, Orange-crowned Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Blue-gray Gnatchers, etc.  It is always great fun to try to photography these flighty tiny birds.

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Orange-crowned Warbler

After spending some time there, we reverse ourselves and head back for the other side of that area of the park.  On the way we may see Bobwhites and Greater Roadrunners.

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Greater Roadrunner

Numerous Loggerhead Shrikes.

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Loggerhead Shrike

Eventually we reach the other usuable boat ramp that I mentioned earlier.  From there we can sight American Pelicans far out on the lake.  Also there are  more coots, Ring-billed Gulls and Red-winged Blackbirds.  On occasion we have seen Peregrine Falcons streaking across the lake.  About ten years ago when there was more water in the lake, three Roseate Spoonbills arrived and spent a week.  A  rarity, as they are usually found near the gulf coast.  But that is the fun of birding.  You just never know when you might get a nice surprise show up in front of you.

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Belted Kingfisher

Our drives through the park usually take about three hours, depending on how much time I spend getting (or not getting) photographs.  We stop at the blind sometimes if there we are not too tired, but we actually have much more fun and and success just on our drives.  We then head for the house, where I download the morning’s images for editing and Ann brings her monthly listings up to date.  Then, how about a little nap. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this little narrative about a day in our lives.  Feel free to comment.  Please. 🙂  We like to hear from you.

And another year begins…….


It has been eight years since I wrote my first post to this blog.  My first article was posted in September of 2009.  In that eight years, I have written 968 posts…..this one is number 969.  Hopefully, I can reach the 1,000th soon.  My blog has been viewed 222,164 times as of this writing, reaching readers in 168 countries.

Coincidentally, I also begin my 84th year on this planet, as today is my 83rd birthday. No applause, please.  It is just another passing milestone.  I am enjoying writing this now as much as I did when first started back in September of 2009.  I never dreamed that I would get this far, but here I am.

Okay, enough about celebrating.  Here are a few photos that I captured since my last post.  I hope you enjoy.

This Belted Kingfisher was along the shoreline of Lake O. C. Fisher at San Angelo State Park.

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Belted Kingfisher

I love photographing raptors, and this Cooper’s Hawk posed nicely for me in the trees.

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Cooper’s Hawk

The Great Kiskadees are back for another winter.  They normally are out of range here in Tom Green County.  However, 3 or 4 of them arrived a year ago and stayed all of last winter near Spring Creek Park.  Now, here again on almost a year later exactly, we spotted three again.  Perhaps the same as last year.  I have no way of knowing with certainty.

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Great Kiskadee

During a drive around San Angelo State Park, this young armadillo showed off for us.

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Nine-banded Armadillo

As I said, I love photographing raptors.  This a juvenile Swainson’s Hawk.

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Swainson’s Hawk, juvenile

How about an Osprey, another raptor.

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Osprey

Egyptian Geese are not on the official American Birding Association list.  However, they are a strange looking bird.

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Egyptian Goose

Swainson’s Hawk, adult.

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Swainson’s Hawk

It is always a task, trying to photograph the tiny birds such as this Wilson’s Warbler, but very rewarding.

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Wilson’s Warbler

And who can resist these tiny, feisty American Kestrels.  They are difficult to get in my viewfinder, as they move from one spot to another quickly.

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American Kestrel

Well, I guess that is about it for this post.  I hope you enjoyed my photos.  Now I believe I will celebrate my birthday the rest of the day. 🙂

Birding Davis Mountains and Jeff Davis County.


Getting started on Monday morning before leaving, I had a doctor’s appointment to get a bi-weekly injection for what ails me.  Nothing serious, just something that has to be done every two weeks.  So after getting that out of the way, we stopped at the Mesquite Bean Grill in the Cactus Hotel for a breakfast of their fantastic Mesquite Bean Tacos and coffee.  We knew that would last us quite awhile.  So we were finally on the road at about 9:30 AM.

Our destination was the west Texas village of Fort Davis, the site of the namesake fort, which is one of best preserved frontier posts in the country.  I hope the citizens aren’t offended that I call Fort Davis a village, rather than a city.  But in my book if there aren’t any traffic lights, it is a village.  And a quaint village Fort Davis is.  I want to live there when I grow up.

So anyway, we headed out US67 west from San Angelo.  We would go through other villages: Mertzon, Barnhart, Big Lake (there is no lake there), Rankin, and McCamey.  Oh, I can’t leave out Gervin, but it is only an intersection, so if you miss the sign, you have missed Gervin.  Then we hit Interstate 10 to go through Fort Stockton, a location of ruins of another defunct frontier fort.  Then we hit the turn-off for Balmorhea, (more about that later in this post) and head for Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains.  That final leg of the trip is our favorite as we are able to watch for birds, hawks, etc.

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Red-tailed Hawk

After about a four and a half hour drive we arrived in Fort Davis.  We had munched on some light snacks on the road so we weren’t in need of a huge lunch, so we stopped at Stone Village Market.  You can get made-to-order deli sandwiches.  We opted for a pastrami on sourdough bread with all the fixin’s.  We took them with us and headed for the Davis Mountains Inn where we were going to stay for four nights.  It turned out that we were the only guests that first night.  We were so tired that after unpacking, we decided that would just rest the balance of the day.

Tuesday dawned bright, and after eating breakfast we decided to travel west on Hwy 166 to the turn-off to Hwy 505.  It had been recommended to us that along that stretch of lonely highway, many raptors could be seen, including Golden Eagles.  Along the way we saw many birds and animals, including this Pronghorned Antelope.

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Pronghorn Antelope

At a roadside park on Hwy 166, where there is usually good birding, we saw this one Summer Tanager, a female I believe.

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Summer Tanager, female

Our target bird for this day was the Golden Eagle that frequents the wide open areas along Hwy 505.  We missed the eagle but saw many Red-tailed Hawks, and some Cassin’s Kingbirds.  We vowed to come back another day to hunt for the eagle.

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Cassin’s Kingbird

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Red-tailed Hawk

On Wednesday morning we headed up to Lake Balmorhea.  We always enjoyed the drive to get there.  Up through the Davis Mountains and over Wild Rose Pass.

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Star Mountain from Wild Rose Pass

At the lake, we discovered that one of our favorite roads around the intake end, was closed, due to vandalism.  However, we were able to drive over the dam and along one side of the lake.  Here are a few of our highlights.

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Osprey, near the dam on Lake Balmorhea

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Scaled Quail

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Red-tailed Hawk

On Thursday morning, which would be our last day before heading home, we decided to look for the Golden Eagle again.  We tried to leave earlier this time, and drove directly to the desired area on Hwy 505.  This time we were in luck.  About two miles from the turnoff from Hwy 166, we came up on the eagle feasting on road-kill.  He was as startled as we were.  He flew up onto a fence post.  After checking my mirrors for traffic, I stopped the car in the middle of the road, and grabbed my camera.  I was able to get about a dozen images has he posed for me.  As I checked my mirrors again for traffic, he flew, but I missed any chance for an in-flight shot.  However, I was thrilled that I got such an opportunity from only about thirty-five yards.

But there is bad news.  I had taken an earlier shot of a dark bird in deep shadows, and had boosted my exposure by a stop and two-thirds. For you non-photographers, that means I over-exposed.  Well, I made a rookie error and forgot to change the setting back, so when I grabbed the camera for the eagle shot,  I had no time to adjust.  Hence the eagle was horribly over-exposed.  I had to try to correct it in my post-processing.  So here is the result.  Not a pretty sight, but acceptable.  You can see that the yellow bill and yellow feet are pretty washed out.

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Golden Eagle

After that we continued along the highway for another few minutes.  I then caught a few more photos.

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Broad-winged Hawk

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White-tailed Kite

It was still early in the day, so we decided to visit a friend’s place up in the mountains.  He has a bird-watching setup, complete with portable blinds and a water drip.  It was a drive of only six miles from the road entrance on Hwy 166.  But it is a pretty rough road and it took us about 30 minutes to get there.  I set up my camera in one of the blinds and got comfortable.  Here are a few highlights.

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Western Wood-Pewee

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White-breasted Nuthatch

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Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

On Friday morning we head back to San Angelo, satisfied with a fun, successful birding and photography trip.  I hope you enjoy this post as well as I enjoyed writing it.  Comments are welcome.

Happy Birding!!

Davis Mountains, here we come…….again.


Here I am again, really late with another post.  I am not lazy, I just procrastinate a lot.  So…… again, time got away from me.  Of course at my age of 83, time really gets flying……a sign that I am going downhill, I guess.   So anyway, what have I been doing the past couple of weeks, you may ask.  Well, I have been out shooting almost every day.  The fall migration is getting started, the weather is beautiful, not as hot, and it is fun to be outside.  It keeps me young.  I need that.

As for the title of this post, Ann and I are leaving Monday, the 11th, for Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains.  We will be doing a lot of photography in the area from an altitude of 5,000 feet to 8,000 feet.  We will be staying at the beautiful Davis Mountains Inn near Fort Davis.  It is a nice comfortable Bed & Breakfast.  We will be returning on Friday the 15th, hopefully with a bunch of photographs for a future post.

I have mustered a good bunch of photos since the last post, of course.  I will present a few of them for you here.  Just scroll down, and if you get to the end, 🙂 , there is a link to my Photo Gallery.  Click on any of these to see enlargements.

Cooper’s Hawk.

Yellow Warbler

Red-tailed Hawk

Bell’s Vireo

Swainson’s Hawk

Curve-billed Thrasher

Ash-throataed Flycatacher

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow-breasted Chat

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Northern Cardinal, female

Least Flycatcher

Wilson’s Warbler

Great-crested Flycatcher

Red-tailed Hawk

Bewick’s Wren

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

I hope you have enjoyed this post and the photos.  To see more of my photographs, click this link to my on-line Photo Album.