A Pre-Valentine’s Day Post

I am getting back into my routine since returning from the Big Bend.  The weather is moving up and down like a Disney roller-coaster.  93° last Saturday.  Maybe 45° today.  No matter, I try to get out for an hour or two, or three nearly every day.  The birding is improving, but having said that, it will probably be another wait for the spring birds to arrive.  But let me show you the photos I have gotten since my last post.  As usual, click on any image to see some nice enlargements.

Here in San Angelo we do have American Robins pretty regularly, but this year it seems there many, many more than in the past.  I see them almost everywhere I go.

American Robin - 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0,7 EV, ISO 3200, 450mm

American Robin – 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0,7 EV, ISO 3200, 450mm

This House Finch and the above robin were photographed early in the morning at the same darkish location, which accounted for the high ISO of 3200.  As you can see, they are sitting on the same branch.

House Finch, female - 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, +0,7 EV, ISO 3200, 550mm.

House Finch, female – 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, +0,7 EV, ISO 3200, 550mm.

I love to photograph the Northern Cardinals.  They are so photogenic, it is hard to get a bad image.

Northern Cardinal - 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 3200, 450mm

Northern Cardinal – 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 3200, 450mm

Loggerhead Shrike, AKA ‘the butcherbird’.  They love to impale their prey on a thorn or barbed wire before consuming them.

Loggerhead Shrike - 1/640 sec. @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 200, 600mm.

Loggerhead Shrike – 1/640 sec. @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 200, 600mm.

The Belted Kingfishers are not innocent either.  They dive and hit the water at about 100MPH, stabbing their fish, and giving themselves a nasty headache.

Belted Kingfisher, female. 1/640 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV, ISO 400, 600mm.

Belted Kingfisher, female. 1/640 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV, ISO 400, 600mm.

This Carolina Wren gave me a nice pose early one morning.

Carolina Wren - 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 640, 600mm.

Carolina Wren – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 640, 600mm.

Last week one day, we ventured out to about a dozen miles west of Eldorado, where this Burrowing Owl was making it’s home in a culvert.  When we arrived, we saw from about 100 yards down the road.  He was standing looking our way, like he was waiting for us to show up.  As we neared he jumped into the culvert, and turned and peeked out to look our way.  Of about 100 images this was one of my personal favorites.  My camera and lens gave me an excellent quality file to work with, and I was able to crop close and give you this portrait.

Burrowing Owl - 1/1600 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 400, 600mm.

Burrowing Owl – 1/1600 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 400, 600mm.

One day at San Angelo State Park ann spotted this Merlin off to the right of the car.  I only had time to shoot across Ann’s lap through her window.  The early morning gave me some good light.

Merlin - 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 1000, 600mm.

Merlin – 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 1000, 600mm.

Before we left the state park, we spotted this Red-tailed Hawk perched.  As I was starting to shoot, from about80 yards away, it decided to take flight.  I was ready, and I filled the frame with my lens.

Red-tailed Hawk - 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 320, 600mm.

Red-tailed Hawk – 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 320, 600mm.

I hope you enjoyed this post and all of the photographs.  I am working on adding images to my FineArtamerica store where you can buy prints and other items with my photography.

You may want to start a collection of my coffee mugs with birds or some of my landscape images.  They make fine gifts.  To browse and/or purchase, Click HERE.

Burrowing Owl and other stuff.

Drizzly, chilly and over-all a gray day.  So it is a good day to get caught up on my blog.  We have been getting out pretty regular so I did get some new photos to post.  The highlight of the week was getting to see a Burrowing Owl.  A friend had spotted one a few miles west of Eldorado.  He gave us directions and we drove down on Thursday to see if we could locate it.  Sure, enough, it was where he said it would be.  We had difficulty seeing him a first as he was behind a road culvert, just peeking his head over to see what we were up to.  Here is my first image.  Click on it and the following photos to see enlargements.

Burrowing Owl peeking at me.

Burrowing Owl peeking at me.

We stayed in the car, using it as a blind. I was only about twenty feet away.  The owl eventually started exposing himself so I could get more photographs.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

The last one may be my favorite, although I took many photographs, about one hundred.  It was hard to resist.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Now for the other ‘stuff’.  Back here in town, at Spring Creek Park.  Again, we were out there early, with our coffee and burritos.  This Orange-crowned Warbler was one of the first to make an appearance.

Orange-crowned Warbler. 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

Orange-crowned Warbler. 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

Then a Fox Sparrow.

Fox Sparrow - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +0.3, ISO 1600

Fox Sparrow – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +0.3, ISO 1600

Back down by the water, this Marsh Wren emerged from the reeds.

Marsh Wren - 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 3200.

Marsh Wren – 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 3200.

A few minutes later, the shy, elusive Common Yellowthroat decided to let himself be seen.  It is such a cute little bird, only about three inches long.

Common Yellowthroat - 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 3200.

Common Yellowthroat – 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 3200.

That’s about it for the photos this week.  You can buy prints and other merchandise featuring my photography here at FineArtAmerica.  Or click the link under my Galleries in the right side of this page.  I have added the photograph of the Burrowing Owl.  Available in many of the gifts, including a nice coffee mug.  Just click on the image you like, and a menu will appear with a list items for purchase.  I would certainly appreciate your business.  If you have any questions, e-mail me at bobzeller@pobox.com.

Birding Bitter Lake NWR and Roswell, New Mexico

Ann and I decided to take off a couple of days and head to Roswell, New Mexico.  We had read about Linda Rockwell’s visit to the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge and had also read about it.  We left early Monday morning and headed northwest.   We had about 200 miles to the Texas/New Mexico state line, then about another 100 miles from there to Roswell.  We were hoping to see some new wildlife along the way, because although we have lived in Texas for 50 years we had never made it to that area, the western part of the panhandle.

After hitting the state line, we headed west on highway 380.  We were somewhat bored with the scenery.  A lot of flat farming type of land, and nothing growing taller that six feet, or at least it felt like that anyway.  About 45 mile east of Roswell we came upon a dead tree on the right side of the road, and in it was an adult Swainson’s Hawk sitting on a nest with a baby.

Swainson’s Hawk on nest with chick.

From there we continued on west.  John English, a friend in Abilene had told me about a highway rest stop a few miles further on.  We found it at about 40 miles east of Roswell.  He said that it was like an oasis in the desert, and that was about right.  There were a lot of birds there, mostly a lot of Western Kingbirds, but there were many others in the brush along a large chain fence.  Unfortunately, a maintenance crew was busy working and they had a noisy generator going that was keeping the birds away.  We did spot a gorgeous Western Tanager, but it was gone as fast as it arrived and I did not get a chance to get a photograph.  John had also told me about a Burrowing Owl that he knew I could find in Clovis, New Mexico.  Clovis was about 100 miles to the north.  Apparently John didn’t get a chance to see the Burrowing Owls in Roswell that I told you about in my previous post.  Sorry, John.  On that note, here is an image that I got of two owl chicks that were sitting on one of the prairie dog mounds.  I took if from quite a distance, so the quality isn’t real great.  You saw my adult images in that previous post

Burrowing Owl chicks on prairie dog mound.

We arrived in Roswell about 1:00PM, forgetting that we would gain an hour, traveling from the CST time zone into the MST zone.  So actually, by Roswell’s clock we were there about noon.  We didn’t want to try to check in to our room yet, so we investigated the Bottomless Lake State Park nearby.  It was hot and dry there, as some of the little lakes there were empty from the drought.  However, one large one was pretty neat.  It had been improved to provide a large swimming area and visitor center.  We didn’t loiter as we were just checking it out for later journeys.

American Robin

We had reservations at the Enchanted Farm Retreat, a bed & breakfast in Roswell.  It was at the edge of town, but felt like it was further away.  Very quiet, a large pond surrounded by trees and shrubs contain lots of birds.  Blackbirds, doves, robins, swallows, etc.  Before I forget, it was Linda Rockwell, again, that recommended this lovely place.  There was a large porch attached that ran all around the cottage on three sides.  We ended up spending most of our late afternoons and evenings sitting out there watching birds and just relaxing.  I might add that the relaxing was accompanied with a little “toddy” and a batch of nachos. 🙂

Barn Swallow

Susan and Michael Richardson, the people that owned and ran the place are indeed great people.  Their service was top-notch.  The refrigerator was well stocked with food so we were pretty well fixed up.  On Wednesday, Michael did take Ann and I, and another friend of his, Steve Smith, on a little birding tour.  I referred to that in my previous post.  It was on that little tour that we saw, in addition to those Burrowing Owls, this Swainson’s Hawk.

Swainson’s Hawk

But of course, I have been getting ahead of myself.  Our main objective on the trip was to visit Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

We woke early on Tuesday morning, so we could get there early before it started getting too hot.  It was only about 7 miles from town and we arrived there a little past 7:30AM.  The visitors’ center was closed so we just started taking the driving tour.  It is well marked and it is an approximate eight mile drive.

The first part of it was rather void of any avian wildlife to speak of.  We saw a distant dead tree with a Great Horned Owl perched in the top of it.  That tree was probably the tallest thing in the area.  That is not meant as a derogatory remark.  It is just the nature of the refuge.  It is an area of marshy wetlands, that shelter many types of water birds, etc.  However, most of the areas were pretty dry with no water.  Upon visiting with the rangers later on, they told that they had drained a lot of the ponds to assist in the making of some satellite imagery.  Why that was, they didn’t explain.

Western Meadowlark

We eventually came upon some larger bodies of shallow water, and saw many species of water birds.  Here are a few select images of some of them.

Black-necked Stilt

American Avocet – sleeping

White Ibis

A few of the images were shot from a distance away, so the quality is a bit poor in them.  The White Ibis, we found out, was an unusual sighting for the area, as was a Least Tern that was seen.  So many of the species were so far away, it was only with a scope that we could see them clearly.  By the way, click on any of the images to see much larger enlargements.

During the two full days that we spent in the area, we saw a total of 50 different species.  Here is a complete list, if you are interested.  We didn’t keep a count of each specie, but I will say that there was on one each of the White Ibis and Least Tern.

  1. Mississippi Kite
  2. Northern Mockingbird
  3. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  4. Western Kingbird
  5. Northern Cardinal
  6. Common Raven
  7. Turkey Vulture
  8. Chihuahuan Raven
  9. Swainson’s Hawk
  10. Western Tanager
  11. House Sparrow
  12. Greater Roadrunner
  13. Barn Swallow
  14. Red-winged Blackbird
  15. Black-chinned Hummingbird
  16. Eurasian Collared Dove
  17. Lesser Nighthawk
  18. House Finch
  19. Great Horned Owl
  20. Mourning Dove
  21. Lark Sparrow
  22. Western Meadowlark
  23. Blue Grosbeak
  24. Great Blue Heron
  25. Black-necked Stilt
  26. Killdeer
  27. White-faced Ibis
  28. White Ibis
  29. Black-crowned Night Heron
  30. Snowy Egrets
  31. Least Tern
  32. Snowy Plover
  33. American Avocet
  34. Blue-winged Teal
  35. Lesser Yellowlegs
  36. American Robin
  37. Burrowing Owl
  38. Purple Martin
  39. Black Phoebe
  40. Common Grackle
  41. White-winged Dove
  42. Scaled Quail
  43. American Kestrel
  44. Great-tailed Grackle
  45. Cave Swallow
  46. Bobwhite
  47. Gadwall
  48. Ruddy Duck
  49. Northern Shoveler
  50. Red-tailed Hawk

The Burrowing Owl – Roswell, NM

Ann and I got back from Roswell, New Mexico late yesterday, Thursday, afternoon.  It was a fun three days.  Our purpose was to bird and photograph Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge.  I will have more on that in a day or two, but I wanted to share with you one of the highlights, and it took place in downtown Roswell, NM.

We had visited Bitter Lake NWR on Tuesday, but on Wednesday morning, Michael Richardson, one of the owners of the Enchanted Farm Bed & Breakfast, where we were staying,  took us on a little tour around the area.  Driving through one area of the city, we passed a little prairie dog village.  There were many Black-tailed Prairie Dogs scurrying around, but what caught my attention were several Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia), standing on some of the mounds, enjoying the early morning sun.  I had never seen one of these owls up close nor had any photographs, so I was excited to have this photo op.

I made an illegal U-turn and parked across the street.  I got my Canon EOS 7D with the 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter out of the car, and crossed back over to the fence that was bordering the area.  I proceeded to get several images of one of them, by propping my camera on a fence post.

Later on, as Michael was taking us towards another park, we spotted this owl on an overhead wire.  Wow!  Talk about getting some great shots, here was this one just posing for me.

These little owls are only about 9 inches tall, and they are real cuties.  Click on any of the images to see an enlargement.  I am making this post short, as I have many things to do to get caught up.  I will do a post about Bitter Lake NWR in a few days and have more info for you about that place.