Bird Banding is for the birds

Last Saturday morning Ann and I were invited to observe the banding of birds at Dan Brown’s Hummer House, near Christoval, Texas.  When we arrived about 8:00 AM the mist nets were up and the bird snaring was under way.  The banding was done by Concho Valley Bird Banding, a licensed group led by Charles Floyd.  For those who are uninformed about bird banding, these licensed banders catch birds, document the specie, record age, etc, then attach tiny metal bands to the leg.  This band has information on it so the bird can be traced.

White-eyed Vireo in mist net

The birds are not endangered in any way.  The mist net is so called because it is so fine that you can walk into it without realizing it is there.  The banders locate the nets in locations where there is the most bird activity.  They wait an hour or so, then they “run” the nets, picking off the tiny birds, which they deposit in little pouches hanging from their jackets or belts.  They then return to their work area, which is a table set up nearby.  They examine the birds, record the pertinent data and attache the bands.  After photographing them, they are released.

Bander Charles Floyd running the nets

It is a great opportunity to get close-up photographs of the different species.  I have included here some of my images from there.

Painted Bunting

Indigo Bunting

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Wilson's Warbler

Pine Siskin

I hope you have enjoyed this narrative and the images.  Click on any photo to see enlargements.

SA State Park going to the Dawgs

I have been focusing, pun intended, on my photography of birds a lot lately.  As a wildlife photographer I also seek after images of the four-footed kind.  One of my favorites is the the Black-tailed Prairie Dog.  There is a “village” of them at the south part of San Angelo State Park, and another at the north section.  I took the photos with this article at the southern area.  The following info is courteous of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Prairie Dogs, mother and child

The black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus), is a rodent of the family sciuridae found in the Great Plains of North America from about the USA-Canada border to the USA-Mexico border. Unlike some other prairie dogs, these animals do not truly hibernate. The Black-tailed prairie dog can be seen above ground in midwinter. There is a report of a Black-tailed prairie dog town in Texas that covered 64,000 km2 (25,000 sq mi) and included 400,000,000 individuals. Prior to habitat destruction, this species was probably the most abundant prairie dog in central North America. This species was one of two described by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the journals and diaries of their expedition.

Black-tailed prairie dogs are generally tan in color, with a lighter colored belly. Their tail has a black tip on it, which is where their name is derived from. Adults can weigh from 1.5 to 3 lb (0.68 to 1.4 kg), males are typically heavier than females. Body length is normally from 14 to 17 in (36 to 43 cm), with a 3 to 4 in (7.6 to 10 cm) tail. They have small ears, but keen hearing, and small, dark eyes, with good vision.[citation needed]

Prairie Dog pup

Black-tailed prairie dogs are frequently exterminated from ranchland, being viewed as a pest. Their habitat has been fragmented, and their numbers have been greatly reduced. Additionally, black-tailed prairie dogs are remarkably susceptible to plague[2]. In 2006, 8 of 8 appearances of plague in black-tailed prairie dog colonies resulted in total colony extinction. Studies in 1961 estimated only 364,000 acres (1,470 km2) of occupied black-tailed prairie dog habitat in the United States. A second study in 2000 showed 676,000 acres (2,740 km2). However, a comprehensive study between 10 states and various tribes in 2004 estimated 1,842,000 acres (7,450 km2) in the United States, plus an additional 51,589 acres (208.77 km2) in Mexico and Canada. Based on the 2004 studies, the US Fish and Wildlife Service removed the black-tailed prairie dog from the Endangered Species Act Candidate Species List in August 2004.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about the cute and comedic animals that exist at the park.  They are fun to watch and enjoy.

New Lifer – Herring Gull

Lifer number 218.  Hey I’m getting up there.   But I am a long way away from my friend David Skinner, up there in Canada.  He is at 454 and counting.  Hey, wait up, Dave, wait for me.  🙂

Oh, back to the lifer.  Ann and I were at O. C. Fisher lake this morning and spotted what turned out to be, a couple of Herring Gulls.  At first I thought they might be California Gulls.  One photo resembled that species.

They were a long way off.  I only had my 100-400mm in my hand.  The wind was blowing about 25mph and it would have knocked my tripod down if I tried to set up the big guy.  So I set the shutter-speed at about 1/1600, zeroed in on them and hand held the camera.  I usually shoot at aperture-priority, but in the wind I wanted to be sure that I had a fast shutter.

The images were very, very tiny so I ran them through Focus Magic software.  I then was able to crop them to a small 4×5 image.  After more finagling around to fine-tune the sharpening, I was then able to use my Blowup enlarging softwaresoftware to enlarge to a usuable 5×7 at 72dpi.

Herring Gull

Herring Gull with Ring-billed Gulls

Like I said, the photos aren’t that great aesthetically, but good enough for identification.

In other news, Diane and Mike Coleman thought they may have seen a Northern Shrike.  That would have been a rarity in this part of the state, but not an impossibility.  A lot of rare birds have been making this area a stopping place.  However, they didn’t get a picture, and the Northern and the Loggerhead Shrikes are so similar, it would be hard to say.

My Bird Calendar for 2011

I am proud to announce that I received my shipment of my “Texas Tweeties 2011” calendars.  Twelve months of beautiful bird photos.  If anyone is interested, contact me at,  or   You may also call me at 325-944-1839.

Happy Birding to all!!