Easter Weekend Memories

Ann and I were relatively idle over the weekend.  On Friday,without any specific projects in mind, we just drove around the area to see what we might see.  Of course, I think that is what we do most of the time, now that I think of it.  So I guess this weekend was no different.  Okay, so I sound like and old man rambling.  Well, I am old, so I guess that is my job. Anyway, here are a few miscellaneous photos that I managed to grab.  All photos were shot with my Canon EOS 70D with a Tamron 150-600mm zoom.  Please click on any image to see enlargements.

House Finch

House Finch

The House Finch was photographed at San Angelo State Park.  I was in the bird blind there watching the activities of various birds.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

The Red-winged Blackbird was also shot at the blind.  I love the brilliant wing bars on these birds.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

After visiting the blind, we decided to just take a leisurely drive through the park.  I saw the Ash-throated Flycatcher off to the side of the road and photographed it from my car.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

On Sunday morning, after breakfast, we drove by the old K-Mart building where there is a creek nearby.  We had received about a quarter inch of rain during the night, and there was some substantial water in it.  There was also this Yellow-crowned Night Heron strolling by.

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

This Solitary Sandpiper was also nearby.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

We then decided to drive the backroads down near Eldorado, Texas then visit the city water ponds in that city.  On the way we spotted this American Kestrel in the top of a dead tree off to the side of the road.  I brought the car to a stop, turned off the engine.  Since the bird was on the passenger side of the car, I had to hand-hold the camera across in front of Ann.  It was no easy feat,but thanks to the Vibration Control in the lens, I managed to get this shot.  The bird was about 150 feet away and I was zoomed to the full 600mm of the lens.

Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson’s Phalarope

Arriving at the ponds, we saw quite a bit of activity, teals, gadwalls, shovelers, etc.  In one corner of one pond we spotted about twenty of these Wilson’s Phalaropes.  They were not skittish at all of my car, and I was only about twenty feet away for this shot.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

On an island in the middle of one pond were a few Cattle Egrets.  This is my favorite photo, I think, even though there is a bit of a twig in front of the face.  The image was taken from a distance of about 200 feet.  The photo was severely cropped so I could show you the close-up.

After that, light showers began, so we headed for home.  We were not unhappy as this area needs as much rain as we can get.

Update:  New total for my Big Year Texas list is 147.  New additions are:

#146  Yellow-crowned Night Heron

#147  Cattle Egret

Egrets of the Big Bend

One wouldn’t ordinarily associate egrets with the desert.  But occasionally during the migratory seasons that is what happens.  It is not unusual to see large flocks of Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis), in the Big Bend National Park and surrounding areas.   Their favorite places to perch, at least in my experience, are the ocotillo plants.  Their large, tall, but thorny, limbs and branches make ideal places for they to roost.  They are quite a bit smaller than their cousins, the Great Egret.  But nevertheless, they are equally beautiful.

Cattle Egret in Ocotillo

These photos were taken several years ago, on one of our many journeys to that beautiful area of the United States.  As you can see, they look glorious against the backdrop of a clear blue, desert sky.

As we were approaching the western entrance to Big Bend NP, we noticed as we pulled up to the kiosk to pay our entry fee, that there were two of these Cattle Egrets sitting on the roof.  Of course, our car disturbed them, and they flew only a distance of about 30 yards away.  I was able to easily photograph them from the car with my Canon EOS 7D and 100-400mm lens.

Cattle Egret in Ocotillo

Cattle Egret in Ocotillo

Cattle Egret really in the Ocotillo

This next final photo was shot, I believe, at even an earlier date.  I know that I was using my old EOS 40D at that time.  I like this photo with a backdrop of the mountains of the Big Bend.

Cattle Egret in Ocotillo with Chisos Mountains in background.

I hope you enjoyed these photos.  Click on any of them to see an enlargement.

For preview or to buy copies of my book, click the link on the right side of this page.  For autographed copies contact me at bobzeller1@aol.com.

Happy Birding!!

Another Cattle Egret – Plus More

Ann and I decided to take another run down to the Eldorado Water Treatment ponds again yesterday, Monday, morning.  With all that bird activity, I wanted to see if I could pick up some more good images, or at least improve on some previous photos.

First of all, we found that the little juvenile Cattle Egret was still hanging around.  I got this photo of it as it was perched upon a post in one of the ponds.  It was an easy shot with my Canon 7D and 100-400mm lens.  1/500 sec. @f8 and ISO 400.  Sky a little overcast so it made for excellent lighting.

juvenile Cattle Egret

We started to drive around the ponds again, slowly, as we always do.  I had my other Canon 7D with the 500mm lens and 1.4 converter in my lap, leaning slightly out the window.  My Puffin’ Pad window cushion was in place.  I was hoping to see another Wilson’s Snipe.

As we were making a turn around the corner of one of the ponds, I was rewarded.  Right down to my left, only about twenty feet away, I spotted one.  I quickly set up my camera in the window.  I discovered that I nearly had too much lens.  The snipe, as you can see, filled up the frame, with the 500mm and 1.4 converter.  He froze thinking that I couldn’t see him, which was nearly true, as he was blending in with the weeds and mud.  I didn’t want to grab the other camera with the 100-400mm for fear that he might fly.

"Hiding in Plain Sight"

Wilson Snipe.  Canon 7D with 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter. 1/400 sec. @ f8, ISO 400.

These ponds are about 150 feet across.  There are hundreds of ducks of different species, and it has been hard to get decent close-ups even with using the 500mm and the 1.4 converter.  The ducks always seem to swim away to the furthest side of the pond.

To solve the problem, or at least help it a bit, I decided to do something that I never tried.  I have a 2x tele-converter that I can use on the 500mm, but because it would change the aperture to an f8, the auto focus is dis-abled.  Therefore I would have to hand-hold it and manual focus.  Plus the ducks are moving on the water.  But, I figured what the heck.  Nothing to lose.

I went ahead and attached the 2x making my working focal distance 1,000mm.  I sat it on the window sill, and focused it on this female Northern Shoveler, so far away it was pretty tiny with the naked eye.  The result, as you can see, isn’t so bad.  I was able to crop it and print out a nice 8×10.

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler.  Canon 7D with 500mm lens plus 2x tele-converter.  Focal Distance 1,000mm.  1/4000 sec. @ f8, ISO 400.  Manual focus, hand-held with aid of a Puffin’ Pad window support.

Now that I can get these great results, I may use the 2x tele-converter more often when down in Eldorado.

I hope you enjoyed the images, and my little telling of the experience.  Click on any photo to see an enlargement.

Flight of the Cattle Egret

Yesterday Ann and I made a return trip to the water treatment ponds down at Eldorado, Texas.  Our purpose was to try to get a look at the Black Scoter that was seen there for a few days.  This time we did get a chance to see it.  But as we watched, and as I was preparing to photograph it, it flew off.  Since the ponds cover several acres, and there are five seperate areas we didn’t see it again amidst the hundred of duck species that were there.  So a photograph will have to wait for another time.  It was a lifer for both Ann and I.

However, the juvenile Cattle Egret was still there.  I got a few images of it feeding in the reeds, but my prize was this photo of it in flight.

Cattle Egret in flight

Esposure was with my Canon 7D with a Canon 100-400mm lens.  1/500 sec. @ f8, ISO 250.  Spot metering and aperture priority.

We also saw a Greater Roadrunner running with a captured Red-winged Blackbird in it’s beak.  No photo.  Running too fast for me.  Total species for the two hours again was 27.

  • Ruddy Duck
  • Black Scoter
  • Bufflehead
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Greater Yellowlegs
  • American Coot
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Gadwall
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Eared Grebe
  • Redhead
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Canvasback
  • Northern Pintail
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Meadowlark
  • Egyptian Goose
  • Cattle Egret
  • Mockingbird
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Vermilion Flycatcher
  • Rock Wren
  • Song Sparrow

We also saw one that we can’t identify.  Here are two images of it.  If there are any expert birders out there, tell me what you think.

I hope you enjoyed the photos.  Click on any of them for an enlargement.

Big News from Eldorado Ponds

Black Scoter, Barnegat Inlet N.J.

Image via Wikipedia

We got an e-mail from Suaanne Johnson in Eldorado last evening.  It seems another rarity was seen there at the water treatment ponds.  Suzanne and her husband, Sid, were birding there and spotted a Black Scoter (Melanitta nigra).  They got pictures and had the sighting verified with the proper authorities.  The Black Scoter (male pictured above) is normally seen only on the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines.  So the female that they saw apparently was lost.

Ann and I drove down there this morning, but we weren’t able to see it.  I probably took off and got back on course to it’s normal habitat.

Wilson's Snipe

But while we were there, we saw this Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata) in the weeds along the shorline of one of the ponds.  Then further along this juvenile Cattle Egret  (Bubulcus ibis) appeared.  He looked like he lost his momma, but he was large enough to fly, as he did shortly after I took this photo.

juvenile Cattle Egret

Soe even though the Black Scoter eluded us, I feel satisfied that I got the above photographs.  Our total birding species count was 23.  We were there for only two hours.  Following is the list:

The EXIF data was identical for both images except for the ISO, which was 100 for the egret and 640 for the snipe.  Otherwise the camera was my Canon 7D, Canon 100-400mm lens, 1/640 sec. @f7.1.  Spot metering with aperture priority.  Of course, the image of the Black Scoter is not mine.

Click on any photo to see an enlargement.  Have a great weekend. 🙂

Cattle and Snowy Egrets

I am still editing old images that were taken a couple of years ago.  They may have been seen in a previous blog post.  But with new software I think I am improving the images for sharpness and definition.  This first one is a Cattle Egret.  The photo was taken at Big Bend National Park.  We were just entering the park, and there were several of the egrets perched in some Ocotillo bushes a few yard off of the road.

Cattle Egret

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/400 sec. @ f22 – minus 1/3 EV adjustment
  • ISO  500
  • Lens focal distance 400mm
  • Metering – center weighted
  • Aperture priority

This image of a Snowy Egret was taken below the Lake Nasworthy dam in San Angelo, Texas.  He was intent on his fishing and was oblivious of me.  I was able to get within 50 feet to get the photograph.

Snow Egret

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens with 1.4 tele-converter
  • 1/3200 sec. @ f6.3
  • ISO 400
  • Lens focal distance  700mm
  • Metering – partial
  • Aperture priority

I hope you again enjoy the images.  Click on either of them for enlargements.

More Images from Eldorado, Texas

I am still editing images from our Tuesday trip to the water treatment ponds near Eldorado, Texas.  Here are a few more for your enjoyment.  All were photographed with my Canon 7D SLR camera and Canon 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens.

  • Black-necked Stilt
  • 1/2500 sec. @ f5.6 minus 1/3 EV
  • ISO 250
  • Shutter Priority
  • Partial metering

  • Pectoral Sandpiper
  • 1/500 sec. @ f13 minus 1/3 EV
  • ISO 400
  • Aperture Priority
  • Partial metering

  • Cattle Egret making graceful landing
  • 1/2500 sec. @ f5.6 minus 2/3 EV
  • ISO 125
  • Shutter Priority
  • Partial metering

  • Hooded Skunk interrupting our birding
  • 1/640 @ f13
  • ISO 400
  • Aperture Priority
  • Partial metering

  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • 1/2500 @f6.3 minus 1/3 EV
  • ISO 250
  • Shutter Priority
  • Partial metering

I hope you enjoyed looking at these images.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.