Tale of The Take – Ruddy Ground Dove

I have had a lot of people ask me all along about how I got some of my photos.  I got to thinking that there is a story behind almost all of my images, so what better than to relate to you, my readers, these tales.  So today I start the series, “The Tale of the Take”.   Catchy name, don’t ya think? 🙂

First up will be my exciting narration of how I was able to obtain this image of a very rare Ruddy Ground Dove.  As with a lot of my photos, a lot of luck was involved.

Ruddy Ground Dove

On Sunday afternoon, February 10, 2009, I got an e-mail forwarded from a local birder.  It was from Don and Linda Burt who live on property at Dove Creek, near here.  They gave a phone number and invited anyone to call or come see a rare Ruddy Ground Dove on their place.

Of course, since I am the consumate “have camera, will travel” guy, I gave them a call.  Sure, they said, c’mon out.  I loaded my equipment into our Mercury mini-van, and Ann and I headed out.

Now, at that time, I was pretty new at this past-time of birding.  I absolutely had no idea what a Ruddy Ground Dove looked like.  I didn’t even have the sense to look for pictures of one.  Fortunately, upon arrival, we found half of the Abilene chapter of the Audubon Society already there looking for it.  They thought they saw it in some trees, but couldn’t say for sure.

This was about 2:30PM or so.  Don Burt called me aside and told me to be patient.  He pointed to a fence gate about 30 yards away.  Just wait, he said, because at about 4:00 a flock of Inca Doves would gather near that fence, and the Ruddy Ground Dove would be among them.

I went ahead and got my Canon 40D, my current camera then, out of the car.  I attached my Canon 500mm super-tele with a 1.4 teleconverter.  I mounted the rig onto my Bogen-Manfrotto tripod with a Wimberley gimbal head.  I got it into position for a possible shot, then sat in the shade and waited.  So did the group from Abilene.

Sure enough, right on time, a bunch of Inca Doves flew in and started feeding near that fence.  The Audubon people pointed out to me the Ruddy Ground Dove.  I sure was happy that I wasn’t alone or I probably wouldn’t have recognized it.  I found it in my viewfinder and was able to get several shots.   Pertinent photo data:  Canon 40D SLR.  Shot at f5.6 for 1/1600 second.  ISO 400 in Aperture Priority.

The Ruddy Ground Dove is very rare in the United States, but sightings are on the increase, as they move up from Mexico.  As you can see, except for the markings, it could have been easily mistaken for a Mourning Dove by a novice like me.

Watch for my next thrilling, exciting, Tale of the Take.

Pied-billed Grebe

I’m a little slow getting new posts published.  I have been busy going through old photos and transfering them to my new iPad.  I intend to use it as a portfolio per se, to show my work to interested buyers.  Anyway, I came across these two images and realized that I had never published any grebe photos.  So let me introduce you to the Pied-billed Grebe(Podilymbus podiceps).  They are residents the year around and nest in local lakes and ponds.  A bit on the shy side, they tend to hide or dive under the water when spotted.

Young Pied-billed Grebe

Adult Pied-billed Grebe

In other news we had our monthly birding tour at San Angelo State Park.  We had a total of nine people and here is the results.

Location:     San Angelo State Park
Observation date:     3/12/11
Number of species:     30

Gadwall     1
Cinnamon Teal     2
Northern Shoveler     75
Green-winged Teal     20
Ruddy Duck     6
American White Pelican     200
Great Blue Heron     2
Black Vulture     6
Red-tailed Hawk     1
Killdeer     6
American Avocet     3
Greater Yellowlegs     24
Least Sandpiper     10
Long-billed Dowitcher     24
Ring-billed Gull     100
White-winged Dove     6
Mourning Dove     2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker     1
Black-crested Titmouse     2
Rock Wren     1
Northern Mockingbird     6
Rufous-crowned Sparrow     1
Canyon Towhee     1
White-crowned Sparrow     12
Northern Cardinal     2
Pyrrhuloxia     1
Red-winged Blackbird     30
Brown-headed Cowbird     6
House Finch     10
House Sparrow     3

San Angelo State Park Birding Jan. 2

Ann and I decided to do a little birding this morning out at San Angelo State Park.  During a two hour period we saw 29 species.  Pretty good for such a short time.  The temp was about 45 degrees but no wind, so it was quite comfortable.  Here is a list that includes the female Northern Cardinal that you see pictured below.

Blue-winged Teal     4
Northern Shoveler     6
Northern Bobwhite     2
American White Pelican     100
Great Blue Heron     4
Red-tailed Hawk     2
American Kestrel     1
Killdeer     2
Greater Yellowlegs     4
Least Sandpiper     8
Ring-billed Gull     200
White-winged Dove     5
Mourning Dove     1
Ladder-backed Woodpecker     1
Loggerhead Shrike     1
Black-crested Titmouse     2
Northern Mockingbird     8
Curve-billed Thrasher     2
Spotted Towhee     1
Canyon Towhee     2
Vesper Sparrow     5
White-crowned Sparrow     12
Northern Cardinal     8
Pyrrhuloxia     4
Red-winged Blackbird     50
Western Meadowlark     6
Common Grackle     8
House Finch     24
House Sparrow     6

Click the image to see an enlargement.

Happy Birding!!

Animals say the darndest things.

Isn’t it funny that sometimes you take a photograph of a bird or animal, and just happen to catch something humorous.   Here are three examples of mine.  The first is a hitch-hiking Northern Mockingbird.

"Going My Way?"

The following one is a Mexican Ground Squirrel, munching on a mesquite bean.  He seems to be taking offense that I am watching him eat.

"Well, what are you looking at?"

This pair of Black-tailed Prairie Dogs does’t mind putting on a show of public affection.  This photo was selected for a cover of National Wildlife Magazine a few months back.

"Blow in my ear and I'll follow you anywhere"

I hope you enjoyed these photos.  Click one any of them to see enlargements.

Bird of the Week – Eastern Bluebird

One of my favorite small birds is the Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis).   Stokes Field guide to the Birds of North America describes it as small, broad-necked, short-legged thrush with a short tail and short bill.  It resides here in Texas year around.  Upperparts bright blue, underparts a rich reddish brown on throat, breast and flanks, contrasting with a white belly.  It loves the open woods and woods edges and farmlands.  Enjoy the photos.  Click on either one for an enlargement.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Both photos were shot in Aperture Priority at f6.3.  Top photo, ISO 400, 1/800 sec.  Bottom photo ISO 800, 1/640 sec.  Canon EOS 7D, 500mm  f4 lens with 1.4 converter.   Bogen-Manfrotto tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

Eagles, Vermilion Flycatcher – editing

For lack of anything else to do this cool Sunday afternoon, I decided to go through some very old images that I almost threw away.  Fortunately, I keep almost all the bad stuff, in hopes that sometime I can obtain the right software to maybe make something out of them.  You know, make lemonade out of lemons.

Here are three examples.  The first is a Vermilion Flycatcher that I photographed a few years back, with one of my older cameras.  The bird was so far away, I could hardly get him in my view finder.  I was using my 500mm lens with a 1.4 converter.  The first is the original, the second is a new edited image.  I first ran the original through my Image Focus software, then thru Topaz DeNoise to remove any noise.  I then cropped it as shown, done a little more sharpening.  I doesn’t look too bad.

Vermilion Flycatcher - original

Vermilion Flycatcher - edited

The second photo is a Bald Eagle, taken down at a nest near Llano, Texas.  In this case, I used my 500mm lens as usual, but I also had to use my 2x converter because it was very, very far away.  The problem is that when using my 2x converter, my auto-focus is inoperative.  So having to manual focus I was quite lucky to get any image at all.  As before, I used my Focus Magic software, my OnOne Phototune software, cropped then added sharpening..

Bald Eagle leaving nest - original

Bald Eagle leaving nest - edited

This third photograph is a juvenile Golden Eagle.  We were in Michigan visiting relatives.  My sister-in-law knew of this nest and took me over to the site.  He was about 65 feet off the ground, near the top of a large evergreen fir tree.  I had to set up on a little knoll about 150 feet away from the base of the tree to get an angle on the nest.  In this case I used my 1.4 converter on my 500mm lens.  I first used my Focus Magic again, then the OnOne Phototune software.  After cropping and playing with the lights and shadows, then sharpening I came out with the final image. 

Golden Eagle off the nest - original

Golden Eagle off the nest - edited

I hope you like the images and you may click on any of them to see an enlargement.  Both Focus Magic and Topaz Denoise are available on-line at pretty reasonalbe prices.  That also goes for OnOne’s Phototune.  That software, by the way, has nothing to do with music.  I believe they all have trial versions.

Happy birding!!

Bird of the Week – Greater Roadrunner

Today I have picked the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) as my Bird of the Week.  I was able to get some photographs recently and I will show them here.  This bird is in the cuckoo family, and better known as the bird that is always trying to outwit the wolf in the cartoons, with his familiar “Beep, beep!”

Greater Roadrunner

The Stokes Field Guide to Birds of North America describes the Greater Roadrunner as a large, very long-tailed bird with relatively long neck and thick legs.  The skin behind the eye is bluish, and sometimes  other colors show up in certain lighting. 

Greater Roadrunner

Other traits is that the roadrunner doesn’t require water.  He gets moisture through his diet.  He can fly short distances, mostly gliding with his wings and tail spread.  His voice is not the comical beep, beep, but actually a deep mellow cooing wooh wooh whoa whoa.  He loves the arid areas of the south and southwest parts of the country.

Greater Roadrunner

I hope you have enjoyed this narrative and pictures.  If you have, please leave a comment.  Click on any images to see enlargements.  Now I am outa here.  Beep! Beep!  🙂

Cute Bird – but what is it??

I need a little help on this one, if anyone can be of help.  I photographed this bird last month down in the Big Bend area of West Texas.   I feel that it is one of the sparrow species, but I am enough of a novice to admit that I may be wrong about that. 🙂

Unknown - un-retouched

You may click on the image to see an enlargement.

Bird of the Week – Red-tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk(Buteo jamaicensis)  This is the hawk that which all other others are compared.  The benchmark, so to speak.  It is one of the largest of the hawks, perhaps the largest.  You can often see it perched along the roadside,  on utility poles, trees, or other high points.  It hunts mostly mammals from these perches, and also from the air.  They are a beautiful bird in flight, their red tail glinting in the sun. 

This image was shot during a trip to Ballinger, Texas.  The hawk was in the grass along the roadside, apparently in the act of feeding on something.  As I slowed, he started to fly.  I was prepared with my Canon EOS 40D with a Canon 100-400mm zoome lens.  I was able to lock-on my auto-focus and pan with him as he flew, continually pressing the shutter.  ISO 400, 1/3200 sec. at f6.3.

Red-tailed Hawk

Sibley’s describes them as stocky, broad winged, with bulging secondaries.  The adult has the distinctive red tail, where the juvenile is much paler.  It sports a length of 19 inches, a wingspan an impressive four feet and one inch.  It weighs in at 2.4 lbs.  More information on these gorgeous birds can be found by clicking on the link at the beginning of this post.

This image was photographed with my Canon EOS 40D, hand-held with a Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter.  Exposure was 1/800 sec. at f6.3 with ISO of 400.

Red-tailed Hawk

I hope you enjoy this information about a majestic bird.  Click on either image for an enlargement.  In the future, my Bird of the Week posts will be on Thursdays, instead of previously mentioned Fridays.

Happy birding!!

Bird of the Week – Great Egret

Today I inaugurate my new series Bird of the Week.  Hopefully each Friday, I will post a photograph of a bird that I will choose at random.  I will provide a photograph or two, along with some useful information.  I think this may become informative for all, including myself, as I will be doing a bit of research to provide information.  Also you may click on the Bold Bird Name to go to a Wikipedia link for detailed info, if available.  My own resources will be my handy Bird Guides.  So here we go.

Great Egret. (Ardea alba).  The Great Egret is one my personal favorite water birds.  Long-legged and graceful.  Tall, slender and long-necked.  Length 39″, wing-span 51″, weight 1.9 lbs.  All white, yellow bill and black legs and feet.  When foraging, they will walk slowly thru open water or reedy areas, watching for fish.  When they spot their quarry, they use their bill as a spear, instantly stabbing their prey.

This first photo was taken along the Concho River in downtown San Angelo.  I was walking along the bank.  I spotted the egret flying down the river.  I hand-held my Canon 7D with the 100-400mm zoom lens.  I picked him up in my view-finder, the auto-focus locked on, and I just panned with him as he flew by.  I got lucky, with the background.  When this image was captured, the background was blurred of course, but also there was a large building completely in shadow.  Hence the completely black background.  The stats are ISO 1600, 1/500 sec at f9.

Great Egret

 This image ISO 100, 1/640 at f8 .  Canon 7D, 100-400mm zoom lens.

Great Egret

This final shot is an older one that I shot with a Canon Powershot SX10 that I tried for awhile.  ISO 80, 1/640 at f5.7  

Great Egret

Click on any image for an enlargement.