Return from Big Bend – Part II


It is great to be back.  However, I am ready to go again.  I just don’t get enough of the Big Bend area of west Texas.  But here we are back in San Angelo again.  I noticed that while I was gone I had visitors to my blog from three more countries.  Up to 127 now.  I didn’t realize how many countries there are.  Also I have had 53,245 hits.  Rats, I was going to give a prize for the 52, 674th hit.  Missed that.  Okay, we’ll think about a prize for whoever gets hit number 55,183.  🙂

So anyway, after we stayed in a motel at Marathon, Texas on Sunday night, we headed south to Big Bend National Park on Monday morning.  The park entrance is about 30 miles south of Marathon, then it is another 50 miles or so the park headquarters.  BBNP is a huge park.  About 800,000 acres.  At the park headquarters at Panther Junction, we visited the ‘facility’, then checked the nature trail nearby to see if there was any wildlife.  It was quiet except for a Canyon Towhee scurrying through the cacti.

We then headed to the Rio Grande Village campground which is about 40 miles east of the headquarters.  Did I tell you that BBNP is a huge park?  We weren’t planning on camping there but it is a hot spot for birding.  There is also a great nature trail and a really neat wetlands area.  The nature trail takes you through native vegetation of various cacti and other desert plants, and eventually up atop a butte with a magnificent view of the Rio Grande River and the village of Boquillasa across in Mexico.

Mexican village of Boquillas with massive Boquillas Canyon in the background. Photographed from the nature trail in Rio Grande Village in Big Bend National Park on the American side of the river.

In Rio Grande Village campground, the “snowbirds” were beginning to leave.  That is what we call the people from the north who fill up the campground in the winter with their motor homes and RVs.  With them leaving there are more open spaces to roam around to look for birds and wildlife.  We saw several birds, including a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (Polioptila melanura) that was another ‘lifer’ for me. Number 243, thank you very much.  I had reported it originally as a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, but my good friend Linda White alertly caught my error, after she examined some of my other images of the bird.  We also saw a Great Blue Heron in the wetlands area of the nature trail.

The above Curve-billed Thrasher was photographed near the park headquarters near Panther Junction.  He was perched atop a dead Agave century plant singing his heart out.

This Brewer’s Blackbird was photographed at the motel in Marathon, Texas, early in the morning before we left.  The early morning sun accentuated the irredescence of his colors.  More tomorow.

New day – new pictures


I haven’t been doing much these hot days, except going back through my literally thousands of pictures.  You guys should feel sorry for me.  Here I slave over a hot computer, just to entertain you.  What do I get out of it?  Well, actually I get some great comments from all of you.  I appreciate them all.  It is good for my ego.

Several of you like my sense of humor.  It’s true that I have a great sense of humor, but like I told Holly, I try to keep it under control.  After all, there are a lot of comedians out of work.  But I need to keep occupied until the temps cool down a little below the 100 degree mark.  I want to get my cameras back outside and back in action.

So, today I have some pictures that I have gotten from my archives.  I don’t know if you have seen them before, but I put them on my 500px  page also.  I took all of these with my Canon 40D, so I know they are probably at least three years old.  Of course, if I’m not too lazy, I could look at my EXIF data and find out for sure. 🙂

Gee, I can remember way back in the old days, before “EXIF”, “HTTP”, “HTML” and “BLT”, we had to write all our camera data down on little cards if we wanted to remember it.  Then we had to save all them film negatives.  I still have shoe boxes full of them.  I guess I am aging myself here, I guess.  One young lady commented to me this morning, that she reminded her of a Grandpa she never had. 🙂 I take that as a compliment.  Let’s face it.  I am 76 years young, but still feel about twenty years younger.  That’s what a good sense of humor can do for you.

Lesser Goldfinch

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/400 sec. @ f7.1
  • ISO 640
  • Lens focal distance  340mm
  • Metering – center weighted
  • Aperture priority

Bullock's Oriole

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/400 sec. @ f7.1
  • ISO  800
  • Lens focal distance  400mm
  • Metering – center weighted
  • Aperture priority

Curve-billed Thrasher

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/800 sec. @ f6.3
  • ISO  400
  • Lens focal distance  375mm
  • Metering – center weighted
  • Aperture priority

So that’s it for another day or so.  But keep watching, you never know when I might pop in with another surprise post.  Oh, by the way, click on those images and have a look at the enlarged views.  One more thing, my 2012 calendars shipped already.  I’ll have them soon.

I just thought of a neat idea.  An Early Bird Special.  I still have some of my DVDs left, you remember those I made, bird photos set to some great music.  If you send me a check for 20.00US, I not only will send you the calendar, but I will throw in one of those DVDs at no extra charge.  But remember, if you already have the DVD, I still will send you one, but it is not a re-issue.  It is still the same one.

So send a check for 20.00 US, plus your address, and include your e-mail address as well.  Upon receipt I will send you one of my 2012 Bird Calendars plus my Bird photograph DVD, with some great music.  Make check payable to Bob Zeller.  Mail to 4401 White Ash Ln., San Angelo, TX 76904-4528.

I’m Off the Couch.


After a few days of feeling under the weather, then another few days just too darned lazy to write, here I am again.

Honestly, last week I just had a slight sinus infection and a spell of laryngitis that absolutely frustrated me.  I live to talk, and I get quite irritated when I can open my mouth but have nothing come out.  I wasn’t very easy to get along with. 

Curve-billed Thrasher

Then, came the weekend.  I was feeling much better, but I had to lead my monthly birding adventure at the state park.  After that I became a couch potato for the weekend.  The reason??  It was the Masters Tournament from Augusta National Golf Club, in Augusta, Georgia.  This TV tournament is one of my favorites to watch, and I was hoping for another Tiger Woods spectacle.  It almost happened.  Aside from his private life, I think he is the best golfer to come along in years.

So, back to the world of birding and photography.  The birds were not very co-operative Saturday morning at the park.  Could be that they knew about the coming storms or were just down out of the wind.

But good news is coming.  We were doing our regular chores at the bird blind at the park this morning.  We talked to Pat Bales, one of the rangers, and he spotted a Bullock’s Oriole and a Western Kingbird.  Both early this morning.  We had already seen the first Black-chinned Hummingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and a Ash-throated Flycatcher a few days ago, so indications are that the summer birds are moving in.

Northern Cardinal

So I hope to post some pictures of the new arrivals later this week.  I am now ready to get off my duff and get into the field.  That includes, hopefully, a trip to the Eldorado waste water ponds.  A couple of rarities were spotted there over the weekend.  An Upland Sandpiper and a Least Tern.  Both are very unusual species for the area.

The two images in this post were photographed at San Angelo State Park this past Saturday morning during the monthly birding adventure.  Click on either one to see an enlargement.

Red-tailed Hawk and Birding results


First, I want to say that this may be my last post for about a week.  Ann, Jodie Wolslager and I are heading for New Mexico to visit some birding and wildlife areas there.  I hope to come back with some nice photos and new experiences to tell you about.

This morning we had our monthly Adult Birding Adventure at San Angelo State Park.  We had one of the largest participant turn-outs ever.  However, the bird activity left a little to be desired.  Plenty activity at the bird blind though.  By Ann’s count we had a grand total of 29 species.  Not bad for an off-day.  A total list appears at the bottom of this post.

Red-tailed Hawk

In keeping with my habit of including a photograph with each post, I submit this in-flight image of a Red-tailed Hawk, from my archives.  Did I ever tell you that I love to photograph raptors??  Click on the photo to see an enlargement.

By the way, I am overwhelmed by the comments to Holly’s Blog about in-flight photography, referring to the advice and tips that I gave her.  See   http://photobyholly.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/in-flight/    I thank one and all  for reading the tips.  I only hope that every one has good results from them.  I do need to clarify one thing.  My tips were based on my own experience with a Canon DSLR.  I remember that Holly shoots a Nikon, but I think that most DSLRs have a tracking type of auto-focus.

Happy birding and picture taking!!  🙂

Location:     San Angelo State Park
Observation date:     2/12/11
Number of species:     29

Mallard     3
Blue-winged Teal     20
Northern Shoveler     18
American White Pelican     12
Great Blue Heron     2
Black Vulture     6
Turkey Vulture     3
Red-tailed Hawk     1
American Coot     2
Killdeer     2
Greater Yellowlegs     3
Least Sandpiper     10
Ring-billed Gull     100
White-winged Dove     2
Mourning Dove     4
Ladder-backed Woodpecker     2
Black-crested Titmouse     2
Rock Wren     1
Bewick’s Wren     1
Northern Mockingbird     6
Curve-billed Thrasher     1
Canyon Towhee     1
White-crowned Sparrow     24
Northern Cardinal     6
Pyrrhuloxia     4
Red-winged Blackbird     12
Western Meadowlark     10
House Finch     18
House Sparrow     6

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

Red-naped Sapsucker and Meadowlark


The weather is starting to warm up again.  However, it got down to 16 degrees again this morning.  We checked out the San Angelo State Park, though, as the sun is starting to heat up.  No wind, very nice.  However we didn’t see much bird activity, but we didn’t stay long.  I have to get photo equipment sorted out and then wash the van for our trip to Bosque Del Apache NWR, in New Mexico.   We saw several Western Meadowlarks.  They were just about the only thing stirring, except for some cardinals, sparrows, etc.

Western Meadowlark

Tomorow is our monthly Adult Birding Adventure at the park.  It is lead by yours truly, and we usually have a good turnout of participants.  It consists of spending a little time at the bird blind, then the balance just driving slowly through the park, to see what we can see.  The reason for this is that several species don’t ever frequent the bird blind, and vice versa.  So we never know what we will come across.  Last year one time, we were surprised by a Burrowing Owl sitting on an old Prairie Dog mound.  More recently we saw what we at first thought was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  I managed to get a photograph (below) and that was when we discovered that it was a Red-naped Sapsucker.

Red-naped Sapsucker

Click on either photograph to see an enlargement. 

Happy Birding!!

Birding San Angelo News and Photos


I haven’t posted to my blog for a couple of days.  It just got so bone-chilling cold today, that I decided to stay in.  So I haven’t decided on anything special to write about.  I did get my life list up to 220.  I added an American Pippit last week, thanks to Sue Oliver.  We ran into her at O. C. Fisher Lake and she pointed one out.  I haven’t gotten close enough to get a decent photo yet, but now that I know what they look like and where they are, I should be able to come up with a nice image soon.

Blue Grosbeak

The monthly Adult Birding Adventure is coming up this weekend.  I hope to see some more of you out there.  The number of birders that are participating is increasing, but always room for more.  The weather forecast looks good, too.

Bald Eagles - Llano, Texas

The Phainopepla that hung around for about a month has left the building.  He certainly kept to the same area while he was here.  Almost always in the same tree, but alternated with a couple of nearby ones.  He will be missed.

The O. C. Fisher Lake level is drastically decreasing, and therefore the shorebirds are getting harder to see.  But there are plenty to see if you have binoculars or a spotting scope.  A huge number of American White Pelicans have left, but there was still around two dozen yesterday.  We have been seeing at least one Herring Gull

White Ibis

Since plans for a second bird-blind has been put on the back burner, Ann and I have expanded the feeding area at the present one.  On the east side, we have added a couple more feeders so the viewing experience has been enhanced.

Nest week on the 15th, Ann and I, along with Jodie Wolslager are heading to New Mexico to spend a couple of days.  We plan on visiting the Boxque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.  I hope to bring back some new photographs, hopefully of some Snow Geese, Sandhill Cranes, and I hope to get lucky and see a Bald Eagle.

Ringed Kingfisher

By the way, these photos have nothing to do with today’s subject.  But I can’t resist not putting photos with my posts. 🙂  Enjoy them, and click on either image to see an enlargement.

Concho River – Black-crowned Night Herons


The beautiful Conch River winds itself through downtown San Angelo, Texas.  I have not been down there in quite awhile, due to Ann’s and my responsibiities to the San Angelo State Park.  It seems activities there have taken over our lives to a certain extent.  Anyway, Friday evening an individual called me saying that he had seen some baby Black-crowned Night Herons perhaps nesting along the shore of the Concho River.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Ann and I decided to investigate, so we drove downtown the following morning to cruise along the river and observe.  We stopped near the location that the man had described over the telephone.  I immediately spotted an adult Black-crowned Night Heron up in a tree above the river.  About a hundred yards away there were two Great Blue Herons in another tree.  In still another tree were four Doubled-crested Cormorants

Great Blue Heron

I was surprised that there was so much bird activity along that river.  We didn’t see the young black-crowns unti were deciding to go home, then we spotted one juvenile sitting on a little dam at a low-water crossing.  Click on any of the images to see enlargements.  Below is a listing of the 12 birds that we saw along the river that morning.  We probably would have gotten many more if we could have stayed longer.

Black-crown Night Heron - juvenile

Happy Birding!!

Number of species:     12

Northern Shoveler     18
Ring-necked Duck     12
Pied-billed Grebe     4
Double-crested Cormorant     12
Great Blue Heron     4
Black-crowned Night-Heron     2
Common Ground-Dove     4
Blue Jay     4
Northern Mockingbird     4
Northern Cardinal     6
Common Grackle     6
Great-tailed Grackle     12

Listen to the Mockingbird………


The Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is the state bird of Texas, and also for a few other states.  And true to it’s name it really can do a heck of a job of miming other birds.  The one that dominates our back yard, can do a great bluejay, and others of our backyard birds.  I can go out there and make random whistles and it will mock me.  My wife says that I am always harrassing him.  But not true, just conversing with him.  He is very territorial about our/his yard.  And that’s the reason we don’t have very many other visiting birds hanging around long.  If we put seed out, he won’t touch it, but neither will he let any other bird have it.

My Stokes Field Guide to North American Birds describes the bird as slim ,flat-crowned, long-tailed, long-legged  with a fairly thick relatively short bill.   Gray above, whitish below, two white wingbars, white base to primaries creates a patch on edge of folded wing.   Indistinct gray eyeline, yellowish eye.  In flight, the distinctive white patches on outer wings are very visible.

Here are some of my favorite photos:

Going my way???

Fledgling Northern Mockingbird

Fledgling Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

I hope you have enjoyed these photos.  Click on the images to see enlargements.

Happy Birding!!

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.

No Time to Make Dessert


You ever have one of those days.  So much to do, so little time.  It all started this morning when it took me a little extra time to do the daily crossword.  My original plan was to first go to breakfast at Roxies’.  Yes, that is the name of the diner where we eat our first meal of the day.  In your mind, picture a Roxie, picture a little diner, you will then say that sure looks like a Roxies’ Diner.  🙂

Phoebe (Says or Eastern)

Then after breakfast,  the important stuff;

 1. do the crossword, (a must),

2. go feed the birds at the park, 

3.  fill the van’s gas tank,

4. wash the van,

5. take a new photo of the Santa Elena Canyon over to the Frame-up Gallery to get it framed,

6. check on my exhibit at Crocket National Bank to see if I need to leave some more cards,

7. come home then and try to do a post for my blog.

Well, you know about the best laid plans…….   I just finished number 2.   It is 3:00 PM and I am just getting started on number 7.  I had to skip numbers 3 throught 6.  I didn’t fill the gas tank; I think I can make it to Roxies’ (remember her?) tomorrow morning.  I post-poned washing the van, ‘cuz it gonna rain tonight.   I can wait about going to the Frame-up Gallery.  Ditto to see about my exhibit at the bank.

The reason that it took so long to feed the birds (#2) was it turned out to be a gorgeous sunny day, a perfect day for birding.  So after feeding the birds that’s what we did.  We saw 29 different species.  That includes the pictured  Phoebe.  Can anyone say definitely which it is?  An Eastern Phoebe or a Says Phoebe.  Ann’s list that she sends to E-bird, is below for your information.

So now it is almost 4:00PM and almost finished with this post.  I am pretty warn out and I think it is almost time for a margarita.  It’s a good thing that I don’t cook, because there definitely would  be no time to make dessert. 🙂

Location:     San Angelo State Park
Observation date:     1/24/11
Number of species:     29

Northern Shoveler     30
Northern Bobwhite     8
American White Pelican     30
Great Blue Heron     5
Black Vulture     70
Northern Harrier     1
Red-tailed Hawk     1
American Coot     3
Greater Yellowlegs     2
Least Sandpiper     24
Ring-billed Gull     12
White-winged Dove     6
Mourning Dove     4
Greater Roadrunner     1
Eastern Phoebe     1
Say’s Phoebe     1
Black-crested Titmouse     2
Northern Mockingbird     12
Curve-billed Thrasher     1
Phainopepla     1
Spotted Towhee     1
Chipping Sparrow     3
White-crowned Sparrow     18
Northern Cardinal     6
Pyrrhuloxia     8
Red-winged Blackbird     120
Western Meadowlark     6
House Finch     12
House Sparrow     6

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)