The Forgotten Dickcissel


When I got into birding about five years ago, I was told that I would be finding that there were many species that I had never heard of.   Well that certainly proved to be right, when we were birding with experienced birders and they mentioned the possibility of seeing a Dickcissel.  What??  What the heck is a Dickcissel??  A bird that Richard Cissel discovered???  No, it turned out to be another of the 854 species found in this country.  I don’t know how it got it’s name.  Maybe I’ll look into it.

Pair of Dickcissels.

Pair of Dickcissels.

Anyway it is a bird that is found in the rural areas in grasslands and shrubs.  About two years ago, we came across this pair while driving along a quiet highway.  They are about six and a half inches, and because of their coloring and quickness they don’t immediately catch your attention.  They have yellow breast with a black bib, but unfortunately in these photos it doesn’t show up.  And these are the only photos I have of them.

Dickcissel

Dickcissel

Dickcissel

Dickcissel

Enjoy the photos and click on any of them to see an enlargement.

Update:  In my quest to see 210 different species during 2014 I have added two more.

#42  Northern Pintail

#43  Blue Jay

I should add several more in the next few days.  Ann and I are leaving tomorrow morning, Jan. 9, to spend the weekend in the Big Bend country of west Texas.  Ann wanted to spend her 75th birthday on the 10th  there.  I won’t be doing another post until early next week.

Cropping close for better close-ups


A friend of mine asked me the other day if I cropped my photographs.  I replied in the affirmative, that I cropped nearly all of my images to some extent.  Most of them very little, say for print sizes, etc.   But  I like to do most of my composition in-camera or in the view-finder if I can.

Unfortunately, trying to compose an esthetic picture while trying to capture a moving animal or a skittering bird, is very difficult.  So for that reason, I take what I can get, and compose during cropping.

Care must be taken to get your subject in focus.  My method is to use only one of the camera’s focus points.  Generally that for me, is the center one.  The importance of using only on point becomes to be most apparent when I am photographing a tiny bird among the branches, like the wren photo below.  With more than one focus point being used, the lens would be going wild searching because of the surrounding twigs and branches.

The first image below is what I saw through the view-finder.  You can see the difficulty I would have had with more than one focus point.  I also like to use spot metering in these cases, that is, if I remember to change the setting.  (Hey, I am human). 🙂  With spot-metering the chance of getting the subject exposed properly is much better.

Wilson's Warbler - original camera image

Wilson's Warbler - cropped and edited

The same principal applies to the following image of the Dickcissel.  Although the bird is more out in the open, there still was the fence wires to make focus difficult.  Of course, I must admit that one of the most difficult efforts, is to get that focus point on the bird.  But with practice it is easy to do with practice.   Remember,  what I see through the viewfinder is what is maybe 70-80 feet away, and I am looking through my 500mm lens.  I am actually much further away from the subject that it appears.  I had to use my binoculars to first locate the warbler in the bushes.

Dickcissel - original camera image

Dickcissel - cropped and edited

Of course, what I have described is only my methods based on my own experiences.  I am sure that some other photographers have their own ways of obtaining their images.  Heck, maybe I am doing things the hard way, but it is what works best for me.  At least, until someone asks “Hey, Bob, have you ever tried this?”  I am alway open to hearing tips from my peers.

But for now, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed reading my little foray into trying to write an educational article.  I couldn’t think of anything else to write about today.  Click on the images to see enlargements.  Also, check out my other works by clicking on the Flickr logo on the right side of this page.

Another Foray to Eldorado Water Treatment Ponds


This past weekend Ann and I decided to make another trip to one of our favorite birding haunts. the water treatment ponds at Eldorado, Texas.  Our friends, Suzanne and Sid Johnson, who live there accompanied us.  It was fruitful day, to say the least, as we saw 42 different species.  Three of the highlights are pictured below.

The first is a Wilson’s Warbler, (Wilsonia pusilla).  A pretty little yellow bird, identified by the black crown on it’s head.  This one was in a Hackberry tree along with a few of it’s friends.

Wilson's Warbler

  • Canon EOS 7D with Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 teleconverter
  • 1/640 sec. @ f13 minus 2/3 EV adjustment – ISO 100
  • Lens focal distance – 700mm
  • Partial metering
  • Shutter priority

After that we came across this bird sitting on a fence.  It was hard to ID at first, because of difficulty in getting close enough.  I thought it looked familiar, but wasn’t able to confirm what I saw until I was able to maneuver the car so I could get a shot with my long lens.  It is a Dickcissel (Spiza americana).  This is either a winter male, or a first year male.

Dickcissel

  • Canon EOS 7D with Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 teleconverter
  • 1/800 sec @ f6.3 – ISO 100
  • Lens focal distance – 700mm
  • Partial metering
  • Shutter priority

Along the ponds there an abundance of reeds.  In those reeds we saw a large proliferation of Marsh Wrens (Cistothorus palustris).

Marsh Wren

  • Canon EOS 7D with Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/1250 sec. @ f5/6 minus 2/3 EV adjustment – ISO 400
  • Lens focal distance – 340mm
  • Spot metering
  • Shutter priority

A  side note to this story.  Late last night I received an e-mail from Suzanne Johnson.  She and Sid made another trip to the ponds after dinner and saw four Soras (Porzanna carolina).  They are the first ever to be seen in that area.

Click on any image to see an enlargement.  To see more of my photography click the Flickr Logo at the right side of this page.