West Texas Happy New Year!

Here it is just a few hours left in the year.  I have been ‘outta pocket’ the last couple of days.  Getting end of year tax reports, bookkeeping, etc. to end the year.  But also doing a little birding, trying to get my annual bird count up.  I believe I saw 180 species, but was shooting for 200.  But a new year dawns.  Here are a couple of shots that I got yesterday I thought you might enjoy.

Mourning Dove

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

I want to wish all my readers, far and wide, the most joyous and Happy New Year.

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.

Calendar Particulars

Much was said yesterday about my new 2011 Calendar, but not enough info for obtaining one.  Just contact me at bobzeller1@aol.com or call 325-944-1839.  You can have one for a 20.00 donation that includes all shipping in the United States.  I do business the west Texas way.  A handshake, so to speak.  I will send you the calendar by priority mail, then you mail the check.

The calendar is 12 months, printed on high quality, high gloss paper that is heavy enough to last years.  The title is ” Texas Tweeties 2011″ and as such, it is a collection of some of my bird photogaphs.

I hope to hear from you.

Happy Birding!!!

Sept 11 San Angelo Birding Tour Report

Wow, what a great time we had this morning for the monthly Adult Birding Adventure at San Angelo State Park.  There were only six of us so somebody missed out on some fun birding.  It could be my fault, because I sent reminders a few days earlier that usual, and some people may have forgotten.  I would like to thank Mark Frank from Goodfellow AFB for joining us.  He is a very personable young man and he enjoyed being with all of us seniors.

But here is a full list:

3  Bullock’s Orioles

12  Scissor-tailed Flycatchers

3   Golden-fronted Woodpeckers

1   Greater Roadrunner

4   Black-crested Titmice

2   Pyrrholoxias

12   House finches

12  Red-winged Blackbirds

24   White-winged Doves

3   Northern Cardinals

12   House Sparrows

12   Northern Mockingbirds

6   Canyon Towhees

4   Brown-headed Cowbirds

3   Common Nighthawks

12   Turkey Vultures

1   Northern Harrier

3   Roseate Spoonbills

15   Least Sandpipers

6   Greater Yellowlegs

1   Snowy Plover

10   White-faced Ibises

5   Great Blue Herons

2  Double-crested Cormorants

1   Tri-colored Heron

2   Black-necked Stilts

6   Killdeer

1   Great Egret

1   Mississippi Kite

75   Wilson’s Phalaropes

6   Mourning Doves

8   Common Grackles

4   Barn Swallows

18   Blue-winged Teal

1   Black-chinned Hummingbird

That is a total of 35 species as a group.  In addition Ann and I saw a Swainson’s Hawk on entering the park, then on the way out we saw a Cactus Wren.  Also yesterday, Ann and I saw a Dickcessel at the viewing area. the first that we had seen at that location.

This morning we had started with a stop at the bird blind and spent about 30 minutes there.  Just saw the usual birds there, nothing exciting.  Then after that we drove around to the boat ramp where we had access easily to the shore of O. C. Fisher Lake.  We hiked along ths shore line for maybe a quarter to a half-mile, and that is where we were able to see so many water birds.

Along with the Peregrine Falcon that Ann and I saw several days ago, it has been quite an exciting week.  After hiking this morning as much as we did in this 90 degree heat, I feel that I am getting back in shape after my broken back problem.  I may be able to tackle some of those trails in Big Bend National Park next month.  I guess getting old can be fun after all.  🙂

Happy Birding!!

Roseate Spoonbills still here!

Persistence can sometimes pay off.  After doing my regular chores at San Angelo State Park this morning, I got to thinking, “What if those Roseate Spoonbills are still around?”  Ann and I decided to go back and check and see.  Sure enough, we were rewarded.  We spotted them on a little spit of sand much closer than before.

I still had to use the 2x converter on my lens, and so back to manual focusing.  Not my favorite thing to do at those distances.  But however, I did come up with a much better image that before.  Take a look.

Roseate Spoonbills

Hot morning at San Angelo State Park

Map of Tom Green County Texas highlighting San...

Image via Wikipedia

Ann and I made our usual trip to San Angelo State Park. As hot as it was getting be, her and I still had a good time after feeding the birds at the blind.  While at said blind I did manage to get this nice shot of a Black-chinned Hummingbird  It was feeding at the blossoms on a Red Flowering Yucca.

Black-chinned Hummingbird

 We then made a drive around with the windows open and the air-conditioning turned on.  Checked to see if the Roseate Spoonbills had stayed, but apparently they are not used to this west Texas heat.  We did get a good list of birds, though.

25  Red-winged Blackbird

50  White-winged Dove

2   Northern Cardinal

25   House Sparrow

10   House Finch

1  Black-chinned Hummingbird

12  Northern Mockingbird

2   Black-crested Titmouse

40  Common Grackle

2   Pyrrholoxia

1   Painted Bunting

3   Morning Dove

2   Brown-headed Cowbird

3   Western Kingbird

3   Killdeer

1   Long-billed Dowitcher

8   Black-necked Stilts

5   Snowy Egrets

2   Great Blue Heron

8   Double-crested Cormorants

3   Turkey Vulture

3   Canyon Towhee

1   Greater Roadrunner

1   Golden-fronted Woodpecker

3   Common Nighthawk  (all withing 10 yards of each other)

4   Barn Swallow

10  Lark Sparrow

3   Western Sandpiper

Several un-identified ducks.

Not bad count considering the heat.  Today is supposed to be the 23rd consecutive day of 100+ degrees.  So we’re setting a new record as the days go by.  The old record was 18 straight days.

So folks, I am going to cool off this afternoon in front of the TV and watch the Texas Rangers take on the Baltimore Orioles.  Life doesn’t get any better than this. 🙂

Happy Birding everybody!!

Birding Tour Report August 14

We had another fun group today.  The weather of course, was quite warm again, but didn’t deter too many people.  We had a total of 8 participtants, and a good time was had by all.  We started at the lake shore watching various shorebirds, Snowy Egret, Long-billed Dowitcher, Snowy Plover, Black-necked Stilts, possibly a Solitary Sandpiper, and various other species that we couldn’t identify because of the distance invoived.  Most of the birds that we did see, we observed through spotting scopes.

From there we proceded to the bird blind where we saw some of the regular visitors to the feed and water there.  Included were a Bullocks Oriole, Curve-billed Thrasher, Yellow-billed Cuckkoo, Roadrunner, Canyon Towhee, Black-tufted Titmous, Black-throated Hummingbird, and several House Finches.  In all, Ann, who was keeping “score”, said that we saw 27 species.  Not bad, considering the high temperatures.

I forgot to mention that en route from the lake shore to the bird blind we saw several Scissor-tailed Flycatchers that were apparently molting because they were missing their long tail feathers.  We also saw a Golden-fronted Woodpecker.

Joining us and having a good time were a couple of visitors to the city, Dwynne and Donnette LaFleur, from Louisiana.  They are very impressed with the city of San Angelo, and hope to be returning again soon.

The first of a couple of photos that I obtained at the bird blind, is a Curve-billed Thrasher.  Exposure data, was 1/400 sec at f16, ISO 3200, using my Canon 7d with 100-400mm lens.

Curve-villed Thrasher

This second image is again a photo of a Gulf Fritillary butterfly.  I love to photograph those little guys.  Again, my Canon 7d camera, with the 100-400mm lens.  1/250 sec, f16, ISO 400, EV+2/3, on-camera flash.  I am still working on my technique for photographing these specimens.  I am not quite happy with my method yet.   Both image were taken hand-held.

Gulf Fritillary

Cick on either image to see an enlargement.

Birding at K-mart Creek

There is a wet area along the frontage road by the old K-Mart building off of Loop 306.  It is part of Red Arroyo and usually has a little stream of water in it.  Since it just a few blocks from our home, Ann and I check it out every time we go by there, which is to say nearly every day.  We have gotten used to calling it K-Mart Creek.

Cedar Waxwings

Over the past year, we have seen and/or photographed a veritable host of avian species.  All either in the creek, which bends around behind the Fireston Store, or in trees or on utility poles in and around the K-Mark parking lot.  Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Black-crowned Night Herons, Yellow-crowned Night Herons, Greater Yellowlegs, Belted Kingfishers, a Prairie Falcon, Wilson’s Snipe and a flock of Cedar Waxwings.

Now you won’t see these species all at once, and a lot of the time you won’t see any, but if you frequent it enough you will be rewarded.

Yesterday, we cruised through the parking lot, first checking the creek, then as we were leaving to turn on to Oak Grove Blvd. we saw the flock of Cedar Waxwings.  We was in our mini-van only about 10 feet away, so I came away with some very nice photos.  One of them is posted here.

Then, this morning, driving through again, we saw this Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

 pictured here.  It was also there yesterday morning, but I think I got the better photograph today.  I have it here for your enjoyment.  By the way, it is safest to do your birding from the parking lot.  If you do it from the frontage road, the traffic may may be a distraction, and the life you save might be your own. 🙂

Enjoy the photos, click on either one to see an enlargement.  For more of my photos check www.zellertexasphotos.com

Happy Birding!!

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Great Egret

The Great Egret (Ardea alba) and the Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) are the two that are seen most of the time around our area.  However you may come across flocks of Cattle Egrets also.  The Great Egret is the largest of the three.  It has an orange or yellowish beak and black legs, where the Snowy Egret has a blackish beak and black legs.  The Snowy is also quite a bit smaller.

The Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) is a shorter, stubbier bird.  It is found in

Great Egret

 upland habitats and near livestock, where the can get the insects off cattle, etc.  Hence the name.  I have come across flocks of the Cattle Egrets in the desert of Big Bend National Park.  Probably on a migation route. 

Two years ago on one of my trips to the Big Bend, as we were entering the park from the west near Study Butte, we pulled up to the kiosk where you pay your entrance fee to the park.  Lo and behold, there were two Cattle Egrets and one Yellow-headed Blackbird sitting the roof.  I pulled to the side of the road immediately.  The Egrets flew to a nearby Ocotilla and I was able to get some very nice photos.

The two great egret photos were taken near the old K-mart store in southwest San Angelo.  The Snowys were shot at O. C. Fisher lake and the cattle egrets were photographed several years ago in Big Bend National Park.

Click on any photo to see an enlargement.

Snowy Egrets


Cattle Egrets in ocotillo.

Photography as Art

This question comes up quite frequently.  Is photography considered it art?  Well, heck, ya, why shouldn’t it be?  But you’d be surprised at how many people refuse to accept that we, as photographers, can create art.  Take, for example the original charter for the San Angelo Art Club.  It forbids photography for their gallery and shows.  For their credit, they do have an annual show called “Anything Goes, Almost”, where art in all genres is accepted. 

Mountains in The Mist

To be fair, most of their members today, I think do recognize some photography.  They are quite complimentary of my work.  I entered their Anything Goes show one year and I got lucky and won 1st place.  I was even invited to join, but I saw no future in being a member if I couldn’t show or hang my photographs in their gallery. 

To get back to the subject of this post, there have been some great photographers that are certainly artists in their own right.  Ansel Adams is one of the greatest.  His beautiful black and white photographs of Yosemite are priceless.  He truly was an artist in the darkroom.  He was able to adjust the light and tonality to produce awesome images.  But he was one to admit that most people today wouldn’t know what the original picture looked like before he performed such artistry.  Then there was Galen Rowell, who I call the modern day Ansel Adams, and who was phenomenal working with color.  Yosemite was also one of his favorite places.  Not only was he a great photographer, but a mountaineer.  Many of  his photos were accomplished while he was hanging down the side of Half-Dome or EL Capitan.   Unfortunately, he and his wife Barbara were killed in a plane crash August 11, 2002.  He is certainly missed.  Anyway, Adam’s and Rowell’s photographs are certainly works of art.

I consider my images works of art.  Even though I can create a picture faster

Great Egret

 than the average paint artist, (in about 1/400th of a second)  it doesn’t mean that I don’t put a lot of work and creativity into it.  The average person thinks that I just aim the camera, then print it.  Not so.  When I am trying to make good scenics, I sometimes check out the location in advance, without taking the camera out of the car.  I want to see where the best location for a good composition is.  I want to check out the light so I know when the best part of the day will work best.  Of course, with my wildlife photos, I don’t have that luxury.  I have to be prepared to shoot with seconds notice.  I usually have my camera pre-set for the given circumstances so I can be ready.

After taking the photographs, I invariably am not satisfied.  I load the images into my computer for editing.  I check out the lighting, make color adjustments.  Then I crop for the best composition.  All this used to be done in a chemical darkroom.  Only now I don’t get my hands dirty.  Now the pictures are ready to be printed, framed and hung.

Eastern Bluebird

Nearly every time I participate in an art show, some one will invariably ask “where did you take that picture.”   It may be a mountains scene, such as my photograph of the rain-shrouded mountains that I call “Mountains in The Mist”.  I would prefer they just accept it as nice picture of the mountains.  If a paint artist created a picture like it, the  person would never ask “where did you paint the picture”.  They would, and rightfully so,  just accept as a nice mountain painting. 

Speaking of creativity, I sometimes am asked by someone who says he/she is an artist, if  he/she can paint one of my pictures.  I am glad that they like my work, but on the other hand, if they claim to be artists, why do they want to copy someone elses creativity.  It is rude and also violates all copyright laws.  So I tell them they can do so if they will sign my name to it.   ’nuff said.

I have to tell this tale that is somewhat unrelated.  A lady that works for the Chamber of Commerce whom I won’t identify, once asked me for photos of birds that were found in the San Angelo area.  I showed her all of my photos and she was about to select a few.  She came across one of my images of a Greater Roadrunner.  She asked, (wait for it), “where did you take that picture?”  I told her that it was somewhere near Knickerbocker,  near San Angelo.  She said she couldn’t use it because it wasn’t in San Angelo.   In actuality, most of the pictures she had previously selected, were taken at San Angelo State Park, which is outside the city limits.  She ended up not using any of them, since probably I couldn’t be trusted. :-).

So a final thought.  If a person can take a bucket of paint and just throw it at a canvas and call it art;  if a person sticks a paint brush in the mouth of a trained seal so it can swish a brush around and call it art;  then I think I can call my photographs art.

Incidentally, the image “Mountains in The Mist” was photographed in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park. 🙂

Click on the photos to see enlargements.

Happy Shooting!! (with camera) and Happy Birding!!