San Angelo’s International Water Lily Collection


San Angelo, Texas, is proud to own one of about only five certified International Water Lily Collections.  It contains four separate large pools of Water Lily specimens from all over the world.  I hadn’t been down to see them in several months, so Sunday morning I decided it was time to make a visit.  We weren’t disappointed, as even though the temperatures were approaching the 100 mark again, the blossoms looked beautiful.

We had to wait until late morning to see the blossoms.  Most of these blossoms close up at night, so we had to wait until late morning to get these photographs.  By then, the sun was high and bright.  Consequently, I had to adjust the EV quite a bit.  I hope you enjoy the images.  Click on any one of them for an enlargement.

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/250 sec. @ f11 – minus 1.3 EV adjustment
  • ISO 100
  • Lens focal distance – 200mm
  • Metering – Partial
  • Aperture priority

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/800 sec. @ f11 – minus 1.3 EV adjustment
  • ISO 100
  • Lens focal distance – 190mm
  • Metering – partial
  • Aperture priority

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/800 sec. @ f11 – minus 1.3 EV adjustment
  • ISO 100
  • Lens focal distance – 340mm
  • Metering – Partial
  • Aperture priority

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/800 sec. @ f11 – minus 1.3 EV adjustment
  • ISO 100
  • Lens focal distance – 200mm
  • Metering – partial
  • Aperture priority

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.

More about X-Bar Ranch Nature Retreat


Sunrise at X-Bar Ranch Nature Retreat

Click here for X-Bar Ranch Nature Retreat information.  Ann and I made a visit last week and spent a few days birding and photographing.   I had told you about it briefly in a post last week.  Here are some photos that I promised you. 
 
We spent most of our time around the lodge area, about 50 feet from the cabin that we stayed in.  It was amazing how many bird species that we saw in that tiny area.  We could have driven around the ranch on our own, but we will do that on another visit, as we were afraid of missing a new bird.
 
We were the only guests there, so we had the entire place to our own.  Stan Meador, the general manager, welcomed us and saw to our needs, then basically just left us alone.  Stan returned on Tuesday morning, and took us in his pickup truck for a tour of the ranch.
 
Besides the birding opportunities, there is hunting, hiking, biking, and camping.  As a matter of fact, Eddie Salter, a national champion turkey hunter and guide from Hunter’s Specialties had just finished filming a hunt to be shown in January 2012 on the Outdoor Channel.
 
At the bottom of this post I have listed the total species that we saw there.  Click on any photograph to see an enlargement.
 

Painted Bunting

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Northern Mockingbird
Chipping Sparrow
Western Scrub Jay
House Finch in flight
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Canyon Towhee
Northern Bobwhite
 
 
Happy Birding!!
 
Location:     X-Bar Ranch
Observation date:     4/18/11
Notes:     These are our observations at the Lodge April 18, 19, & 20th.<br>from
the north & south ends of the porch!
Number of species:     37
 
Northern Bobwhite     8
Wild Turkey     4
Turkey Vulture     6
American Kestrel     1
Eurasian Collared-Dove     2
White-winged Dove     6
Mourning Dove     10
Black-chinned Hummingbird     4
Golden-fronted Woodpecker     1
Eastern Phoebe     1
Eastern Kingbird     1
Western Scrub-Jay     7
Barn Swallow     2
Black-crested Titmouse     4
Bewick’s Wren     2
Hermit Thrush     2
Northern Mockingbird     6
Orange-crowned Warbler     2
Nashville Warbler     1
Yellow Warbler     2
Yellow-rumped Warbler     3
Spotted/Eastern Towhee     5
Rufous-crowned Sparrow     2
Canyon Towhee     2
Chipping Sparrow     6
Lark Sparrow     2
Savannah Sparrow     2
White-crowned Sparrow     2
Summer Tanager     3
Northern Cardinal     6
Pyrrhuloxia     1
Blue Grosbeak     1
Painted Bunting     4
Great-tailed Grackle     2
Brown-headed Cowbird     1
Scott’s Oriole     2
House Finch     10
House Sparrow     2
 
 

X-Bar Ranch Birding


As most of you know, Ann and I just returned from spending three days at the X-Bar Ranch Nature Retreat, near Eldorato, Texas.  We had a fantastic time.  Since we are in the midst of the migration, we were able to see quite a  number of birds.  The best part, all we had to do was to sit in an area about 50 feet from our cabin.  There was a small group of trees with a bubbling bird bath near by.
 
I set my Canon 7D on my tripod with a 500mm lens attached.  I kept my other 7D with a 100-400mm lens at my side.  So, between the two, I was pretty well equiped.  From the birding aspect, we saw 35 different species, all in that one little area.  A list is at the bottom of this post.

 

During our stay, one of the owners, Stan Meador, took us on a tour of the ranch.  He showed us a few other areas that could make good birding and photography areas.

Here are a few images that I captured.  I still have a large number of photographs to go through so there will be more posted in a few days.

Scrub Jay
Blue Grosbeak
Hermit Thrush
Summer Tanager

 Location:     X-Bar Ranch
Observation date:     4/18/11
Notes:     These are our observations at the Lodge April 18, 19, & 20th.<br>from
the north & south ends of the porch!
Number of species:     37

Northern Bobwhite     8
Wild Turkey     4
Turkey Vulture     6
American Kestrel     1
Eurasian Collared-Dove     2
White-winged Dove     6
Mourning Dove     10
Black-chinned Hummingbird     4
Golden-fronted Woodpecker     1
Eastern Phoebe     1
Eastern Kingbird     1
Western Scrub-Jay     7
Barn Swallow     2
Black-crested Titmouse     4
Bewick’s Wren     2
Hermit Thrush     2
Northern Mockingbird     6
Orange-crowned Warbler     2
Nashville Warbler     1
Yellow Warbler     2
Yellow-rumped Warbler     3
Spotted/Eastern Towhee     5
Rufous-crowned Sparrow     2
Canyon Towhee     2
Chipping Sparrow     6
Lark Sparrow     2
Savannah Sparrow     2
White-crowned Sparrow     2
Summer Tanager     3
Northern Cardinal     6
Pyrrhuloxia     1
Blue Grosbeak     1
Painted Bunting     4
Great-tailed Grackle     2
Brown-headed Cowbird     1
Scott’s Oriole     2
House Finch     10
House Sparrow     2

 

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers – Spring is here


The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, (Tyrannus forficatus), is one of the first birds to arrive in the spring in our area.  Their arrival took place here only about a week ago.

They are found only in the southern Great Plains and marginally into northeastern Mexico.  A gorgeous bird, soft pearl gray above,  a pinkish belly and bright rose-pink underwing coverts.

To celebrate the occasion I decided to share a few of my favorite images of them.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

 

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - juvenile

 

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

 I hope you enjoy this images of a very beautiful bird.  Click on any of them for an enlargement.

Spring has sprung – or not


I guess spring is finally here, however it is a little cooler here today, but I will ignore that.  Trees are budding out, expecially the mesquites, and that should be a sure sign.  But on the other hand, a niece e-mailed me three days ago that they had gotten 12 inches of snow that morning.  She lives near Traverse City, Michigan.  Thank God for Texas.

We saw our first Ash-throated Flycatcher of the year.  Plus I had a report from friends down in Eldorado that they had seen two Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.  So I guess the migration has started.  I hope you like this photo that I took when I first saw that flycatcher.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

People have asked me how I put that frame and mat around my digital images.  Well, I have a very special friend that wrote me a custom “action” for my Photoshop Elements program.  Pretty neat, huh??

About the Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens).  Breeds in open, dry habitats.  It spends it’s summers in the Southwestern United States.  Click on the image to see an enlargement.

This flycatcher is difficult to discern from a few other species.  To learn more about the identification of all birds, Delbert Tarter, one of the best local experts on the subject, will be presenting a three-week, 12-hour class at the San Angelo, Texas, Nature Center.  Two hours each Tuesday and Thursday nights for the duration.  (Delbert, wasn’t that neat how I worked that plug into this post for you?  You can thank me later.)  🙂   Phone 325-942-0121 for more information.

One more thing, click here to see what  Toby  Shoemaker, of Maine, is saying about me.

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

A Cold day for Birding


The outside temperature right now is 16 degrees and the wind chill is about zero.  But does that bother me??  You’re danged right, it does.  🙂  But not to worry as in a few days it will be back to our normal sixties weather.  I just decided that now is a good time to stay inside and get other stuff done.  Like writing another post.

Summer Tanager - male

However, I had a difficulty deciding what to write about, so I opted to just show some more of my older images.  Today those photos are of the Summer Tanager.  I took these pics nearly three years ago with my old Canon 40D.  I think that I had just acquired my Canon 500 f4 IS lens.

Summer Tanager - female

For a brief description of the Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra), I will refer to my bird guides.  The Sibley’s Guide to Birds, describes it to have redish or greenish flight feathers.  Found in mixed woods, near water.  Found in the Concho Valley from April to October.  What I like about this species is the diverse color.  The male is mostly red, the female is mostly yellow, and the juvenile is logically a mix of the two.

Summer Tanager - juvenile

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, offers this information on the species. The Summer Tanager, Piranga rubra, is a medium-sized American songbird. Formerly placed in the tanager family (Thraupidae), it and other members of its genus are now classified in the cardinal family (Cardinalidae).[2] The species’s plumage and vocalizations are similar to other members of the cardinal family.

Their breeding habitat is open wooded areas, especially with oaks, across the southern United States. These birds migrate to Mexico, Central America and northern South America. This tanager is an extremely rare vagrant to western Europe.

Adults have stout pointed bills. Adult males are rose red and similar in appearance to the Hepatic Tanager, although the latter has a dark bill; females are orangish on the underparts and olive on top, with olive-brown wings and tail.

These birds are often out of sight, foraging high in trees, sometimes flying out to catch insects in flight. They mainly eat insects, especially bees and wasps, and berries. Fruit of Cymbopetalum mayanum (Annonaceae) are an especially well-liked food in their winter quarters, and birds will forage in human-altered habitat[3]. Consequently, these trees can be planted to entice them to residential areas, and they may well be attracted to bird feeders. Summer Tanagers build a cup nest on a horizontal tree branch.

The Summer Tanager has an American Robin-like song, similar enough that novices sometimes mistake this bird for that species. The song consists of melodic units, repeated in a constant stream. The Summer Tanager’s song, however, is much more monotonous than that of T. migratorius, often consisting of as few as 3 or 4 distinct units. It is clearer and less nasal than the song of the Scarlet Tanager.

The Summer Tanager also has a sharp, agitated-sounded call pi-tuk or pik-i-tuk-i-tuk.[4]

I hope you enjoy the information and the photos.  Click on any image ot see an enlargement.

BEEP! BEEP! More on Greater Roadrunners


I can’t resist it.  I must write about these Greater Runners again.  It was a gloriously gorgeous day here in San Angelo.  You don’t think that I am going to stay home and get things done, do you??  We toured San Angelo State Park, as we are want to do on days like this.  We saw the usual contigent of birds, including the Phainopepla that is starting to enjoy this west Texas weather.  Then we saw this Greater Roadrunner. and was able to catch these photos.   Click on the images to see an enlargement.

Greater Roadrunner

The Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is a long-legged bird in the cuckoo family, Cuculidae. It is one of the two roadrunner species in the genus Geococcyx; the other is the Lesser Roadrunner. This roadrunner is also known as the chaparral cock, ground cuckoo, and snake killer.[2]

The roadrunner is about 56 centimetres (22 in) long and weighs about 300 grams (10.5 oz), and is the largest North American cuckoo. The adult has a bushy crest and long thick dark bill. It has a long dark tail, a dark head and back, and is blue on the front of the neck and on the belly. Roadrunners have four toes on each zygodactyl foot; two face forward, and two face backward. The name roadrunner comes from the bird’s habit of racing down roads in front of moving vehicles and then darting into the weeds.

Portrait of a Roadrunner

The breeding habitat is desert and shrubby country in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, but some other western states as well. The Greater Roadrunner nests on a platform of sticks low in a cactus or a bush and lays 3–6 eggs, which hatch in 20 days. The chicks fledge in another 18 days. Pairs may occasionally rear a second brood.

Greater Roadrunners measure 61 cm (2 feet) in length, about half of which is tail. They have long, sturdy legs and a slender, pointed bill. The upper body is mostly brown with black streaks and white spots. The neck and upper breast are white or pale brown with dark brown streaks, and the belly is white. A crest of brown feathers sticks up on the head, and a bare patch of orange and blue skin lies behind each eye;[4] the blue is replaced by white in adult males (except the blue adjacent to the eye), and the orange (to the rear) is often hidden by feathers.[2]This bird walks around rapidly, running down prey or occasionally jumping up to catch insects or birds. It mainly feeds on insects, with the addition of small reptiles (including rattlesnakes up to 60 cm long), rodents and other small mammals, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, small birds (particularly from feeders and birdhouses) and eggs, and carrion. It kills larger prey with a blow from the beak—hitting the base of the neck of small mammals—or by holding it in the beak and beating it against a rock. Two roadrunners sometimes attack a relatively big snake cooperatively. Fruit and seeds typically constitute about 10% of the diet.[2]

Although capable of flight, it spends most of its time on the ground, and can run at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour (32 km/h).[4]

Some Pueblo Indian tribes, such as the Hopi, believed that the roadrunner provided protection against evil spirits. In Mexico, some said it brought babies, as the White Stork was said to in Europe. Some Anglo frontier people believed roadrunners led lost people to trails.[2] It is the state bird of New Mexico.

Beep! Beep!

Happy Bidrding!!

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!!