A new (May)day dawns.


I have been doing a lot of thinking since my last post, considering what kind of changes I can make to keep my Texas Tweeties blog interesting.  Also since that post, I have acquired over one hundred new subscribers.  Of course, that shows me that I might not need to make major changes at all.  However, one thing I might do, is to sometimes touch on stories of my past, and I do have many.  For example, how many of you knew that I tried to be a piano tuner once?  Or an award winning paper boy? (Some great stories on that one.)  Just a couple of the things from my mysterious past.

Of course, my blog title of Texas Tweeties, is in line with my photography of birds.  A friend of mine chose that name for me.  However, it has nothing to do with Twitter and those kind of tweets.  You might say that I have been tweeting long before our president started tweeting.  I had considered once to change that title, but it caused too much of an uproard among my readers, so Texas Tweeties shall remain thy name.

Another major change is that I don’t do my own printing anymore.  My aging, but excellent Epson printer is giving me problems.  It has served me well the past few years, but I just can’t afford to replace it.  But not to worry, you can go to my FineArtAmerica site and order my work in any size you desire.  You also have the option of different types of paper, mats and framing.  You can also order coffee mugs and other home decor featuring my photographs.  Just go to this link FineArtAmerica, click the image you are interested in.  Drop-down menus will show sizes and prices.  You can order direct.

Oh, yes, before I forget about it, I have been feeling better. Not 100%, but getting there.  I am getting head movement therapy at the West Texas Rehab Center.  Hopefully my bouts of dizziness will subside.  But with feeling better, Ann and I got out a little in the past few days and got a few photographs.  My highlight was spotting this Common Yellowthroat.  They are very shy little birds.  They hang out in dense brush mostly.  You can hear them before you see them, or maybe never see them.  It can be very frustrating.  However, this one made an appearance for a few minutes, giving me ample time to get several exposures.

1Y7A7588-net-yellowthroat-bob-zeller

Common Yellowthroat

1Y7A7569-net-yellowthroat-bob-zeller

Common Yellowthroat

Also, while driving around the parks near Lake Nasworthy, we spotted this Great Egret in her breeding colors.

1Y7A7539-net-+egret-great-bob-zeller

Great Egret in breeding plumage.

Well, that is all for this post.  I’ll be back in a few days with more exciting stuff.

Happy Birding!!

The birds are coming! The birds are coming!


The winter birds are not all here yet, but they are beginning to straggle in.  Ann and I went to our local parks yesterday and spent about two hours.  We spotted twenty-three different species in that short time.  Of course, some of them were residents, but we spotted a few Eastern Bluebirds, Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Greater Yellowlegs, three Pied-billed Grebes, and a few Gadwalls.

In other news, some friends of ours moved back to Abilene, so we went to visit them.  During the day we visited the bird blind at Abilene State Park.  Wow!  What a disappointment.  It is definitely not photographer friendly.  Several vertical ‘slats’, for want of another word, are spaced about 10 inches apart across the window.  Nor was it exactly great bird watching either in our visit.  The water facility didn’t have any water for example.  It is very tiny. There are several feeders right in front of the window that I thought was distracting.  It just seems to me that everything was just placed in a hap-hazardly manner.  Maybe it was just me, but I could see no organization it it.  In the thirty minutes we were there we saw exactly two bird species.  Black-crested Titmouse and Carolina Chickadee.  I think they need to visit our blind here in San Angelo or the nice ones at Pedernales Falls SP.

Great Egret - photographed near Abilene, Texas

Great Egret – photographed near Abilene, Texas

So that is my rant for the day.  The above photo, by the way, was not photographed near the bird blind.  Of course, you probably knew that.

Vermilion Flycatcher from my archives.  March 2014

Vermilion Flycatcher from my archives. March 2014

Today, I have been going back through my archives, and it seems that I keep making these discoveries.  The following photo was taken during a trip to Knoxville, Tennessee, way back in 2008.  We had been visiting our dear friends, the Tappans.  Ann and I, along with Deb and Paul were driving along the Tennessee River.  Deb is an awesome photographer, too, so when we came across a rookery of Black-crowned Night Herons, we promptly got our equipment ready.  There were at least one hundred of them, some flying around, and others roosting.  I had been wondering where those photos were, and I found them in a folder buried inside another folder.

A happy Black-crowned Night Heron from my archives.  June 2008

A happy Black-crowned Night Heron from my archives. June 2008

Our 2014 Big Year list is at 193 right now.  As I have mentioned before, we have a goal of hitting 200 by the end of the year so we only have seven to go.  Sounds easy, but we have to get to work.  We are going back to the Davis Mountains later this month, then a few weeks later we hope to make another trip to Uvalde.  Then there might be even time for a few days to visit the Big Bend area.  Hopefully, we can find those seven during those trips.

 

Canada Geese plus Sunday photos


I got a call from my bird look-out friend yesterday (Saturday) afternoon.  Sue Oliver is an intense birder always watching for anything new to appear.  It was late in the day, but I was ready to go.  She said there were some Canada Geese at a neighborhood park near downtown San Angelo.  Since I am the “have camera, will travel” type of guy I headed out.

When I got there the sun was very low as evening was coming on.  I spotted a few of the geese in the grass, but they were far inside the fence.  This is a private neighborhood park.  They were feeding then, but as we watched they took flight and flew into the pond about 100 feet away.  I drove around the block to the other side of the park which was closer to the water, and it was easier to get a few images there.  Because of the late, low sun, the exposure was difficult.

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Granted, the Canada Geese are thought of as nuisances in some cities.  As a matter of fact, one time when we where were visiting relatives near Mackinaw, Michigan, we ventured into a park where there were many mother geese with their goslings following them around.  In trying to get photos I got more than my share of goose poop in and on my shoes. But it was nice to see them here, as they are a rarity around here.

This morning, Ann and I woke early to a beautiful Sunday morning and decided that we would venture to the local parks after partaking of our Happy Meals at the nearby Golden Arches.  After arriving at the Spring Creek Park, we spotted this Red-tailed Hawk high in a tree.  He was facing away, but decided to have a look at me before making his way to more promising hunting grounds.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

After checking out some other smaller birds that were there, we drove over to Middle Concho Park.  There we drove along the water and got images of a Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret

Great Egret

Both birds were across the river and I was able to use my 500mm lens with a 1.4 teleconverter, shooting from my car parked along the near side of the water.

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

Photographing Birds in Flight


As most of you photographers know, one of the most challenging projects to tackle, is to photograph birds in flight.  A few of my other blogging photographer friends have touched on the subject recently.  I thought I would put my proverbial two cents worth in about this challenge.

Of course what is needed is a fast shutter speed along with a long lens.  Most of the time I am shooting with my Canon 7D or my 70D.  My preferred lens is my Canon 100-400mm zoom.  Sometimes I use the same camera with my Canon 500mm lens attached, using my tripod with a gimbal head for fast maneuverablity.

For the larger birds, I can use the widest angle of the lens to acquire the bird, then zoom in to pan the camera after locking in my auto-focus.  The fact that the large birds, hawks, vultures, pelicans, etc, appear to be flying slower helps quite a bit.  As for the tiny birds, well, I practice a lot and therefore get lucky alot.

House Finch in flight.  Canon EOS 7D, 500mm lens /1.4 teleconverter.  1/2500 sec, f5.6, ISo 1000

House Finch in flight. Canon EOS 7D, 500mm lens /1.4 teleconverter. 1/2500 sec, f5.6, ISo 1000

One of those lucky shots was the one above of the House Finch in flight.  I was on a porch, with the described setup mounted on my tripod with a gimbal head.  The finches were flying back and forth between some shrubs below me.  I kept trying to swing the camera as the birds flew, and fortuntely the odds were with me, and I got lucky and captured it with it’s wings spread.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight.  Canon EOS 7D, 100-400mm lens.  1/3200 sec. @f6.3, ISO 400.

Red-tailed Hawk . Canon EOS 7D, 100-400mm lens. 1/3200 sec. @f6.3, ISO 400.  Hand-held.

This Red-tailed Hawk pictured above was somewhat easier.  I was driving towards Ballinger when I spotted the bird in the grass off of the left shoulder.  I moved quickly to the right hand side of the road, grabbed my camera off of my lap, where I always have it at the ready.  By then he had started to take flight.  My lens and camera easily acquired him, locked onto the auto-focus.  In burst mode I was able to fire off several exposures.

Red-tailed Hawk  Canon 40D with 100-400mm lens.  1/800 @ f6.3, ISO 400.

Red-tailed Hawk.  Canon 40D with 100-400mm lens. 1/800 @ f6.3, ISO 400.  Hand-held.

This photo is an example of being able to pan and therefore not having to use a super fast shutter speed.  The hawk and been perched atop a sotol int the desert of west Texas.  I had stopped to observe it from about 150 yards.  When it decided to take flight, I was ready.  I locked in on him and panned the camera.  Notice the 1/800 second shutter speed versus the 1/3200 speed in the previous photo.

Red-tailed Hawk - Canon EOS 40D, 1/1000 sec. @ f8, ISO 400.  Hand-held

Red-tailed Hawk – Canon EOS 40D, 1/1000 sec. @ f8, ISO 400. Hand-held.

The shot above was quite easy.  He was soaring overhead.  I exited the car and just panned as he flew around.  Again with burst mode, I got several nice exposures.  I liked this pose even though, I clipped a wing a bit.

Great Egret.  Canon EOS 7D, 100-400mm lens.  1/500 sec. @ f9, ISO 1600.

Great Egret. Canon EOS 7D, 100-400mm lens. 1/500 sec. @ f9, ISO 1600.  Hand-held.

The Great Egret was flying slowly down the Concho River in San Angelo.  I was able to pan with the slower shutter speed again.  The under-exposed dark background is the shadows of a building in the background.

Great Blue Heron.  Canon EOS 40D, 100-400mm lens.  1/1000 @  f11, ISO 400.

Great Blue Heron. Canon EOS 40D, 100-400mm lens. 1/1000 @ f11, ISO 400.  Hand-held.

Of course, what would my post be without a photo of one of my favorite subjects, the Great Blue Heron.  This photo was made near Lake Nasworthy here in San Angelo, Texas.

You may click on any of the images to see enlargements.

To update my west Texas “Big Year”, I added one more.

#85  Greater Yellowlegs.

Note:  My book, “Birds, Beasts and Buttes” is still going strong.  You can obtain one at this link, here.  Over 100 of my best photographs.

2014 off and running……


Ann and I celebrated New Years Day by trying to get a big start on our 2014 bird count.  The best we have done in previous years is 194.  Our goal this year is to try to hit 210.  So off we went to spend a couple of hours before we wanted to watch the Rose Bowl Game.  We are both natives of Michigan, albeit we haven’t lived there in 60 years.  But we are still Michigan State fans.  Many of you older generation folks may remember the great Earl Morrel, the quarterback for MSU the lead the Spartans to multiple Rose Bowl wins.  Later he starred as the great backup for John Unitas in the NFL.  He went to high school at the same time I did.  We knew each other, but distantly, he was the BMOC (big man on campus).  I was the local nerd.

So back to birding.  We counted 32 species in a couple of hours, so maybe that will give us some momentum towards our 210.  It was cool and windy, but sunny and cloudless.  Photographically, I didn’t come away with much.  We saw a beautiful Great Egret feeding along a small waterway, so we watched and waited for him to take flight.  When he did I was able to capture some nice images.  This is one that I liked.  Photographed with my Canon EOS 70D and 100-400mm lens.  Shutter priority, 1/3200 sec. @ f5/6, minus 1/3 EV adjustment, ISO 320.

Great Egret in flight.

Great Egret in flight.

So let’s lift our glasses, (binoculars or tumblers, your choice) to having a great 2014.  Happy New year to all. 🙂

Blue Heron, Egret, and new lifer


This morning was mild but quite windy.  Wanting to get out of the house and do a little birding, Ann and I headed to Middle Concho Park.  With the winds, many of the smaller birds were hunkered down and out of sight.  However, as we entered the park, something caught my eye in the water to my left.  At first I thought it was a Doubled-crested Cormorant, but did a double-take when I noticed  a quite larger bill, and the head didn’t look familiar.  I knew that whatever it was, I knew I had never seen one before.  I told Ann that I was going to chase it down and try to get photos.

It had started swimming away from us, farther down this long inlet that eventually emptied into the river.  It bordered a Disc Golf Course.  Nobody was there, so I drove the car across the course to the water and drove along the shore.  The creature was making good time, occasionally diving under the water then coming up another 100 yards farther down.  I was finally able to catch up and was able to prop my 500mm lens on the window and get some shots.  We were then able to check the image in the camera with our Stokes guide and found that it was a Common Loon.  It is rare to our San Angelo area and it turned out to be lifer number 264 for me.

Common Loon

Common Loon

Driving farther along that same body of water, we then saw this Great Blue Heron doing some hunting.  It was completely oblivious of me as I slowly drove my car up within 25 feet of it.  I again used my 500mm lens with a 1.4. teleconverter and it was almost too much lens.  The photo below is full framed un-cropped except a little from the sides for size.  I love the detail of the feathers.  Give credit to the outstanding Canon L series lenses.

Portrait of a Great Blue Heron.

Portrait of a Great Blue Heron.

Later we also saw this graceful Great Egret doing a little searching for prey.

Great Egret

Great Egret

It was a fun morning, getting to photograph two of my favorite birds and also getting another addition to my life list.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

More from Houston trip


My last post described the great wildlife in and around Shannon’s back yard near Houston, Texas.  Here are a few more photos I took during that great week, including this sequence of a Great Egret making a landing in their creek.

Great Egret making a landing.

Great Egret making a landing.

Great Egret landing.

Great Egret landing.

Great Egret fishing in the creek.

Great Egret splashing down.

In the nearby trees a spider was working in the early morning light.

Early morning spider web.

Early morning spider web.

White Ibises were all around us it seemed.  Beautiful, long-billed wading birds found around the gulf coast.  Their favorite food are the river snails found in the creek.

White Ibis

White Ibis

White Ibises

White Ibises

Back in the yard, Shannon’s children are finding some large grubs in her compost bed.  I think they named this one Moe.

Texas-sized grub.

Texas-sized grub.

Shannon and grub.

Shannon and grub.

Shannon goofing off with grub again.

Shannon goofing off with grub.

The woodland birds were waking up and we spotted this nearby Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

A Snowy Egret made a late appearance.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

So our four fun days ended there and we returned home to San Angelo with great memories.  Can’t wait to go back.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Osprey and Great Egrets……


Ann and I took a ride to Spring Creek Park this Thursday morning.  We were looking for the arrival of migratory birds.  They are still slow in coming, but saw the arrival of the first Double-crested Cormorant of the season, so I guess that is a start.  We watched an Osprey hunting up and down the waters.  It took me by surprise and caught a fish, but I tracked it and I saw it land in a tree.  Fortunately, it was nearby and I was able to hand-hold my new Canon 70D with a 100-400mm zoom lens.  The first shot is of him perched, then I took the second shot as he began to fly off.  Then I was lucky enough to catch him in flight.

Osprey perched with fish.

Osprey perched with fish.

Osprey taking off.

Osprey taking off.

Osprey in flight.

Osprey in flight.

Farther on as we drove around the horse-shoe drive in the park, we looked across the water and saw four Great Egrets in the trees.  At that point the water is about 300-400 yards wide.  I propped my Canon 7D with the 500mm lens and tele-converter on my window sill to try for the shot.  I really thought it was to far for a quality image, but my state of the art Canon equipment performed as advertised.  Here is the result.  By the way, it is also tightly cropped for composition.

Two Great Egrets in a tree.

Two Great Egrets in a tree.

As always, these images were post processed through Photoshop applications.  Click on any picture to see an enlargement.

Birding Twin Buttes Reservoir


Much has been said in my post about our birding at Spring Creek and Middle Concho Parks.  Most of my recent photos have been taken at one or both of these areas.  Such as the Great Blue Heron and Great Egret, both of which I took yesterday.

Great Egret - Spring Creek Park, San Angelo, Texas

Great Egret – Spring Creek Park, San Angelo, Texas

Great Blue Heron - Middle Concho Park

Great Blue Heron – Middle Concho Park, San Angelo, Texas

But another area that we have pretty much neglected to bird, is an area at Twin Buttes Reservoir.  This lake, with one of the longest earthern dams in the country, was built in the early ’60s as a flood control project.  As with most of the local lakes around here, it has almost dried up during our drought.  However, with a thunderstorm a couple of days ago, there are a few puddles of standing water.  Such is what we found when we decided to drive out there after spending time at the above mentioned parks.

It was hot by the time we got there, but this one spot among a dozen mesquite trees felt like a little oasis.  There was a low area about 50 feet long by about 15 feet wide filled with muddy water that hadn’t soaked into the ground yet.  There were numerous small birds flitting between the trees and the water.

Bullock's Oriole on mesquite branch.

Bullock’s Oriole on mesquite branch.

Western Kingbird on mesquite branch.

Western Kingbird on mesquite branch.

Blue Grosbeak - female - thinking about taking a bath.

Blue Grosbeak – female – thinking about taking a bath.

Greater Roadrunner - cooling off

Greater Roadrunner – cooling off

Besides the above birds, we also saw a Painted Bunting take a quick splash in the water, but was gone before I could get the camera to my eye.  We also spotted an Orchard Oriole on a nearby high wire.

This is the kind of birding that I really enjoy.  To find a nice birdy spot like this, sit and watch from our blind, a.k.a. our car.  The fun is not knowing what you are going to see.  We will be going back very soon, before the water dries up.

Click an any image to see an enlargement.

A new week, a new day……


I am sitting here at my computer pondering the day, and wondering what I am going to write about.  I sometimes never decide until I am actually here with my fingers on the keyboard.  Ann and I had a pretty nice weekend, but now it’s time to get after it.  “It” being doing something constructive.

On Friday we decided to make a birding run through our local parks in the Lake Nasworthy area.  We actually came away with seeing 43 species in about three hours time.  I didn’t get any photos that were in an award-winning fashion, but here are a few images from the morning.

Eared Grebe

Eared Grebe

The Eared Grebe was the first we had seen this year, and we were fortunate to do so, as they usually have all left by this date except for a few hangers-on.

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

The Blue-winged Teal was feeding pretty near the grebe, as was the Great Egret pictured below.

Great Egret

Great Egret

Sparrows are difficult to photograph, because of the small size and also because it is hard to catch them still enough when they are in the grass.  I got lucky with this Savannah Sparrow.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

So photographically the day wasn’t a complete waste.  I have to admit, though,  that sometimes I get caught up with the birding aspect, and sub-conciously forget the cameras.  Then I have a ‘V-eight’ moment, slam myself in the forehead about possibly missing a great shot.

Speaking of great birding here is a list of our sightings, which included our first Bullock’s Oriole of the year.

  1. Blue Jay   1
  2. White-winged Dove   7
  3. House Finch   9
  4. Great-tailed Grackle   11
  5. House Sparrow   5
  6. Mourning Dove   3
  7. Neotropic Cormorant   15
  8. American Coot   25
  9. Gadwall   5
  10. Pied-billed Grebe   3
  11. European Starling
  12. Killdeer   1
  13. Turkey Vulture   5
  14. Eastern Bluebird   3
  15. Red-winged Blackbird   7
  16. Northern Shoveler   1
  17. Golden-fronted Woodpecker   4
  18. Bewick’s Wren    1
  19. Northern Cardinal   5
  20. Ash-throated Flycatcher   2
  21. Eared Grebe   1
  22. Blue-winged Teal
  23. Common Grackle   7
  24. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  25. Brown-headed Cowbird   1
  26. Chipping Sparrow   7
  27. Vermilion Flycatcher   2
  28. Lark Sparrow   7
  29. Black-bellied Whistling Duck   25
  30. Barn Swallow   5
  31. Great Blue Heron   4
  32. Savannah Sparrow   3
  33. Great Egret   1
  34. Black-crested Titmouse
  35. Yellow-rumped Warbler   3
  36. Ladder-backed Woodpecker   1
  37. Bullock’s Oriole   2
  38. White-crowned Sparrow   3
  39. Wild Turkey   1
  40. Belted Kingfisher
  41. Cinnamon Teal   1
  42. Rock Pigeon   1
  43. Northern Mockingbird   7

I hope you enjoyed the images.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.