Horoscopes are for the birds.

My horoscope this morning seemed to imply that I would be presenting you with a message with great authority.  I have no idea in the meaning of this.  I will probably give you a bit more of my nonsense enhanced with a few pictures.  How do astrologists come up with this stuff?  They explain that it is all in the ways the stars align.

Well, I can never see any stars align when I look at that wonderful Milky Way.  Heck, I took my trusty plumb-bob outside to check for some kind of alignment.  I couldn’t make out any two stars that seem to be in line with each other.  So I put that ol’ plumb-bob back in the garage with all of my plumbing tools.

Great Egret with sunfish

Great Egret with sunfish

I went out yesterday to see if I could get some usable photos.  I came across this Great Egret, (Ardea alba), and I don’t think the stars were aligning for him as I watched him for twenty minutes, trying to swallow this sunfish.  He finally gave it up, contributed to the catch-and-release program.

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Now this Mute Swan, (Cygnus olor), felt very comfortable in his element.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

As did the above Eastern Phoebe, (Sayornis phoebe).  So maybe there is something to be said about the alignment of stars being inducements.  Anyway, my thoughts on the stars are that there a heck of a lot of them.  Astronomers haven’t yet seen how far away the farthest one is, but so far they have seen nearly 400 billion light-years away.  I imagine that when they see the farthest one, they will see a plate-glass wall.  On the other side of the glass they will see a little kid with a dirty face.  He will have  lollipop in one hand, and a hammer in the other, that he is fixin’ to swing at the glass.

Well, enough of this nonsense for now.  My wife read this and clobbered me, and now I am seeing stars. 🙂

Images from a beautiful day……

We have had some very beautiful weather the past few days.  It is a very nice respite from the cold days that we had previously.  Ann and I got out to do a little birding, and I got some new photographs.  That was a bonus, as I hate to come home from birding empty-handed.

First up, I got very lucky getting this photo of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  It was in some thick brush along a fence at Spring Creek Park here in San Angelo.  We were in the car and maneuvered close to the fence, about 15 feet away.  We saw the bird in there, flitting around, and eventually it exposed itself long enough that I was able to get a few images.  If you look close, you can see the tiny red crown, that is usually concealed.  I hand held my Canon EOS 7D with a 100-400mm lens for the shot.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Along the way, we saw several Yellow-rumped Warblers on the ground and in the trees.  This is another tiny bird that moves quickly and is hard to photograph.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Another bird that we usually see on almost every visit to the lake parks, is the Great Egret.  This image was really under-exposed, so I decided to not correct it, but to just adjust the lighting of the egret itself.  It now appears like it is wading in moonlit waters.

Great Egret

Great Egret

We also saw this Ladder-backed Woodpecker working away in a mesquite tree.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Lastly, how could I not show this image of one of my favorite subjects, the Vermilion Flycatcher.  The wind was up a bit, and he seemed to be enjoying the swaying of the small tree branch.  I also like that I was able to get a catch-light in the eye.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

I hope that you enjoyed these photographs.  Click on any of them to see an enlargement.  To see more of my images, click on the “Fine Art” logo in the left side of this page.  There I have some galleries for you to browse.

Birding Eldorado Water Ponds

One place that Ann and I always enjoy visiting is the Water Treatment Ponds at Eldorado, Texas.  About forty miles south of our home in San Angelo, it is consists of five huge ponds, each about 200 feet by 300 feet.  I think one of them is even larger.  Anyway, you never know what you will find when you visit.  We have had times when the birding was scarce.

This time proved to be a bit different.  It was cool, overcast and windy when we left and didn’t really expect to see much, but we felt that it may be worth the trip.  We sometimes tire of the routine birding locally and just like to get away for awhile.

Savannah Sparrow on fence.

By the time we arrived it had warmed a bit, and the wind had abated somewhat.  The clouds were still overhead, and I really don’t mind that as the light is softer for photography.  Some of the winter duck types have arrived there, such as Gadwalls, Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shovelers.  These we haven’t seen in San Angelo yet, but I guess they are on their way.

There were numerous Savannah Sparrows on the fences, and we saw several overflights of other birds that we couldn’t identify, however there were several Blue-winged Teal arriving.

At one point we were were driving slowly and watching the close shoreline, looking for Wilson’s Snipes.  They are difficult to see and we were not successful in sighting any.  However we saw an American Bittern, a few yards ahead with it’s familiar head stretching upward.  Wanting to get a photograph, I crept a slowly as I could, but it still managed to detect me.  By the time we reached the location where we had seen it, it had nearly disappeared.  Upon close examination, though, I spotted it in the grasses, nearly invisible.  I managed to get several photos of it.

American Bittern – trying to be invisible.

A few yards farther along was one of two Great Egrets that we had seen.

Great Egret at Eldorado Water Treatment ponds.

One of the highlights of the day was spotting this Merlin.  I got several images of it and I wasn’t sure of the identification until I got home and could get a closer look at it in the computer.  It is very similar to the Prairie Falcon.  But when it spread it’s tail, I could see the wider, bolder stripes.


But this gives you an indication of the variety of birds that can be seen there.  We also saw about three Great Blue Herons, a Double-crested Cormorant. an American Kestrel, a few swallows and some other un-identified birds.  In all, according to Ann’s list that she always keeps, we saw twenty-four species in about two hours.  Here is a complete list.

  1. House Finch
  2. Great Egret
  3. American Coot
  4. Northern Shoveler
  5. White-winged Dove
  6. Northern Mockingbird
  7. American Kestrel
  8. Turkey Vulture
  9. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  10. Ruddy Duck
  11. Eared Grebe
  12. Double-crested Cormorant
  13. Pied-billed Grebe
  14. Wild Turkey
  15. Blue-winged Teal
  16. Savannah Sparrow
  17. Gadwall
  18. American Bittern
  19. Barn Swallow
  20. Great Blue Heron
  21. Killdeer
  22. Merlin
  23. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  24. Red-tailed Hawk

Great Surprises Await….If You Go

In her post, Mia McPherson talked abut not giving up on a trip if the weather doesn’t fit or if you think it is going to be a bad day.  If you don’t go, you will always wonder what you might have missed.  That bit of wisdom served Ann and I rightfully so on Monday morning.

The temperature was low 40s, very cloudy.  A glum day if ever there would be one.  We decided to go, even though we were thinking that there would be few birds and not very much excitement.  Boy, were we wrong.

We decided to go to Middle Concho Park.  We drove in the entrance and headed for the river area.  I looked to the left and said, “Hey, Ann, there’s a Great Egret!”  She answered, “No, that’s a Snowy!”  We did a double-take and saw there was one of each standing about four feet apart.  I turned down the road to the left, whipped a U-turn so I could photograph out my window.  I was able to get images of each one.

Snowy Egret

Great Egret

I started to drive straight ahead and Ann exclaimed, “Bob, up in that tree dead ahead!”  I looked and there was a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk staring down at us.  I turned the car to the right temporarily so I could again use my window and got a nice image of the hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk – juvenile

I straightened the car and we continued.  We immediately saw a Golden-fronted Woodpecker in a tree to our right, then saw eight American Coots in the water to our left.  At this point, we had been in the park only about five minutes.   Later I photographed another Great Blue Heron across the water.

Great Blue Heron

After turning at the end of the park and started coming back, we saw several vultures flying through the park.  At one point I thought I saw one land on a tree branch about forty feet to my left.  I looked at it again, and realized it wasn’t a vulture, but a Zone-tailed Hawk.  A certain rarity for this area as they don’t come around here hardly at all.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune, and I got some great images of it with my Canon 7D and 100-400mm lens.

Zone-tailed Hawk

Soon after that, I looked across the river about 200 yards away, and I said, “Ann, there’s that Kingfisher again.”  It seems that they are always far off and this was certainly no exception.  I used my 500mm lens with a 1.4 tele-converter and rattled off a few shots.  Because of the extreme distance, I wasn’t able to crop as close as I did for the one in my prior post.

Belted Kingfisher

After that, we moved to Spring Creek Park and added more birds to our list of sightings for the day.  So it turned out to be an exciting morning.  We’re glad that we didn’t let the weather change our mind about going.  We were having so much fun that we didn’t notice how cool it was.  In all we saw twenty-seven species.  Not bad for about three hours.  Here is complete list.

  1. Northern Mockingbird   4
  2. White-winged Dove   5
  3. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher   2
  4. Turkey Vulture   11
  5. House Sparrow   9
  6. House Finch   5
  7. Eastern Bluebird   14
  8. Great Blue Heron   4
  9. Snowy Egret   1
  10. Great Egret   1
  11. Great-tailed Grackle   15
  12. Red-tailed Hawk   1
  13. Golden-fronted Woodpecker   3
  14. Pied-billed Grebe   4
  15. Belted Kingfisher   3
  16. Zone-tailed Hawk   1
  17. Black Vulture   3
  18. Barn Swallow   3
  19. American Coot   8
  20. Killdeer   1
  21. Mallard   4
  22. Northern Cardinal   2
  23. Red-winged Blackbird   30
  24. Yellow-rumped Warbler   1
  25. Black-crowned Heron   2
  26. Common Grackle   9
  27. Mute Swan   1

Enjoy the photos, and click any of them to see enlargements.  P.S. My Blurb publisher has offered a 20% discount on my book, “Birds, Beasts and Buttes”.  Click this link, Bob”s Book.  Use the code  FANS  at checkout.

Great Blue Heron plus Two

I thought you’d enjoy a nice brief post with a few photographs to enjoy your weekend.  They were taken between my birthday on October 2 and October 4.  Hey, did I tell you that I turned 78 on that day on the 2nd?  Darn, I must have forgot.  They say that you lose two thing when you get old.  One is your memory.  I can’t remember what the second one is.

Great Blue Heron with fish

Anyway, we were driving around Middle Concho Park, checking out the rising level of the water.  We got over 7 inches of rain finally. and things are looking good.  This Great Blue Heron was enjoying himself, too, partaking of the goodies in the water.

Great Egret

This Great Egret was watching for the same thing, but I didn’t hang around long enough to see if he was as successful.  I love this reflection.

Belted Kingfisher

In another area we saw three Belted Kingfisher flying around and arguing over territorial rights.  This one finally perched across the river to catch it’s breath.

Click on any image to see an enlargement.

P.S. My Blurb publisher has offered a 20% discount on my book, “Birds, Beasts and Buttes”.  Click this link, Bob”s Book.  Use the code  FANS  at checkout.

Last post before Big Bend journey.

How time flies.  Ann and I have been looking forward to our upcoming trip to the Big Bend country for several weeks.  Now all of a sudden it’s upon us.  Wham!  Bam!  No time to make dessert.  Gotta get to packin’.  We’re leaving in less than 48 hours.  We will be on our way to Marathon, Texas and the Gage Hotel early Sunday morning.  After checking out some birding hotspots there, we will head on for the Terlingua/Study Butte area, where we will be staying for  the next four nights.

So this will be my last post for a few days, probably not until next weekend after we get back on the 28th.  But as is my practice, I will leave you with a few shots that I got this week here in the area.

Great Egret taking off from the water.

The reason that I hadn’t shown you this photo of the Great Egret, was because I had clipped the wings a bit.  But that happens, when your subject is in motion and you are trying to keep up.  But after some re-consideration, I changed my mind about publishing it.  I will just have to live with the clipped wings.

Wood Duck

The above Wood Photo was one of those that I was disappointed in the original image.  The exposure was off, and I didn’t think that I could salvage it, but thanks to the digital darkroom, it worked out pretty good.

How about one more shot of everyone’s favorite, the Vermilion Flycatcher.

Vermilion Flycatcher

So I will leave you with the above images.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.  I hope to be back next week with some nice images of the Texas desert, canyons, and the wildlife that lives therein.  We will be staying at the Far Flung Advertures Casitas.  If any of ya’ll want to join us, come on down.

The birds are coming! The birds are coming!!

We are finally starting to see some more birds arriving again.  Where we would see just empty waters at Middle Concho Park, here in San Angelo, Texas, we are seeing now a few more waterbirds, and other migratories.

Wood Ducks

Our latest trip allowed us to see some Least Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, and four Wood Ducks.  On that latter one, I got an improved photo over the one I showed in a previous post.  We also saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and possibly a second one.  I was unable to get a photo, but the red nape and center white feathers on it’s back were pretty distinctive.

Swainson’s Hawk

We also saw a flyover of about a dozen geese, but I was unable to identify them, as they were moving pretty fast.  I got a pretty good image of a Swainson’s Hawk, and also one of a Belted Kingfisher as he was intent on watching for a meal in the waters below him.

Belted Kingfisher

In the case of the Wood Ducks and the Belted Kingfisher, the birds were quite a distance away and I had to rely on some creative cropping to get these close-up images.  My old friend, the Great Egret, was still hanging around and I have a hard time resisting getting more images of him.

Great Egret

So that’s it for this post.  It is raining this morning, but later, if it clears out, I may make another run to see what is arriving today. 🙂

Just give a little whistle………..

We ran across a bunch of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, (Dendrocygna autumnalis), yesterday at Middle Concho Park.  There were probably about twenty-five of them, just sauntering along by the river.  They were whistling, too.  Really.  They seemed happy.  I got several shots of them before I went on my way.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Since I didn’t know how to whistle along with them, I decided to let them alone and continue downstream.  Or was it upstream.  Anyway, I was watching for the pair of Wood Ducks that I had seen a few days ago.  They were nowhere to be seen.  However, I got another image of a Great Egret to share with you.

Great Egret

More ducks and other water birds are starting to arrive from the north and I saw some Least Sandpipers and also I got this image of a Greater Yellowlegs, (Tringa melanoleuca).

Greater Yellowlegs

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

Wood Ducks – a new lifer

I knew that we have the occasional Wood Duck, (Aix sponsa), in the area, but I have never had the opportunity to see one.  We ventured out to Middle Concho Park, to see if any migrants had paid us a visit, and we spotted this pair of non-breeding adults.  I was happy to add them as number 247 to my life list.  Again, the morning sun was very bright from my left, and with the glare from the water, getting a good exposure was difficult.

Wood Ducks – adult, non-breeding

Driving further along the bank of the river, we saw this Great Egret,

Great Egret

then we flushed this Great Blue Heron from a nearby tree.

Great Blue Heron

No Regrets for these Egrets

I have never regretted plying the lakes and waterways around San Angelo, Texas, as I have always managed to come up with photos of egrets, herons, etc.   Of course, the waterways now are more like dryways.   O. C. Fisher lake is completely dry,  Twin Buttes Reservoir is only 5% percent of capacity, and Lake Nasworthy has dropped two feet and counting.   It is getting more difficult to launch a boat there anymore.

But that is not what this post is about.   In trying to find a nice subject to write about I decided to show you my best of the best favorite photos of the Great Egret, (Ardea alba).  These images have been taken in and around San Angelo in recent years, during wetter and better times.

Great Egret in reeds.

Great Egret “Night Flight”

Great Egret browsing in the reeds.

Great Egret “Liftoff”

Great Egret

Great Egret

Enjoy, and click on any image to see an enlargement.