Fall Migration Beginning


The temps here have finally dropped towards the low nineties.  The cool fronts are starting to bring a few winter and migrant birds.  We are excited about the activity as we have had a few somewhat boring birding trips recently.  Here are a few images that I captured the past few days.

This is the first Osprey that we have seen since spring.  It was across the water high in a tree, about 200 yards distant.  This is one of several poses that I was able to get.  It is heavily cropped, and sharpened with FocusMagic software.

Osprey

Osprey

This Green Heron was a welcome sight, too.  They have been around most of the summer, but I have had a hard time spotting one.  This one was across the water, but at a point where I much closer, maybe 150 yards.

Green Heron

Green Heron

Yesterday, we drove along the brushy fence line near Spring Creek Park.  A friend had seen a Wilson’s Warbler the day before and we were hoping to see it for ourselves.  We were not disappointed.  We saw two, but as they flit quickly through the brush, it was nearly impossible to get a good photo this time.  I managed to get this image before they disappeared farther into the woods.  Not a great shot, but recognizable.

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

Along with the Wilson’s, there were a couple of Nashville Warblers.

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Along the way, we also saw a Yellow Warbler and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, but was unsucessful in getting any photos of them.

Labor Day weekend odds and ends……


As many of you know I am recuperating from a hospital stay with a nasty bout with a urinary infection.  I have been home for a few days and have been itching to get back in to the field.  So, feeling up to it, I and Ann sneaked out to San Angelo State Park for an hour or two.  It was hot and we really didn’t expect much, but I wanted to get out of the house.

We first drove down near the only operating boat ramp on the struggling O.C. Fisher lake.  The heat and evaporating are taking their toll.  I think the level has dropped nearly two feet in just the past three weeks.  Anyway, I spotted this Green Heron about 125 yards away in the reeds.  Since the pickin’s were slow I tried to come away with some kind of shot.  It was tiny in the viewfinder and I did’nt think I had a prayer of getting anything useful, mainly because of the focus problems with all of the reeds. I hand held the camera because I didn’t feel like lugging the tripod down there.  Anyway, I got lucky and here is the final result after doing some major cropping.

Green Heron

Green Heron

Venturing around to the Isabel Harte multi-use area, I came across this Great Roadrunner cooling under a shady Live Oak.  He presented a slight exposure problem with the shade and bright background.  But the good news, he was only about 25 feet away.  I was careful to ease my car into position for a shot from my window.  He posed long enough that I got several exposures.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

Getting away from birding for a bit, I had nice comment to my About Me page.  It was from Kathryn Ingrid at Art-colored Glasses.  She lives in Denton, Texas and her husband, Richard, is a conductor and the interim head of the choral program at University of North Texas.  UNT has a fantastic jazz program, and I am acquainted with their One-o-Clock Lab band.  It brought memories of my own playing in the big bands of an earlier era.  Although I didn’t play in the ‘big name’ bands I loved any opportunity to play in a band with five saxes, five trumpets and four ‘bones, plus assorted percussion.  I love the jazz creations of Stan Kenton, the driving sound of County Basie, or the sweet saxophones of Ralph Flanagan.

As I said, I never played with likes of those, but I did play with many of the great musicians at after-hours late night (early morning) jam sessions while I was stationed in Reno, Nevada.

I thank Kathryn for bringing back those memories.  Maybe it will lead to another post about those experiences.

Birding getting better…….


It must be the cooler temps that we have had the past few mornings.  Ann and I went out to the local parks for a few hours.  It might be my imagination, but there seemed to be more activity than we have had recently.  We saw 26 species.  Although not a great number, but it did include a few surprises.  A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, three Yellow Warblers, a Carolina Wren, just to name a few that we don’t see everyday.

Here are some images that I managed to get.

Ann, my bride and spotter, saw this Green Heron across the water about 100 yards away.  I maneuvered our car around so I could park on the bank and shoot across the water.  The photo turned out great, thanks to my Canon EOS 7DmkII and my Tamron 150-600mm lens.  Heavily cropped, of course.

Green Heron

Green Heron

This Yellow-billed Cuckoo presented a challenge.  He and a companion were frolicking in the trees so I had to move the car several times to get into position, and he was far above my head..  For those of you who wonder why I didn’t get out of my car, the answer is that the birds don’t co-operate as well when I am visible.  The car makes an excellent bird blind.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

We decided to drive out Spillway Road where we sometimes see nice bird activity.  Along the way, I spotted this juvenile male Painted Bunting.  I was disappointed that we didn’t see an adult male, but it was nice to be able to get this image.

juvenile male Painted Bunting

juvenile male Painted Bunting

Unfortunately the above three were the only acceptable (to me) images that I got.  Seeing 26 species doesn’t alway translate into photographs, I am sorry to say.  Most of the birds are either too far away, hidden in the trees, or flying by faster than I can get the camera off of my lap. 🙂

In my best Arnold Schwarznegger voice, “Owl be bach”. 🙂

Gray-footed Chipmunk and other photos


As usual, click on the title to see the entire text and numerous more photos.  Click on those photos to see enlargements.

Ann and I visited the bird blind at San Angelo State Park over the weekend.  We met our friend Bill Yeates while we were there.  The light was awesome for photos and we got several nice bird photos.  But, also, while we were there, Bill and I happened to see an unfamiliar creature in the grass.  It didn’t look like our regular Mexican Ground Squirrels that are so plentiful.  When it emerged into the open, we realized it was some kind of chipmunk.  The surprising thing is, there aren’t supposed to be chipmunks in the area.  I took a few photos, (see below), and then showed the image to the resident park ranger.  He said that it was a Gray-footed Chipmunk and it had never been seen in the park or in the area.  They should be in the Guadalupe Mountains in far west Texas.  How or why it is here, is anyone’s guess.

Gray-footed Squirrel

Gray-footed Chipmunk

Gray-footed Squirrel

Gray-footed Chipmunk

Below is probably the best photo of a male House Finch that I was able to get in a long time.  They are so common and plentiful around here that I tend to ignore them.  I got it shortly after photographing the chipmunk.

House Finch

House Finch

I edited a few more photos from our Pedernales Falls trip and they are ready to be published here.

Orange-crowned Warbler (winter, oresta)

Orange-crowned Warbler
(winter, oresta)

Painted Bunting - female

Painted Bunting – female

Yellow Warbler peeks from the leaves.

Yellow Warbler peeks from the leaves.

After getting home from Pedernales Falls State Park, we made a quick trip to our regular birding areas around Lake Nasworthy.  We came upon this beautiful Green Heron.

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

For those that are following our progress on our “Big Year” in Texas quest, we are at 166 with the addition of a Western Sandpiper and a Blue Grosbeak.

 

Waiting for the Migration


Well, it soon should be upon us.  The fall migration of the birds that always head this way southward.  Reports from the far north say that some are leaving there, so I have been scanning the skies, figuratively speaking, of course.

Ann and I drove out to Spring Creek Park this morning to see if there was any fresh arrivals.  None so far.  There was a bit more activity with the present residents and we counted twenty-two different species, however not too many photo opportunities.  There were a couple of Red-tailed Hawk flyovers to get us excited.  Then we happened upon this juvenile Green Heron.

Actually, we had stopped near the water and were just watching, when it flew at us and landed in a nearby mesquite tree.  I was thrilled to see that it was in the open and facing us, with no tree branches in our line of vision.  I did have to carefully maneuver the car a bit to give me an angle that I could put my Canon 7D and 500mm lens on my window sill.

Green Heron - juvenile

Green Heron – juvenile

Green Heron- juvenile

Green Heron- juvenile

It sat there for several minutes, posing for me.  Then as you can see in the second photo that something got it’s attention in the grasses below.

Green Heron - juvenile

Green Heron – juvenile

He hopped to the ground and headed for the weeds along the shore.  I rattled off a series of shots as he went.  I liked this above image, even if I did nearly clip off his tail feathers.  I hope you enjoy the photos. Click on any of them to see an enlargement.

Green Herons have arrived…..


The Green Herons have been arriving in the San Angelo, Texas area for their annual summer stay.  On Friday, while I spent most of the time photographing those Great Horned Owls, I did spot a Green Heron sitting on a dead tree branch overhanging the river at Spring Creek Park.

The Green Heron, (Butorides virescens), is relatively small as herons go.  They are only about 19 inches tall.  These photos are of an adult with breeding plumage.

I was amazed at how I was able to get close to him.  Of course, he was pretty intent on staring at the water in search of some tasty morsel.  I got the following two shots of him there.  Click on any of the seven photos to see some incredible enlargements.

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

On Saturday morning we drove downtown to check out the Great Blue Heron nests along the Concho River.  Although we observed three chicks on those nests, the conditions weren’t good for usable photos.  I will be back there in a few days.  However we did see another Green Heron along the opposite bank doing a little fishing.  Here are the results of his endeavors.

On the hunt......

On the hunt……

I see you.......

I see you…….

dive! dive! dive!......

dive! dive! dive!……

Gotcha!!  Two for one.....

Gotcha!! Two for one…..

Okay, my belly's full.  Now where is that eagle I am supposed to rassle??

Okay, my belly’s full. Now where is that eagle I am supposed to rassle??

I hope you enjoyed the photos.  I would enjoy reading comments from any of you.

Ten Minutes at K-Mart Creek


It didn’t take long.  We had been observing a Yellow-crowned Night Heron near our local K-mart Creek, so named of the little drainage creek that usually flows by an empty K-mart building.  I, like Lisa Rest up in Chicago, Illinois, always have my camera with me.  Check her blog to see her amazing shots from the Windy City.

We hadn’t had time to stop on the previous sightings, so we decided to make a special trip, specifically to see if we could spot that bird.  We saw it immediately as we drove on to the parking lot.  I managed to get the two pictures that are below, then as we were about to leave, Ann spotted a Green Heron in an honey mesquite tree by the water.  It was obscured partly by foliage, but I have always maintained that if you can see enough of the eyes, get them in sharp focus, you can get a nice picture.

I hope you enjoy all of the photos.  Click on any of them to see an enlargement.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Green Heron in tree

Green Heron in tree

Rehab Green Heron photos


I am still ‘rehabbing’, you might say.  I am getting out to do my regular thing, but still taking it easy and not trying to over do.  Just a little drive by the river netted me these shots of a Green Heron.  He was about 125 yards away, on the other bank.  In no hurry, I suspect because of the 105 heat that day, he just sat and squirmed and preened.  I used my Canon 7D and 500mm f4 lens with a 1.4 tele-converter.  I maneuvered my car into position so I could shoot from the drivers side resting my camera and lens on my ©Noodle.

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

A new day, more birds


After spend a few listless days with not many birds to show, Ann and I finally had an enjoyable morning today.  After breakfast, she, on the spur of the moment, said that we ought to make a run out by the Middle Concho Park to see if things had changed.

The morning was much cooler and I guess that made the difference as we saw a total of 29 species.  I even got a few more images to share.

juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron

We first saw the juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron across the river.  I maneuvered my Ford Edge close to the water so I could rest my big 500mm lens on my Noodle for the shot.

Next, down the little road a bit, I spotted the bright red Vermilion Flycatcher in a tree.  I started to move in with my car to a more comfortable position, but the bird moved.  So began a merry chase for about 15 minutes before I was successful in getting the shot.  I must mention that I didn’t actually “chase”, as in hassling the bird.  I guess “follow” is a better word for it.

Vermilion Flycatcher

After seeing what we could in that park, we decided to try Spring Creek Park while we were in the area.  We saw a two or three Yellow Warblers, but had no opportunity to get a photo.  Coming upon a shoal that was uncovered by the lowering water level, we saw a Spotted Sandpiper and a Green Heron.  Both gave me good photo opportunities, although they were pretty far from the bank.

I got my tripod out and set it up closer to the bank.  It was a shady area and I was confident that I wouldn’t disturb the birds as we were somewhat hidden in the low light the trees provided.  These photos are indeed a credit to my state of the art equipment.  Well, maybe I helped a little, too.  But I am proud of the images that I got after doing some tight cropping.

Spotted Sandpiper

Green Heron

Well, I hope you enjoyed these images as much as I enjoy getting them for you.  It appears that things are looking up a bit, and maybe we will get a few more migrant birds arriving in the near future.

Roadrunner and Green Heron


Right now, as a wildlife photographer, I am having a hard time finding subject material for my posts.  At well over 100 degrees each day, not only the birds and animals are staying hidden, I myself, don’t exactly have a dying urge to get to get out either.  Well, I do have the urge, but I am having a hard time satisfying it.

But after a hearty meal of a sausage McMuffin this morning at the Golden Arches, I decided to do something about.  I have this great fear of losing readers.  After all, it took me a couple of years to get the ones that I have, and they are very loyal to me.

Ann decided to join me and we took of for the parks around here.  It was early for us, around 7:30, to avoid the heat.  But already, it had reached well into the 80s.  As far as numbers we did manage to see about 21 species in the space of two and a half hours, and a bottle of Gatoraid. 🙂

With water in the parks around Lake Nasworthy down about two feet, there was a lot of ‘mud’ showing in places.  We saw in one those areas, a couple of Green Herons.  I liked the pose of this one.  Using my Canon EOS 7D, I attached my 500mm lens and 1.4 converter.  Exposure, if you’re interested was 1/3200 sec. @ f5.6.  ISO was 500 and I adjusted the AV minus 1/3.

Green Heron

I forgot to mention, even thought we saw twenty-one species most of them were nearly invisible, no chance of any decent photos through the branches of the trees.  They, too, try to avoid the hot sun.

After leaving the Lake Nasworthy area, we decided to make a quick stop at San Angelo State Park.  It was time to renew our annual pass, so we thought we’d check out a new pond while we were there.  Nothing at the pond to speak of, just a lot of swallows, some unidentified sparrows.  However, upon leaving we did spot this Greater Roadrunner in a tree about 10 feet off the ground.  He was just sitting, cooling off and preening his feathers.  I managed to work around the branches and got these shots.

Great Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

The Roadrunner was in the shade, so I had some difficulty with the exposure.  But I was able to get it at 1/500 sec. @ f10.  I wanted a bit more depth of field.  ISO was 800.  I hand-held my 100-400mm lens for this one.  Click on any image to see glorious enlargements.

By the way, if you look at the right side of the page, under “Books by Bob Zeller”, you will see a link to preview my book, “Birds, Beasts and Buttes”.  Also there is a link to preview my brand new 2013 Calendar.  Check them out.  I am getting good reviews.