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.

 

Rufous Hummingbirds


Starting a new week a day late, since Labor Day was a day for just doing nothing.  Tried watching the Texas Rangers baseball game, but they didn’t do well, so I took a nap.  That’s what us senior type people do on holidays. 🙂

I haven’t come up with anything new in my photographs in the last few days.  I tried to take some images of the bird blind for a future blog post.  I wasn’t too satisfied with my results so I will go back at another time.  Does any one know of a good photographer. 🙂

But Tom Camfield who lives over near the O. C. Fisher Dam and Concho River, had a nice visitor for about three days.  A Rufous Hummingbird.  When he sent me the photos, I had to ask him to ID them for me.  I’m afraid I need to get a little more educated about hummingbirds.  With his permission, I am publishing them here.  Click on any photo to see a nice enlargement.  Enjoy.

Rufous Hummingbird

 

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

 

Rufous Hummingbird

 In other news, Ann and I looked for the Roseate Spoonbills this morning, but they were nowhere to be found.  Maybe they decided to leave before the coming storm gets here.  We did still see a couple of Great Blue Herons.  Also, the lake level must have dropped another couple of inches, because we saw another islet being “born”.

So Happy Birding.  Migration is coming soon!

Persistency equals great photos!


You probably remember that for the past ten days, I have been stalking a couple of Roseate Spoonbills that arrived here recently from the gulf coast.  They have been hanging around O. C. Fisher lake, but usually so far out that it was difficult to come up with great images.

But this morning, we found a spot where I could get the best photo yet.  No more crawling, mucking thru mud, mesquite brush and shoulder high weeds, trying to avoid critters like rattle snakes and bobcats.  This place required just a 500 yard hike along the shoreline.  Ann carried my tripod and I lugged the big 500mm with a 1.4 tele-converter.

The Roseate Spoonbills were about 100 yards off shore on a little spit of dirt and gravel about 30 feet wide.  Keeping company with them was a magnificent Great Blue Heron.  With my lens a working 700mm I was practically able to fill the frame.  For all three photos I had the ISO at 400, F16, at 1,250th of a second, minus 1/3 EV.

I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed taking the shots.  Click on either image for an enlargement.

Roseate Spoonbills and Great Blue Heron

 

Roseate Spoonbills and Great Blue Heron

Roseate Spoonbill and Great Blue Heron

Birding San Angelo State Park


I have never published a post about mine and Ann’s daily trip to the State Park.  Since there is no one presently at the park that really wants to take on the task, we have volunteered to go each day to feed the birds at the blind, and do moderate  maintenance such as weeding, checking the water flow to the pond, etc.  We also clean the windows and watch that the blind hasn’t been invaded by snakes or bees.

Painted Bunting

Since we live only three miles away, it is a snap to go there each morning to take care of those things.  We usually go after breakfast, but we are authorized to go in the gate earlier if we so desire.  It is fun to get there and see what might surprise us upon arrival.  Usually it is just an assortment of hungry doves or finches, but occasionally we have sneaked in to see other wildlife.  A few days ago there was a Wild Turkey, trailed by three chicks beating us there.  On another occasion, I walked back around the fence and almost stepped upon an Opossum.  He was a cutie.  We’ve also seen Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes moving about on the path that leads back to the blind.

Javelina

After taking care of our chores at the blind, instead of heading back to the house, we stay at the blind for a short time to see what comes in.  Then we usually take a slow drive through the park to see the birds that don’t usually frequent the blind, such as hawks and water birds.  We prepare ourselves for surprises and we are usually rewarded. 

fledgling Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

For example, the past few mornings, we have come across a Painted Bunting singing in the top of a tree, two fledgling Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, five Ash-throated Flycatchers, Lark Sparrows, Western Kingbirds, one Blue Grosbeak, one Common Nighthawk with two chicks, at least six Mississippi Kites, one Fox, one White-tailed Deer and two Javelinas.  Plus the usual sparrows, grackles, etc. 

Purple Martin

At the lake shore, albeit a very small coastline now, you can see shorebirds, Blue Herons, Egrets. or American White Pelicans.  A Snowy Plover recently laid two eggs on the parking lot at the Red Arroyo boat ramp.  We have been keeping tabs on the eggs, but I fear that the eggs have been abandoned.  We haven’t seen the parents in about two weeks.  They probably realized, too late, that the surface that they decided to lay the eggs on can get very, very hot.

Snowy Egret

The bird blind itself, can also be very rewarding.  You can sit in comfort and and watch through the windows.  Open them for fresh air if you like.  It was actuallly there at the blind, a couple of years ago,  that I actually got hooked on birding and bird photography.  I photographed my very first Painted Bunting and Canyon Wren there.  At the time I didn’t know how unusual it was to see a Canyon Wren at that location. 

Canyon Wren

So come to San Angelo State Park for a nice pleasant birding experience.

Happy Birding!!  (click on any photograph for an enlargment)

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!!

San Angelo Water Lily Collection


San Angelo is home to one of the largest water lily collections in the world   It has over 300 international specimens.  It is one of my favorite haunts to photograph water lilies.  What does this have to do with birding, you may

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Green Heron with minno

 ask.  Well, it is also a favorite place for Green Herons to come and fish for minnows, etc.  You can see one of my photos of one to the right.  This one was one of two that were stealing the show at the Lily Fest in 2008.  They were hopping from lily pad to lily pad, much to the enjoyment of the spectators.

But since I am on the subject of water lilies, allow me to show off a few of my other images.  All of them were taken at the International Water Lily Collection in downtown San Angelo.  I hope you enjoy them.  If you are interested in purchasing prints, just contact me at zellerphotoart@suddenlink.net.

Happy Birding!!

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"Reflections"

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"Aquatic Beauty"

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"Lady in Red"

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"Magnificent Ballerina"