Have camera, will travel

Everybody knows how much fun it is to see and photograph new or unusual birds.  I am no different.  I will, at the drop of a hat, jump in the car and head for some reported sighting of a rare bird or a nest of hatchlings.  Within limitations, of course.  I won’t suddenly book plane reservations to go see a miniscule, rare bird that was seen in the far off jungles somewhere.  But if I am within driving distance here in west Texas, count me in.

Such was the case a few days ago.  I got word from friends that a rare Lucifer Hummingbird (Calothorax lucifer) was visiting a feeder at a private residence down in Junction, Texas.  The property owner was posting the info on TexBirds.com and inviting everybody that was interested to drop by.  Because of other commitments, we weren’t able to go right away.  But Saturday evening, the Johnsons from Eldorado called us and wanted to go early Sunday morning.  We agreed to get up early, get breakfast at the Golden Arches and head down to pick them up.  We then headed to Junction, by way of Menard, doing a little birding on the way.

We finally arrived at the people’s home in Junction about 10:00AM, a distance of about 120 miles from San Angelo.  The Lucifer had been reported to be still in the area earlier in the morning.  We parked and observed the feeders for over an hour, but alas, apparently the Lucifer had left the building to head elsewhere.  So, with much disappointment, we returned to San Angelo

But that’s not always the case.  Most of the time we can be very successful in spotting our quarry, albeit sometimes with a little help.  A few years ago, Don Burt reported a very rare Ruddy Ground Dove (Columbina talpacoti) on his place over at Dove Creek.  I called and asked if I could come out and see if I could photograph it.  He answered to the affirmative and we headed out.  (Story continues below.)

Ruddy Ground Dove

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter – tripod mounted
  • 1/1600 sec. @ f5.6
  • ISO 400
  • Lens focal length 700mm
  • Aperture priority
  • Metering – center weighted average

Now I must admit, at this time, I was very, very new to birding, but very avid.  I was getting excited about photographing new birds, but I wasn’t always very smart about it.  In this case when we headed that way, I had now idea what the bird we were going to see looked like.  Duh…  I could have looked at a bird guide, but at that time I am not even sure I owned such a book.

But, good luck shined upon this naive, amateur birder.  Upon arrival to Don’s house, half of the members of the Abilene, Texas, Audubon Bird Society were already there.  I knew a couple of them and they graciously showed us what we were looking for.  We went around with them, and we eventually spotted the bird.  It was being a bit evasive, flying amongst the trees.

The property owner, Don Burt, called me aside.  He said, “Bob, around four o’clock that dove is going to show up along with a bunch of Inca Doves.  Why don’t you set up that big lens of yours about right here, and focus on that fence gate down there”.   So I did.  Right at the scheduled time the Incas flew in and right there along with them was the Ruddy Ground Dove.  I was able to get some very usable images of it.  Probably, the best of anyone there, as no one else had the long lens that I had.  So, even though I was a bit ignorant to begin with, I came out with what I wanted.

We are fortunate to have good friends, Sid and Suzanne Johnson, who live in Eldorado, Texas.  They are very avid birders, and they keep us up to date on the happenings down there.  It seems that Eldorado is a bit of a hot spot when it comes to having unusual birds appear.  We have driven down there to see Brown Pelicans, which normally reside near the Gulf of Mexico.   Other non-resident arrivals there that I have photographed have been, Horned Grebes and Tri-colored Herons.

I am not limited to rare sightings for travels.  A nest of new-borns will always pique my interests.  Usually word gets to me if  something is seen by friends, that they feel I would like to see.  A nest of young Red-tailed Hawks at Dove Creek got me going a few weeks ago.  The recent nest of Great Blue Herons near the Concho River was definitely of interest to me and I got some great photographs that you probably saw on my blog.

Last year Suzanne Johnson, our eagle-eyed friend, spotted a rare Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens) at San Angelo State Park.  I and Ann promptly headed there, only three miles from our home.  It was in the area that Suzanne had described, but it was moving from the top of one tree to another.  It took us quite a bit of hopping around with the tripod in hand, but eventually I got a fine photograph of it.


  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 teleconverter – tripod mounted
  • 11000 sec @ f5.6
  • ISO 125
  • Lens focal distance 700mm
  • Aperture priority
  • Metering – unrecorded

Right now I am on a quest to photograph some Crested Caracaras that are near, (you guessed it), Eldorado.  We have been there and have managed to see them from a great distance, but not in range for a good photograph.  But I am persistent and we know where they are nesting, and we will be back.

Well, I must go!  Red phone ringing!! 🙂