More from the San Angelo State Park


The San Angelo State Park has been our most productive area in the past couple of weeks of birding.  Here are a few of my most recent images.

This Merlin was really nice to pose for me for several images.  When we spotted it, an American Kestrel was sitting on the same branch.  Upon spotting us, the kestrel immediately flew off.  The Merlin was in the act of finishing a meal, and from the looks of a yellow claw that we saw him devour, I suspect he had just finished off another kestrel.  This turned out to me one of my best photos of this species……..if I do say so myself.

1Y7A1041-net-merlin-bob-zeller

Merlin

A Curve-billed Thrasher, perched in a tree.  It was a chill morning for this one, and he didn’t feel like moving.

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Curve-billed Thrasher

The cooler weather didn’t bother this American White Pelican.  Usually they are out more in the middle of the lake, but this one was a bit closer, making for a nice photograph.

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American White Pelican

Mourning Doves are very plentiful in the park, and I usually pass them by because they are so common, but I decided that this one deserved to be seen.

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Mourning Dove

This Cactus Wren seemed to be working on it’s nearby nest.

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Cactus Wren

In one area of the park, there is what we have named our ‘warbler bush’.  It seems that we can always see a warbler, kinglet or some other small bird there.  We just need to park and watch patiently.  This time we were not disappointed and saw many of these Orange-crowned Warblers.

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Orange-crowned Warbler

It is always nice to see a Pyrrhuloxia.  Locals that can’t pronounce the name, simply call it the desert cardinal.

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Pyrrhuloxia

Click on my “Gallery” button at the top of this page to see more photos, and information for purchase.  I add more images frequently, so keep checking.  I hope you enjoyed these and would love any comments that you wish to make.  Also refer to my last post if you are interested in purchasing one of my 2018 calendars.

Happy Birding!!

One year ends, another begins……


Well, here it is the 29th of December and another year of blogging is about to come to a close.  I had threatened to stop with my final post of the year, but because of much encouragement from friend and readers, I will continue on.  This will be my 940th post, so maybe I can make it to 1,000 in 2017, and I will re-evaluate again when that time comes.

I must boast a bit about my success with this blog which is now in it’s 7th year.  Of the top 1,000 birding blogs on the web, I am number 190 as of this date.  I have had 209,856 hits by 46,707 viewers.  Of those, 2,318 have actually subscribed, where they will get an e-mail notification when I publish a post.  You can be a subscriber by clicking on ‘sign me up’.

But enough about me.  Let’s mention you, my loyal readers, that keep me encouraged by your likes and comments.  I love comments.  Feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts and feelings.

I can’t write a post with including a few photographs, which, I believe have improved greatly over history of this blog.  Of course that probably comes from practice, improved equipment and techniques.  Her are a few that I captured since Christmas day.

My favorite of this bunch is this Common Yellowthroat.  A very tiny, shy and elusive bird.  In my previous post, I had mentioned that Ann and I were getting up early to search for birds.  I can admit now that looking for the yellowthroat was our real reason.  Our persistence and patience paid off.  We parked every morning near a wet, reedy area, and watched and waited.  On the day after Christmas, he decided to gift us with a two minute viewing, early, right after sun-up.  Click on this and the following photos to see beautiful enlargements.

Common Yellowthroat - 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 5000.

Common Yellowthroat – 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 5000.

In the same area, this marsh wren was scurrying around.  I captured him a bit earlier than the yellowthroat, so the light was a bit darker.  That resulted in a high ISO number of 6400.  I used some software to decrease the color noise so the image is not great quality.  But I like the composition so here it is for your critique.

Marsh Wren - 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 6400.

Marsh Wren – 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 6400.

Across the water, this Black-crowned Night Heron looks like he is watching for a bus to come along.

Black-crowned Night Heron - 1/1000 sec. @f6.3, +0.3, ISO 2500.

Black-crowned Night Heron – 1/1000 sec. @f6.3, +0.3, ISO 2500.

I can’t resist trying to get photos of any Ruby-crowned Kinglet that I come across.  This one at Spring Creek Park.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 1/500 sec. @ f6.3. +0.3 EV, ISO 3200.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 1/500 sec. @ f6.3. +0.3 EV, ISO 3200.

Near the entrance to Spring Creek Park here in San Angelo, we spotted this Belted Kingfisher in a tree overlooking the water.  There were several twigs, etc, blocking him, but the spot focusing on my Canon 7D Mark II came through.

Belted Kingfisher - 1/1000 sec. @ f11, +0.3 EV, ISO 2500.

Belted Kingfisher – 1/1000 sec. @ f11, +0.3 EV, ISO 2500.

Another image of the always popular Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal. 1/500 sec. @f f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 3200.

Northern Cardinal. 1/500 sec. @f f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 3200.

As you have probably noticed, I love trying to photograph the tiny birds.  This one an Orange-crowned Warbler, scratching in the grass and weeds.

Orange-crowned Warbler - 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 2500.

Orange-crowned Warbler – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 2500.

Out at San Angelo State Park, we got lucky and saw two raptors.  The first is a beautiful Red-tailed Hawk, that co-operated and posed for this nice image.

Red-tailed Hawk - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +0.3 EV, ISO 160.

Red-tailed Hawk – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +0.3 EV, ISO 160.

My last photo before heading home, turned out to be one of my best images of a Merlin.  It wasn’t easy, and I almost deleted it when I saw the original in the computer.  Have a look:

Original merlin photo

Original merlin photo

He was about 300 yards away, and he looked tiny in the viewfinder.  With the naked eye it looked impossible to get a photo.  Fortunately, with my camera sitting solidly on my window sill, I was able to get that lone single focus dot on the breast of the bird.  I got home and loaded it into my computer.  First, I lightened it up.  I was surprised that the image was very usable.  This is what I came up with after really tight cropping, sharpening it up a bit, and adding some contrast.  Not bad, if I do say so myself. 🙂

 

Merlin - 1/1250 sec. @ f7.1, +0.3 EV, ISO 250.

Merlin – 1/1250 sec. @ f7.1, +0.3 EV, ISO 250.

Okay, that’s it for this, my final post of 2016.  I want to wish each and every one of you a fantastic Happy New Year of birding and shooting.

 

Long-tailed Duck – another lifer


As I mentioned in a recent blog, I often get calls telling me of new discoveries.  Yesterday I received an e-mail from Suzanne Johnson down in Eldorado, about 45 miles south of San Angelo, informing us that a Long-tailed Duck was making a stop-over.  It is a bird that usually winters on either the Atlantic or Pacific coasts, then spends the rest of the year in the far north.  Ann and I hopped into the car and headed that way this morning, as it is a bird that neither of us had ever seen before.  It took a bit of patience and searching but we saw it at the waste water ponds outside of town.

Again, I got lucky.  We searched for about 30 minutes, and as I was about to give up, I saw a bird splash down in the water.  I zipped my big lens around just in time to get it in focus.  It was my bird, i.e., the Long-tailed Duck.  It was windy, the water a bit choppy as the ponds are large, but I managed to get a couple of images of it.  Not great photos, but good enough to prove the Identification..

Long-tailed Duck

Long-tailed Duck

Long-tailed Duck accompanied by a couple of Eared Grebes.

Long-tailed Duck accompanied by a couple of Eared Grebes.

We then came home after seeing about 15 other species in the ponds.  Later this afternoon, I got a call from friends in Eola, about 25 miles west, to come over and shoot photos of their cotton harvest.  Since they were half-way finished and cold weather on the way I though I would get over there and get the job done.

Cotton fields surround home on west Texas farm.

Cotton fields surround home on west Texas farm.

If the above photo was an aerial view, you would see that the home is surrounded by a sea of cotton fields.

Modules of compressed cotton harvested on cotton farm.

Modules of compressed cotton harvested on cotton farm.

Pictured are 19 modules of compressed cotton, freshly harvested.  14 are full, 5 are nearly finished.  Each the size of a school bus.  And they are only half finished.  Looks like a good harvest.  (The modules appear shorter because of the long telephoto lens I was using.)

On the way home from that project, we spotted this Merlin atop a warning sign.  I barely had time to get the camera off of my lap and grab a shot, before it took off.

Merlin

Merlin

The Long-tailed Duck is number 262 on my life list if any of you are interested.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.  By the way, the WARNING sign is for buried cable in the area.

Another American Kestrel and friends


Another smallish hawk that visits the San Angelo on occasion, is the Prairie Falcon.  It is larger than the American Kestrel that I featured yesterday.  I captured this photo a few years ago, when it made a couple of appearances atop a utility pole a few blocks from where I live.

Prairie Falcon

Prairie Falcon

In this second photo, taken at a different time, you can see that he has caught a small rodent of some kind.

Prairie Falcon

Prairie Falcon

Another small hawk that is seen around here is the Merlin.  The image below was shot in the early morning as you can see by the side light.

Merlin

Merlin

Yesterday I had posted several of my images of the American Kestrel.  I had forgotten that some of you may not have seen this photo that I posted a year or so ago.  I had shot the photo while the bird was perched in a leaf-less shrub.  During post-processing, I done a little of this and a little of that, and ended up with this 3D illusion.  (this is not an HDR proccesed image).  Click to see the enlargement.  I hope you like it.

American Kestrel in 3D

American Kestrel in 3D

No Magic with this Merlin


With this little hawk, you get what you see.  The Merlin is a feisty, speedy little hawk that can catch birds and insects in midair, using level sprints or quick turns.  I photographed this one back in October, as he was hanging on in the wind to a small shrub.  At first I thought it may have been a Prairie Falcon, but the spacing of the banded tail and heavy streaking on the breast told me that it was most likely a Merlin.

Merlin

Merlin

Merlin

Merlin

Merlin

Merlin

Click on any image to see an enlargement.

A Merlin and a Hummingbird


Yesterday Ann and I made a return trip to the blind at San Angelo State Park.  We wanted to see if the Ruby-throated Hummingbird was still around.  It was starting to get quite warm when we headed out.  We didn’t know that the heat would be another record breaker.  The record for the day was 102 set in 1908.  It turned out to reach 105 for a new record.  Today is expected to be the same story, with a new record of 106.  That’s pretty warm for a September day.  Relief is on the way, they say, with the highs only getting into the 80s this weekend.  Hooray for that.

But getting back to our little foray yesterday, on the way out we spotted a very small hawk, about ten inches tall, on some phone wires.  Thinking it may be a young hawk I stopped to get photographs, carefully pulling to the side of the road and turning on my blinkers.  I took the photo with my Canon 7D and 100-400mm lens.  After getting home later and examining the image closer, I believe it to be a Merlin, (Falco columbarius).  Unfortunately, I only have the frontal view for ID purposes.

Merlin

Continuing on our way, we arrived at the park.  I set up my tripod and the 7D with my 500mm lens.  I was hoping for another shot at the Ruby-throated but it was nowhere to be seen.  However, a female Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri), made an appearance, allowing me to make several images.

Black-chinned Hummingbird – female

So, with the weather changing very soon, and with the beginning of the fall migration, things may be looking up for the near future.  I can’t wait to see what might happen to “fall” in.

Raptors of Bosque Del Apache NWR


As you may remember, Ann, Jodie Wolslager, and I made a trip to New Mexico to visit the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.  As I usually do on a trip like that, I shot around 500 images.  Yesterday morning, I was browsing through them and tossing some of the bad ones.  (And you thought that I didn’t take any bad pictures.  Boy, would you be surprised.) 🙂

Anyway, I needed to thin them out, and I came across several pretty good ones that I had forgotten about.  I love to photograph raptors and these are three of my best shots.  I saw several more while we were there, but either the birds were hidden or the light was bad.  In any case, there were many hawks that were “un-photographed”.  I hope to return there again later this year, to remedy that situation.  It is such an amazing place.  In the meantime, enjoy these photos, and of course, click on any of them to see an enlargement.

Red-tailed Hawk

  • Canon 7D
  • Canon100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/250 sec. @ f5.6 – minus 1/3 EV
  • ISO 100
  • Lens focal distance – 400
  • Shutter priority
  • Partial metering

Bald Eagle

  • Canon 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens w/1.4 tele-converter
  • Bogen-Manfrotto tripod w/Wimberley II gimbal head
  • 1/1000 sec. @ f5.6 minus 1/3 EV
  • ISO 100
  • Lens focal distance – 700mm
  • Shutter priority
  • Partial metering

Sharp-shinned Hawk

  • Canon 7D
  • Canon 100-400 zoom lens – hand-held
  • 1/1600 sec. @ f5.6 minus 1/3 EV
  • ISO 2500
  • Lens focal distance – 400mm
  • Shutter priority
  • Partial metering