Something New, Something Old


While trying to get new material, AKA photos, for my posts, the birds are not co-0perating much for me these warm days.  But, having said that, I do have a few new ones that I captured recently, and I will combine them with some older ones from my archives.   A few of them I may have never posted, so even they may be new to you.

First, I would like to bring to your attention an error that I made a few weeks ago.  An alert reader, Carla Savage, e-mailed me and asked me to re-check the ID of a photo that I posted on July 2, as a juvenile Curve-billed Thrasher.  It turns out that it is actually a female Brown-headed Cowbird.  There are similarities, and a friend had insisted that it was the Thrasher.  I took his word, and didn’t take a closer look.  As I said they are similar to each other, however the beak of the bird in the photos, is a bit too thick for a thrasher.  I thank Carla for correcting me.

Now back to some photos.  Here are a some from my archives.

I got lucky one day at the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.  This female Ruby-throated Hummingbird showed up and really got interested int the water dripping from the rocks.

Ruby-throated Hummingbidrd

Ruby-throated Hummingbidrd – female

While roaming along the brush line at the edge of Spring Creek Park, I saw this Carolina Wren perched on a branch.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

And one of my personal all time favorites, I photographed this American Kestrel at San Angelo State Park a few years ago.  Because it was so far away, the image didn’t lend itself to doing a close crop, so I opted for this nearly full frame adaptation.  Somehow, during editing I accidentally came up with this 3D effect.  I don’t have any idea, except a guess, how it happened.  But regardless how it happened, I love it.

American Kestrel in tree.

American Kestrel in tree.

A couple of years ago, during a little drive through Spring Creek Park, we spotted a large dark bird on a branch.  At first we thought it was just a Turkey Vulture.  But as we got closer we realized it was a Zone-tailed Hawk, and it had it’s lunch spread on the branch.  One reason we were initially fooled, is because the Zone-tailed Hawk behaves like a vulture.  It perches like one and flew like one.

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

A couple of years ago we made a trip to Pedernales State Park.  It is one our favorite birding spots when we want to make little trips out of town.  They have two large bird blinds that make for excellent bird viewing.  This is an image of a Summer Tanager that I got on that trip.

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

Now back to some more recent photos, I captured this Northern Bobwhite a few days ago at San Angelo State Park.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

This Greater Roadrunner showed up on the same trip to that park.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

This morning Ann and I visited a favorite spot near Twin Buttes Reservoir.  We saw several birds, but the following two photos were really the highlights of the one hour stay.  This adult male Painted Bunting…….

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

…….and this juvenile Vermilion Flycatcher, possibly a first year male.

Vermilion Flycatcher - juvenile

Vermilion Flycatcher – juvenile

I hope you enjoyed the photographs.  Click on any of the images to see some nice enlargements.

Happy Birding!!

Visit to the Hummer House


The Hummer House is actually a B&B resort near Christoval, Texas, about 20 miles south of San Angelo.  It consists of the original Hummer House, the name of the first cottage constructed there, plus two newer additions, a four bedroom lodge, and a nice cozy one bedroom bungalow.  In addition there is an observation room with a large window measuring by my own estimates about 30 feet long by about 9 feet high.  A perfect setting to view and photographs birds and wildlife in air-conditioned comfort.  However, guests have the option of roaming around the several acres of woodland and a flowing river.

On our visit, because of the heat, Ann and I opted to sit in the observation room.  There were several other people in there doing the same.  The birds were active, especially hundreds of Black-chinned Hummingbirds.  Here is my favorite image of one of them.  I got lucky and happened to get a head-on flight image.

"Gear down, full flaps, I'm coming in".

“Gear down, full flaps, I’m coming in”.

By the way, I was using my Canon 7D Mark II and a Tamron 150-600mm lens mounted on a mono-pod.  Feel free to click on any image to see an enlargement.  They look great if you will view them on a computer.

One of the favorite birds that people like to see at the Hummer House is this Painted Bunting.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

In addition, I was able to photograph this White-eyed Vireo, before the sun got to high.  It was perched on a little wire structure over the water feature.

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

This Summer Tanager was doing the same, enjoying the water spray that comes on periodically.

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

The observation room is open to the public on Friday evening from 7:00PM until 9:00PM, and on Saturdays from 9:00AM until 3:00PM.  Dan and Cathy Brown would welcome you.

I hope you enjoyed this post and the images.

Happy Birding!!

July Fourth Holiday images


As I said before in my previous post, the weather is really warming now.  We have visited the local parks and as far as birding, the results are almost nil.  For example, Ann and I decided to check out the local parks around Lake Nasworthy this morning.  I never had a chance to press the shutter on my camera.  That is not good.  We have been having much better luck, though, at San Angelo State Park.  We have made three trips out there and by taking our time and driving over those approximately 20 miles of roads, I have picked up some very nice photographs.  We are usually home by noon as the temperatures start to reach 100° by then.  Here are some images from the past few days.  Click on any of them to see some nice enlargements.

We had reports of a Swainson’s Hawk nest, just a couple of miles from our home, off the frontage road of Loop 306.  To get a good view we had to park behind the local Steak Express and watch it from across the highway.  Thank goodness for long lenses. We parked there for about an half hour on two previous mornings and could only see a bit of feathers of a young one on the nest, behind some leaves and branches.  This third morning, we were treated with the arrival of the adult.

Swainsons's Hawk

Swainsons’s Hawk

We headed out to San Angelo State Park after that.  As we started driving around, we heard first the call of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a few minutes later we spotted him in the branches.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Another view of another Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

All over the park we could hear the call of the Bobwhites.  It wasn’t difficult to see some in the low tree branches.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

There is an abundance of Ash-throated Flycatchers in the park.  I was able to get really close to this one, for a formal head-and-shoulders portrait.

Ash-throated Flycatcher portrait

Ash-throated Flycatcher portrait

We spotted this Blue Grosbeak from a distance.  Too far for a decent photograph.  So we decided to wait.  We sat in the car with the engine turned off and eventually it, or one just like it, finally alit about 100 feet away.  He seemed to be happy.

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

Another bird that is hard to get close to is the Painted Bunting.  We would spot several high in the tops of trees, but, again,  too far for a photo.  But as with the Blue Grosbeak, we eventually got lucky again and I was able the capture this one.  One just need patience.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

The Common Night Hawk is just the opposite.  Pretty easy to photograph, but very difficult to find.  This one was in a tree in the Isabelle Harte Multi-use area of the park.  It was only about seven feet off of the ground, but because of their coloring we nearly missed it.  I was only about 20 feet away, in my car, AKA my mobile blind, when I made the photograph.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

We decided to move away as I don’t like to stay too close, even though I was well hidden.  But it did eventually fly from the perch and landed across the road in another tree.  I took this next photo from farther away, and as you can see, if I didn’t already know the bird was there, it would have been hard to spot.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

Happy Fourth of July


I am wishing everybody a happy and safe July 4th weekend.  Ann and I have been here and there since my last post, several days ago.  But, not to worry, we saw many of the avian species and I obtained a nice collection of photographs.  During that time we were invited to Stephen and Nakia’s place in the Davis Mountains.  They have several acres at an elevation of about 6,000 feet.  They have set up a nice birding area.  He had a portable blind, but I preferred my more comfortable mobile blind, AKA, my Ford Escape.  I was able to position it for nice observation and photo shooting.   I will show you a few of those images first.  Please click on any image to see a nice enlargement of each.

This photo will fool you.  It is a juvenile Curve-billed Thrasher.  Probably a first year, it hasn’t developed the long, curved bill or the bright orange eye of an adult.

CORRECTION:  It has been brought to my attention by one of my readers, that it is actually a female Brown-headed Cowbird.  I should have been more careful in checking the identification.  There are similarities but the main difference is the size of the bill.  A juvenile Curve-billed Thrasher would have been shorter, but much thinner.

Curve-billed Thrasher - juvenile

Brown-headed Cowbird – female

I love the little White-breasted Nuthatches, but they are dizzying to watch, as sometimes they are going up and other time going down head-first.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Identifying some of the flycatchers are difficult for me.  At first I thought this was an Ash-throated Flycatcher, but after seeking further advice, it was decided otherwise to be a Western Wood-Pewee.

Western Wood-Pewee

Western Wood-Pewee

In this photo of an Ash-throated Flycatcher, you can see the differences.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

A noisy, feisth Black-crested Titmouse made it’s presence known.

Black-crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

The hummingbirds had arrived in the mountains and I caught this female Black-chinned in flight.

Black-chinned Hummingbird - female

Black-chinned Hummingbird – female

We loved being in the mountains, but we were only able to spend one day there, because of commitments back home.  After taking care of those on our return, we spent time locally and captured more photos.

Bullock’s Oriole captured near Twin Buttes Reservoir, as were the following Eastern Phoebe and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Driving downtown near the Concho River, we saw this Green Heron on the other side of the water atop a dead tree.

Green Heron in tree

Green Heron in tree

Out at San Angelo State Park, we saw these two birds, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and the ever popular Greater Roadrunner.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

I hope you all enjoyed this collection.  I will be back sometime after the holiday.

 

Happy birding!!

Flashes from My Past


As I mentioned in my last post, it is getting into the summer doldrums.  The summer birds are here but they feel like I do.  Just a bit lazy about getting out in the warm afternoons.  So, to break up my routine a bit, I think I will veer away from birds only, in this post.  After all, this blog is also about photography, not only birding.

As a longtime professional outdoor and nature photographer, I have encountered some very interesting and exciting photo opportunities.  In the past fifteen years or so, I have amassed thousands of images, some great, some not so good.  But I have been published in over a dozen publications or books, including many covers.  My work has appeared on a billboard, murals and various websites, and in homes and offices across the country.  Like any photographer, I have several favorites that that I have secreted back in my files.  I thought it would be nice to share a few with you.  If you like them, I may publish a few more in a later post.

Let’s start with this photograph that I took earlier this year down in Big Bend National Park.  That area was created millions of years ago by exploding geological formations.  Canyons were created.  Mountains were created.  Wow!  It must have been something to see!  This photograph shows some of the geodes that were tossed around by some kind of volcanic upheaval.  In the back ground are hills of volcanic ash, called tuff.  Those boulders are really just a bit larger than bowling balls, but with my 10x16mm wide angle lens they appear bigger.  I actually got down on the ground to capture this.  Fortunately, my dear friend and fellow professional photographer, Deb, was nearby and she and her husband helped me up.  It’s hell to get old.  Anyway,it turned out to be one of many favorite photos from my travels to Big Bend National Park.

Big Bend Moonscape

Big Bend Moonscape

This bobcat was in the woods out near Spring Creek Park here in San Angelo a couple of years ago.  Ann was with me, and we were creeping along a boundary fence next to a wooded area.  Ann spoke up and said she saw a shadowy figure moving up ahead.  We both then saw it as we got closer, and realized it was a bobcat.  It was starting to get deeper into the woods.  As we got parallel to it I hesitated. thinking that it was too far away to get a usable photo.  But then, it stopped and turned facing us.  I grabbed my Canon 70D and Tamron 150-600mm lens and settled it on the window sill of our car.  By then there was a lot of brush between me and the animal, but I was using only my center focusing spot of the camera, and I was able to “thread” it through the twigs and branches to focus on the animal’s eyes, at a distance of about 75 yards.

Bobcat

Bobcat

This next photo of a Vermilion Flycatcher was created during another trip to Big Bend National Park.  There are many great birding areas there, and we always try to visit each one.  One of our favorite places to see a good variety is the Rio Grande Village campground.  We were there late in the spring of one year and the snowbirds, i.e. visitors from the north that come south for the winter, had mostly vacated the area to return home.  By driving thru the area, we see a good collection of birds and an occasional bobcat.  Anyway, this photo is one of my favories of the flycatacher species.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Oh, yes, I must tell you about my photo life before birds.  I was really into photographing flowers and landscapes.  In San Angelo we have one of world’s largest and best water lily collections.  For photographing flowers this is a must place to visit.  For this photo I was down there late in the afternoon.  Skies were partly cloudy with those nice puffy white clouds floating around.  I browsed around the five pools of lilies, looking for the right shot.  I came upon this particular lily, and I liked the way the lily was juxtaposed near the lily pads.  The white clouds reflecting in the water look gold, because of a treatment in the water.  I had and old film camera, I believe it was a Canon EOS3, and a Tamron 200-400mm lens on a tripod.  I worked for around 30 minutes getting set up, as the cloud movement and light changed every few minutes.  I finally was satisfied.  I clicked three bracked exposures.  Ann looked through the viewfinder while it was still on the tripod and remarked, “Bob, you have a real winner here.”   This was the one of the three that I picked.

"Prima Donna Magnifico" (Magnificent Ballerina"

“La Prima Donna Magnifico” (Magnificent Ballerina”

Later, I was showing it at an art show, and an art professor from Angelo State University saw it and proclaimed it to be “La Prima Donna Magnifico”, meaning Magnificent Ballerina.  I liked that name and went with it.  The photo won me first place in three local art shows, and in an international competion sponsored by Photographers Forum Magazine it took 4th place out of about 18,000 color entries.  It went on to be my most profitable image for several years.

I also love photographing golf courses.  We have some beautiful courses here in San Angelo.  I have done work for Quicksand Golf Course, and framed photos of all of their holes hang on the walls there.  At least they were there the last time I played there several years ago.  But one of my favorite golf images is one of the first hole at San Angelo Country Club.  When I was photographing the course, I was trying to pick out a feature of the hole that was memorable.  In this photo, I positioned myself behind a water pond short and to the right of the green and took the shot through the trees.  You can see the flag there if you look close.

Hole #1 - San Angelo Country Club

Hole #1 – San Angelo Country Club

Several years ago, a new Visitor’s Center for the San Angelo Chamber of commerce was constructed along the Concho River.  Hailed as one of the most beautiful such visitors’ centers in the state, I decided to try and get a nice photo of it.  To do so, I picked a morning when the water was dead calm and I could get a nice reflection.  I chose a position directly across from the building so I could get the entire structure in the image.  The exact spot that I needed was precisely where a tree was growing.  I sat down on the ground with my back to the tree and composed the picture.  Here is the result.  For a short period it was on a billboard, north of the city, welcoming visitors to the area.

San Angelo Visitors Center

San Angelo Visitors Center

San Angelo Billboard

San Angelo Billboard

One spring Ann and I took a little tour in the hill country of Texas to see the Texas Bluebonnets in bloom.  One image I particularly liked.  We had come across this little knoll, and right before us was some bluebonnets in the foreground.  Then right across a low water crossing there was a meadow with whitefaces, (Hereford cattle), grazing.  I crouched low so as to get the bluebonnets in the photo.

Later, the people that owned the local McDonald’s Franchise contacted me to buy the rights to one of my images for a mural in one of their restaurants.  I showed them my portfolio and they decided on that particular photo, as they liked the bluebonnets.  They in turn had another compny make the mural, which turned out to be in a wall covering form.  They installed it on a large wall.  But, would you know, they positioned furniture in place that covers the bluebonnets.  It still looks very nice.

McDonald's Mural

McDonald’s Mural

Well, I think I will end this post here.  I don’t want to bore you with to many of these memories.  But I promise I will be back with some more soon.  Please click on any image to see some very nice enlargements.  I also feel obliged to mention, prints of any of my photographs are available for sale.  If interested, contact me at bobzeller@pobox.com.

The Dog Days of Summer


Okay, it is starting to get hot down here in San Angelo.  I should have seen it coming.  After all, I have lived here for about 55 years.  But, to be truthful, I wouldn’t live anywhere else.  This is a city of over 100,000 that has everything a person would need.  A beautiful river runs through the town and we have three nearby lakes.  Great parks where I tend to do most of my birding and photography.  Sure it gets warm in the summer, but with our low humidity it is bearable.  I will say this, today is June 14, and we haven’t recorded our first 100° day yet.  But the day isn’ t over so today might be the day.

But as for the birding, this is the time of the year that if you don’t get out in the morning, you are missing the best part of the day.  In the afternoon, windless and warm, the birds like to lay around the house, too.  That is not to say that I don’t try.  But most of the time we are back home by noon.  Then I sit down at the computer and edit the morning’s catch.  And that includes throwing out hundreds of baddies, blurred or I some I just really don’t like.  If I shoot 200 images and get five keepers, I am a happy man.

On that note, here are a few images that I have gotten the past few days.

This White-eyed Vireo was one that almost got tossed.  He was in the dark brush and I had to up the ISO on the camera and that produced quite a bit of noise (grain).  But I liked the pose with that bit of an insect in the beak.

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

There are a lot of the Western Kingbirds around here now.  They don’t seem to mind the heat.

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

Driving through San Angelo State Park, it seemed that we were always hearing the Northern Bobwhites, no matter what our location in the park.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

We were driving around Twin Buttes reservoir the next day, and low and behold we saw the same two species again.  You guessed it, another Western Kingbird and a Northern Bobwhite.

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

Northern Bobwhie

Northern Bobwhte

However, in addition, after hearing a Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the trees and after some searching, I got this photo.  The bird has a delicious katydid in it’s beak.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

I will finish this post with this photograph of an Ash-throated Flycatcher.  Not the greatest image as he was pretty far away.  I got my long lens on him and snapped anyway.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

So that’s it for this time.  I hope you enjoyed the photos.  Click on any of them to see some nice enlargements, especially if you are viewing them on a computer.  I don’t know how that works on an iPhone.

 

Why it Pays to Edit


Ann and I were out near Middle Concho Park yesterday.  It was getting late in the morning, the light was harsh and contrasty, and the birds were laying in for the afternoon.  However, as we were driving along, Ann was startled to see a Great Horned Owl fly from a branch near the car.  We followed along to where we thought it had landed, and eventually spotted it far back in the woods.

I turned the car around so I could get a shot through the trees from my driver’s side window.  I was using my Canon 7D Mark II and a Tamron  150-600mm lens.  Shutter priority, 1/2500 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 3200.  This is original image.

orig - Great Horned Owl

orig – Great Horned Owl

Now, this image, in itself is really not a bad photograph.  Most people would be happy to have it.  However, with a bit of cropping for composition, some color and lighting adjustments for the bright conditions, I was able to come up with this final photograph.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

So as you can see, the camera really does lie.  It cannot always cope with difficult lighting conditions.  In this case, bright sun high in the sky, making harsh shadows.  I would prefer softer lighting, i.e. clouds covering the sun, or even overcast.  But, when trying to capture wildlife, you deal with what you have to work with.  I edited this image in Photoshop, but the minor adjustments I made could be done with any inexpensive software.  Click on either image to see enlargements.

So, enough about editing.  Monday afternoon, Ann and I were sitting in front of our house watching the neighborhood birds.  This juvenile Curve-billed Thrasher landed in our ocotillo, and minutes later an adult arrived and began feeding it with an insect of some type.  I cursed myself for leaving my camera inside.  I ran to get it, but by the time I got back the adult was gone.  However, I got some images of the young bird.  Interesting, though, that if I hadn’t seen the adult, I may not have recognized the bird for what it was.  I realized that with the juvenile, the bill is shorter and they eye has not yet achieved that fierce orange color.

Curve-billed Thrasher - juvenile

Curve-billed Thrasher – juvenile

Driving near O.C. Fisher Lake at San Angelo State Park on Sunday afternoon netted me a couple of other photos.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Common Nighthawk on mesquite branch.

Common Nighthawk on mesquite branch.

Well, that’s it for this post.  Catch ya in a few days.

Happy Birding!!