Easter Weekend Memories


Ann and I were relatively idle over the weekend.  On Friday,without any specific projects in mind, we just drove around the area to see what we might see.  Of course, I think that is what we do most of the time, now that I think of it.  So I guess this weekend was no different.  Okay, so I sound like and old man rambling.  Well, I am old, so I guess that is my job. Anyway, here are a few miscellaneous photos that I managed to grab.  All photos were shot with my Canon EOS 70D with a Tamron 150-600mm zoom.  Please click on any image to see enlargements.

House Finch

House Finch

The House Finch was photographed at San Angelo State Park.  I was in the bird blind there watching the activities of various birds.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

The Red-winged Blackbird was also shot at the blind.  I love the brilliant wing bars on these birds.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

After visiting the blind, we decided to just take a leisurely drive through the park.  I saw the Ash-throated Flycatcher off to the side of the road and photographed it from my car.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

On Sunday morning, after breakfast, we drove by the old K-Mart building where there is a creek nearby.  We had received about a quarter inch of rain during the night, and there was some substantial water in it.  There was also this Yellow-crowned Night Heron strolling by.

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

This Solitary Sandpiper was also nearby.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

We then decided to drive the backroads down near Eldorado, Texas then visit the city water ponds in that city.  On the way we spotted this American Kestrel in the top of a dead tree off to the side of the road.  I brought the car to a stop, turned off the engine.  Since the bird was on the passenger side of the car, I had to hand-hold the camera across in front of Ann.  It was no easy feat,but thanks to the Vibration Control in the lens, I managed to get this shot.  The bird was about 150 feet away and I was zoomed to the full 600mm of the lens.

Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson’s Phalarope

Arriving at the ponds, we saw quite a bit of activity, teals, gadwalls, shovelers, etc.  In one corner of one pond we spotted about twenty of these Wilson’s Phalaropes.  They were not skittish at all of my car, and I was only about twenty feet away for this shot.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

On an island in the middle of one pond were a few Cattle Egrets.  This is my favorite photo, I think, even though there is a bit of a twig in front of the face.  The image was taken from a distance of about 200 feet.  The photo was severely cropped so I could show you the close-up.

After that, light showers began, so we headed for home.  We were not unhappy as this area needs as much rain as we can get.

Update:  New total for my Big Year Texas list is 147.  New additions are:

#146  Yellow-crowned Night Heron

#147  Cattle Egret

Birding South Llano River State Park


On Wednesday, Ann and I, along with our neighbor friend, Carl Williams, set out for the South Llano River State Park near Junction, Texas.  A distance of about 100 miles, we covered it nicely in about an hour and a half.  Before I get into the photos from the park, I want to mention the Red-tailed Hawk that I photographed on the way.  We were cruising along about 75mph when we saw the hawk sitting on a wire fence.  I whipped the car into the left lane, drove to the next turn-around and came back around.  As we pulled up to the hawk that was still sitting on the fence, it noticed that Ole Bob was coming with his camera.  He figured he would look better on that stub of a tree branch, even though he was going to get windblown.  The gusts were about 35mph at that time.  I remembered to thank him before I drove off, after I got a few nice photos.

Red-tailed Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk.

South Llano River State Park is relatively small, only about 200 acres, consisting of many, many oak trees.  It is a popular camping area, but also has four bird blinds and is considered one of the better birding areas.  We decided that we wanted to visit each blind.  I think we spent a total of three hours there and saw thirty-two species in all.  We missed some nice ones, like the Lazuli Bunting, Painted Bunting, and Indigo Bunting.  Some other birders said that those three were around just before we got there.  But it is early yet so we will probably go back in another two or three weeks.

Here are a few images of some that we did see.  They can be viewed best if you will go to the blog, then you can click the images and see some beautiful enlargements.

Summer Tanager - male

Summer Tanager – male

Summer Tanager - female

Summer Tanager – female

The next photo is one of my personal favorites.  The Yellow-rumped Warblers consists of two sub-species, the ‘Myrtle’ and the ‘Audubon’s’.  This image is an Audubon.

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's)

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)

What would a birding trip be with out a bunch of sparrows.  Here are three that we encountered in the park.

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

Then last, but not least is the ever-popular Spotted Towhee.

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

That does it for photos on this post.  I got a few others that I may post later, and I got a lot of throwaways that will never see the light of a computer monitor.

Update on Texas Big Year list:

#141  Neotropic Cormorant

#142 Little Blue Heron

#143  Wilson’s Phalarope

#144  Western Kingbird

#145  Summer Tanager

See complete list on my blog.

 

Just a few images from the past week.


This post might be a bit brief from the narrative side.  I couldn’t think of anything to write about more deeply.  We did make a few excursions this past week to do a bit of birding, and get a few photographs along the way.  We did see our first Bullock’s Oriole and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers of the year.  Also the first Black-necked Stilts that we have seen in over two years.  With the level of Lake Nasworthy having dropped three feet, the shoreline is wider and making great habitat for the wading shorebirds.  Here are a few photos for you to see.  I would strongly ask that you read this post by clicking on the link.  Then you can click the images and see some great enlargements.

Osprey

Osprey

I watched the Osprey for twenty minutes, hoping he would turn to face me a me a little bit, but it never happened.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

The Eastern Bluebird was in the shade a little bit, almost making the face too dark, but I love photographing them.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was a harbinger of many more to come.  Summer is almost upon us.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Spotted Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt

I love the elegant, gracefulness of these Black-necked Stilts.  Their slender legs are about the size of straws.

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

The Bullock’s Oriole is the predominant oriole in this area.  The one above was the first I saw this spring.  It was nearly too far away for a decent photo.

Great Horned Owlets

Great Horned Owlets

The owlets were over two hundred yards away, across the lake, high in a tree.  My friend, Julie Stewart, told me about them.  She attempted to photograph them with her 300mm lens, but were almost out of reach.  She thought that with my 150-600mm lens I might have a better chance.  I got the above shot, putting my setup on a tripod at the water’s edge.  Even then, I had to do some extreme cropping, and a little sharpening.  Those tiny twigs in front of the birds made focusing from that distance very difficult.  But thank you, Julie, for giving me the chance.

So, that’s about it for this time.  I love reading your comments, so if you feel like saying a few words, give it a go below.

By the way, the Solitary Sandpiper is number 140 on my Texas Big Year list.

Photographing the Vermilion Flycatcher


The cute and feisty, little Vermilion Flycatcher is probably my favorite of all of the flyctchers.  They are tiny little guys that dart here and there, flitting around to catch elusive little gnats, insects, and  mosquitos.  They are also adept at avoiding getting photographed.  To get the job done takes a bit of patience.

It is my experience that they generally hang around in the vicinity of the same tree.  So I usually park my vehicle several yards away, giving myself a large shooting field.  Having a long lens is a definite help and I use my Tamron 150-600mm zoom on my Canon EOS 70D.  I rest this setup on my driver’s side window, using a cushion fashioned from a Noodle that I purchased at Walmart.

Using this described recipe I was able to get the two images below, one each of the male and female of the species.  I used Photoshop to crop them tight for composition, and made the necessary lighting and color adjustments.

Vermilion Flycatcher - male

Vermilion Flycatcher – male

Vermilion Flycatcher - female

Vermilion Flycatcher – female

To get the full enjoyment of viewing the photos PLEASE click on either one.  You will be pleasantly surprised.

Update:  While birding this morning I was able to add two more species to my Texas Big Year list.

138.  Bullock’s Oriole

139.  Black-necked Stilt

 

Birding the Big Bend National Park


We are back from a fun week birding and photographing in Big Bend National Park.  The weather was phenomenal for most of the week.  On Thursday the wind got up quite a bit and Friday we had blowing dust in the morning, otherwise it was mild and sunny.  We saw 46 different species during the trip, including an addition of the Gray Hawk to our life list.  When we weren’t birding, we were sitting on the porch of our little cabin, enjoying the desert view, and sipping refreshments.

We met new friends, including another excellent bird photographer.  What was amazing was that she has been photographing for only two years, but her work is outstanding.  Meet Sheen Watkins by clicking here.  Check out her website of beautiful photos of birds and wildlife.

When we stopped for a break at the store at Castelon, we met Ranger Ted Griffith, who happens to be another blogger and one of my readers.  What a small world it is.  It was early, and he was coming out of his office to raise the U.S. Flag on the nearby pole.  Click here to see his outstanding photos of the Big Bend.

I promised you new photos so let’s get started.  PLEASE click on the images to see some beautiful enlargements.

Sunrise in the desert of the Big Bend.

Sunrise in the desert of the Big Bend.

The above picture was taken early on our drive into Big Bend National Park.  The ocotillo’s red blossoms covered the desert.  All photos including this one, were taken with my Canon EOS 70D and Tamron 150-600mm lens.

Gray Hawk

Gray Hawk

We were at the Cottonwood Campground where the birding usually is very good.  In the campgrounds itself, there was a lot activity with the maintenance people working, plus many campers so birding was a bit difficult, although we did see many birds including several Vermilion Flycatchers.  However, when leaving the area, we saw this Gray Hawk atop a telephone pole.  What a sight!  We had never seen a Gray Hawk before so it was a treat to see him posing so nicely.

Scott's Oriole

Scott’s Oriole

Scott's Oriole

Scott’s Oriole

We were pulling into the parking lot at the Park Headquarters at Panther Junction, when we noticed two photographers out in the desert, with big lenses pointing at something.  After we stopped the car, we scoped out the situation with our binoculars and saw the Scott’s Oriole.  I took a few photos with the bird in the distance, then a few seconds later, it flew very close to us and perched in the ocotillo stem, where I got the above images.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

A few minutes later, I got this stunning photo of the Ash-throated Flycatcher near the same location.  There were several of these birds everywhere in the park.

Scaled Quail

Scaled Quail

This pair of Scaled Quail, also know as Blue Quail, were photographed outside our cabin right at sunset.  I loved the warm glow of the light.

Rock Wren

Rock Wren

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

The Barton Warnock Nature Center is located outside of Lajitas.  The nature trail and gardens usually have birds and various wildlife wandering around and this is where I photographed the above Rock Wren and the Curve-billed Thrasher.  We are never disappointed when we stop there.

Common Black Hawk

Common Black Hawk

Another of our favorite bird areas is the campground area at Rio Grand Village.  It is on the far eastern side of the national park near Boquillas Canyon.  For the past few years there has been a pair of nesting of rare Common Black Hawks there.  There are signs restricting getting too close, but with my long lens, I was able to get this and a few other photographs of the birds.  Because of the dense trees, the lighting was a bit touchy, but I think this image portrays it nicely.

Lark Sparrow - juvenile

Lark Bunting – female

A Western Wood Pewee show us his backside.

A Western Wood Pewee show us his backside.

I hope you enjoyed these photos from our exciting trip to the desert.  We stayed at the Casitas at Far Flung Outdoor Center.  We strongly recommend them if you are making a trip to the area.

Of the 46 species that we saw during the trip, the Gray Hawk was a lifer, plus eight of them were additions to our 2014 Texas Big Year list.  It is updated below, including with birds we saw before we left on the trip.

122.  Lesser Yellowlegs

123.  Cliff Swallow

124.  Lark Bunting

125.  Brown-headed Cowbird

126.  Cave Swallow

127.  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

128.  Gray Hawk

129.  Brown-crested Flycatcher

130.  Common Black Hawk

131.  Rock Wren

132.  Scott’s Oriole

133.  Purple Martin

134.  Phainopepla

135.  Bank Swallow

136.  Western Wood Pewee

137.  Green Heron.

Going back to the Big Bend……


I am going to be brief with this post.  Again, Ann and I are leaving tomorrow morning to spend a week down in the Big Bend National Park area.  Migration is beginning and we hope to come home with some nice new photos from the area.

Here are a couple of images from the past few days.  Hope you enjoy.  Just click on any of them to see some enlargements.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - first one of the season

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – first one of the season

Wilson's Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Ash-throated Woodpecker

Ash-throated Woodpecker

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

We will be staying at the Casitas of the Far Flung Outdoor Center in Terlingua.  If you are in the area, stop by cabin #12 and visit.  Otherwise, we will be back next weekend with new photos and maybe some stories to tell.

A Little Flash of Red


We were out driving through our local parks yesterday.  Saw 43 species for a nice day of birding.  But what caught our attention in one area was a flash of red across the road in front of the car.  We looked to the left and saw a cute little Vermilion Flycatcher, with a grub, on a small branch about 100 feet away.  I was able to stop the car, and get my Canon SLR with the Tamron 150-600mm lens into position.  These images that follow are heavily cropped to give you a nice closeup of that feisty bird.  If you will click on either photo, you will see some beautiful enlargements.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Let’s do the Bokeh


If my photos make you feel like dancing, forget it, bokeh isn’t a dance.  It is the aesthetic quality of the blur in the background of some photographs.  In talking about a picture, one might say that it has good bokeh.  I love to produce that effect myself.  I get it mostly when I am photographing, for example, a bird with my long lenses.  By using wide apertures such as f2.8  thru f6.3, I end up with a shallow depth-of-field.  DOP as it is called briefly, is the small area in front, and in back of the subject, that is in focus.  Everything in front of and in back that is blurred, is the bokeh.  An example is this photograph that I captured of an Eastern Phoebe.  Notice how the bird is in great focus, and the background is a nice, soft blur.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

My Tamron zoom telephoto was set at the max range of 600mm and my aperture was set at f6.3.  I was about 30 feet from phoebe. The background was several yards back.  Distance can make a difference in the effect.  This Osprey in the photo below, (which I published about a week ago in another post) was about eighty yards away on another tree branch.  The background was made up of tree limbs and brush and you can see that the bokeh took on a different, but very pleasing look.

Osprey

Osprey

Still another pleasing effect was in this photo of a Painted Bunting.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

In the photo below, of the Greater Roadrunner, because of the angle of my camera, and the location of the bird, the background was more in focus, but not enough distract the viewer.  The aperture was the same f6.3.  Same lens.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

In the photo below, I used the water itself as the background.  I love these Greater Roadrunners.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

While I am on the subject, I will mention that different type lenses might have a different look on the bokeh.  Some will produce round dots of blurred light, for example.  Also, there may be a difference in the different brands of lenses.  Some may produce better bokeh that others.  Personally, I a very satisfied with the results I am getting with mine.  They make me feel like dancing. :-)

Incidentally, I never mention this much, because I am not the greatest of salesman.  My photographs are for sale.  Just contact me and we can talk about sizes, prices, etc.  I have satisfied customers all over the country, and I wouldn’t mind helping you to give additions to your walls, too.

Also, my book is still doing well, and you can check that out by clicking on the Flickr logo on the right side of this page, or the gallery link at the top of the page.

It’s all about the light…..


I have a love/hate relationship with the sun sometimes.  I love to be out in the bright sunshine, just enjoying the day.  Then I pick up the camera, and ugh, there are those nasty, harsh shadows.  You have a subject in the viewfinder, one side in shadow, the other in the bright light.  What to do.  The only thing to do is to work with it in the darkroom (digital), and hope to correct it a little.

But then, there are days like today.  It was bright, but there was a very high, thin cloudiness that diffused the sun.  Harsh shadows were at a minimum, and the light was spread more even.

Ann and I overslept this morning for some reason or other.  Perhaps we are getting old, and enjoying our sleep more.  Whatever the reason or cause, we hurried to breakfast at Stango’s Coffee Shop, finished a Scrabble game while we ate, then decided it would be a great day for the camera.

We headed towards Middle Concho and Spring Creek Parks in anticipation of seeing a few birds, (of course) and getting some nice photos.  As I have been doing lately, I attached only my Tamron 150-600mm zoom to my Canon EOS 70D.  The waters of the rivers and creeks have dropped by a vertical distance of about 30 inches in the past few weeks.  Lack of rain will do that.  We have received only .08 (that’s eight one-hundredths of an inch, or less than a tenth) to date this year.

Fortunately, the birds have faith, and are still hanging around.  We saw 37 species.  One was this beautiful juvenile Red-tailed Hawk soaring over out heads.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

We saw a few other species, such as  Spotted Towhee, but it was too elusive to get a good photo.  I will be back for another try.  I know where it lives.  As were were to enter Spring Creek Park, we spotted this beautiful Osprey atop a utility pole.  I pulled over onto the grass a hundred yards away, and walked back through the trees to get a good vantage point for a photo.  I got a nice image of it.

Osprey

Osprey

After entering that park, we first searched for the Great Horned Owl that we have seen in the past.  It was nowhere to be found, but we saw this Great Blue Heron across the river.  I still have trouble resisting photographing them, and this time was no different.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Farther along was this Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker - female

Ladder-backed Woodpecker – female

Then along the shore of the water, a Killdeer.

Killdeer

Killdeer

I hope you enjoy the highlights of this enjoyable day.  Please click on the images to see some beautiful enlargements.

2014 Big Year total update:

#118  Orange-crowned Warbler

#119  Grasshopper Sparrow

#120  Snowy Egret

#121  Ash-throated Flycatcher

The skinny guy might have talent…….


This past week was spent doing a few odd things around the house, and a few hours birding.  Nothing spectacular captured, but after getting home and looking at my results a second time, I realized that there might be some keepers here.   Here are some highlights.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

This American Kestrel was sitting on a utility cable near the entrance to Middle Concho Park.  I love these feisty little raptors.  A ferocity belies their cute appearance.

American White Pelican

American White Pelican

Yes, we do have a few Pelicans this far from the coast.  Nearly every year a few make San Angelo their winter home.  I was especially proud of this image that I captured of one just placidly gliding along.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

This Northern Flicker is the yellow-shafted variety as you can see by the the yellow feathers beneath the tail.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

A female Eastern Bluebird perched on a tree.

Bewick's Wren

Bewick’s Wren

This Bewick’s Wren (pronounced buick’s).  He thought that I couldn’t see him, but my 150-600mm lens sought him out.

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

The Greater Yellowlegs loves to wade in the waters of the Spring Creek Park.  I wonder where he got the name.

Osprey

Osprey

The Osprey, one of my favorite raptors.  Hope you like this image.  I feel that he is just sitting and pondering the future.  As a matter of fact, the more I look at this photo, the more I like it myself.  Heck, I just may have a bit of artistic talent myself.  Notice in the title of this post that I opted for ‘skinny guy’ over ‘old geezer’.  Hey, I still have my ego to contend with.

Click on any enlargement to see some great enlargements.