The Dog Days of Summer


The temperatures around here in San Angelo have been hovering around the 100 degree mark or a little higher.  That means that it is best to stay in out of the heat.  That is what the birds and wildlife seem to be doing.  Ann and I have not been getting out too much, either.  But a couple of days ago we decided to stop binge-watching the seven seasons of “The Andy Griffith Show” and get out, if only to get some fresh air and stretch our legs.

At San Angelo State Park, this Northern Bobwhite presented a problem when trying to photograph it.  It’s was partially hidden, except when he was calling.  When he called he stretched his head up, and I could focus on his entire head.  So I patiently waited for the right moment, as the head was up for only a few seconds each time.

Northern Bobwhite sing to his mate.

Northern Bobwhite

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

At the ‘mudhole’ near Twin Buttes Reservoir there was a little more activity.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Killdeer

Killdeer

Blue Grosbeak - female

Blue Grosbeak – female

That’s it for now, until we decide to get out again.  By the way, another reason for not getting out is that I am in the act of getting a DVD produced.  It contains 100 of my best photographs, not only birds, but landscapes, flowers, etc.  The images are selected from the past few years, plus a great music tract.  It will be available in about two weeks.  I must say, I have seen the preview, and it is awesome.  I am very proud of it.

Well, time to see what that rascal kid, Opie, is up to now.  Season 2, episode 14. :-)

New DVD Available


This is a special post for my readers.  I have great news.  I, along with my friend in Tennessee, Dstappan Productions, have produced a very nice DVD of 100 of my best images, accompanied with music.  It is currently for Windows only.  If Interested, please mail me a check for 25.00 to: Bob Zeller, 4401 White Ash Ln., San Angelo, Texas, 76904-4528.  That amount will cover any taxes and shipping by Priority Mail.  I don’t take credit cards anymore….too expensive.  But we in west Texas are used to doing business with an e-handshake.

The DVD contains 100 images, assorted birds, animals, landscapes.

Be sure to give me your address and contact info, e-mail or phone, etc.

As I said, it is for Windows operating systems only at the current time.  We are working on producing one for TV viewing and that should be available soon.

Hope to hear from many of you.  Thank you.

Post Independence Day Photos


I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July Holiday!!

For the past week or so, Ann and I have been trying to work in some birding, between doing household chores and visits to the vet with our Shih Tzu, Suzie.  She has eye problems that we are trying to clear up.  Anyway, here are a few miscellaneous photos that I managed to grab during that time.

This Scissor-tailed Flycatcher I got lucky with at San Angelo State Park.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

This Canyon Towhee, also at San Angelo State Park, was partially shaded with leaves from the mesquite, but I think the image still looks pretty good.

Canyon Towhee

Canyon Towhee

Ordinarily I mostly ignore House Finches because they are here in great numbers and I guess I take them for granted, but I thought that this little female was pretty.

House Finch - female

House Finch – female

The next three image also from San Angelo State Park.  I can’t resist these gorgeous blue birds.

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

Western Kingbirds are in abundance here during the summer.

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

We are experiencing a large increase of Northern Bobwhites this year.  When driving through the park we were always within earshot of their calls.  This one scampered across the road in front of us.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

The following two photos are from our previous trip to South Llano River State Park.

Northern Cardinal - juvenile

Northern Cardinal – juvenile

How about a squirrel thrown into this collection.  At one of the blinds at SLRSP.

Squirrel

Squirrel

I hope you enjoyed these photos.  Click on any of them to see some pretty nice enlargements.

Photos from Here and There…..


I don’t have a good story for you today.  We’ve been spending the past week or two doing some things around house, and not getting much birding done, save for a couple of short outings here and there.  So here are two images from a quick trip yesterday to South Llano River State Park.  We didn’t stay too long, it was very hot and humid in the blinds, and even the birds decided to take a day off.

Inca Dove

Inca Dove

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow – juvenile

Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat

I was reluctant to include the above photo of the Chat.  I had a senior moment, I guess, and mistakenly used a shutter speed of 1/250 instead ot the intended 1/1250 per sec.  It blurred the photo somewhat and I had to do some correction in post processing.  I included it because I don’t see these very often, and it appeared for a few minutes at the water feature at the park.

The following are some photos that were in my archives that I thought you would like.  By the way, click on any of the photos in this post to see enlargements.

First up, a Black-capped Chickadee that I photographed at my niece’s home in Interlochen, Michigan, back in 2008.

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

A Savannah Sparrow that I photographed recently at the mud hole near Twin Buttes Reservoir in San Angelo, Texas.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

A Yellow-billed Cuckoo, San Angelo back in 2011.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Black-throated Sparrow that I captured at South Llano State Park several years ago.

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

A Northern Flicker photographed near Spring Creek Park in San Angelo, Texas.

Northern Flicker - (Yellow-shafted)

Northern Flicker – (Yellow-shafted)

Two images of Cedar Waxwings near San Angelo, Texas.  I don’t know which image I like best.

Cedar Waxwings

Cedar Waxwings

Cedar Waxwings

Cedar Waxwings

Black-headed Grosbeak.  Photographed at the Davis Moutains State Park during a visit in May of 2014.

Black-headed Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeak

I hope you enjoyed the photos included here.  I’ll try to have more in the near future.

Mississippi Kites


Mississippi Kites are beginning to be seen in our area.  I haven’t seen one yet, but I am on the look-out.  I have memories of a nice experience back in May of 2011, about four years ago.  We had been birding at a neat birding place near Abilene, called Cedar Gap Farm.

We had just left the place and were about a half-mile down the road when I glanced to the left and saw a juvenile Mississippi Kite atop a utility.  I stopped the car, got out with my camera, and took a closer look.

The bird was crying out, and as I looked skyward, an adult, probably it’s mother, was circling with some little nugget of food.  As I watched it swept down and fed it in the mouth of the little one and flew off.  I was intent on getting a photo of the young one so I set up my big 500mm lens on a tripod about thirty yards away.

As I was beginning to get some serious photos, the bird was still crying out.  I was very fortunate that the adult flew down and again gave a large beetle type of insect to the baby.  I was able to get these photos.

juvenile Mississippi Kite

juvenile Mississippi Kite

Mississippi Kites - dinner time

Mississippi Kites – dinner time

I hope you enjoyed this short post.  Click the images to see enlargements.

Birding the Big Bend – Part I, Fort Davis


Over social media such as FaceBook I have seen comments from many people who have never visited the Big Bend area, wanting more information about birding, lodging, the national park, and other areas of interest.  So I have decided to do a couple of posts telling about our experiences and favorite stops.

Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon – Big Bend National Park

Ann and I have two main areas of interest when we visit the Big Bend area of west Texas.  One is the biggest area near the bend of the Rio Grande.  That includes Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park.  Our other favorite area, that I will write about in this post, is Fort Davis. In the area there are the Davis Mountains, Davis Mountains State Park, McDonald Observatory and Balmorhea.  I should also include the actual Fort Davis, one of the best preserved frontier forts in the country._MG_1609 036-net-fort-davis-bsob-zeller

An ideal trip for Ann and I would be to leave from San Angelo, head south to Sonora, and take I-10 west until finding Hwy 17 that leads to Fort Davis.  Traveling on I-10 is typical as Interstate travel can be.  The fun starts when you make the turn off onto Hwy 17.  You will travel through Balmorhea, then head through the beautiful Davis Mountains into the city of Fort Davis.

There are several places to stay in Fort Davis.  At the Davis Mountains State Park there is the Indian Lodge.  Nearby is the Prude Ranch and Fort Davis Motor Inn.  Ann and I prefer to stay at the Davis Mountains Inn, a nice little bed and breakfast.

Davis Mountains Inn

Davis Mountains Inn

We like to eat at the historic Fort Davis Drugstore.  Great food, and upstairs is the Drugstore Art Gallery, where yours truly, (that’s me) has numerous prints for sale.

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker – Davis Mountains State Park

Birding is great at the Davis Mountains State Park, about seven miles northwest of town on Hwy 118..  There are two recently renovated bird blinds and plenty of birds.  On occasion, if you are lucky, you might spot some Montezuma Quail.  That place is one of our favoite birding areas.  The blinds are very good at attracting birds.  You can elect to sit inside and observe through the windows, or sit in the convenient stools outside.

Southwest of town on Hwy 118 is the Chihuahuan Nature Center and Botanical Gardens.  When we last visited it was literally humming with various species of Humming Birds.  There is also some very nice hiking trails.

Black-chinned Hummingbird - female

Black-chinned Hummingbird – female

One of our favorite things while in the area, is to take the Wildlife Viewing Loop.  It is a 75 mile drive heading northwest on Hwy 118, going by the McDonald Observatory high in the mountains.  A few miles later you will see a park on the left at Madera Canyon.  Pause there for awhile as it is a very good birding area. A Stellar’s Jay, was just seen there just a few days ago.  After that continue the loop, bearing left to Hwy 166, always looking out for the hawks and other birds and wildlife that inhabit the area.  You will end up back in Fort Davis, ready for a good meal at the Drugstore or a pizza from Murphy’s Pizza.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

After a good night’s sleep, a trip to Balmorhea sounds like a nice side journey.  The drive is north on Hwy 17 for about 40 miles.  We love that trip, because the drive itself is a great birding drive.  Hawks in abundance; Aoudads and Pronghorned Antelope line the mountain ridges.  And who can not stop to photograph Wild Rose Pass.

Wild Ross Pass

Wild Ross Pass

As you approach Balmorhea, you will see Balmorhea State Park.  It is small and it’s main feature is the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool.  But it also has a wetlands area where you can see some great birds.  East of town, is Lake Balmorhea, where during the colder months many species of water birds, ducks, egrets, herons, grebes, etc. can be found.  A Bald Eagle is usually seen hanging around, too.

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup

Be sure to schedule your Balmorhea trip to include lunch at the Bear Den. It bills itself as “the cutest restaurant in town”.  Great Tex-Mex food and cold beer.

In the evening, you might be interested in driving south to Marfa, where you can see the famous “Marfa Lights”, that mysteriously glow after sundown in the direction of the Chinati Mountains.  We have see them every time that we have visited there.  Very strange, indeed.  They are just east of town on Hwy 90 where the Texas Highway Department has erected a special viewing area.

After a couple or three days here, we are ready to go south to the area of the Big Bend National Park.  That area will be the subject of Part II.

Northern Bobwhite and more……..


Since my last post on June 1, my time in the field has been limited.  I have been trying to catch up on personal issues pertaining to keeping up our yard, a little house cleaning, and this morning a plumber is coming to install new fixtures in our bathroom.  So, I was only able to get out for two hours on June 2, and a couple of hours yesterday, June 7.

But the good news is, I did manage to get a few nice images to share with you.

For anybody that has been concerned about the scarceness of the Northern Bobwhite, I can assure you they are certainly alive and well in San Angelo State Park.  While driving through the entire area we were never out of earshot of at least one of them calling.  We also saw visually about ten of them, perhaps more.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Male and female Northern Bobwhite

Male and female Northern Bobwhite

Although we enjoyed seeing so many of the bobwhites, we didn’t ignore  the other birds.  As a matter of fact, we observed thirty different species.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get useable photos of all thirty, but that is to be expected when I am in the birding mode, versus just out for the photography.  Some we just saw as they flew nearby, or were in thick brush, or I simply just didn’t like my photo.

We spotted this night heron in the draw behind the Walmart super-center.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Well, that is about it for this time.  Hopefully, I can have more for you the next time.  Click on any photo to see enlargements.