Surprising San Angelo State Park


Back in about 2007 the water was high in O.C. Fisher Reservoir at the park.  Mesquite, cactus, and other trees and plants were in abundance.  There was plenty of fish in the lake and the park was healthy.  All species of wildlife thrived.  A person could go out there to go birding or to photograph that wildlife with great success.  It was nothing to see an osprey or a hawk on any given visit.

Then the great drought hit the area.  It has been only a couple of years or so ago that the lake was bone dry.  Not a drop of water to be seen.  You could walk across the lake without getting your feet damp.  Then it was decided to destroy most of the mesquite and underbrush.  That was done with several controlled burns.  The park took on the image of a burned-out forest fire.

Then several months ago, we were blessed with a deluge.  Huge amounts of rain fell on the North Concho River watershed, and the lake, in days, got back to the level of 2007, and perhaps a bit more.  We are now getting some more periodic rainfalls and the park is coming back.  Everything is looking much greener.  Of course, it will be much longer for the fish to return in large amounts, but the birds and wildlife is making a great comeback.  And that is what this post is all about.

Ann and I spent the past couple of days there checking out the birds.  Yesterday, we saw 44 different species of birds, and we didn’t even stop at the bird blind.  We probably could have added a few more there.  We just took a very leisure drive throught the south section of the park.  Here are a few images from that drive.  As always, click on any image to see beautiful enlargements, especially if you are reading this on a computer.

Driving near the area where the ‘buffalo roam’, in other words the fenced off part of the park where the bison are kept, we were surprised to see a couple of Cattle Egrets meandering near the animals.  This specie is not around every year, but I love their plummage.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

The Bobwhites were calling and we could hear one nearly every part of the park we visited.  this one was in a nearby tree.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

A Pyrrhuloxia quietly watching over the area.

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

A Curve-billed Thrasher.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

This Greater Roadrunner was calling, perhaps for a mate.  First time I had come across one making any kind of a sound.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

In another area we were surprised by four Yellow-headed Blackbirds.  Another specie that we hadn’t seen in a couple of years.  During migration it not unusual to come up with some surprises.  They were deep in the grass so photographing them was difficult.  Here is one of the better images.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Driving towards the boat ramp, actually the only one of more than a dozen that is actually near the water, we spotted this Killdeer in the parking lot.  We discovered that it was sitting on two eggs.  This bird is peculiar in that it doesn’t use a nest per se.  It just picks a spot on the ground, usually a gravel surface, and drops the eggs there.

Killdeer sitting on two eggs.

Killdeer sitting on two eggs.

And speaking of eggs and young birds, we have been returning to Spring Creek Park periodically to check on the offspring of a Great Horned Owl.  Here is my latest photo, taken two days ago.  It appears to be around four weeks old in my humble opinion.  As you can see it is standing on the nest.  It’s ears are beginning to shape up.  It won’t be long before it ventures out farther on a tree limb.

Great Horned Owlet

Great Horned Owlet

That’s it for this post.  Try to make it out to San Angelo State Park soon, and you may see some of these 44 species that Ann and I saw yesterday:

  • White-winged Dove
  • Blue Jay
  • Great-tailed Grackle
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Mourning Dove
  • Cactus Wren
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  • Barn Swallow
  • Canyon Towhee
  • Song Sparrow
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • House Sparrow
  • Northern Bobwhite
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  • Killdeer
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • American Coot
  • Gadwall
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • House Finch
  • Lark Sparrow
  • American Pippet
  • Common Raven
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Curve-billed Thrasher
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird
  • Black Vulture
  • European Starling
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Black-throated Sparrow
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Black-crested Titmouse

 

 

 

After the rains…….


You have probably noticed that I haven’t posted in nearly two weeks.  The weather has been damp, drizzly, and cool at times.  That didn’t bother me much, but it limited my visits to my favorite areas.  But the big news is, we have had in the past couple days around 5 inches of rain on the watersheds to our O. C. Fisher Reservoir.  The lake was a dry bed, and now in the last 48 hours has become a huge bodyof water with an elevation rise of 18 feet.  And the water is still flowing into it from the North Concho river that crested at 20 feet above flood stage yesterday, the highest rise since 1974.  I took a look at the lake yesterday afternoon, and it has the most water I have seen since 2007.  A long way to go to be completely full, but it is definitely a first step.  More rain is forecast for the following week.

So, I am going to just post the photographs that I have managed to get since the last edition, during short visits to various locations around the area.  I hope you enjoy, and click on any image to see enlargements.

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Bulock's Oriole

Bulock’s Oriole

Painted Bunting - female

Painted Bunting – female

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

Bronzed Cowbird

Bronzed Cowbird

Dickcissel

Dickcissel

Vermilion Flycatcher - female

Vermilion Flycatcher – female

Kute Killdeer Kids


We decided to take a drive to the North Shore side of San Angelo State Park.  We had received a cell phone call as we were heading for the South Shore.  It was Kim, one of the hosts at the north portion of the park.  She said that I might want to come over there and photograph a Yellow-headed Blackbird that was chasing around the prairie dog town.  Well, it was ten minutes away, and by the time we got there the blackbird was nowhere to be seen.

So we decided to just take a drive around there.  That area of the park has the North Concho River running through it.  You might say that the area is nicer than the south park area.  But I think it is because of the difference in the habitat there,  because of the huge, by west Texas standards, oak trees.  They, of course, are healthy because of the nearness of the river.  The south part, where I do most of my photography is more wild, with more mesquite, more cacti, etc.  The south portion, in addition, is about ten times larger than it’s northern counterpart.

Killdeer chick

But, to get back to my story, as we drove around we heard lots of birds singing, but they were hard to locate in the leaves of the larger trees.  But as we went through one are we spotted two adult Killdeer,(Charadrius vociferus),along with three chicks.  The chicks, who were only about four inches tall, were walking throught the grass, while the parents were going through their act, pretending to be crippled so as to draw us away from the kids.

Killdeer chick

I pulled into the grass across from the young ones, and stuck my Canon 7D with the 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter, out the window of the car.  I was lucky to be so close to get these pictures.  Exposure was 1/1000 sec. @f10, -0.3EV, ISO 250.

I don’t know where the actual nest was.  The Killdeer actually lay their eggs on bare ground, among pebbles or stones usually.  They don’t make nests as we know it.  No grass, twiggs, etc.

I hope you enjoyed this post and photos.  Click on either image to see and enlargement.

The second of my Bird IQ quizzes can be found at this link:  Bird Quiz.  You can vote any time through next Thursday.  Results will be published on Friday, April 27.  Good Luck.