Birding before the rains……


The forecast for yesterday was cloudy with an 80% chance of rain.  Well, for me that meant there was a 20% chance that it wouldn’t rain.  Ann and I ate breakfast and it hadn’t started to rain yet, so we were thinking that maybe we were home free.  We decided to head out.  On the way, we saw some ducks in a pond behind a nearby Firestone store.  We saw Green-winged Teals and Northern Pintails there.

Northern Pintail with Green-winged Teal in the background.

Northern Pintail with Green-winged Teal in the background.

We had not been to San Angelo State Park in several days so we decided to go to the the bird blind there.  We were hoping to see a Spotted Towhee that had been reported there.  It would be an addition to our 2015 Big Year list.  We were not disappointed as it did make an appearance, and the other bird species were quite active, considering the oncoming cold front.  We were able to see  many other species.  We were not so lucky in seeing a Verdin, that also had been reported earlier.  With the skies being heavily clouded the light was somewhat low.  However I was able to come away with these images.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

female Northern Cardinal eyeballing that upside-down peace sign created by that hanging branch of a Cholla plant.

female Northern Cardinal eyeballing that upside-down peace sign created by that hanging branch of a Cholla plant.

A feisty Spotted Towhee

A feisty Spotted Towhee

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

Black-crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

Shortly after that final photo was captured, it started to rain.  We skedaddled out of there.  We were happy to head home, as I felt we had come away with some nice images and we added two more to our 2015 Big Year list; Spotted Towhee and Northern Pintail.  We are now at 86, with “only” 124 to go to make our goal of 210 by December 31.  Should be a piece of cake.  Right?  Yeah, right.  Stay tuned…… 🙂

Juvie Northern Pintails at K-Mart Creek


I am in my continuing education mode in bird identification.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, there is a bit of a ditch adjacent to a now defunct K-mart building.  It usually has a bit of water in it from run-off, etc.  On Christmas morning, as we happened to drive by, Ann and I spotted what at first we believed to be some Gadwalls.  As I always due in these circumstances, I drove closer and got hold my camera that is always with me.  In this case, I grabbed the Canon 7D with the 100-400mm lens attached.  I was able to get several shots, using a smaller aperture for a better depth-of-field, to get all of the ducks in focus.

It wasn’t until I uploaded the images to my computer this morning that I realized that the birds weren’t Gadwalls.  But, I really wasn’t sure still, what they were.  After consulting my Stokes Field Guide to birds of North America, and my Sibley Guide to Birds, I was able to ascertain that they were juvenile Northern Pintails.  They had the gray legs, dark gray bills and more rounded heads than Gadwalls.

juvenile Northern Pintails

juvenile Northern Pintails

So I am learning my lessons.  I found that I shouldn’t be too quick to make identifications.  Especially when it comes to waterfowl. (and Gadwalls).  I do know that I have come a long way in the past four years, getting a little better with my IDs.  I can now, at least, tell the difference between doves and sparrows.  The sparrows are smaller, right??

So, anyway, I thought you would enjoy the photo.  Click on it to see an enlargement.

Return to K-Mart Creek


About four blocks from our home there is a vacated K-Mart store.  It has been empty for a few years, the parking lot overgrown with weeds.  It is located in the southwest part of San Angelo, on the frontage road that runs paralell to Loop 306.  Between the parking lot and the frontage road is a borrow ditch, or “bar-ditch” as we call them here in west Texas.

There is usually water running there, drainage and run-off, etc.  Birds of different species frequent the place.  Ann and I started referring to it as K-Mart Creek.  There would be herons, egrets, ducks and various others.  During the last year, during our terrible drought, it was dry most of the time, and there were very few birds.  Now with recent rains there is a little water and birds are beginning to return to the creek and the surrounding grasses.  A few days ago we spotted several Northern Pin-tailed Ducks.

Northern Pintail

This morning as we were coming home from breakfast, we decided, as we do often, to check out the ‘creek’.  There were no ducks this time, but in the brush along with a couple of White-winged Doves, there was this Eastern Phoebe.  We were in the parking lot side of the ditch, and the brush was on our side of the ditch.  I was able to use my Canon 7D with my Canon 100-400mm lens for the shot.  I also used the same set-up previously for the image of the Northern Pintail above.

Eastern Phoebe

Please click on either image to see nice enlargements.  Exposure data follows:

Northern Pintail: 1/1250 sec. @ f5.6, +0.3EV, ISO 800

Eastern Phoebe: 1/500 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7EV, ISO 1000

Today’s birding photos


Wow, what a nice day this turned out to be.  The temperature as I write this is 75 degrees and sunny.  Ann and I went out for a couple of hours, mostly to San Angelo State Park.  After that we went down to that little lake off of Sunset Drive.  Lots of little duck types in there.

While at the park, we spotted two Red-tailed Hawks, one Sharp-shinned Hawk and one Harris’s Hawk.  And you guessed it.  I missed the shot of the Harris’s Hawk.  Such a beautiful bird, but also so quick.  I didn’t even have time to pick up the camera.  However, I did get a nice shot of an American Kestrel.

These are some shots that I got today.  Enjoy.

American Kestrel

Bufflehead

American Wigeon

Northern Pintail

Loggerhead Shrike