Birding advice for San Angelo State Park


I live only three miles from San Angelo State Park, and most of you know from my posts, that I frequent the place four to five times a week.  I get a large percentage of my bird photographs there, but not where you would suspect.

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Red-tailed Hawk

Occasionally, I stop at the bird blind to see what species might have stopped by.  During those visits I often see birders from out of town, that are camping there. I have found that most of them go only to the blind to see birds.  They don’t know what they are missing.

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Golden-fronted Woodpecker

I don’t know exact numbers, but I would suspect that there are 200-300 species that can be seen in the park, depending on the time of year.  As you know, they come and go with the migration and changing seasons.  But just a handful visit the blind.  That area mostly draws seed-eaters.  Remember, I said MOSTLY.  Others will stop by on occasion, because of the water feature.

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Ruby-crowned Kinglet

On a regular basis, you won’t see hawks, owls, egrets, flycatchers and other non-seed eating species.  Oh, yes, as I said, on a rare occasion one of these will stop by, if only for a drink of water, or to snatch an innocent sparrow.

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Great Horned Owl

I would recommend to leave your campsite, get in your car and just drive slowly over the twenty something miles of roads.  Watch the trees and brush for movement and you can get some pleasant surprises.  It is always fun to come upon some warblers, kinglets or gnatcatchers darting around.

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American White Pelicans

O.C. Fisher Lake is another great spot.  Pelicans, egrets, herons, grebes and other water birds can be seen at or from the shorelines.

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American Avocet

So my advice is to spend a couple of hours just cruising the park.  You will be surprised how many bird you can see.  After that, go to the bird blind and pad your lists. 🙂

For prints of these and some of my other work click HERE.

Until my next post, HAPPY BIRDING!!!

 

And another year begins…….


It has been eight years since I wrote my first post to this blog.  My first article was posted in September of 2009.  In that eight years, I have written 968 posts…..this one is number 969.  Hopefully, I can reach the 1,000th soon.  My blog has been viewed 222,164 times as of this writing, reaching readers in 168 countries.

Coincidentally, I also begin my 84th year on this planet, as today is my 83rd birthday. No applause, please.  It is just another passing milestone.  I am enjoying writing this now as much as I did when first started back in September of 2009.  I never dreamed that I would get this far, but here I am.

Okay, enough about celebrating.  Here are a few photos that I captured since my last post.  I hope you enjoy.

This Belted Kingfisher was along the shoreline of Lake O. C. Fisher at San Angelo State Park.

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Belted Kingfisher

I love photographing raptors, and this Cooper’s Hawk posed nicely for me in the trees.

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Cooper’s Hawk

The Great Kiskadees are back for another winter.  They normally are out of range here in Tom Green County.  However, 3 or 4 of them arrived a year ago and stayed all of last winter near Spring Creek Park.  Now, here again on almost a year later exactly, we spotted three again.  Perhaps the same as last year.  I have no way of knowing with certainty.

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Great Kiskadee

During a drive around San Angelo State Park, this young armadillo showed off for us.

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Nine-banded Armadillo

As I said, I love photographing raptors.  This a juvenile Swainson’s Hawk.

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Swainson’s Hawk, juvenile

How about an Osprey, another raptor.

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Osprey

Egyptian Geese are not on the official American Birding Association list.  However, they are a strange looking bird.

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Egyptian Goose

Swainson’s Hawk, adult.

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Swainson’s Hawk

It is always a task, trying to photograph the tiny birds such as this Wilson’s Warbler, but very rewarding.

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Wilson’s Warbler

And who can resist these tiny, feisty American Kestrels.  They are difficult to get in my viewfinder, as they move from one spot to another quickly.

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American Kestrel

Well, I guess that is about it for this post.  I hope you enjoyed my photos.  Now I believe I will celebrate my birthday the rest of the day. 🙂

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!!

 

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

 

 

 

Happy Christopher Columbus Day!!


I haven’t posted for a few days, so I need to catch up a little.  Today is the day that we celebrate Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America.  Actually, I read that he stumbled across it by accident when he was seeking another route to the Far East.  So when his ship ground ashore, he jumped up and down and hollered, “Hey, guys, look what I’ve found!!”

I was going to write a post yesterday, but I got lazy.  First, it took me too darned long to work the Sunday crossword puzzle.  Then after that things went down hill.  I got the bad news that the ALCS championship game between the Texas Rangers and the Detroit Tigers was postponed until today.  That messed up my Sunday plans.  Then I was disappointed that we didn’t get more rain that was promised by the Weather Channel. (More on the rain, later in this post.)  So what is a guy to do after such disappointing things.  I decided to take a nap.

So anyway, here I am.  We did get quite a bit of rain on Saturday.  Officially, 2.83 inches.  We had received only five inches all year until this rain, so now we are at nearly eight inches.  O. C. Fisher Lake picked up a little run-off as you can see in the picture.  But don’t get too excited.  I spotted some American White Pelicans way out in the middle, and they were wading.  So that expanse that you see is only a very few inches deep.  A large puddle, so to speak.  We need a lot more on the watershed north of town to get it up where it should be.  Note the distance, a nearly quarter of a mile from this boat-ramp to the water.

Boat ramp at O. C. Fisher lake

The other picture shows the Concho River, that is the flow source for the lake.  I visited the bridge upstream on Highway 2288 and saw that there was no water flow.  Just a puddle upstream a bit from local runoff.  The land around here is so parched that most of the rain is just getting soaked in.  Some more good storms may result in the river running hard again.

North Concho River riverbed

But at least, the water, what there is, is drawing birds again.  While there, besides the pelicans, we saw, cormorants, herons, sandpipers, etc.

In other news, I did spend a little time just browsing some of my very, very old images and came across a few that you may enjoy looking at.

San Angelo Balloon Fest

Some people may remember the old balloon fests that used to be held down at Santa Fe Park.  This photo is probably around 20 years old.

"Ride 'em, Cowboy"

We also used to have PBR (Professional Bull Riding) event at the coliseum here in San Angelo.  I don’t know what happened, it seemed to draw large crowds, but for some reason we haven’t been on their schedule for a few years.  San Angelo does have the seventh largest PRCA rodeo in the country.  It happens in the month of February and has so many entrants, it takes two weeks to run it.

How about this one:

Downtown Luckenbach, Texas

How many of you have visited “downtown Luckenbach, Texas, to maybe see Willie and the boys.  As you know Willie Nelson made this place with his song of the same name.  Of course, he knows the place well, as it was one of his favorite places to hang out.  You can buy a stuffed armadillo, complete with a Budweiser bottle in it’s claws there.  A good cold beer can be bought it the back, served by a guy that will sing you a song along with it.

Red-tailed Hawk

My posts are never complete without a good bird photo.  My favorites are my hawk photos.  This one, of course, is a Red-tailed Hawk.  I don’t remember when it was photographed, but sometime in the past couple of years.

This post is for Shelly at Kamiak Creek, who likes to see Texas Tweeties in her e-mail inbox, and all of my other blogger friends.   Since this is my first post in several days, this may help with all of your withdrawal symptons. 🙂

In the great words of the famous Arnold Schwarznegger, “Ah’ll be bahhhk”.

Ya’ll have a great week. 🙂

American White Pelicans Returning


I went out to O. C. Fisher Dam and lake to check on the water fowl that have been returning.  The first thing that caught my eye was several American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) nearly out in the middle of the lake.  We spotted them from the top of the boat ramp, (that is 50 yards from the water).  I got my 500mm out of the van, Ann carried my tripod, and we hiked down the shoreline so I could get a little closer shot.  What was funny, but really not that unusual, was a Great Blue Heron standing amongst them. 

American White Pelicans plus a friend

Yes, I said standing out there in the middle of O. C. Fisher, in about eight inches of water.  That gives you an indication what the drought is doing to this area.  It is a shame how such a little amount of water remains.  There is not a single boat ramp available anymore.  Some ramps are nearly a quarter-mile from the water.  But I was still a good five hundred yards from the birds, so I attached my 1.4 tele-converter to make the shot.

Willet

But it does make a good area for the wading birds.  We also saw many Americn Avocets, various sandpipers, egrets, herons.  I did photograph  another lifer, number 213, but who’s counting.  🙂  It was a Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus), a bird thats a little rare around here.

Well, ’till the next time,  Happy Birding!!

Gulf Fritillary and shorebirds


I’m not usually into butterflies much.  I guess that’s because I never paid a lot of attention to them.  I don’t know why, as they are beautiful creaatures.  I was watching the birds at the San Angelo State Park wildlife viewing area this morning.  Right outside the window is a plant of Yellow Lantana and as I watched, this butterfly, later identified as a Gulf Fritillary landed on it.  It took it’s time, going from blossom to another.

Gulf Fritillary

 

He (or she?) was only about eight feet away.  I decided to try and get a good sharp picture, maybe freeze the action.  I turnd on my on-camera flash, set the aperture at f16 and took the shot.  The shutter speed was only 1/250 per sec, but the flash duration was much higher and that is what got the sharp image.  I am very pleased with the result.

Long-billed Curlew

 

My wife and I are still starting to see more shorebirds at O. C. Fisher lake.  Great Blue Herons, American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts, and some sandpipers that are too far away to identify.  Soon there will be more species like the Long-billed Curlew, White-faced Ibises, Pelicans, etc.  Hopefully it won’t be too long, as I am geting impatient. 

White-faced Ibis

 

In other news, my Epson R1800 Stylus Photo printer was giving me problems for awhile, so I thought maybe it was time for a new one.  I ordered and received a new R1900.  I unpacked it this afternoon and got it running.  It is doing an excellent job.  However, during the interim while waiting for the new one, I corrected the problem on the old R1800.  Instead of shipping the new one back I decided to keep it.  I will keep the old one as a back-up unless I dispose of it by selling it.

Happy birding!!

Harris’s Hawk


Just thought that I’d mention that the Harris’s Hawk is still hanging around out at San Angelo State Park, near O. C. Fisher lake. (or should I say O. C. Fisher Puddle.)  Oh well, there still is water there, but the shore line is getting farther away.

But anyway, if you want see the Harris’s Hawk, after you enter the main South entrance, just keep on going straight until you come to the boat ramp parking lot.  The hawk seems to have taken that whole area along the shore as his hunting area.  Ann and I have watched him for over 30 minutes on two occasions the past couple of days. 

At that area, you are about 25 feet above the shore line, so watch for him swooping low, some times hovering if he sees something of interest.    He doesn’t get above the horizon much, but he’s easy to spot with that bright flash of white near his tail.  I bought a new pair of 10×50 Leupold binoculars and I am having a great time observing him.  The next time I’m out, I’m going to set up my camera with my 500mm lens on a tripod and see if I can lock on and track him.  Maybe I’ll get some shots if he gets close enough.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Monte Jones, a.k.a. the famous Biscuits O’Brien.  He purchased some framed prints of my Red-tailed Hawks.  He gave me an autographed copy of his book, titled “Biscuits O’Brien, Texas Storyteller”.   He’s quite a character.

Happy Birding!!

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