Happy Decoration Day


Of course, we all know that it is now known as Memorial Day.  Originally called Decoration Day, to be observed celebrating and honoring the dead, military and civilian.  It was, and is,  a tradition to decorate the graves with flowers, flags, etc.  The name change happened around 1968.

IMG_0593-net-bob

Your’s truly, of course. My old hat has stood the test of time.

I am not good at selfies, but I thought I would toss this one to show that I am standing the test of time, too.  Ann says I should have smiled a little more to show off my new teeth. 🙂

My oldest memories of Decoration Day, as it was called when I was a child, was of my Dad and I listening to the Indianapolis 500 Auto Race.  The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, as it’s motto states.  The first time was probably about 1938.  I would have been four years old, and my dad was a big fan of that annual race.  It wouldn’t matter what we were doing, fishing, washing the car, or sitting in our living room, there was always a radio present so we could listen.  Then in later years, of course, we would be watching on television.  Thus, that is what I did yesterday, as I have done all those years, except for a couple of years during my military deployment.

The race has changed over the years.  The cars are faster but safer.  Back then the speeds were barely over 100 mph, but the gradually improved.  I remember when A. J. Foyt turned laps at the amazing speed of 160 mph.  Now, this year, qualifying speeds were around 230 mph.

Anyway, I had a most enjoyable weekend.  It started with a great telephone conversation with my dear best friend in Tennessee.  It had been perhaps a year or more since we had chatted by phone, but we keep pretty much in contact each month by e-mail.  She is also a very accomplished wildlife photographer, too.  So we always have things to talk about.  She and her husband are our closest friends.

We then spent a couple of hours birding at San Angelo State Park on Saturday morning.  The heat is starting to reach 100 degree temps, so the birding is starting to slow down.  The rest of the weekend we spent just hanging out at home, watching the Texas Rangers baseball games.

I did take a few hours to work on my  (click here) Fine Art America page, and my Gallery page that you access above.  I would so love to have some of you purchase my prints.  As low as 17.00 and change.  Buying is easy.  In my Gallery, I am putting direct links under each photo.  Click that link and a price list will appear, you only need to decide the size.  Or click the FineArtAmerica link above.

1Y7A8695-net-bunting-painted-bob-zeller

Painted Bunting

Of couse, I must continue my habit of posting at least one of my photographs with each post.  The Painted Bunting is one of the most beautiful birds around here.  They will be present here for most of the summer, to brighten the upcoming hot dry days.

I hope that all of my readers have a safe but fun Memorial Day weekend.  Until the next time, HAPPY BIRDING!!!

Recent Odds and Ends…..


The weather is continuing to be warm, read very warm, and the birds continue to be stressed and they keep to themselves hidden somewhere in the trees and landscape.  However, that doesn’t stop Ann and I from getting out a couple of hours each morning.  Although not getting many images, I have lucked out and got a few nice ones.  Here is a collection, mostly from the past several months that I believe that I may not have ever posted here.  Some may be even older.  My Facebook readers will probably recognize many of them.  If you can, PLEASE view this on a computer.  That way if you click on any image, you can see some very beautiful enlargements.

This Painted Bunting we found at an old mudhole that was on the verge of drying up.  If I were to go there this morning, I am sure it would be dry.  Anyway, I think this is one of my favorite photos of this bird, and I think it is a great start to this blog post.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

This Greater Roadrunner that I photographed yesterday at San Angelo State Park ranks as one of my best of that species.  I love the way the light enhanced the various colors of the feathers.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

Since I have been spending more time in the house, I have been at the computer going through images from the past few months, that I hadn’t edited or sorted.  This Pyrrhuloxia was photographed in the early morning light of July 21 of this year.

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

We came across this Greater Roadrunner one day at San Angelo State Park.  He was so close to me that I opted to get a portrait of him.  I found it quite interesting.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

I never pass up a chance to photograph these tiny Vermilion Flycatchers

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

In the birding community, the females don’t usually get their due.  The female Grosbeak, in my opinion is a beautiful bird as you might agree.

Blue Grosbeak - female

Blue Grosbeak – female

One of the cutest birds that I know of, is the Black-crested Titmouse.  But they also are very feisty and you don’t like to be messed with.

Black-crestedd Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

At the Hummer House down near Christoval, Texas I as enjoying photographing the many, many hummgbirds there.  I thought this image moved the cute meter up a notch.

Black-chinnedd Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Of all of my Great Horned Owl photos, I rank this image as one of my personal favorites.  I try to photograph this species at every opportunity.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

This photo would fool you.  As a juvenile Curve-billed Thrasher, it has neither the curved bill nor the orange eye of the adult.

Curve-billed Thrasher - juvenile

Curve-billed Thrasher – juvenile

Another bird that is difficult photograph is the Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  To happen to catch one with the red crown showing is a bonus.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Another one with the same degree of difficulty is the cute little Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

When I was much younger and not at all interested in birds of any kind, I used to think that all the little ones were sparrows.  The medium size up was all pigeons.  The really big birds. think large and XX large, were all eagles.  Then the ones on water were all ducks.   But now that I am getting more educated in the avian species, boy, am I ever getting surprised.   I have found that there are over fifty different species of sparrows alone. Wow! Holey-moly, Batgirl!!  Who’da thought!  Well, this Grasshopper Sparrow is one of the more unusual ones.

Grasshsopper Sparrow

Grasshsopper Sparrow

I think that will be all for this post.  I hope you have enjoyed reading and seeing the photographs.

’til next time,

Happy Birding!!!

Visit to the Hummer House


The Hummer House is actually a B&B resort near Christoval, Texas, about 20 miles south of San Angelo.  It consists of the original Hummer House, the name of the first cottage constructed there, plus two newer additions, a four bedroom lodge, and a nice cozy one bedroom bungalow.  In addition there is an observation room with a large window measuring by my own estimates about 30 feet long by about 9 feet high.  A perfect setting to view and photographs birds and wildlife in air-conditioned comfort.  However, guests have the option of roaming around the several acres of woodland and a flowing river.

On our visit, because of the heat, Ann and I opted to sit in the observation room.  There were several other people in there doing the same.  The birds were active, especially hundreds of Black-chinned Hummingbirds.  Here is my favorite image of one of them.  I got lucky and happened to get a head-on flight image.

"Gear down, full flaps, I'm coming in".

“Gear down, full flaps, I’m coming in”.

By the way, I was using my Canon 7D Mark II and a Tamron 150-600mm lens mounted on a mono-pod.  Feel free to click on any image to see an enlargement.  They look great if you will view them on a computer.

One of the favorite birds that people like to see at the Hummer House is this Painted Bunting.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

In addition, I was able to photograph this White-eyed Vireo, before the sun got to high.  It was perched on a little wire structure over the water feature.

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

This Summer Tanager was doing the same, enjoying the water spray that comes on periodically.

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

The observation room is open to the public on Friday evening from 7:00PM until 9:00PM, and on Saturdays from 9:00AM until 3:00PM.  Dan and Cathy Brown would welcome you.

I hope you enjoyed this post and the images.

Happy Birding!!

July Fourth Holiday images


As I said before in my previous post, the weather is really warming now.  We have visited the local parks and as far as birding, the results are almost nil.  For example, Ann and I decided to check out the local parks around Lake Nasworthy this morning.  I never had a chance to press the shutter on my camera.  That is not good.  We have been having much better luck, though, at San Angelo State Park.  We have made three trips out there and by taking our time and driving over those approximately 20 miles of roads, I have picked up some very nice photographs.  We are usually home by noon as the temperatures start to reach 100° by then.  Here are some images from the past few days.  Click on any of them to see some nice enlargements.

We had reports of a Swainson’s Hawk nest, just a couple of miles from our home, off the frontage road of Loop 306.  To get a good view we had to park behind the local Steak Express and watch it from across the highway.  Thank goodness for long lenses. We parked there for about an half hour on two previous mornings and could only see a bit of feathers of a young one on the nest, behind some leaves and branches.  This third morning, we were treated with the arrival of the adult.

Swainsons's Hawk

Swainsons’s Hawk

We headed out to San Angelo State Park after that.  As we started driving around, we heard first the call of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a few minutes later we spotted him in the branches.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Another view of another Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

All over the park we could hear the call of the Bobwhites.  It wasn’t difficult to see some in the low tree branches.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

There is an abundance of Ash-throated Flycatchers in the park.  I was able to get really close to this one, for a formal head-and-shoulders portrait.

Ash-throated Flycatcher portrait

Ash-throated Flycatcher portrait

We spotted this Blue Grosbeak from a distance.  Too far for a decent photograph.  So we decided to wait.  We sat in the car with the engine turned off and eventually it, or one just like it, finally alit about 100 feet away.  He seemed to be happy.

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

Another bird that is hard to get close to is the Painted Bunting.  We would spot several high in the tops of trees, but, again,  too far for a photo.  But as with the Blue Grosbeak, we eventually got lucky again and I was able the capture this one.  One just need patience.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

The Common Night Hawk is just the opposite.  Pretty easy to photograph, but very difficult to find.  This one was in a tree in the Isabelle Harte Multi-use area of the park.  It was only about seven feet off of the ground, but because of their coloring we nearly missed it.  I was only about 20 feet away, in my car, AKA my mobile blind, when I made the photograph.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

We decided to move away as I don’t like to stay too close, even though I was well hidden.  But it did eventually fly from the perch and landed across the road in another tree.  I took this next photo from farther away, and as you can see, if I didn’t already know the bird was there, it would have been hard to spot.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

Birding at the Mud Hole


Near the Twin Buttes Reservoir, there is a low depression where water stands after we have had some rains.  Mudders, defined as immature adults that love to play in the mud with their pickup trucks, are always driving their vehicles through it and keeping it pretty well churned up.  The water will usually take three or four days to either soak in or evaporate.  The area is surrounded by five large mesquite trees.  The combination of the trees and convenient water makes it a very nice little birding oasis.   All one has to do is to park close by and watch.  That is, providing you do it on a week day, when the mudders are absent.

So, that is what Ann and I did the past two days.  First we stopped by early in the morning at a local Jack and Jill’s for take-out coffee, a roll and a burrito.  We took them with us to this mud hole, parked and set in for a few hours of birding and photography.  We spent two to three hours each morning.  We saw a total of 28 individual species for the two outings.  I will give you that list at the bottom of this post.  Here is a sampling of the birds that we saw.  Click on any image to see enlargements.

The Yellow Warbler is one of favorite of the warbler species.  It is always a joy to see this one in the trees.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

I missed a shot of a beautiful mature male Blue Grosbeak.  But this young one perched on a branch nearby.  Just as I got him in the view-finder and focused he decided to fly.  I punched the shutter just in time to catch him as he took off.

Blue Grosbeak - first year

Blue Grosbeak – first year

Another favorite summer bird is the Painted Bunting.  This is the first one that we saw this year as they are just starting to arrive.  Thae harsh early morning sunlight did me know favors but I got this acceptable image.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

The Orchard Orioles are also new arrivals. The adult male stayed deep in the trees and I didn’t get an acceptable shot of him, but this first year male gave me an opportunity.

Bullock's Oriole - female

Orchard Oriole – first year male

I always admire the Canyon Towhees.  They are rather quiet and somewhat bland in color, but I still think they have a cerain beauty about them.

Canyon Towhee

Canyon Towhee

There were plenty of Lark Buntings around.  This is a female.  I had posted a photo of a beautiful male in my previous post.

Lark Bunting - female

Lark Bunting – female

I believe this one was named by a Mr. Richard Cissell.  Kidding!!  This weirdly named Dickcissell is another difficult bird to find.  I love the coloring.

Dickcissell

Dickcissell

Ann spotted this flash of yellow in the trees.  I was trying to spot it, too, and it finally lit on this branch only about ten feet away.  Only then, did I realize what it was.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  A Yellow-breasted Chat, although not rare, is usually pretty shy and most of the time, very difficult to find.  This is only the second time I have ever seen one and had the opportunity to photograph it.

Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat

This Cactus Wren was still around, working on it’s nest.

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

Here is the complete list of the birds we observed during those two days:

  1. White-winged Dove
  2. Great-tailed Grackle
  3. Northern Mockingbird
  4. Killdeer
  5. Lark Sparrow
  6. Cactus Wren
  7. Blue Grosbeak
  8. White-crowned Sparrow
  9. Vesper Sparrow
  10. Barn Swallow
  11. Brown-headed Cowbird
  12. Lark Bunting
  13. Ash-throated Flycatcher
  14. Pyrrhuloxia
  15. Painted Bunting
  16. Bullock’s Oriole
  17. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  18. Northern Bobwhite
  19. Bronzed Cowbird
  20. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  21. Yellow Warbler
  22. Western Kingbird
  23. Yellow-breasted Chat
  24. Dickcissell
  25. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  26. Canyon Towhee
  27. Curve-billed Thrasher
  28. Orchard Oriole

Birding getting better…….


It must be the cooler temps that we have had the past few mornings.  Ann and I went out to the local parks for a few hours.  It might be my imagination, but there seemed to be more activity than we have had recently.  We saw 26 species.  Although not a great number, but it did include a few surprises.  A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, three Yellow Warblers, a Carolina Wren, just to name a few that we don’t see everyday.

Here are some images that I managed to get.

Ann, my bride and spotter, saw this Green Heron across the water about 100 yards away.  I maneuvered our car around so I could park on the bank and shoot across the water.  The photo turned out great, thanks to my Canon EOS 7DmkII and my Tamron 150-600mm lens.  Heavily cropped, of course.

Green Heron

Green Heron

This Yellow-billed Cuckoo presented a challenge.  He and a companion were frolicking in the trees so I had to move the car several times to get into position, and he was far above my head..  For those of you who wonder why I didn’t get out of my car, the answer is that the birds don’t co-operate as well when I am visible.  The car makes an excellent bird blind.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

We decided to drive out Spillway Road where we sometimes see nice bird activity.  Along the way, I spotted this juvenile male Painted Bunting.  I was disappointed that we didn’t see an adult male, but it was nice to be able to get this image.

juvenile male Painted Bunting

juvenile male Painted Bunting

Unfortunately the above three were the only acceptable (to me) images that I got.  Seeing 26 species doesn’t alway translate into photographs, I am sorry to say.  Most of the birds are either too far away, hidden in the trees, or flying by faster than I can get the camera off of my lap. 🙂

In my best Arnold Schwarznegger voice, “Owl be bach”. 🙂

Painted Bunting


Click on the title of this post to see more photos.

We just saw our first Painted Bunting of the season.  It brought to mind that I haven’t posted any photos of them in a long time.  Here is the first one that photographed, just a couple of days ago at the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.  To me it is one of the most beautiful of all birds.  It really looks like it was hand-painted.  Mother Nature did a great job, even though it looks like she smeared it a a bit and maybe got outside the lines.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

Here are a few more photos that I have taken of the Painted Bunting over the past few years.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting singing in tree top

Painted Bunting singing in tree top

Painted Bunting - bathing

Painted Bunting – bathing

Painted Bunting on log

Painted Bunting on log

I hope you enjoyed viewing these photos.  Please feel free to comment.

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.

Buntings of the Concho Valley


I have spent these cold days at the computer, re-editing some older images that I had made several years ago.  Since my post-editing has improved with newer software, I thought that I would post some of those older photos again.  Of course, my favorite of the buntings here in west Texas has to be the Painted Bunting.  Truly, a bird that has colors, that on close examination, appears to be hand-painted by the Man upstairs himself.  There are even smeared spots that it looks like He got a bit “outside the lines”.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting - singing from the highest treetops.

Painted Bunting – singing from the highest treetops.

Painted Bunting - bath time.

Painted Bunting – bath time.

Painted Bunting - female of the species.

Painted Bunting – female of the species.

Equally pretty, is the the Lazuli Bunting.  This one photographed at the Hummer House Bird Refuge at Christoval, Texas.

Lazuli Bunting

Lazuli Bunting

Then we can’t forget the Indigo Bunting.  This one seems to be enjoying a shower under an artificial mister.  Photographed at the same location.

Indigo Bunting - bath time

Indigo Bunting – shower time

Below we have the Lark Bunting.  This specie is actually in the sparrow family, a Calamospiza, where the other buntings are Passerinas.  I have included it simply because of the name.  This is an adult winter male.  The summer adult male is black except for the white flashings on the wings.

Lark Bunting - adult winter male

Lark Bunting – adult winter male

Lark Bunting - adult winter male

Lark Bunting – adult winter male

There is another bunting in west Texas that I have yet to see or photograph, and that is the Varied Bunting.  I hope to get an image of it this year and you will be the first to know.  I hope you have enjoyed these.  Just click on any of them to see some nice enlargements.

Prints of these photos are available for sale, as is my book “Birds, Beasts and Buttes”.  Contact me for more information.

Birding Twin Buttes Reservoir


Much has been said in my post about our birding at Spring Creek and Middle Concho Parks.  Most of my recent photos have been taken at one or both of these areas.  Such as the Great Blue Heron and Great Egret, both of which I took yesterday.

Great Egret - Spring Creek Park, San Angelo, Texas

Great Egret – Spring Creek Park, San Angelo, Texas

Great Blue Heron - Middle Concho Park

Great Blue Heron – Middle Concho Park, San Angelo, Texas

But another area that we have pretty much neglected to bird, is an area at Twin Buttes Reservoir.  This lake, with one of the longest earthern dams in the country, was built in the early ’60s as a flood control project.  As with most of the local lakes around here, it has almost dried up during our drought.  However, with a thunderstorm a couple of days ago, there are a few puddles of standing water.  Such is what we found when we decided to drive out there after spending time at the above mentioned parks.

It was hot by the time we got there, but this one spot among a dozen mesquite trees felt like a little oasis.  There was a low area about 50 feet long by about 15 feet wide filled with muddy water that hadn’t soaked into the ground yet.  There were numerous small birds flitting between the trees and the water.

Bullock's Oriole on mesquite branch.

Bullock’s Oriole on mesquite branch.

Western Kingbird on mesquite branch.

Western Kingbird on mesquite branch.

Blue Grosbeak - female - thinking about taking a bath.

Blue Grosbeak – female – thinking about taking a bath.

Greater Roadrunner - cooling off

Greater Roadrunner – cooling off

Besides the above birds, we also saw a Painted Bunting take a quick splash in the water, but was gone before I could get the camera to my eye.  We also spotted an Orchard Oriole on a nearby high wire.

This is the kind of birding that I really enjoy.  To find a nice birdy spot like this, sit and watch from our blind, a.k.a. our car.  The fun is not knowing what you are going to see.  We will be going back very soon, before the water dries up.

Click an any image to see an enlargement.