Painted Bunting, Pyrrhuloxia and Western Kingbird


Here are a few more images from our sucessful birding over the weekend.  All were taken at San Angelo State Park.  We saw so many birds that it took me extra time to organize and edit them.  First up is the beautiful Painted Bunting, (Passerina ciris).  I shot this and the Pyrrhuloxia both with my Canon 7D and 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter.  Bunting exposure was 1/250 sec @f8, +0.7EV, ISO 3200.

Painted Bunting

Next is this nice shot of a Western Kingbird, (Tyrannus verticalis).  This bird just arrived in the area a few days ago.  Exposure 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7EV, ISO 2000.  Canon EOS 7D and Canon 100-400mm lens.  Hand-held.

Western Kingbird

Who can forget the gorgeous red and gray tones of the Pyrrhuloxia, (Cardinalis sinusatus).  That is pronounced Pie-rule-loxia.  A beautiful bird in the cardinal family.

Pyrrhuloxia

Enjoy the pictures and click on any of them to see an enlargment of each.  Voting is still open until Thursday afternoon in our weekly bird quiz #3.  Click on this link:  BirdQuiz  then make your selection.  Good luck!

The Gorgeous Painted Buntings


I had the Lazuli Buntings yesterday in my post.  It got such great reviews I decided to do another post about my favorite of all, the Painted Bunting, (Passerina ciris).  This bird to me is the most beautiful thing I had ever seen here in west Texas.  For what reason, I do not know.  Maybe because it looks, and you will agree, like it was hand-painted.  You just need to look at the various colored feathers.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting - female

Painted Bunting singing in tree top

Painted Bunting - bathing

I am not going to bother you with all of the EXIF data today.  Just sit back and enjoy the images.  I will say that all of them were captured at the Hummer House Nature Retreat at Christoval, Texas.  I had described the viewing area there in yesterdays post about the Lazuli Buntings.

I sincerely hope that all you do enjoy my photographs.  Click on any of the images to see an enlargement.

Images from Hummer House Nature Retreat


I am still going through old images whenever I have extra time.  Today I came across a few more from a trip in May 2010 to the Hummer House Nature Retreat, at Christoval, Texas.  Here are a couple of those gems.

Bathing Painted Bunting

I should have entered this in Karma’s Rainbow colored Photo hunt. 🙂  The Painted Bunting is truly a hand-painted masterpiece from the Man himself.

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens with 1.4 tele-converter
  • 1/640 sec. @ f9 – minus 2/3 EV adjustment
  • ISO 250
  • Lens focal distance – 700mm
  • Metering – partial
  • Aperture priority

Eastern Phoebe

It is amazing that I have never posted a photo of an Eastern Phoebe before this.  It could be that they are hard to get close to, and I have usually seen them only from a distance.  For both of these shots, I was inside an air-conditioned observation room and photographing through a plate glass window.

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens with 1.4 tele-converter
  • 1/400 sec. @ f7.1
  • ISO 500
  • Lens focal distance – 700mm
  • Metering – partial
  • Aperture priority

Click on either image to see an enlargement.

First Robin of the year


First, I want to thank you for voting for me in the People’s Choice Award in National Wildlife Federation‘s annual photo contest.  I appreciate all the help.  Voting will continue until July 14.  Just click on the above link.

It is strange that it would be June 1st before I would see my first American Robin of the year.  But that is what happened.  We were driving through Spring Creek Park this morning when we came upon three of them.

American Robin

  • Canon 7D
  • Canon 100-400mm lens
  • 1/500 sec @ f10 plus 1/3 EV
  • ISO 3200
  • Lens focal distance 400mm
  • Shutter priority
  • Partial metering

Here are a couple more images from a recent outing.

Painted Bunting - female

  • Canon 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens
  • Manfrotto tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head
  • 1/1600 sec @ f4 plus 1/3 EV
  • ISO 2500
  • Lens focal distance 500mm
  • Shutter priority
  • Partial metering

    Golden-fronted Woodpecker

  • Canon 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens with 1.4 tele-converter
  • Manfrotto tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head
  • 1/2500 sec @ f5.6 minus 1/3 EV
  • ISO 2000
  • Lens focal distance 700mm
  • Shutter priority
  • Partial metering

I hope you enjoyed these photographs.  Click on any of them to see an enlargement.

Hot morning at San Angelo State Park


Map of Tom Green County Texas highlighting San...

Image via Wikipedia

Ann and I made our usual trip to San Angelo State Park. As hot as it was getting be, her and I still had a good time after feeding the birds at the blind.  While at said blind I did manage to get this nice shot of a Black-chinned Hummingbird  It was feeding at the blossoms on a Red Flowering Yucca.

Black-chinned Hummingbird

 We then made a drive around with the windows open and the air-conditioning turned on.  Checked to see if the Roseate Spoonbills had stayed, but apparently they are not used to this west Texas heat.  We did get a good list of birds, though.

25  Red-winged Blackbird

50  White-winged Dove

2   Northern Cardinal

25   House Sparrow

10   House Finch

1  Black-chinned Hummingbird

12  Northern Mockingbird

2   Black-crested Titmouse

40  Common Grackle

2   Pyrrholoxia

1   Painted Bunting

3   Morning Dove

2   Brown-headed Cowbird

3   Western Kingbird

3   Killdeer

1   Long-billed Dowitcher

8   Black-necked Stilts

5   Snowy Egrets

2   Great Blue Heron

8   Double-crested Cormorants

3   Turkey Vulture

3   Canyon Towhee

1   Greater Roadrunner

1   Golden-fronted Woodpecker

3   Common Nighthawk  (all withing 10 yards of each other)

4   Barn Swallow

10  Lark Sparrow

3   Western Sandpiper

Several un-identified ducks.

Not bad count considering the heat.  Today is supposed to be the 23rd consecutive day of 100+ degrees.  So we’re setting a new record as the days go by.  The old record was 18 straight days.

So folks, I am going to cool off this afternoon in front of the TV and watch the Texas Rangers take on the Baltimore Orioles.  Life doesn’t get any better than this. 🙂

Happy Birding everybody!!

Another lucky day


Gosh, I seem to stumble into some great photo opportunites.  This morning on the way to the San Angelo State Park, we barely got three blocks from the house when Ann spotted a White-tailed deer; a doe and two fawns cavorting in a vacant lot near the Walmart.  This is actually not that un-common for that area because this location is very near the city limits, right where the brush and mesquite start.

The deer were on my right and I didn’t see them right away.  I whipped into an illegal U-turn to go back, and fortunately they had crossed the road and ended up on the right side of the street.  I slowly pulled to the curb, all the time praying that they would hang around for a few seconds more.  Luck was with me and I managed to snap off a few images through the passenger side window. 

White-tailed Deer with fawn

Yesterday, Ann, Jodie and I made a trip to the Hummer House down at Christoval, Texas.  They sell some of my work there and I had to check my inventory.  I was lucky to find that they were almost out of my note-cards so I replenished the stock.

We decided to hang around and shoot a few photos.  I let Jodie use my 500mm lens to try out.  I think she is getting the urge to buy one.  She says she thinks whe is ready to “run with the big boys”.  This is one of her photos of a Painted Bunting, and with this result I agree with her.

Painted Bunting

Yesterday afternoon, I finally got my copy of National Wildlife Magazine, and lo and behold my photo of the two Black-tailed Prairie Dogs was on the back cover.  I had been previously been told that it would be on one of the inner pages.  So, obviously I am excited about that.  It is the August-September issue.

Happy Birding! and click on either photo for an enlargement.

Birding San Angelo State Park


I have never published a post about mine and Ann’s daily trip to the State Park.  Since there is no one presently at the park that really wants to take on the task, we have volunteered to go each day to feed the birds at the blind, and do moderate  maintenance such as weeding, checking the water flow to the pond, etc.  We also clean the windows and watch that the blind hasn’t been invaded by snakes or bees.

Painted Bunting

Since we live only three miles away, it is a snap to go there each morning to take care of those things.  We usually go after breakfast, but we are authorized to go in the gate earlier if we so desire.  It is fun to get there and see what might surprise us upon arrival.  Usually it is just an assortment of hungry doves or finches, but occasionally we have sneaked in to see other wildlife.  A few days ago there was a Wild Turkey, trailed by three chicks beating us there.  On another occasion, I walked back around the fence and almost stepped upon an Opossum.  He was a cutie.  We’ve also seen Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes moving about on the path that leads back to the blind.

Javelina

After taking care of our chores at the blind, instead of heading back to the house, we stay at the blind for a short time to see what comes in.  Then we usually take a slow drive through the park to see the birds that don’t usually frequent the blind, such as hawks and water birds.  We prepare ourselves for surprises and we are usually rewarded. 

fledgling Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

For example, the past few mornings, we have come across a Painted Bunting singing in the top of a tree, two fledgling Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, five Ash-throated Flycatchers, Lark Sparrows, Western Kingbirds, one Blue Grosbeak, one Common Nighthawk with two chicks, at least six Mississippi Kites, one Fox, one White-tailed Deer and two Javelinas.  Plus the usual sparrows, grackles, etc. 

Purple Martin

At the lake shore, albeit a very small coastline now, you can see shorebirds, Blue Herons, Egrets. or American White Pelicans.  A Snowy Plover recently laid two eggs on the parking lot at the Red Arroyo boat ramp.  We have been keeping tabs on the eggs, but I fear that the eggs have been abandoned.  We haven’t seen the parents in about two weeks.  They probably realized, too late, that the surface that they decided to lay the eggs on can get very, very hot.

Snowy Egret

The bird blind itself, can also be very rewarding.  You can sit in comfort and and watch through the windows.  Open them for fresh air if you like.  It was actuallly there at the blind, a couple of years ago,  that I actually got hooked on birding and bird photography.  I photographed my very first Painted Bunting and Canyon Wren there.  At the time I didn’t know how unusual it was to see a Canyon Wren at that location. 

Canyon Wren

So come to San Angelo State Park for a nice pleasant birding experience.

Happy Birding!!  (click on any photograph for an enlargment)

End of a week, Start of a month


Spotted Sandpiper

It’s the end of the week but starting a brand new month.  I’m going to show you a few highlights of the past week.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

On Tuesday Ann and I decided to take our friend Jodie Wolslager on a little birding trip.  We headed to Eldorado first to tour the water waste ponds there.  There are always a good selection of waterfowl there, and you never know when you might get surprised.  Suzanne Johnson had e-mailed us that there were about the thirty-seven White-faced Ibises there the previous day.  By the time we got there the count was down to nine.  But nevertheless I obtained some photos.

White-faced Ibises

We also saw some Yellow-headed Blackbirds, both adult and juvenile.  We saw Spotted Sandpipers and a few other sandpiper types that we were unable to identify for certain.  Also in attendance were probably one thousand Wilson’s Phalaropes.

Leaving there we headed to Christoval and back to our favorite place the Hummer House.  

Wilson's Phalaropes

A great collection of birds there, many more than than what we saw on a previous trip.  Our first Painted Buntings of the season, Summer Tanagers, Pine Siskins, Vermilion Flycatcher. Lesser Goldfinches, plus many others.

This morning Ann and I were out at the San Angelo State Park to give a little presentation on birds for a group of Girl Scouts.  I guess because of the cooler weather this morning, most of the birds stayed away.  However, we were treated to a young male Wild Turkey that entered stage left, and left stage right.  We did see a couple of Bullock’s Orioles though.

Upon leaving the park Ann and I spotted our firse Common Nighthawk of the season.  He was perched as always, parallel on a branch.  I got a few nice photos which I will post one here.  After I took the photos, another birding

Common Nighthawk

 friend of ours, Jimmy Villers, drove up with his wife.  She had never seen a nighthawk before, so she got quite thrill out of it.

Click on any photo to see an enlargement.

Happy Birding!!

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)


Well we made it to the Hummer House yesterday.  What a beautiful day for birding it was.   Saw a good collection of birds, but not as plentiful as there will be in a couple of weeks.  We did see a Painted Bunting, among others, but the highlight of the day was seeing the Red-shouldered Hawk nest.  This hawk is not common for this area as it mostly resides to the east of here. 

I hope to make more trips there so I can see the progress of the young ones after they have hatched.  I have posted some of my photos here for your enjoyment.  I am rather proud of them.  One image shows the hawk on the nest, the others are two images of  he or she in a nearby tree.

In other news Susanne Johnson reported 25 White-faced Ibises are (or were) at the water treatment ponds down in Eldorado,  plus some other water and shore birds.  Jodie Wolslager sent me a photo of about 25 Yellow-headed Blackbirds that she saw near the country club.  I had personally never seen such a large flock of those beautiful birds.  I may venture out that way later this evening to see if I can find them.  Also Sue Oliver sent me a photo of a Greater Roadrunner that she took near her house.

Red-shouldered Hawk on nest

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Cedar Gap Farm


Today being overcast for the most part this morning, we decided to go do a little clean-up around the Bird Blind at the SA State Park.  I worked the trimmer, Ann done a little weeding.  After that we put feed out, but there wasn’t action after that.  The birds weren’t interested in entertaining us, I guess.

Speaking of an entertaining adventure, you might want to consider a birding trip to Cedar Gap Farm.  To get there from San Angelo, take Hwy 67 north to Ballinger, Hwy 83 to Tascola.  Join Hwy 84, go north about 5 miles or so, watch for Hwy CR150.  I’m not entirely sure about that distance so watch the signs.  Turn right on CR150, then take a left on dirt road Hwy CR563 and follow the signs to Cedar Gap Farm.

There you will find the Bird House, a rather large building.  It is climate-controlled, seats probably up to 75  people if necessary, although the number never reaches that high, unless there is a special tour group or special occasion. Large windows surround the building for easy viewing.  It is open from dawn ’til dusk everyday.  There is no charge, but there is a donation box inside the door, if you care to contribute.

Juvenile Mississippi Kite

Juvenile Mississippi Kite

There is a variety of both western and eastern species that hang out there year round.  Eastern and Spotted Towhee, Scrub Jay,Red-breasted Nuthatch, Indigo, Painted, and Lazuli Buntings to name  just a few.  A nearby pond invites shorebirds.  There are also various trails looping through the Juniper and Mesquite to invite views of the vegetation and wildlife.

On a recent trip there I was fortunate to see a juvenile Mississippi Kite atop a

Mississippi Kite feeding young

Mississippi Kite feeding young

 utility pole.  He was crying for his mother who was circling high overhead.  Periodically it would swoop down to feed a little insect or tidbit.  I set up my tripod with my camera and 500mm super-tele lens.  I focused on the youngster, and waited for mama to begin her approach.  When she did, I rattled off several exposures at 6.5 frames per second, and got some nice images of lunch being served.  You can see those photographs here.

Cedar Gap Farm is owned by Homer and Earline Hutto.  Contact them at 325-572-4738 or 325-669-2879 or e-mail: cedargapfarm@aol.com.

By the way, Ann and I did see approximately 250 American White Pelicans at O. C. Fisher Lake today.  I hope they’ll hang around for awhile.

Happy Birding!!

See more photos at www.zellertexasphotos.com.