A little of this and that…..


Today , because of some cold weather the past few days, I am just going to touch on a few odds and ends.

Being inside gave me a chance to go back through some of my old files.  One of my favorite subjects is the photographing the raptors.  Large hawks, etc.  Well, going through my old photographs of Red-tailed Hawks, I found an image that I had photographed back on September 27, 2013.  In checking my records I found that during that time, we were in Big Bend National Park.  I had taken this photo of a beautiful hawk, sitting on a fence post.  I had never posted it anywhere before.  Looking at this image again, I realized that I had mis-identified it.  Not a Red-tailed Hawk, but a beautiful Peregrine Falcon.  Back in those days, I didn’t know as much about IDing hawks as I do now.

The irony of it is that the Peregrine Falcon had been on my bucket list to get a great photograph of one.  I had seen one in flight in the distance but that is all.  Now, here is one that was right in front of me, and I never realized it.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

A few days before the cold front blasted through, our friends, Suzanne and Sid Johnson, invited Ann and I to come down and do some birding around the Eldorado, Texas area.  We jumped at the chance, as we love to bird with them, and the birding is usually good around there.

We visited the water treatment ponds there, and it was teeming with many water birds.  But we also saw our first Yellow-headed Blackbird and Marsh Wren of the year.  Always nice to add to our 2015 list as we still have a way to go to meet our goal of 210.  One of the highlights was an American White Pelican on the water.  As we drove around checking out the ducks, birds, etc. it was content to just swim and feed by itself.

Eventually, it decided to take flight.  I was a bit unprepared for it, but I jumped from the car and quickly was able to acquire it in the viewfinder of my Canon 7D Mark II with a Tamron 150-600mm lens.  As it flew toward me I rattled off a few shots at 10 fps.  It was shot at 273mm as I didn’t have time to zoom in closer to the 600mm focal length.  But with cropping I came away with this nice image.  1/8,000 sec. @ f11, ISO 3200.

American White Pelican

American White Pelican

This morning, my friend, Jim Miller, ranted in a post about Lightroom and Adobe’s CC (Creative Cloud).  He also jokingly referred to it as Adobe’s Cash Cow.  Anyway, he was telling how Adobe is making it harder to edit your photos, import the files, etc.

Personally, I don’t use Lightroom or the Adobe’s Creative Cloud.  I am the black sheep, I guess, but I use a much simpler method.  I download my photos to FastStone Image Viewer.  It is a cheap, read free, software.  I convert my RAW images there, then simply import them into my old Photoshop CS5 for editing.  I use an old secret recipe that has been handed down.  In other words I will not tell you the plug-ins that I use to assist me. 🙂

Using my methods I feel that my results speak for themselves.  I have been called the best bird photographer they have ever seen, by some of my peers.  I have been published in various magazines, including a back cover shot in National Wildlife Magazine.  I am not speaking negatively about Adobe Lightroom as I have several friends, those peers that I mentioned, that use it with great success. So it doesn’t matter what you use.  It is knowing how to use what you have.

I guess that’s it for today.  Click on any of the images to see some nice enlargements.  Hope you enjoyed the post and the photos.

Brown Pelican in West Texas


Hot days and no new birds.  The migration isn’t here yet, although I have received reports that it has started up north, so they are on the way here.  I will welcome them.  Anyway, in the meantime, it is back to my archives to see what I have forgotten about.

Going all the way back to 2011, and what did I find.  A bunch of photos of a Brown Pelicans that made an out-of-the-way stop at the City Water Ponds down in Eldorado.  They are indigent to the gulf coast, but on rare occasions one will make it’s way to our warm climes here in west Texas.

On this particular occasion, our friends that live in Eldorado, only a few blocks from the ponds, called us immediately after they spotted him.  It’s nice to have friends in high places.  Anyway, we were down there within an hour.  Here are a few of the images that I was able to get.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Look Ma!!!

Look Ma!!!

Brown Pelican in flight

Brown Pelican in flight

Brown Pelican in flight.

Brown Pelican in flight.

Click on any image to see some enlargements.  Hope you enjoy.

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. 🙂

Have camera, will travel


Everybody knows how much fun it is to see and photograph new or unusual birds.  I am no different.  I will, at the drop of a hat, jump in the car and head for some reported sighting of a rare bird or a nest of hatchlings.  Within limitations, of course.  I won’t suddenly book plane reservations to go see a miniscule, rare bird that was seen in the far off jungles somewhere.  But if I am within driving distance here in west Texas, count me in.

Such was the case a few days ago.  I got word from friends that a rare Lucifer Hummingbird (Calothorax lucifer) was visiting a feeder at a private residence down in Junction, Texas.  The property owner was posting the info on TexBirds.com and inviting everybody that was interested to drop by.  Because of other commitments, we weren’t able to go right away.  But Saturday evening, the Johnsons from Eldorado called us and wanted to go early Sunday morning.  We agreed to get up early, get breakfast at the Golden Arches and head down to pick them up.  We then headed to Junction, by way of Menard, doing a little birding on the way.

We finally arrived at the people’s home in Junction about 10:00AM, a distance of about 120 miles from San Angelo.  The Lucifer had been reported to be still in the area earlier in the morning.  We parked and observed the feeders for over an hour, but alas, apparently the Lucifer had left the building to head elsewhere.  So, with much disappointment, we returned to San Angelo

But that’s not always the case.  Most of the time we can be very successful in spotting our quarry, albeit sometimes with a little help.  A few years ago, Don Burt reported a very rare Ruddy Ground Dove (Columbina talpacoti) on his place over at Dove Creek.  I called and asked if I could come out and see if I could photograph it.  He answered to the affirmative and we headed out.  (Story continues below.)

Ruddy Ground Dove

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter – tripod mounted
  • 1/1600 sec. @ f5.6
  • ISO 400
  • Lens focal length 700mm
  • Aperture priority
  • Metering – center weighted average

Now I must admit, at this time, I was very, very new to birding, but very avid.  I was getting excited about photographing new birds, but I wasn’t always very smart about it.  In this case when we headed that way, I had now idea what the bird we were going to see looked like.  Duh…  I could have looked at a bird guide, but at that time I am not even sure I owned such a book.

But, good luck shined upon this naive, amateur birder.  Upon arrival to Don’s house, half of the members of the Abilene, Texas, Audubon Bird Society were already there.  I knew a couple of them and they graciously showed us what we were looking for.  We went around with them, and we eventually spotted the bird.  It was being a bit evasive, flying amongst the trees.

The property owner, Don Burt, called me aside.  He said, “Bob, around four o’clock that dove is going to show up along with a bunch of Inca Doves.  Why don’t you set up that big lens of yours about right here, and focus on that fence gate down there”.   So I did.  Right at the scheduled time the Incas flew in and right there along with them was the Ruddy Ground Dove.  I was able to get some very usable images of it.  Probably, the best of anyone there, as no one else had the long lens that I had.  So, even though I was a bit ignorant to begin with, I came out with what I wanted.

We are fortunate to have good friends, Sid and Suzanne Johnson, who live in Eldorado, Texas.  They are very avid birders, and they keep us up to date on the happenings down there.  It seems that Eldorado is a bit of a hot spot when it comes to having unusual birds appear.  We have driven down there to see Brown Pelicans, which normally reside near the Gulf of Mexico.   Other non-resident arrivals there that I have photographed have been, Horned Grebes and Tri-colored Herons.

I am not limited to rare sightings for travels.  A nest of new-borns will always pique my interests.  Usually word gets to me if  something is seen by friends, that they feel I would like to see.  A nest of young Red-tailed Hawks at Dove Creek got me going a few weeks ago.  The recent nest of Great Blue Herons near the Concho River was definitely of interest to me and I got some great photographs that you probably saw on my blog.

Last year Suzanne Johnson, our eagle-eyed friend, spotted a rare Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens) at San Angelo State Park.  I and Ann promptly headed there, only three miles from our home.  It was in the area that Suzanne had described, but it was moving from the top of one tree to another.  It took us quite a bit of hopping around with the tripod in hand, but eventually I got a fine photograph of it.

Phainopepla

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 teleconverter – tripod mounted
  • 11000 sec @ f5.6
  • ISO 125
  • Lens focal distance 700mm
  • Aperture priority
  • Metering – unrecorded

Right now I am on a quest to photograph some Crested Caracaras that are near, (you guessed it), Eldorado.  We have been there and have managed to see them from a great distance, but not in range for a good photograph.  But I am persistent and we know where they are nesting, and we will be back.

Well, I must go!  Red phone ringing!! 🙂

Calendar Particulars


Much was said yesterday about my new 2011 Calendar, but not enough info for obtaining one.  Just contact me at bobzeller1@aol.com or call 325-944-1839.  You can have one for a 20.00 donation that includes all shipping in the United States.  I do business the west Texas way.  A handshake, so to speak.  I will send you the calendar by priority mail, then you mail the check.

The calendar is 12 months, printed on high quality, high gloss paper that is heavy enough to last years.  The title is ” Texas Tweeties 2011″ and as such, it is a collection of some of my bird photogaphs.

I hope to hear from you.

Happy Birding!!!

Birding Eldorado Saturday 10/30


Friday evening Suzanne Johnson called us from Eldorado and told us that there was an influx of birds at the water treatment ponds.  She invited us to come down there Saturday morning for some birding there.  We were happy to hear that there were finally some birds arriving there so, Ann and I headed that way.

I don’t remember how many different species that we saw but there were, Green-winged Teals, Pied-bill Grebes, Gadwalls, American Wigeons, Eared Grebes, Northern Shovelers, Blue Huron, Vesper Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, Savannah Sparrows, Meadowlarks,  Ruddy Ducks, Lesser Scaup, one Redhead, Pyrrhuloxia, and one female Ring-necked Duck.

The weather was nice, but very windy, and it made photographing these birds on the water difficult.  Hear are a few photogaphic highlights.  Some are not award-winning images, but good enough for identification.

Green-winged Teal

Ruddy Duck

Eared Gebe

Wind-blown Vesper Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Back here in San Angelo, activity with some migratory birds are picking up.  On O. C. Fisher Lake we have seen numerous American Kestrels, Loggerhead Shrikes, Meadowlarks to name a few.  There are several hundred American White Pelicans, American Avocets, Greater Yellow-legs, Least Sandpipers also.  We have seen two Norther Harriers almost daily.  This morning we saw two Red-tailed Hawks also.

 Click on the above images to see enlargements.

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!!

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)

Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)


Western Kingbird

Many signs of spring are now appearing all over the Concho River Valley.  Besides the many bluebonnets and other wildflowers, the spring birds are arriving.  One is the Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis).  Just a few days ago there weren’t any, now all of a sudden they’re everywhere.  It makes you wonder how all bird species know when to be at a place at a certain time.  They obviously arrive indivually as I never have seen a them arriving as a large group or flock.  Now I have seen American White Pelicans (Pelicanus erythrohynchos) arrive in large flocks.  They are a beautiful against a blue sky, forming a slow whirling vortex, then all landing in the water as a group.

Tomorrow Ann and I, along with Ken Corley, are making a short trip down to

Western Kingbird

 Dan and Cathy Brown’s Hummer House.  Dan told us on the phone that the birds are plentiful there, and he also mentioned that a large hawk was in a nest nearby, close enough that he thought I might come away with some photographs.  So we’re looking forward to having a look.

If your interested in my recent back problems, I was surprised to see that my MRI shows that I have a fractured back.  A compression fracture in my lower spine.  I am having treatment on it to relieve the pain and it still may slow me just a tad.  I still intend to try to get some photographs, however crawling on the ground to get them may not be an option for awhile.

Happy Birding

Bewick’s and Rock Wrens


Rock Wren

We got out today and I saw my very first Rock Wren.  If you drive out to San Angelo State Park, head around past the prairie dog village then down where you are along the dam, you can see one or more darting around in the riprap.  The problem is finding one.  They are tiny and blend in, so just watch for movement and you can pick out one.  We saw two.  I got a couple of good photographs.  I was able to ID them from my Sibley’s book.

Speaking of identification of the avian kind, I may have erred on my ID of the

Rock Wren

 Lesser Goldfinch in my previous post.  The black bill tells me it is a Lesser Goldfinch.  The whitish feathers under the tail says American Goldfinch.  Of course, it could be a trick of the light.  At any rate, I do not mind admitting when I am wrong.  After all, my forte is photography and I still am a novice at birding.  But I’m getting there, and enjoying the ride. 🙂

Bewick"s Wren

We saw twenty-seven species today, including two un-identified hawks.  But did see a Bewick’s Wren.  That is pronounced like Buicks for anybody else that is new at this.  I got a half-way decent photo of it and will include it here.  The temperature was about 34 degrees, but with no wind it was actually cozy in the bird blind. 

The pesky Brown-headed Cowbirds appeared again in great numbers, along with a bunch of Red-winged Blackbirds.  There were also two Spotted Towhees plus the Brown Thrasher is still hanging around.  There were hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls on the lake, plus about at half dozen American White Pelicans.

See more photos at www.zellertexasphotos.com.

Happy Birding!!