Seven years and still counting. A one, anna two, anna three……… :-)


Yesterday I celebrated my 7th anniversary of beginning this blog.  In those years I have accumulated 45,320 readers in 164 countries.  Together they have visited 205,231 times.  This will be my 926th post.  I still don’t know how I have been able to come up with that much subject matter.  I cheat by putting in a bunch of pictures to fill it up.  I also try to make catchy titles that get your attention.  But whatever works.  Anyway, I really appreciate my readers and fellow bloggers that make the job easier.

Migration has started and the fun has begun.  For example, yesterday Ann and I visited San Angelo State Park.  Up in the Isabelle Harte picnic area we spotted some activity in a group of live oak trees.  We had gotten up early, got a cup of coffee and a burrito to go at Jack N’ Jill Donut shop.  We took that with us, and when we spotted that forementioned activity in the trees, we decided that would be a great place to just watch and eat our little breakfast.

Well, we were kept busy as we spotted several birds and warblers in the trees, including Yellow Warblers, Wilson’s Warblers, Nashville Warblers, Least flycatchers and the highlight of the day, an American Redstart, which was a lifer.  Also we saw a Willow Flycatcher, another lifer. What a thrill!

This morning we returned to the same spot, with another burrito and coffee, hoping to catch some more new birds for the year.  We missed the American Redstart as I wanted to get some photos, but it was not present. I  failed at getting photos of it yesterday.  Try as I may, I could not get it into my viewfinder fast enough.  It kept flitting in and out of the leaves, teasing me.  Anyway to digress, we were not disappointed otherwise.  I got nice photos of a Great Crested Flycatcher.

Then just before we were leaving, a Peregrine Falcon flew overhead.  It was flying low and I suspected it was about to light somewhere near.  We drove out of the trees and about 100 yards away, it was sitting atop a picnic table shelter.  Surprisingly, I was able to drive up to about 25 feet away.  It was a juvenile bird and was still trusting humans.  I circled the shelter in the car at a distance, getting shots from different angles.  He just perched and watched me for around 15 minutes.

In other news, I came across three more photos from our Uvalde trip last month.  Here they are.

White-tailed Haek

White-tailed Hawk

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

Green Jay

Green Jay

The following are photos that I have gotten since my last post.  We have visited local San Angelo parks including Spring Creek Park, Middle Concho Park, and of course, San Angelo State Parks.

Bullock's Oriole - female

Bullock’s Oriole – female

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Northern Cardinal - female

Northern Cardinal – female

Canyon Towhee

Canyon Towhee

Great Crested Flycatcher

Great Crested Flycatcher

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon lifting off from perch.

Peregrine Falcon lifting off from perch.

That’s it for this post.  I still have more photos to go sort through and of course, I hope to get some more nice ones in days to come.  So stay tuned…….  It looks like many more burrito and coffee breakfasts to come. 🙂

I would like to mention to you to click on any image to see enlargements.  Also any photo you see on my posts are available as prints.  Contact me if you are interested.

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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.

Bob’s Best of the Big Bend


When I noticed that Far Flung Family Center was asking for people to submit favorite photos of the Big Bend for their Facebook page, I thought I’d post a few of my own favorite images from my past visits to that magnificent area.  This place is dear to Ann’s and my own heart.  We visit there around twice a year, and always find new thrills.  These photos are not of birds, but some of my own favorite images from Big Bend National Park

Rio Grande with Santa Elena Canyon in background

Rio Grande with Santa Elena Canyon in background

Above is one of my favorite images in Big Bend National Park.  We were on the Ross Maxwell Highway heading down towards the eastern entrance to Santa Elena Canyon.  Aproximately five miles before reaching the canyon proper, the Rio Grande makes a bend towards the highway.  I used a wide angle setting on my 24-105mm zoom that was attached to my Canon EOS 7D.  With that, I was able to compose the picture to include the canyon in the background in the upper right.

Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon

This is the eastern delta of Santa Elena Canyon.  The Rio Grande comes out of the canyon here on it’s journey to the Gulf coast.  As you can see in the picture, the water is running pretty shallow at the time of this photo.  You can see some canoers  getting ready to paddle upstream into the canyon.  The walls soar upwards to 1,500 feet, and you might see Peregrine Falcons flying overhead, as they nest in these cliffs.

Indian Paintbrush

Mountain Paintbrush

One of the wildflowers that you might see in the Big Bend is this Mountain Paintbrush.  I love the vibrant, glowing reds of the blossoms.  Mountain Bluebonnets are plentiful here in the spring, also.

Desert Storm

Desert Storm

A desert rainstorm can pop up anytime, with cooling rains.  Those tall desert plants in the foreground are Ocotillo.  They are tall with glowing, fiery red blossoms on the tips of the stalks.  We have two in our yard at home that are about 18 feet tall.

Mountains in the Mist

Mountains in the Mist

This is an image that was taken on a really, really wet day, early in the year.  Heavy, water laden clouds were everywhere.  The mountains of the Chisos range were peeking about the lower clouds.  I was having difficulty keeping my cameras dry, so I was photographing from the car window.  That is not a difficult task, however.  Fortunately, traffic was very light, mostly because of the obvious bad weather.

Desert Butte

Desert Butte

On drier days, this is a very familiar sight in Big Bend National Park.  Great vistas of mountains and buttes.  In such an environment a person has trouble in deciding which way to aim the camera.

Bobcat photographed near Rio Grande Village Campground.

Bobcat photographed near Rio Grande Village Campground.

Wildlife abounds Big Bend National Park.  High in the Chisos are approximately thirty black bears.  Throughout the rest of the park are bobcat, deer, rabbit, birds, hawks, small varmints, not to mention about two dozen or more mountain lions roam.  Recently, desert long-horned goats have been introduced to the area.

I was fortunate to photograph the Bobcat near the Rio Grand Village Campground in the eastern part of the park, near Boquillas Canyon.  As I drove through the deserted campground, he, or she, leaped from the brush and promptly sat down near a tree.  I used my 100-400mm lens from the car for the photo, before it loped off, nearly in the path of a hunting coyote.

Mule Ears Peak at dusk.

Mule Ears Peak at dusk.

Another of my favorite images from the park, is the photo of the Mule Ears Peaks, taken near dusk.

I hope you have enjoyed this pictures and narratives.  Prints are available for sale if you are interested.  Just contact me for particulars.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Falcons of West Texas


This post was inspired by David Heilman, click here to view his blog.  In a previous birding post he commented that he was impressed with my birding list, and surprised that a Merlin was included.  He asked me if I had a photo.  So today, I decided to do a post about the three small falcons of this area that I am acquainted with.  I dug back through my archives to find these images.

Merlin

This Merlin was photographed early one morning only a few blocks from my house.  I always have my Canon SLR, with my Canon 500mm lens, in the car with me.   We were coming home from breakfast, and my sharp-eyed wife, Ann, spotted it.  I wheeled into convenient empty lot nearby.  There was no time to set up a tripod, so I hand-held it and took the photo from the car window.  Canon EOS 40D, 500mm lens with1.4 tele-converter.  Exposure 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 400.

Prairie Falcon

The Prairie Falcon was also photographed in the same area, only the bird was atop a utility pole.  I used the sames set-up again, and again I had to hand-hold the camera in my car window.  Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens plus 1.4 teleconverter.  Exposure was 1/1000 sec. @ f11, plus 2/3 EV, ISO 400.

American Kestrel

The American Kestrel is by far, my favorite of the small falcon type birds.  It is so colorful and photogenic.  This time the bird was atop a small, dead tree.  He had a fresh meal in his mouth, and not wanting to take a chance of him flying off too quickly, I again opted to hand-hold the camera.  Canon EOS 7D, Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter.  Exposure 1/1600 sec. @ f5.6 plus 1/3 EV.  ISO 125.

There are other falcons that can be seen occasionally.  One is the Peregrine Falcon.  I have observed one flying across O. C. Fisher lake a few times.  I never had a chance for a photo because of their great speed.  The Crested Caracara is another one that I haven’t been close enough to photograph.  But some day………  My camera is in my car. 🙂

Off to the Big Bend again


This will probably be my last post for perhaps a week or so.  We are heading to the Big Bend country of west Texas Monday morning.  This time we are renting the Lajitas House at where else, Lajitas, Texas.  Check this link to see what we will be enjoying for three days: http://www.lajitashousebigbend.com/   I am sure we will be sitting on that patio sipping a margarita or two, and aiming my camera at all the great surounding areas.

We will probably check out all of our favorite places in Big Bend National Park;  Santa Elena Canyou where we may see some Peregrine Falcons.  Rio Grande Village camping area is a great birding area, plus we may see a Bobcat or a Coyote.  There is also a great Nature Trail with a board-walk crossing some wetlands.

Floating the Rio Grande - photographed from another raft.

I don’t think we are planning on rafting the Rio Grande this trip but here is a photo of Ann and I preparing to go on a previous trip.  The little half-day float trip that we ususally do is really easy.  Just a few little water rapids splashing over the bow, just enough to make it fun, without worrying about capsizing.

Ann and I preparing to run the rapids of the Rio Grande River

The ruins of the Sam Neil Ranch is a great place to see lots of small birds.  You may also be surprised by a bunch of Collared Peccaries, commonly known as Javelinas.  You may smell them before you see them.  However, they are also quite noisy.

This jacal, or dugout, is on the Old Maverick Road.  It has an interesting history.  It was built by Roberto Luna after his marriage, who lived there until his death in1953 at the age of 103.  He farmed off the land.

Roberto Luna's jacal.

You can’t ignore the Chisos Mountains, the dominant range that is visible from every point in the park.  Elevations around 8,000 feet.  The Basin is an area in the middle of the mountains where the Lodge and camping area are located.  The floor of the Basin is at an elevation of 5,000 feet so you are surrounded by the peaks.  Great birding there, also.

Chisos Mountains

Driving west from Lajitas to Presidio on Hwy 170 is one of most spectacular scenic drives in the country.  At one point, called locally the Big Hill, you are about 450 feet above the Rio Grande River.  This drive is a must if you are in the area.  Here is a photo of Ann standing precariously above the river.  Don’t step back, dear. 🙂

Ann at the Big Hill

So,when we get back, maybe I will have some more interesting images to show you.   By the way, click on any of the above images to see enlargements.

I am still transferring pictures into my iPad.   Holy Moley, Batman, I hadn’t realized how many images I had wanted to move.  I have come across some pictures that I forgot I had.

Big Bend Series, Part II – The Fun Things


In Part I, I mentioned the dangers of the Big Bend Country, including a recounting of one of my experiences.  But now, I will talk about the enjoyable things to do while visiting the area.  Things like rafting, hiking, bird watching. etc.  Sit back and enjoy.

Rafting.  Rafting the Rio Grande is one of the fun experiences that Ann and I have indulged in.  While we’re not fans of the Class V White-water trips, we did go on several of the half-day float trips that the Far Flung Adventures people offered.  On that trip, we were carried by van upstream to the Grassy Meadows river access. 

Rafting the Rio Grande

There we put on life-jackets, and started our short journey back to Lajitas.  A guide accompanied us, of course, and naturally he done all the work.  We just sat back against the gunwhales of the raft and took in the magnificent mountain scenery.  I took the above photo from our raft.  We passed by occasional deer or javelina, and once we saw a crocodile.  Yes, that’s right.  Apparently, someone had a pet and decided to dispose of it into the Rio Grande.  It stayed there for a couple of years, but hasn’t been seen now for several months.  Speculation is that it probably died of lonelinest or old age.  Somewhere back in my archives I have a photo of it.  If I come across it, I’ll post it here.  I was shooting film then and it is probably amongst my many boxes of negatives.

There are many raft trips available, depending on your budget and/or your available time.  There are one-day trips through the lower canyons.  There are multiple-day trips through Santa Elena Canyon, including at least one that brings a chef with catered gourmet meals.  Candles included.

Hiking.  Trails abound in Big Bend National Park, some easy, some very difficult.  In Part I, I told you about the Grapevine Hills Trail.  Many trails are in the Chisos Mountains including the famous Window Trail.  It is one of the popular ones because of the scenic beauty. 

The Window at Sunset

The Window is a large V shaped opening in the western side of the Chisos.  It is down through that opening that all the rains drain out of the Chisos Basin.  It is about a two mile hike from the Basin parking lot that decends about 800 feet to the large slippery pouroff at the bottom.  It is about a 300 foot drop-off at that point.  The trouble with the hike is the strenuous climb back up the trail to the trailhead. 

Santa Elena Canyon

Another popular hike is the Lost Mine Trail that takes you in to the high country.  Then there is the trail to the South Rim, a very difficult, strenuous hike to the south part of the Chisos high country.  Awesome views of the Mexican Sierra Del Carman reward you when you get there, not to mention a 2000 foot drop off to the desert.

Mule Ears Peak

Birding.  There 450 species of birds that can be seen in the various birding areas in the park, depending on the time of year.   At Rio Grande Village RV park, on the east side of the park, is a good place for birding.  Also the Cottonwood Campground.  The Chisos Mountains is an area for the Mexican Jay.  That bird is indigenous only to the Chisos Mountains, as is the Colima WarblerPeregrine Falcons can be seen at Santa Elena Canyon.  On our recent trip, Ann and I found a nice place to watch birds at the old Sam Neal Ranch ruins.  While there we were over-run by a pack of six Javelinas.    It was while we were birding at Rio Grande Village campground that I came upon the Bobcat that I was able to photograph.

Bobcat

Besides the rafting, hiking, and birding that I mentioned, there also jeep trips, hore-back trips, all arranged by Far Flung Adventures.  The park also offers activities to feature tours about the various flora, and there star-gazing activities.  Big Bend National Park encompasses over 800,00 acres.  Although it is large in size, it is one of the least visited parks in the system.  It is estimated that on the busiest day of the year, there is 200 acres available per person.

More to come in coming days……………

Happy Birding!!

Porcupines in trees, Peregrine Falcons aloft


A little excitement for Ann and I.  First we came across a Porcupine in a mesquite tree.  It was a little sleepy-eyed.  I worked around it for about half an hour trying to find a point whereas I could focus through the tree branches.  There was pretty dense brush.  I picked a spot where I could see a little between some branches, and where I wouldn’t have to be bothered with a pesky Diamondback Rattlesnake crawling on my feet.  I tried hand-holding my 100-400mm lens but then opted to just set up my 500mm on a tripod.  The first picture is the one I got this morning, looking at it head-on.  The second photo is one I shot about one year ago.  A much easier photograph to get.

Porcupine

Porcupine

 After spending time there, we loaded up and headed around near the boat ramp to check on the Roseate Spoonbills.  All three of them are still hanging around.  While there, we spotted a Peregrine Falcon, and possibly another.  It was racing all over the lake, from one end to the other, harrassing other birds, and hunting.  At one point, an American Kestrel took after it and we had a little “dogfight” until one or both gave up and they broke it off.

On the way out of the park we saw this beautiful Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.  Click on any photo to see an enlargement.  Enjoy.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher