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.



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

Parliament of Owls……Still in session

I have been informed that a large group of owls is called a “parliament of owls”.  Of course, I should have looked it up, or Googled, and found that out for myself.  However, I am glad the my readers brought me up to date on that.  So, again, parliament is still in session, minus a few that decided to go home to their constituents.

As you remember, in a previous post I and Ann had seen a startling total of eight owls and owlets at Spring Creek Park.  We went back Monday morning to see how many were still there.  We counted one adult and three owlets in the original tree.  In the second tree there were none.

For these photos, I again set my Canon EOS 7D with a 1.4 teleconverter on my Manfrotto tripod.  I also use a sturdy Wimberley gimbal tripod head.  With the combined weight of my lens and camera being about 15 pounds, I really need dependable support.

The lighting was very bad this particular day.  A very bright, sunny, mostly cloudless day.  A typical west Texas day.  It made for bright highlights and harsh shadows.  However, I managed to get a few acceptable photos whenever a stray cloud covered the sun.  I am particularly proud of this photo of one owlet.

A young Great Horned Owl

Hoooooo are you looking at??

This one turned out pretty decent, too.

Young Great Horned Owl

Young Great Horned Owl

In the one below, you can see how I tried to adjust those harsh lighting problems that I mentioned above.

Young Great Horned Owl

Young Great Horned Owl

This Bullock’s Oriole, (Icterus bullockii), was in a nearby tree witnessing the proceedings.

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

Again, click on any of the photos to see some enlargements.  Thank you for reading.

Don’t pay the ransom, I’ve escaped…..

Okay, I know that many of you had received an e-mail saying that I was in trouble in the Philipines and needed money.  I assure you, I am alive and well and in the United States.  And, trust me, any checks that I receive will be destroyed.  It was a scam.  Some hacker decided to entertain himself by stealing my contact list, e-mail account, and just making a heck of a lot of trouble for me.  I now have a new account and my new address that you can contact me by is:  I am sorry about any inconvenience and/or any trouble that this hacker may have caused.

I have found that it is easy to laugh about it this morning, but I can assure you that it was no laughing matter yesterday.

Turtle on log

Turtle on log

In keeping with my practice of including a photograph with any post, this is a turtle that I photographed many, many years ago near Lajitas, Texas.  It was shot on film.  I included this image, because many of you enjoyed my previous turtle photo.  I do, at times, photograph creatures that aren’t of the avian variety.  You can click on the image to see an enlargement.

Red-tailed Hawk and Swainson’s Hawk

More about my favorite subjects, the raptors.  These two species of hawks, the Red-tailed and the Swainson’s, can cause ID difficulties to the unsuspected.  They are similar in shape and sizes.  The adult Red-tailed is easy to identify by checking out the red tail.  But beware, the younger ones have yet to get that color into the tail.  As for the Swainson’s, the adult has that unmistakeable brown bib.

Anyway, here is an adult Red-tailed Hawk that I photographed Thursday afternoon at Middle Concho Park here in San Angelo.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Here is a Red-tailed Hawk in flight that I photographed several months ago.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

Below are a few images of the Swainson’s Hawk.

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

The next photo isn’t too great aesthetically, but we happened to come across the adult Swainson’s Hawk protecting her baby from he brutal 110 degree Texas sun that day, about a year ago.

Adult Swainson's Hawk shielding her baby from the hot sun.

Adult Swainson’s Hawk shielding her baby from the hot sun.

Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Here is something new that I have added to my blog.  Click here to see my new website featuring my Fine Art Gallery.  I have just started adding photos to it so you will have to check it periodically, as it is a work in progress.  I hope you like it.  From there you just gaze at my work, and if you get interested in buying, you can also do that.

Hark, the lark, the Meadowlark

There I am again, getting cute with a catchy title.  But, I have to get your attention.  Today I have some Western Meadowlark images to show you.  I went out with Ann on Sunday morning to try and get some more improved images than what I have seemed to have gotten lately.  I was starting to doubt my own talents.  The day was one of those days where the birding was a bit sparse, but it was probably because of some chilly winds.  That is, chilly early morning, then it warmed to upper 70s in the afternoon.  I can hardly call that chilly.

Anyway we came across an area where there were several Western Meadowlarks, both on the ground and in the trees.  One thing that I have noticed about them, is they like to keep their back to you.  Maybe it is some kind of defensive thing, but it is hard to get nice photos of their beautiful yellow breasts.  Having said that, though, I did get a shot of one lurking in the grass a little further away.  I was able to capture it with my 500mm lens with a 1.4 tele-converter.  I used the same set-up on the other two images as well.

Mind if I lurk a little bit??

Here’s another with a side view.

Western Meadowlark’s great profile

This one keeps looking over his shoulder.

Here’s lookin’ back at ya. 🙂

In closing, here is a frontal view of a Western Meadowlark that I captured back in the year 2009.  I was undecided about posting it because of the reeds that are in front of his face.  But the picture grew on me, and I think that the growth adds a bit of a natural look.  I hope you agree.

Western Meadowlark on barbed wire.

I hope you enjoyed these photos.  I am going to the central Texas area tomorrow.  First to visit Hornsby Bend Bird Sanctuary in Austin, then on Wednesday we will go to the Canyon of the Eagles at Lake Buchanan and take the Vanishing River Cruise and hopefully get some images of some Bald Eagles.  So my next post will be around next weekend.

Egrets of the Big Bend

One wouldn’t ordinarily associate egrets with the desert.  But occasionally during the migratory seasons that is what happens.  It is not unusual to see large flocks of Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis), in the Big Bend National Park and surrounding areas.   Their favorite places to perch, at least in my experience, are the ocotillo plants.  Their large, tall, but thorny, limbs and branches make ideal places for they to roost.  They are quite a bit smaller than their cousins, the Great Egret.  But nevertheless, they are equally beautiful.

Cattle Egret in Ocotillo

These photos were taken several years ago, on one of our many journeys to that beautiful area of the United States.  As you can see, they look glorious against the backdrop of a clear blue, desert sky.

As we were approaching the western entrance to Big Bend NP, we noticed as we pulled up to the kiosk to pay our entry fee, that there were two of these Cattle Egrets sitting on the roof.  Of course, our car disturbed them, and they flew only a distance of about 30 yards away.  I was able to easily photograph them from the car with my Canon EOS 7D and 100-400mm lens.

Cattle Egret in Ocotillo

Cattle Egret in Ocotillo

Cattle Egret really in the Ocotillo

This next final photo was shot, I believe, at even an earlier date.  I know that I was using my old EOS 40D at that time.  I like this photo with a backdrop of the mountains of the Big Bend.

Cattle Egret in Ocotillo with Chisos Mountains in background.

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

For preview or to buy copies of my book, click the link on the right side of this page.  For autographed copies contact me at

Happy Birding!!

Great Blue Heron No. 1690

Have you had enough of my Great Blue Heron photos yet?  As most of you know, that bird is one of my favorites to photograph. I have hundreds of images of them, and probably a good percentage of them should be deleted as I know that I will never show them to anybody.  But that’s like trying to decide which of your children you should get rid of.

But I think it is safe to say that I haven’t taken one thousand, six hundred and ninety images of them.  That number in the title is the file number of this most recent publishable photograph: IMG_1690.  A few of you that are on Facebook have probably already seen the image, that is if you are a FB “friend”.  I just realized this morning that I had never posted it on this blog.

We, Ann and I were at Middle Concho Park, where I really see most of the Great Blue Herons that I photograph.  Or though it seems.  We have also seen them downtown on the Concho River;  at O.C Fisher Lake (when it isn’t dry); Twin Buttes Reservoir; and Spring Creek Park.

So this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias),or number 1690, was wading along the opposite short of the river.  But that is where I get most of my shots.  When they are on my side, they are usually down below the bank, in the reeds, where I can’t get a shot.  I particularly like this image.  I like the pose, and color of the background and the nice even light.  I might even call it my current favorite, that is until I get another one that I like better.

Great Blue Heron No. 1690

Anyway, as usual, I was able to maneuver my car near the river bank so I   could shoot through my open driver’s side window.  I was shooting with my Canon EOS 7D and Canon 500mm f4 lens with a 1.4 tele-converter.  The exposure data was 1/250 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 1000.  Aperture priority.

Now, I know that I will be back there again, watching for more Great Blue Herons.  I am sure that I will come across more great images, but in the end I will never forget old #1690.  Click on the photo to see a beautiful enlargement.

To review or purchase my new book of wildlife and landscapes, that includes this photo, click this link:  Book.   Available in hardcover or softcover.  For autographed hard-cover copies, contact me personally at

A few random shots from the week

I didn’t get many really earth-shaking photos this recent week.  However, it was just as much fun, as usual, just to get out, communicate with nature, and see what might turn up.  But I can show you a few highlights.

Earlier in the week I went to check on the nest of Yellow-crowned Night Herons.  They were in the act of fledging, leaving the nest.  This photo is what you might call the class of 2012 picture.  As for most of those pictures that I had obtained, the lighting was difficult.  But thankful for a little fill-flash and post editing I managed to get an acceptable image.

fledged Yellow-crowned Night Herons
Class of ’12

I went back a few hours later and the birds were away from the nest completely.  I searched the big trees and found that they were scattered among the branches.  I also discovered another previously unseen nest, containing some more newborn.  I will leave it alone as it is far too high in the way and deep in the foliage to attempt any photograph.

Common Nighthawk

From there we went out by Twin Buttes Reservoir.  We hadn’t been out there in quite some time as, because like O. C. Fisher Reservoir, the water was pretty scarce.  As we drove through the area, we spotted this Common Nighthawk perched in a shady spot on a tree limb.

In mid-week we decided to make a run through Spring Creek and Middle Concho Parks.  Again nothing that was outstanding, but we happened to be there later in the heat of the day.  We’re talking nearly 100 degrees and the birds were smarter than us.  However, I photographed this Green Heron feeding in a small inlet of the river.  He was so unaware that I was able to nearly fill the frame with this shot.  I barely needed to do any cropping.  I was only about 35 feet away, shooting from my car window.

Green Heron

On Thursday, the day began with cloudy skies, cooler with a possibility of showers.  We had planned on making a trip to Eden, Texas, about 40 miles to our southeast.  We had read about a man that took it upon himself to beautify some land and build what he calls, a butterfly garden.  It was beautiful, full of all kinds of blooming shrubs, cacti and numerous tiny pools.  It should have been a natural haven teeming with birds, but by the time we arrived the weather had really cooled, and light rain was coming down.

We decided that we didn’t want to spend too much time there, but planned on returning at a later date.  We decided that there was time to make a run across to Eldorado, a distance of about 70 miles to the water treatment ponds there.  There is always something to see there.  The weather had cleared in that area, but it was very, very windy.  The large ponds of water actually had whitecaps on them.  Most of the water fowl was making use of the protection of the lee of the banks.  But we did catch sight of a couple of Redheads in open water.  I got this shot of one about 200 feet away.  It could have been a bit better if I would have had time to re-adjust my shutter speed for the action.  I really had to do a bunch of tweaking in my post editing to produce this image.


So we will wait and see what next week will bring, but I hope everyone enjoyed seeing these photographs.  You may click on any image to see an enlargement.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the forum hospital this morning.  I was taking my wife over to get a cataract removed from her right eye.  As we passed the old K-mart building we noticed high water from yesterday’s rains in the bar ditch running along side.  In it there was a Yellow-crowned Night Heron, (Nyctanassa violacea), wading in the rushing water.  It is a bird that is not seen in this area all the time.

Gosh, what to do. What to do.  Do I stop for photographs or rush my wife to the hospital?  Easy decision.  We stopped for photographs.  Hey, it’s not like Ann was pregnant or anything.  Besides, we were running early.  I was able to pull into the parking lot alongside and use my Canon EOS7D and 100-400mm lens from the car window.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Ann was just as thrilled with the babies  photos as I was.  She didn’t get upset at all and we made it to the hospital with time to spare.  By the way, the surgery went fine and she is anxious to get back to birding tomorrow and try out her new “eyes”.

To join the fun and vote in the current Bird ID quiz just click here.

Embarrassed Red-tailed Hawk?

Sometimes when I am in the field doing my photography, occasionally I come up with an image that strikes my funny bone.  It happens when the object of your photo moves at just the right time, or wrong time, depending on how you look at.

When I was at Spring Creek Park the other morning I came across this Red-tailed Hawk.  He was in a tree facing away from me.  I got out of the car and was trying to find a way to get my focus between some tree branches.  A gust of wind came up as I pulled the trigger.  I caught the hawk just as his skirt blew up.  He looks slightly red-faced. 🙂

"Keep your eyes to yourself, please"

He flew off the tree branch then.  We watched him go and land further down the road.  We drove on and made a turn-a-round at the end of the park.  As we were making the return trip, there he was, high up in another tree.  This time I caught him in a more gentlemanly pose.

Click in either image to see an enlargement.

Exposure information:  Both photos where shot with my Canon EOS 7D and Canon 100-400mm zoom lens.  Spot metering, aperture priority, ISO 250.  Top photo 1/640 sec. @ f6.3.  Second photo 1/500 sec. @ f6.3.