Raptors ‘R’ Us – Part II


Okay, getting back to my chatter about raptors……..  I believe I left off with discussing the Red-tailed Hawks.  I might as well add this photo that I captured a couple days ago, after I published part I.

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Red-tailed Hawk

Another hawk that is similar to the Red-tailed, is the Swainson’s Hawk.  In fact, when I got into birding and was new, I often confused the two.  They are a stately bird.  That dark bib is one of my favorite markers for this specie.

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Swainson’s Hawk

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Swainson’t Hawk

I love watching the Northern Harrier.  Some people refer to him as the Grey Ghost. It hunts by flying low over the grasslands.  It’s eyes seemingly never leave the ground.  I have found them very difficult to photograph, but in truth, I have had few opportunites to do so.  When I do see one, it usually takes me by surprise, as it flies by.  However, I am proud of this photo that I captured on a trip to the Davis Mountains.  I spotted it from my car as it was streaking across the land.  I stopped the car, and caught it as it turned around and made a return flyby.  Not one of my best technically, but I do like the composition.  It is readily identified by that large white spot on it’s rear.

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Northern Harrier on the hunt.

One raptor that is rarely seen here in the Concho Valley is the Crested Caracara.  Sometimes known locally as a Mexican Eagle.  It is more familiar in south and central Texas.  It is a peculiar looking bird, and it sometimes can be seen hanging out with the vultures, eating road-kill along the highways.  I did get a few photos while visiting our friends at Uvalde, Texas.  He is not wearing a toupee.

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Crested Caracara

Another hawk that favors the southern part of the state, is the Harris’s Hawk.  I was able to capture several images of this bird when visiting Uvalde.  It seemed that it was everywhere.  Of course, as usual, I was hunting them from the car.

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Harris’s Hawk

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Harris’s Hawk

There are two hawks that confuse birders and cause great debates about identification of the two.  I am talking about the Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk.  They are very similar.  I will offer a photo of each here.  The Cooper’s has the black-cap on a flattish shaped head.  Also the eyes are set forward more.  The Sharp-shinned lacks the black cap and has a more round head shape.  Even then, I imagine that I will get letters disputing my IDs.  I am definitely no expert, but this is my story and I am sticking to it. 🙂

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Cooper’s Hawk.

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Sharp-shinned Hawk

The Red-shouldered is a slightly larger bird.  It is easily identified with that red area on the shoulder.  This one was photographed at the Hummer House Bird Sanctuary in Christoval, Texas.

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Red-shouldered Hawk

The White-tailed Hawk is one that I know very little about.  It usually lives in far southeast Texas.  However, I photographed this one near Uvalde.  A friend helped me with the identification.

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White-tailed Hawk

Before I forget, I must include the Osprey, a fish-eating raptor.

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Osprey

Getting into some of the smaller hawks, I have seen and photographed a Merlin several times at San Angelo State Park.  At only ten inches tall, they still look formidable.  You can see that look of innocence, though.  Here are two of my favorite photos of one.

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Merlin

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Merlin

Ah, my definite favorite of the tiny hawks is the American Kestrel.  Beautiful marking.  A very feisty raptor that can sometimes act benign and easy to photograph, or often as not, give me a merry chase through the countryside.  It depends on his mood.  This particular image is one of the latter.  I was in a mini-van at the time several years ago, driving through San Angelo State Park.  Ann was with me, and this little bird moved from tree to tree, finally stopping and giving me nice views of his tail feathers.

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American Kestrel

Finally, I am going to end this raptor series with one of the fastest falcons on the planet.  We were at San Angelo State Park, watching the brush for some warblers, when something flashing by caught my eye.  It zipped past some trees and out of sight with great speed.  I told Ann, I just have to go see if I can see if and where that bird might have  landed.  She started to protest, but I had the keys and was driving.  The effort paid off, as we didn’t go far.  It had landed atop a picnic table shelter.   I was able to get shots from afar, but since it didn’t move, I was able to maneuver in closer with the car.  It continued to sit as I took several photos.  I discovered then that it was a young bird.

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Peregrine Falcon

Here is an adult that I photographed a few years back.

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Peregrine Falcon

This concluded my 2-part series about the raptors of the Texas bird world.  There are a few more species, but as of this date, I have yet to see or photograph.  When I do, you will be the first to know. 🙂

So on this date, December 31, 2017, I want to wish everybody a fantastic Happy New Year and best wishes for a great 2018.

Happy Birding!!!

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Raptors ‘R’ Us – Part I


A cold Tuesday morning here in San Angelo as I begin writing this post.  We had below freezing temps and freezing rain overnight.  A hot drink type of day.  So, I am sitting here,  cussing and discussing in my mind what to write about.  I believe that since I recently wrote a post about the tiny, cute birds, I will focus on the big guys this time.  The raptors that are found in Texas. I think I will do this in two parts, as I found going through my images, that there are quite a few of these species.

In my mind, the word raptor conjures up images of large flying creatures with fiery eyes, giant claws and smoke coming out of their noses.  Of course, in reality, that is not so.  Many of them are very small birds and quite cute.  I may be questioned about this, but my definition of raptors is any bird that is aggressive in it’s hunt for live prey.  Take the innocent looking Loggerhead Shrike.  He may have that Lone Ranger mask, but trust me, he is not looking to save the pretty girl and ride off into the sunset.  He has the heart of a killer.  He catches his prey and impales them on sharp cactus spines or the barbs of a barbed wire.

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Loggerhead Shrike

But let’s begin with the largest birds.  The eagles, i.e. the Golden Eagle and the Bald Eagle.

Out here in west Texas, eagles are scarce so I don’t get many opportunities to photograph them.  But I did get lucky, getting my very first Golden Eagle.  We were on a recent trip to the Davis Mountains.  We were given a tip that if we drove the highway 505 from the Davis Mountains south towards Valentine, Texas, there might be some of those eagles along there.  Sure enough, we had gone only a couple of miles along that road and we came upon a Golden Eagle munching on some roadkill.  It took me by surprise and the eagle was equally surprised.  It took off and headed for a fence post, only about a hundred feet from me.  I immediately stopped the car.  I was shaking and in a sweat, and I scrambled to get my camera lens on him.  I couldn’t believe my luck, as I sat there clicking away and getting several exposures before he took off.  I had never been this close to one of these gorgeous birds.  But alas, in my excitement, I forgot to check my camera settings and I came away with some over-exposed images.  I could only try to salvage what I could out of them.  Here is what I got.

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Golden Eagle

Here is a photo of a juvenile Golden Eagle that I photographed back in about 2008 when I was visiting relatives in Michigan.  It was about 40 feet up in an evergreen tree.  I had to set up my tripod about a half block away to get an angle from where I could shoot and capture the image with my Canon 500mm f4 lens.  He was a young bird, and was scrambling around the nest, just getting ready to fledge.

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Golden Eagle, juvenile

There was a pair of Bald Eagles that nested along the highway near Llano, Texas.  We decided to take a drive down there to check them out several years ago.  It was a very cold morning, but there were several other photographers there toughing it out.  We were impressing each other with our big lens set-ups.  The eagles were quite far away, but I manage to get a few shots, including this image of one of the pair leaving the nest.

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Bald Eagle leeving the nest.

The only other time I had a chance to photograph a Bald Eagle was on a trip to Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.  What a wonderful place that is.  All types of birds, waterfowl, raptors, etc.  Anyway, I liked this photo of a Bald Eagle that I captured.  He was far off and had his back to me.

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Bald Eagle

At one point, we were observing some Northern Shovelers swing along in some wetlands of the Bosque, when a Red-tailed Hawk tried to pounce on one of them.  From out of nowhere, a Bald Eagle swooped down and grabbed the duck away from the much surprised hawk.

Moving right along here, let’s talk about the Common Black-Hawk.  It is also a large hawk that summers in some isolated spots of west Texas.  I found this one in Big Bend National Park.  Apparently, there is a pair that returns annually and nests near the Rio Grand Village RV park.  The National Park Service knows of the nest, and has the area marked off to keep people from getting too close.  With my long lens, of course, I had no problem.

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Common Black-Hawk

How about this Zone-tailed Hawk.  It is very similar to the Common Black-Hawk.  The Zone-tailed Hawk, however, likes to hang with the vultures.  The way it perches, flies, and feeds, it does look like he is emulating them.

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Zone-tailed Hawk

The predominant hawk in this area of west Texas is the Red-tailed Hawk.  It has many variations but one thing remains.  The tail is red on all of the adults.  It is the largest of the hawks here.  I have hundreds of photos of them as they are my favorite to photograph when I get the opportunity.  Here are a three of my favorite images.

I caught this one as he was in a screaming dive to catch either a rabbit or a smaller rodent.  I couldn’t tell for sure.  But he was intent on making the capture.

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Red-tailed Hawk

As you can see in the photo below of a juvenile, they are a very beautiful bird.

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Red-tailed Hawk, juvenile

This photo of an adult in flight shows you how intimidating they can be.

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Red-tailed Hawk

I think I will end this Part I of my raptor series right here.  Next post, Part II, will be about the Swainson’s, Cooper’s, Sharp-shinned hawks, and many more.  Watch for it soon.  I hope you have enjoyed these so far.

Happy Birding!!

A Birdy Merry Christmas


A brief post this Christmas Eve 2017.  I am going to interupt your festivities to wish you and all of my readers all over the world in 170 countries, a very Merry Christmas from the great state of Texas.

But I must post a photograph for you.  Here is one that I captured a couple of days ago.  One of my best of this species.  I hope you like it.

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Eastern Bluebird

To me the Bluebird signifies happiness, and I hope it reaches all of you.

Until the next time…….. Happy Birding!!

Strictly Sparrows


This is not meant to be an extension of my recent post on photographing tiny birds.  It just happened that way.  Ann and I recently spent a couple of days birding at both Spring Creek Park and San Angelo State Park. What I came away with in the photograph department were several of the sparrow species.  One was a lifer, number 300 on my life list.  I never thought that I would ever reach that number.  That bird happened to be a Swamp Sparrow, that is an uncommon visitor to the Concho Valley.

We were watching over a small, wet area, bordered by reeds, etc.  After observing othere small birds, sparrows, wrens, etc., the Swamp Sparrow suddenly made an appearance, but only for about 25 seconds.  I was able to get a few shots, then it was gone.

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Swamp Sparrow

Another specie is the Fox Sparrow.  It, too, is on that uncommon list.  We saw this bird at San Angelo State Park.  We have several favorite brushy areas that we favor for watching for birds.  At one of these areas, this bird also made a quick appearance.  I was quite surprised and delighted.  The Fox Sparrow is one of my favorite sparrows that I get to see only rarely.

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Fox Sparrow

The following are a few of the more common sparrows seen in this area.

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

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White-crowned Sparrow

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Field Sparrow

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Song Sparrow

But we also saw a few more tiny birds that I was able to photograph………

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Ruby-crowned Kinglet

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Dark-eyed Junco

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White-breasted Nuthatch

………a few birds that are not so tiny.

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American Pipit

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Pyrrhuloxia

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Spotted Towhee.

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Red-winged Blackbird, female

That is all for this post, and I hope you enjoyed these photographs.  Please comment if you like.  It’s always nice to hear from my readers.

 

Photographing the tiny birds


I love getting out in the field and photographing raptors when I can find them, but there is something to be said about shooting the tiny birds, too.  It is such a challenge.  Most of them can only be found in dense brush or small trees.  I have found that I get the best results if I just use only a single focus point when using my Canon &D Mk II.  If I use more like the five-point or nine-point, there is too much clutter in the branches to get the bird in focus.  Of course, with the single-point, the trick is to get that fleeting little bird in the viewfinder.  Also for your information, I use my Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens.  For my settings I shoot Shutter Priority at usually 1/1600 or 1/2000 sec.  I set the ISO at Auto, at a maximum of 1600, and the aperture just floats pretty much wide open.  I keep my thumb on the big dial on the back of the camera, so I can adjust the Exposure Value quickly if needed.

My post-processing is quite simple.  It is a secret recipe handed down.  I just crop for composition, then adjust the lighting and/or the contrast, and perhaps tweak the color saturation.  I then adjust the sharpening to compensate for any loss when I crop close.

I have been able to come upon a couple of areas where I have been successful in spotting several species of those tiny variety.  Here are a few of those, plus a few of my other images that I captured the past ten days.  I hope you enjoy.

The Pine Warbler is somewhat rare for the San Angelo area, although they are spotted occasionally.  This one surprised me when I was observing an area of cat-tails near Lake Nasworthy.  It is the first one of this species that I have seen this season.

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Pine Warbler

Nearby in the same area, this House Wren popped into view.  Wrens sometime give me a hard time in trying to identify them.  This was early morning, and at first I thought it was a Marsh Wren, but after perusing my Stokes’ guide I was able to discern the correct ID.

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House Wren

I got real lucky with the light when photographing this Bewick’s Wren.  Again, we were early getting to San Angelo State Park, and the morning sun was at a perfect angle.

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Bewick’s Wren

The goldfinches are starting to arrive.

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American Goldfinch

The Lincoln’s Sparrow is one of my favorites of that species.  Easily identified with that beige coloring in the breast.

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

Another easily identified sparrow, the White-crowned.

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White-crowned Sparrow

We were in an area favored by the Spotted Towhee when this Green-tailed Towhee showed.  I was quite thrilled as it is another rarity here in the Concho Valley.  The wind was blowing a bit, and it fluffed up it’s crown.

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Green-tailed Towhee

As I said, we were in the area so this Spotted Towhee decided it needed to show off a little bit, too.  He appeared on an upper branch so I was able to get a nice background of the nice blue sky.

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Spotted Towhee

Before we left to come home, I spotted this Red-tailed Hawk making a fly-by.  I couldn’t resist getting this last shot.

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Red-tailed Hawk

That is all for this post.  I hope you enjoyed my narrative and the photographs.  I appreciate any and all comments you might have.

Enjoy the snowfall. 🙂

Happy Birding!!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Zellers


I just wanted to write a brief post to say that I am thankful for all of my readers in 168 countries.  I know that you non-U.S readeres don’t celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday, but it is special to us, as we do celebrate and give thanks for what we have.  As for my self, I am thankful that I have good health, including all of the parts that I was issued.  I still have my own knees, hips, tonsils, appendix, teeth and I have perfect eyesight except for reading.  I am missing some hair and a gallbladder, but, hey, I am 83.  You can’t expect me to be absolutely perfect.  I am also very thankful for my choice in picking a wife nearly 60 years ago.  Ann is the love of my life and my best friend.

But, really, I am so glad so many of you readers have stuck with me, and I am still welcoming new readers.  You have found that I have a quirky sense of humor, but on the other hand, you know I have a serious side, too.  As I have reached this age, I continue to have thoughts of stopping writing this blog.  I don’t know when I will write my final post, but you all will be first to know.

Ann and I continue to go out four or five times a week, seeking the enjoyment of seeing birds and wildlife, and getting more photos for your enjoyment.

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American Goldfinch

So that’s all for this post.  Time to dig into our Thanksgiving dinner.

Please click on my “Bob’s Gallery” button to see my newest and all of my photos.  If you would like to make purchases, the information is there for you.  I do appreciate all of you.

HAPPY BIRDING!!

 

HAPPY BIDRD

All in a Day’s Work


Somebody mentioned to me a few days ago, that I was good at making bird photos into a work of art.  I appreciate compliments like that, but it is all in a day’s work.  Some days are a bust when I am out looking for good photos.  On the other hand, when I have great days, it makes it all worth while.  Such was a recent day, when, although the birding was slow, the quality of what little we saw was great.

We were roaming through the local city parks, here in San Angelo.  It was cloudy, even a little foggy when we left the house.  Our first stop was at Spring Creek Park, but there wasn’t much to see.  The birds were in hiding, I guess, because of the dampness.  The fog lifted a bit as were were leaving so we headed to Middle Concho Park.  The skies brightened then although it stayed cloudy.

It made for nice even lighting.  We came upon this Vermilion Flycatcher and he was quite nice to give me some good poses.  It looked like we might have a pretty good day after all.

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Vermilion Flycatcher

This House Wren was in a brushy area near the water.

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House Wren

The most fun of all was seeing this bobcat.  In a large open area outside of the park, we had seen two bobcats from a distance.  Too far for photos, I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to get photographs.  They were both on the run, heading for the brush, so I wouldn’t have been too sucessful anyway.  We were beginning to leave the area, when I happened to look to the left into the brush.  I was thrilled to see this young Bobcat, laying there looking contented, and staring right at me.  It was one of those one-in-a-million chances.  I was about 150 feet away.  I stopped the car, turned off the engine, and proceeded to take as many photos as I wanted.  He didn’t move too much, except for opening and closing his eyes.  I surmise he had just finished a sucessful morning hunt, and was resting.  Anyway, after getting about 50 exposures, I drove away and let him sleep.  As beautiful as he was and I enjoyed watching him, there was nothing to gain by staying.  I hate to disturb or agitate any wildlife.

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Young Bobcat

After leaving that park, we decided to head for home.  However, luck was still with me, and as we rounded a bend in the road, off to the right there was a wetlands area.  In a tree overlooking the water was this beautiful Osprey.  I drove down the road further, copped a U turn, and came back, driving in the weeds on the left side of the road.  I wanted to photograph him from my drivers’ side window.

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Osprey

So, anyway, I love days like that, when I turn a lemon into lemonade.  But I have been busy since my last post, so here are a few more memorable photos that I have gotten since then.

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Lark Bunting

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American White Pelicans at O.C. Fisher Lake

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Black-throated Sparrow

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American Robin – pale adult

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Great Blue Heron

That’s all for this post.  Now, I would like to mention that Christmas is coming so how about checking out my on-line store.  Not only can you get prints of my work in any size, but also home accessories like coffee mugs, tote bags, etc., all featuring my photography.  Click on “Bob’s Gallery”  at top of this page for more information on how to purchase.

Also, I have several of my 2018 calendars left.  They make great stocking stufffers. Click here for info. https://bobzeller.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/my-2018-texas-tweeties-calendar/