A Harbinger of Spring


While driving by Rock Slough Park, near Lake Nasworthy several days ago, we spotted several birds in the little area.  Cedar Waxwings, Eastern Bluebirds, along with this American Robin, (Turdus migratorius).  They say that robins are signs of spring’s arrival.  Maybe so, maybe not.  While we have these species year around here, it makes a for good subject for this post.  Plus, is spring not just around the corner?  🙂

American Robin

Photographed with my Canon EOS 7d with Canon 100-400mm lens.  1/640 sec. @ f8, ISO 250.  Center-weighted metering and aperture priority.  Click on image to see an enlargement.

The Day of Many Photographs


I try to be a bit witty sometimes with titles of my posts, but this past Saturday was a day that was memorable.  All kinds of photo ops.  I won’t say to much more, but just show you some of the results.

Photos mostly taken at Spring Creek or Middle Concho Parks here in San Angelo.  The exceptions are the second and third photos which were taken at a small downtown lake.  We were just driving around through the parks, and the birds seemed to be exceptionally cooperative.  Click on the images to see great enlargements.

Black-crested Titmouse

I got lucky, as I often do, as the Black-crested Titmouse was only about 20 feet from the car window.  He was completely oblivious of me.

Lesser Scaup - juvenile

Ring-necked Duck - female

Golden-fronted Woodpecker - female

Sharp-shinned Hawk

The Sharp-shinned Hawk gave me an exposure problem.  On the good side, he was perched only about 20 feet from the road-side.  The bad part, there was a limb that was casting a shadow over his head.

Great Blue Heron on log

Great Egret on the hunt

Both the Great Blue Heron and the Great Egret were about 150 yards away on the opposite side of the river.

Belted Kingfisher

Singing Eastern Bluebird

I decided not to include EXIF information in this post.  I just didn’t want to add the clutter.  If any of you want to know how I shot any particular image, just mention it in your comment.  And I do hope that you will comment.

Birding in the New Year


Well, like a lot of other bloggers have said in their posts, 2011 is over and we are all making plans for 2012.

My birding goal of species seen for 2011 had been 200.  The number of species that I had hoped to see in the year.  My actual total turned out to be 194.  I should have been paying closer attention and maybe I might have reached 200.  But I got slow in keeping up with my count, and if I had realized I was so close, I may have made a big push at the end.  So we start all over again, and my goal now for 2012 is 225,and the first one I saw Monday morning on our back patio, was a White-crowned Sparrow.

White-crowned Sparrow

Later in the day, I decided I didn’t want to sit and watch football games.  I got restless, thinking about my new goals, so I thought I better get off my butt and get started.  We drove to Middle Concho and Spring Creek Parks.  It was very quiet, as in no people around.  They’re all home watching football games.  We had the place practically to ourselves and we managed to pick up 32 more species, to give us a start of 33 on our goal.

Red-tailed Hawk

One of those 33 was this Red-tailed Hawk.  As we were leaving the park, he was sitting in the grass on the other side of a little slough that branched off of the river.  We were about 75 yards away, and I managed a few grab-shots.  Nothing to write home about, but then he took off and landed in a tree back on the other side back in the boundaries of the park.

I turned around, drove back 100 yards or so, and pulled off the road.  I picked up my Canon 7D with a Canon 100-400mm lens, got out of the car and started hiking.  I could see the tree that he was in but I needed to circle around so I had better light, as the the sun was starting to get lower in the sky.  As I circled I kept a distance of about 60 yards between me and the tree, so as not to startle the bird.  When I was in a good position, and I had a good line of sight through the tree branches, I started creeping closer.  I would take a shot or two, then advance another 10 yards or so.  This image was one of my final shots, taken from about 20 yards.

So with a nice hawk photo and some other good species seen, I felt we were off to a good start.  I got photos of a Cinnamon Teal and a Blue-winged Teal,  both of which I failed to get a good image of last year.  And how about this, they were swimming next to each other.  That in itself wouldn’t be unusual, but it was the only Blue-winged Teal on the river, and there was only one other Cinnamon as well.  This is one of the images that I captured of the two.  I don’t usually post photos of such poor quality, but I just wanted to show you the pair.  The sun was low and I was shooting almost into it making for exposure difficulty.

Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teals

Here is the list of our 33 species to start the year.

  1. White-crowned Sparrow  5
  2. Northern Mockingbird  4
  3. American Coots  50+
  4. Golden-fronted Woodpecker  4
  5. Great Egret  2
  6. Yellow-rumped Warbler  6
  7. Black-crested Titmouse  2
  8. House Finch  16
  9. Western Meadowlark  27
  10. Great Blue Heron  4
  11. Northern Shovelers  9
  12. White-winged Dove  11
  13. European Starling  12
  14. Pied-billed Grebe  2
  15. Double-crested Cormorants 10
  16. Cinnamon Teal  2
  17. Great-tailed Grackle  18
  18. Common Grackle  12
  19. Eastern Bluebird  15
  20. Red-tailed Hawk  1
  21. Black Vulture  2
  22. Ring-billed Gull  20+
  23. American Robin  7
  24. Cedar Waswing  18
  25. Northern Flicker  1
  26. Killdeer  1
  27. Curved-bill Thrasher  1
  28. Red-winged Blackbird  12
  29. Gadwall  4
  30. Belted Kingfisher  1
  31. Eared Grebe  1
  32. Song Sparrow 15
  33. Blue-winged Teal  1

So the year is off an running.  So stay tuned for new posts about photography, wildlife, birding, and of course more photographs

What?? Not Another Birding Trip??


Okay, I confess.  My name is Bob Zeller and I am a hopeless birding addict.  I tried to stop, but the withdrawal pains are too severe.  When I see a bird that I don’t recognize, I frantically dive into my thirty-some bird guides, tearing pages to make that elusive identification.  To add to my habit, I am also fanatic about wanting to photograph every bird I see.  I wade in the muck, crawl in the weeds, get tick-bit, all so I collect those photos.

So, to satisfy our cravings (Ann is addicted, too), we invited the Johnsons from Eldorado to join us.  We wanted to see if we could see more species this day than the day before, which I believe was 40.  We again set out for Middle Concho and Spring Creek parks.  Both parks in the same area, one on one side of the river, and the other park on the other side.  So the habitats for both are quite similar.  I have a few photo highlight for you.  Click photos to see beautiful enlargements.

Portrait of a Northern Mockingbird

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Belted Kingfisher

Great Blue Heron

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Horned Grebe (photographed previous day)

Here is the total species of 42 that we spotted.

  1.  Northern Mockingbird
  2.  Great-tailed Grackle
  3.  American White Pelican
  4.  Great Egret
  5.  Great Blue Heron
  6.  Northern Shoveler
  7.  Double-crested Cormorant
  8.  Ring-billed Gull
  9.  American Goldfinch
  10.  White-crowned Sparrow
  11.  American Coots
  12.  Pied-billed Grebe
  13.  Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  14.  House Finch
  15.  Lesser Goldfinch
  16.  Gadwall
  17.  Black Vulture
  18.  Eastern Phoebe
  19.  Yellow-rumped Warbler
  20.  Black-crested Titmouse
  21.  Bufflehead
  22.  Turkey Vulture
  23.  Red-winged Blackbird
  24.  European Starling
  25.  Western Meadowlark
  26.  Northern Cardinal
  27.  Cinnamon Teal
  28.  Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  29.  Vermilion Flycatcher
  30.  Eastern Bluebird
  31. Wild Turkey
  32.  American Robin
  33.  Green-winged Teal
  34.  Common Raven
  35.  White-winged Dove
  36.  Northern Flicker
  37.  Cedar Waxwing
  38.  Common Grackle
  39.  Belted Kingfisher
  40.  Clay-colored Sparrow
  41.  Blue Jay
  42.  Northern Harrier

As you can see we did break our previous day record.  These were seen during an approximate four hour period.  Click on any image and you can see beautiful enlargements.

Click my Flickr Logo at the right side of this page to view more of my photos.

I’d like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year!

Yesterday’s birding and new lifer


Ann and I decided that another nice day deserved to be spent birding.  We spent a couple of hours at Middle Concho and Spring Creek parks, then we got a call on our cell phone from Suzanne Johnson down at Eldorado.  A Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), had been spotted at the water treatment ponds.  So we left immediately to get down there.  We saw it and I got a nice photo of it.  It was lifer number 239 for me.

Common Goldeneye

Canon EOS 7D with Canon 500mm f4 IS lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  Exposure 1/1600 sec. @ f8, -0.3EV, ISO 400.  Partial metering and aperture priority.  Captured from our car, using a Puffin Pad window support.  Distance to subject was about 100 yards.

Total of 40 bird species spotted:

  1.  American Coot
  2.  Northern Mockingbird
  3.  Great Blue Heron
  4.  Pied-billed Grebe
  5.  Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  6.  Cinnamon Teal
  7.  Gadwall
  8.  Northern Shoveler
  9.  Great Egret
  10.  Green-winged Teal
  11.  Wilson’s Snipe
  12.  Great-tailed Grackle
  13.  Red-tailed Hawk
  14.  European Starling
  15.  Western Meadowlark
  16.  Double-crested Cormorants
  17.  Yellow-rumped Warbler
  18.  House Finch
  19.  Savannah Sparrow
  20.  Eastern Bluebird
  21.  Vermilion Flycatcher
  22.  Ring-billed Gull
  23.  American Coot
  24.  Wild Turkey
  25.  White-winged Dove
  26.  Northern Flicker
  27.  Red-winged Blackbird
  28.  American Goldfinch
  29.  Lesser Scaup
  30.  Eared Grebe
  31.  Northern Pintail
  32.  Horned Grebe
  33.  Ruddy Duck
  34.  Canvasback
  35.  Common Goldeneye
  36.  Ringed-neck Duck
  37.  Killdeer
  38.  Lark Bunting
  39.  Egyptian Goose
  40.  Eurasian Collared Dove

Birding and New Photos from Middle Concho Park


It is frigid again here this morning, and not expected to get above 40 degrees with winds up to 25mph.  Possible snow flurries forecasted over the weekend, but not expected to stay on the ground very long.  Stay tuned on that.  Maybe San Angelo will have a white Christmas.  If so, maybe I can get out and get some snowy photos.

Anyway, yesterday was beautiful, got into the 60s, so Ann and I took advantage and went to Middle Concho Park to do a little birding.  We saw 28 species this time. (see list below).  A few that were new, that we hadn’t seen for a long time.  Here are some photo highlights.  EXIF data will be at the bottom of this page.

Western Meadowlark

 

Vermilion Flycatcher - female

Eastern Bluebird - with attitude

Some of these photos are not up to my standards, but they are passable.  For some reason, I wasn’t on my A-game.  I was making exposure mistakes, accidentally moving my settings and not discovering them until it was too late, then had to try to fix the errors in Photoshop.  I guess I was enjoying the weather too much and not paying attention.  We sure saw a lot of birds though, and here is that list.

  • Mockingbird   8
  • Black Vulture  2
  • American Coot   100+
  • Gadwall   25+
  • House Finch   50+
  • Pied-billed Grebe   14
  • Great Egret   3
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler   75+
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker   8
  • Western Meadowlark   35
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker   1
  • American Goldfinch  15
  • Lesser Goldfinch   6
  • Eastern Bluebirds   75+
  • Northern Shovelers   24
  • Double-crested Cormorants   10
  • Great Blue Heron   2
  • White-crowned Sparrow   24
  • White-winged Dove  50+
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Red-tailed Hawk   1
  • Great-tailed Grackle  20
  • Marsh Wren   1
  • Vermilion Flycatcher   4
  • Bewick’s Wren   1
  • Ring-billed Gull   20
  • Red-winged Blackbird   24
  • Mute Swan   3

About the photos:  All photos were taken with my Canon 7D and 500mm lens with a 1.4 tele-converter.  Aperture priority and partial metering.  Handheld from the window of my car.

Western Meadowlark.   1/640 sec. @ f6.3   ISO 400

Vermilion Flycatcher.  1/4000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV,  ISO  400  Distance  50 feet.

Eastern Bluebird  1/5000 sec. @f5.6  ISO 400  Distance 30 feet.

Middle Concho and Spring Creek Birding Hotspot


Just when I thought it could’t get any better.  Middle Concho Park and Spring Creek Park are two adjacent parks at the confluence of Middle Concho River and Spring Creek, where they meet at Lake Nasworthy, here in San Angelo.  I think that is the easiest way to explain their location.  One park is on one side of the river,and the other park on the other side.  However to get from one side to the other, takes about a three mile trip around, back to the bridge that goes over the lake.  Confused??  We’ll just leave it at that.  I remember the joke about the guy on one side of the river calling to a guy on the other side.  He calls over, “Hey, pal, how do I get to the other side?”  The other guy calls back, “You idiot, you are on the other side”. 🙂

The way we bird these parks is to just cruise through the area on the many little lanes and roads, at idling speed of 1-2 miles mph.  Keep your eyes watchful, and you ears listening.  Watch into the trees and along the shorline of the river.  I must admit, in winter it is a bit easier because of the absence of leaves on the trees.  In nice weather we once in a while, sit my camera on a tripod near a picnic table, and just wait and watch.

So getting back to my post here, you remember a previous post a couple of days ago about Ann and I seeing 24 species in a couple of hours.  Well, I don’t know how it could have got any better, but when we made a return trip (again) Saturday, we saw a whopping 34 species in about 3 hours.  During that time, I was also shooting photographs, 442 images in all, if anyone is counting.  Here is a sampling of three.

Cooper's Hawk

Red-naped Sapsucker

Gadwalls

I will put the EXIF photo settings at the bottom of this page.  But first here is a complete list of the birds we saw and/or photographed. (Mostly saw). 🙂

  • Northern Mockingbird   6
  • American Coot   200+
  • Double-crested Cormorants   25
  • Northern Shoveler   100+
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker   4
  • Great Egret   4
  • Gadwall  50+
  • White-winged Doves   75+
  • Green-winged Teal   4
  •  Cinnamon Teal   2
  • Great Blue Heron   7
  • Black Vulture   3
  • Western Meadowlark   10
  • Great Horned Owl   1
  • Pied-billed Grebe   5
  • Eastern Bluebirds   25
  • House Finch   12
  • Great-tailed Grackles   25
  • Red-tailed Hawk   1
  • Yellow-Rumped Warbler   30
  • Savannah Sparrow   12
  • Lesser Goldfinch   3
  • White-crowned Sparrow   5
  • Red-winged Blackbird   3
  • Northern Flicker   1
  • Northern Cardinal   1
  • American Robin   1
  • Belted Kingfisher   1
  • Mallard   1
  • Ring-billed Gull   1
  • Blue Jay   1
  • Inca Dove   3
  • Cooper’s Hawk   3
  • Red-naped Sapsucker   1

About the photos.

Cooper’s Hawk.  The hawk was sitting in a tree.  I maneuvered my Ford Edge around so I could shoot it from my driver’s side window.  Canon 7D, 500mm lens with 1.4 teleconverter, 1/1000 sec. @ f11, ISO 400.

Red-naped Sapsucker.  I got out of the car and hand-held my Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm lens.  1/1250 sec. @ f6.3 +0.3EV.  ISO 2000

Gadwall.  The bird was in the water about 15 yard from the shore.  I propped my Canon 7D with the 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter, on the hood of my car, resting it on a SafariSack support.  1/1000 sec. @ f10, ISO 400.

Two more from Middle Concho Park


Friday opened cool and cloudy, but by 11:00AM it was bright and sunny.  We decided to return to Middle Concho Park where we had seen so many species the day before.  Again there were an abundance of birds.  We birded there for an hour or so, then we drove over to the adjacent Spring Creek Park.  Here are two photographs that I captured there.  A Blue Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri), and an American Robin (Turdus migratorius).

Blue Jay

American Robin

As I said the good news was that it was bright and sunny.  On the downside I didn’t have the best light that I would have had if it had remained cloudy.  Boy, I sure am hard to please, aren’t I??  But it did make it difficult to expose properly for the Blue Jay.  As you can see, it worked out okay, though.  The American Robin was in open shade where the light was more even, so the job was easier.

During our birding, we saw a couple of hawks, several herons and egrets and others.  In all, we saw 21 species, as I have listed below.

I hope you enjoyed the photos and narrative about our birding exploits.  Have a great weekend.

Eared and Pied-billed Grebes


Since I ended up getting a nice photo of an Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) Sunday morning, I thought I would show it to you along with another type, the Pied-Billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps).  An interesting thing about grebes is that they spend most of their time on the water.  Because of lobes on their feet that help them to be better swimmers, they are rather ungainly trying to walk on land.  They use floating nests among reeds and other growth.  When preening, they eat their own feathers and feed them to their young.

Eared Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe - adult

Pied-billed Grebe - adult winter

Pied-billed Grebe - juvenile

Adult pied-bills can be identified by the dark band around the bill.  Winter adults and juveniles do not have that band.  Grebes are rarely seen in flight.

I hope you enjoy these photographs, and also those that you can see by clicking on the Flickr Logo on the right side of this page.

Flight of the Cattle Egret


Yesterday Ann and I made a return trip to the water treatment ponds down at Eldorado, Texas.  Our purpose was to try to get a look at the Black Scoter that was seen there for a few days.  This time we did get a chance to see it.  But as we watched, and as I was preparing to photograph it, it flew off.  Since the ponds cover several acres, and there are five seperate areas we didn’t see it again amidst the hundred of duck species that were there.  So a photograph will have to wait for another time.  It was a lifer for both Ann and I.

However, the juvenile Cattle Egret was still there.  I got a few images of it feeding in the reeds, but my prize was this photo of it in flight.

Cattle Egret in flight

Esposure was with my Canon 7D with a Canon 100-400mm lens.  1/500 sec. @ f8, ISO 250.  Spot metering and aperture priority.

We also saw a Greater Roadrunner running with a captured Red-winged Blackbird in it’s beak.  No photo.  Running too fast for me.  Total species for the two hours again was 27.

  • Ruddy Duck
  • Black Scoter
  • Bufflehead
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Greater Yellowlegs
  • American Coot
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Gadwall
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Eared Grebe
  • Redhead
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Canvasback
  • Northern Pintail
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Meadowlark
  • Egyptian Goose
  • Cattle Egret
  • Mockingbird
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Vermilion Flycatcher
  • Rock Wren
  • Song Sparrow

We also saw one that we can’t identify.  Here are two images of it.  If there are any expert birders out there, tell me what you think.

I hope you enjoyed the photos.  Click on any of them for an enlargement.