Mid-November Musings

Of course, I could have said mid-November blues, but that sounds so discouraging.  Again, our high record temperatures here in the San Angelo area, has kept the birding slow.  The northern birds are reluctant to  come this far south until the temps get down a bit.  Fortunately, that time is coming next week.  Unfortunately it took me the past two weeks to amass enough photographs for this post.  The good news, fortunately I did get a nice collection to show you from our sporadic trips into the field.

Let’s see, my last post was on October 29.  Sorry, folks, I didn’t mean to wait so long, but here we go.  I am just going to post photos more or less in the order I got them.  By the way, click on any of them to see some very nice enlargements.

On October 30 we took a little time, early in the morning, to run to Spring Creek Park.  We had been watching for the Great Horned Owl that frequents the area.  We almost missed him when he appeared in a nearly bare tree near the water.  Of course, some little twigs almost got in the way.  I think that he thought he was hidden.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV at 6400 ISO.

Continuing along the water, we saw this Great Egret doing a little hunting of his own from a tree branch.

Great Egret

Great Egret – 1/000 sec. @ f6.3, -0.3 EV at 500 ISO.

We didn’t get out again until November 3.  This time we visited San Angelo State Park.  The only usable image I captured then was this beautiful female Pyrrhuloxia.


Pyrrhuloxia – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 1000.

On November 4 we ventured to Middle Concho Park.  There I found this gorgeous Great Blue Heron just hanging out along the shore line.  It was another beautiful day, just right for basking in the sun near Lake Nasworthy.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 1250.

On the way home we spotted this Osprey high on a utility pole.


Osprey – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 1600

November 13 found us back at Spring Creek Park, where we happened to meet fellow birder, Randy Hesford.  We were sitting under some trees eating a burrito and sipping coffee, when he drove up next to us.  He had just spotted a Wood Duck and wanted to give us directions to where we could see it.  I hadn’t seen one in the past couple of years, and I grabbed at the chance.  All bird photographers have nemesis birds, birds that they have difficulty finding and getting good photos.  This duck is one of my nemesis birds, and I was happy to get this photo.  It wasn’t that easy,though.  I had to leave my blind, aka my Ford Escape, and hike to the shoreline, hoping I wouldn’t spook him.  Before getting out of my vehicle, I grabbed my other camera, another Canon 7D Mark II, only with a 100-400mm zoom lens.  It is a lighter setup, easier to handle when I am walking.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck – 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 640.

We didn’t get back out to Spring Creek Park again until the 17th of November.  We were searching for some Golden-crowned Kinglets that have been seen, but they eluded us.  Instead I was fortunate to see three little Dark-eyed Juncos hopping among the branches of a tiny tree.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 4000.

From there we decided to go over to Middle Concho Park.  There, we spotted this red-shafted Norther Flicker high atop a tree.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker – 1/1000 @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, at ISO 320.

We finished the day with this beautiful Western Bluebird.

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebird – 1/1600 sec. @ f7.1, +0.3 EV, at ISO 3200.

I hope you enjoyed these photos from the past couple of weeks.  With the exception of the Wood Duck, all other photos were with an identical Canon 7D Mark II and my Tamron 150-600mm lens.  Incidentally, I have upgraded that lens to a second generation Tamron 150-600mm lens.  It has some refinements over the original and I will be using it in the future.

So, until my next post, Happy Birding!!

Fun April Birding

Migration is underway and we are still waiting for many spring birds.  Scissor-tailed Flycatchers have been sighted.  We saw three ourselves, but too far away for photos.  However, Ash-throated Flycatchers are beginning to appear in large numbers.  I got my first nice photo of one a couple of days ago.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

We had to make our regular stop at Spring Creek Park to check on our family of Great Horned Owls.  We caught the female off the nest, taking a break from caring for junior.

Great Horned Owl - female

Great Horned Owl – female

Meanwhile, back at the nest it is ‘home alone’ all over again.  The kid seems to be gaining weight.  I would estimate him to be about three weeks old.

Great Horned Owlet

Great Horned Owlet

Later, back on the nest, the mother seems to be daring me to step over that twig.

Great Horned Owl - mother on nest

Great Horned Owl – mother on nest

I would like to mention that for these photos, I was around fifty yards away.  With my long lens, there is no need for me to get closer and agitate the birds.

Nearby, I captured this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in some bushes.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

We headed to San Angelo State Park where I managed to capture a few more resident birds.

Driving along the base of the O. C. Fisher Reservoir dam, Ann spotted a Rock Wren flitting around the rocks.  I had never been able to get a nice close-up of one before.  Up on those rocks, they are hard to see, and difficult to get one in the viewfinder of my camera.  But my perseverance paid off, and I was able to get this one, again with my long 150-600mm Tamron lens.  The image is still quite cropped to get this close-up.

Rock Wren

Rock Wren

Elsewhere in the park, I got these photographs.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

American Robin

American Robin

We finished the day by catching this hard to spell and hard to pronounce,  Pyrrhuloxia.



So that’s all for today.  Tomorrow we are off to the South Llano River State Park.  Reports are coming in of several migratory birds there.  Plus, there’s alway great food at Lum’s Bar-B-Que before coming home.  I’ll report on the journey in a few days.

Birding before the rains……

The forecast for yesterday was cloudy with an 80% chance of rain.  Well, for me that meant there was a 20% chance that it wouldn’t rain.  Ann and I ate breakfast and it hadn’t started to rain yet, so we were thinking that maybe we were home free.  We decided to head out.  On the way, we saw some ducks in a pond behind a nearby Firestone store.  We saw Green-winged Teals and Northern Pintails there.

Northern Pintail with Green-winged Teal in the background.

Northern Pintail with Green-winged Teal in the background.

We had not been to San Angelo State Park in several days so we decided to go to the the bird blind there.  We were hoping to see a Spotted Towhee that had been reported there.  It would be an addition to our 2015 Big Year list.  We were not disappointed as it did make an appearance, and the other bird species were quite active, considering the oncoming cold front.  We were able to see  many other species.  We were not so lucky in seeing a Verdin, that also had been reported earlier.  With the skies being heavily clouded the light was somewhat low.  However I was able to come away with these images.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

female Northern Cardinal eyeballing that upside-down peace sign created by that hanging branch of a Cholla plant.

female Northern Cardinal eyeballing that upside-down peace sign created by that hanging branch of a Cholla plant.

A feisty Spotted Towhee

A feisty Spotted Towhee





Black-crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

Shortly after that final photo was captured, it started to rain.  We skedaddled out of there.  We were happy to head home, as I felt we had come away with some nice images and we added two more to our 2015 Big Year list; Spotted Towhee and Northern Pintail.  We are now at 86, with “only” 124 to go to make our goal of 210 by December 31.  Should be a piece of cake.  Right?  Yeah, right.  Stay tuned…… 🙂

Images on a West Texas morning

Here are some random images that I took the past few mornings at Middle Concho Park and Spring Creek Park.  Perfect fall weather, mild temps, zero wind, the water smooth as glass.  The trees are changing color and the birds are happy.  Ann and I are just cruising along enjoying all of the above.  First up, a couple of images of a Pyrrhuloxia.  Okay, I know how some of you have trouble with pronouncing that name.  Here again:  pie-rul-oxia.  Close enough, Ron?

Pyrrhuloxia – female

Pyrrhuloxia – female

A Belted Kingfisher intent on watching the water for a meal.

Belted Kingfisher

A Golden-fronted Woodpecker digging in.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker – female

A pretty Eastern Bluebird just relaxing.

Eastern Bluebird

A Great Blue Heron peruses the action.

Great Blue Heron

This may be my last post for a few days.  My bride, Ann and I are leaving for the Big Bend area on Wednesday morning.  We hope to have more stories and new photographs for you on our return next week.  I hope you enjoy these photos here.  Click on any of them to see some enlargements.


Pyrrhuloxia and Curve-billed Thrasher

First I want to share the news that my book, “Birds, Beasts and Buttes”, is now available in E-Book form for the iPad.  Click here where you can preview it and buy at reduced price over the print version.  You can also check out both versions, plus my 2013 Calendar, by clicking on the links on the right side of this page.

Now here is that bird again, you know, the one with the funny sounding name.  I caught this image of the Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus) a few mornings ago at San Angelo State Park.

Female Pyrrhuloxia in early morning light.

While there we also saw this Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre), doing what it does best; thrashing.  Thrashing the sand and grass looking for insects, etc.

A thrashing Curve-billed Thrasher.

I hope you enjoy these pictures, and you can click on either one to see a very nice enlargement of each.

Painted Bunting, Pyrrhuloxia and Western Kingbird

Here are a few more images from our sucessful birding over the weekend.  All were taken at San Angelo State Park.  We saw so many birds that it took me extra time to organize and edit them.  First up is the beautiful Painted Bunting, (Passerina ciris).  I shot this and the Pyrrhuloxia both with my Canon 7D and 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter.  Bunting exposure was 1/250 sec @f8, +0.7EV, ISO 3200.

Painted Bunting

Next is this nice shot of a Western Kingbird, (Tyrannus verticalis).  This bird just arrived in the area a few days ago.  Exposure 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7EV, ISO 2000.  Canon EOS 7D and Canon 100-400mm lens.  Hand-held.

Western Kingbird

Who can forget the gorgeous red and gray tones of the Pyrrhuloxia, (Cardinalis sinusatus).  That is pronounced Pie-rule-loxia.  A beautiful bird in the cardinal family.


Enjoy the pictures and click on any of them to see an enlargment of each.  Voting is still open until Thursday afternoon in our weekly bird quiz #3.  Click on this link:  BirdQuiz  then make your selection.  Good luck!

Another Pyrrhuloxia and Hall of Fame induction

After reading this post, please see the update at bottom.

For this image, I was driving around San Angelo State Park, and I spotted the Pyrrhuloxia singing away in the top of a tree.  He appeared as a silhouette against the sky.  I propped my Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter on the windowsill of the car, cushioning it with a Puffin’ Pad.  Exposure was 1/1250 sec. @ f8, -0.3EV, ISO 100.  Spot metering and aperture priority.  Post editing in Photoshop CS5 aided by DeNoise and Focus Magic.

Pyrrhuloxia singing in top of tree.

In other news, you have probably read in my “About Me” page about my past career in music.  In the early 1960s I played with the Cavaliers, a band from here in San Angelo, Texas for a short period.  They recorded the famous song “Last Kiss” written by Wayne Cochran and  sang by J. Frank Wilson.  Because of another commitment, I didn’t play sax on the record as no sax part was needed in the song.  Anyway, the band, me included, have been inducted into the West Texas Music Hall of Fame. Sid Holmes, the leader, has written a book, “Rockabilly Heaven”.  It is the untold story of the Cavaliers, and also tells about the music scene of the 50s and 60s in west Texas.  It is available from Ft. Phantom Lake Publishing, 6204 S. Parkway, Ft. Worth, TX 76134.  Or contact sid-holmes@charter.net.  On page 95 there is a handsome photo of yours truly. 

I was instrumental in the hiring of J. Frank Wilson to the band.  We needed a lead vocalist and we heard about this young man that was stationed at the nearby air base, and was near the end of his enlistment.  We auditioned him.  Our drummer, our bass player, and I all thought that he couldn’t sing a lick.  However, Sid Holmes, the leader thought otherwise and the rest is history.  It turned out that with the band backing him up he could blend in easier. The record sold millions, topped the charts for many months and repeated in later years when it was re-corded by Pearl Jam in 1995.

J. Frank Wilson was a one-hit wonder.  He left the Cavaliers in 1964, deciding to go single.  He never made another hit record.  He died a pauper, a few short years ago, in south Texas, where he was working as a janitor in a nursing home.  But, the song he made famous, “Last Kiss”, a song about a girl dying in a car crash, lives on.  I am proud that I was part of the legacy.

IMPORTANT UPDATE – 3/15/2012 –  In conversation with Sid Holmes, the leader of the Cavaliers, I have found that only J. Frank Wilson was elected to the West Texas Music Hall of Fame.  That was because his name was on the record, “Last Kiss” with the Cavaliers backing him up.  However, the Cavaliers band, including me, was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.  That puts us in stellar company with Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Roy Orbison and the many others of that era.

San Angelo State Park Birds

Tuesday began with overcast skies again.  Temperatures were quite nice, though.  With the cloudy skies I decided to get out of the house and visit the blind at San Angelo State Park.  I love the lighting in these conditions; no bright sunlight or harsh shadows.  Ann had to do some household chores, so I could concentrate more on my bird photography, and less on just bird watching.

When I first got there, I first saw a Spotted Towhee, (Pipilo maculatus), darting in and out of some nearby brush.  Occasionally, he would flit up into a small tree.

Spotted Towhee

Then there were the two Pyrrhuloxia, (Cardinalis sinuatus), a male and a female.  Two very beautiful birds.  One, the male, was in a bird feeder.

Pyrrhuloxia (male)

The female was peeking around from a small log.

Pyrrhuloxia (female)

I hope you enjoyed the photos. Click on any image to see a beautiful enlargement.  More to come soon.

Return from Big Bend – Part III

I need to digress a bit.  Actually before we entered the Big Bend National Park the previous day, we stopped at Post Park in Marathon, Texas.  It is a neat little place about 5 miles south of the city.  A small creek flows through the park, and it had

been recently stocked with 2,000 small Rainbow Trout.  There were many people there, all with their chilldren trying their luck at making the catch of the day.  So any birding activity was brief.  However, we did catch a photos of a Lark Bunting, (Calamospiza melanocorys), and a Sage Thrasher, (Oreoscoptes montanus).

After our little trip to the Rio Grande Village, we ended up staying in a little “casita” at Far Flung Outdoor Center in Study Butte.  This village

Sage Thrasher

is about three miles outside the west entrance to the BBNP.  Our room had a nice porch with rocking chairs overlooking the large courtyard that was planted with a variety of desert plants.  There were also bird feeders around and I got a nice photograph of a female Pyrrhuloxia, (Cardinalis sinuatus).

That evening we decided to eat at one our favorite night spots in the Study Butte/Terlingua area.  The place is call La Kiva, meaning ‘the cave’.  A fun delightful spot that serves excellent coussine and cold margaritas.

female Pyrrhuloxia at a feeder

That is, of course, ahem, if you indulge in that sort of stuff. 🙂  But, alas, Ann and I have mellowed in our ages and we are pretty much early birds.  After we split a 12 oz. rib-eye steak and each a margarita, we headed back to our motel.  The following morning we wanted to head to Sam Neal’s ranch for some birding.  And that, of course will be after we have a great breakfast at the Roadrunner Deli.  Frank Jones, the owner will have our coffee ready.

Green-tailed Towhee – 2nd chance

What a difference a day makes.  I went back out to the photography blind at San Angelo State Park yesterday to see if I could get a better exposed photo of the Green-tailed Towhee.  The sky was cloudy, but it wasn’t raining.  There was an abundance of birds to be seen, and the light was perfect.  There was this Canyon Towhee (Melozone fusca) eating seed that was put on this log.

Canyon Towhee

There also was this Lesser Goldfinch, (Carduelis psaltria), hanging sideways on a branch sticking out of the pond.

Lesser Goldfinch

How about a female Northern Cardinal, (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Northern Cardinal - female

Or a Pyrrhuloxia , Cardinalis sinuatus), a relative to the Northern Cardinal.


Don’t you love the bokeh on the three above above photos?  A few minutes later about a dozen Northern Bobwhites, (Colinus virginianus) came running into the area.  What fun it was watching them scurry around.  This is a photo of one of the females.

Northern Bobwhite - female

Oh, lest I forget why I decided on this post, the Green-tailed Towhee, (pipilo chlorurus), finally made an appearance.  He flew in from the surrounding brush and made himself at home in this bird feeder.  I took this shot, then he was gone.  I haven’t seen him since.

Green-tailed Towhee

I hope you enjoyed looking at these photos.  I have this habit of wanting you to see all of my photos at once.  I don’t have any left for the next post.  So you know where I’ll be tomorrow.  There is no time to rest, but I must keep going to satisfy my readers. 🙂

All images were shot with my Canon EOS 7D with Canon 500mm lens, tripod mounted.  No tele-converter was used.

Click on any of the images to see an enlargement.  Have a Happy Super Bowl Weekend. 🙂