Photographing San Angelo Country Club


Since this is the week of the playing of the U. S. Open at Congressional Country Club, I thought it would be an ideal time to show you some of my other work.  I know, my forte is probably birds and wildlife, but I really love the beauty of golf courses.  One of my favorites, that I feel is one of the most photogenic in west Texas, is the local San Angelo Country Club.  It is full of character, trees, water, hilly terrain, and a downright difficult 18 holes, at least for me.

Back in 2005 the golf pro invited me to photograph a few holes, to frame and put for sale in the pro shop.  The following are four of those, and they just happen to be some of my the best sellers.  I photographed them, using an original Canon EOS digital Rebel and a Tamron 28-300 zoom lens.  I was new to the digital age back Iwanted to get my feet wet.   Checking the EXIF data, I believe that I mostly set the camera on automatic, because I lacked self-confidence to try to get “fancy”.  I do remember that I shot at ISO 100 for maximum sharpness.

After finishing the shoot, I placed several framed and matted full-frame 12x18s for sale in the shop.  I sold several during the follow months.  If any San Angelo Country Club member is reading this, I still have framed prints left for sale.  Just contact me.  Descriptions are below each image.

Hole Number One.  Probably my favorite of them all.  A lengthy opening hole, downhill with a slight left dogleg.  The second shot must carry a creek that crosses the fairway, then winds up along the right sideof the green.  I took this photograph from across the creek, looking up towards the flag.  It was early morning and I liked the light that was coming from the left.

Hole Number Three.  Another par four.  This photograph is looking across the green toward another adjacent hole.  The fairway comes in from the left of the picture, but I liked this old Mesquite tree in the foreground.

Hole Number Six.  This a beautiful par three.  It doesn’t play as long as it looks.  I think the water is intimidating.  Somehow I always picked too much club and ended up air-mailing the green.  With the menacing pond in front, that is not a bad mistake.

Hole Number 10.  Another nice little par three to begin the last nine.  From another elevated tee that carries a little creek.

Well, so much for my golf photography.  I haven’t played in nearly four years, but looking again at these pictures, I am getting a hankering to do so again.  FORE!!!!!  🙂

Also, to vote for one of my photographs in National Wildlife Magazine’s annual contest, click here  People’s Choice .


Tale of The Take – Porcupine


Getting this photo was one of my most amazing experiences.  Ann and I had driven to San Angelo State Park to check on the bird blind, back on January 19, 2009.  We usually put seed out so the birds will be attracted to the area.  This is for the benefit of birders and photographers who come to observe.

Porcupine in tree

We had just turned off the main road on to the little lane that leads to the blind when we spotted this round, bushy looking blob in the fork of a tree, about 25 feet from the side of the road.  Not realizing at first what it was, we put our binoculars on it and discovered that it was a Porcupine.

I had my camera on my lap, as usual, and took a couple of quick shots out the window of our mini-van, to make sure I had something in case the animal made a quick exit.  I then got out and started walking through the weeds and brush, much to the chagrin of my wife, Ann, who started to yell at me to watch out for rattle-snakes.  I called back, and told her to worry about whether I was going to get the shot.  After all, there things that are more important than others. 🙂

I was able to get close enough to the porcupine that I could have reached out and touched it as he/she was only about 5 feet off the ground.  I found that if you are going to pet a porcupine, don’t move your hand against the “grain”.  Those quills are very sharp.

A face any mother would love

I was able to shoot pictures to my heart’s content.  The porcupine probably had just awakened as it was about 8:30 AM.  He just sat there and stared at me for the whole time I was there.  Of course, I was in awe.  Most porcupines I ever see are usually slabs of road-kill on the highway.  This was by far, the closest I had ever been to one, especially a live one.

Photo information.  Canon 40D camera.  Tamron 28-300mm lens.  1/250 sec. @ f9.  ISO 400.  Zoom lens set at 105mm.

Bird Banding is for the birds


Last Saturday morning Ann and I were invited to observe the banding of birds at Dan Brown’s Hummer House, near Christoval, Texas.  When we arrived about 8:00 AM the mist nets were up and the bird snaring was under way.  The banding was done by Concho Valley Bird Banding, a licensed group led by Charles Floyd.  For those who are uninformed about bird banding, these licensed banders catch birds, document the specie, record age, etc, then attach tiny metal bands to the leg.  This band has information on it so the bird can be traced.

White-eyed Vireo in mist net

The birds are not endangered in any way.  The mist net is so called because it is so fine that you can walk into it without realizing it is there.  The banders locate the nets in locations where there is the most bird activity.  They wait an hour or so, then they “run” the nets, picking off the tiny birds, which they deposit in little pouches hanging from their jackets or belts.  They then return to their work area, which is a table set up nearby.  They examine the birds, record the pertinent data and attache the bands.  After photographing them, they are released.

Bander Charles Floyd running the nets

It is a great opportunity to get close-up photographs of the different species.  I have included here some of my images from there.

Painted Bunting

Indigo Bunting

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Wilson's Warbler

Pine Siskin

I hope you have enjoyed this narrative and the images.  Click on any photo to see enlargements.

Birding Big Bend Again March 2011 – Part I


Back from our favorite haunts again.  Our stay at the Lajitas House was just great.  Large, spacious, quiet and comfortable.  We sat and watched birds and quail come up on our patio.  At night the stars were so bright it was almost blinding.

Scaled Quail on the patio

The first day, Tuesday, we went into Big Bend NP to check out some birding places.  We stopped at the ruins of Sam Neal’s house that stood over 100 years ago.  The vegetation and trees are all grown up, but there is a little shaded area that is frequented by birds of all types.  Thrashers, thrushers, sparrows, towhees. 

Common Black-hawk

While there we visited with another birder/photographer, Cindy McIntyre,  (http://cindymcintyre.blogspot.com) from Maine.  She is a Big Bend NP ranger.  She had been to Rio Grande Village, an RV camping area on the on eastern side of the park.  She told us about two rare Common Black-hawks that were nesting there.  She said the site was easy to see, as the park service had the area marked with signage, to protect the birds.

Vermilion Flycatcher

So as you would guess, on Wednesday we headed over there.  Sure enough.  We spotted one hawk almost immediately.  It was sitting on a branch in plain sight.  A great photo opportunity, and I took advantage of it.  It was also another lifer for me, number 222.  Previously, I thought I had already reached 222 but found that I had erroneously added a Purple Finch to my list, when I have actually never seen that bird.

In a nearby area, we saw several Vermilion Flycatchers moving around.  They are tiny, flighty, creatures that can’t sit one spot more than a couple of seconds, and also dificult to get close to.  However, I was able to get my 500mm with a tele-converter, mounted on a tripod, about 35 yards away.

Click on any photo so see an enlargement.

Coming soon, Part II.  I will tell you some more about the trip and our experiences.

My Artistic Photography


I really consider all of my photography art, as most photographers do.  But sometime I come up with something that definitely stirs my creative juices.  I submit the following photos for your consideration.  The first, or my before picture, is another of the American Kestrel images that I shot a couple of days ago.  The second, is after doing a bit of tone-mapping with PhotoMatix.  I like the three-dimensional feeling that it gives.

The picture isn’t about the American Kestrel.  It is just about a bird in a tree.  I like the simplicity of it, just the tree with a bird perched in it, against a clear sky.  I like the patterns of the tree branches, with the bird providing a splash of color.  I’d like to hear what you think about it.  Click on either image to see an enlargement.

"Bird in Tree" before tone-mapping

"Bird in Tree" after tone-mapping

Happy Birding””

Listen to the Mockingbird………


The Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is the state bird of Texas, and also for a few other states.  And true to it’s name it really can do a heck of a job of miming other birds.  The one that dominates our back yard, can do a great bluejay, and others of our backyard birds.  I can go out there and make random whistles and it will mock me.  My wife says that I am always harrassing him.  But not true, just conversing with him.  He is very territorial about our/his yard.  And that’s the reason we don’t have very many other visiting birds hanging around long.  If we put seed out, he won’t touch it, but neither will he let any other bird have it.

My Stokes Field Guide to North American Birds describes the bird as slim ,flat-crowned, long-tailed, long-legged  with a fairly thick relatively short bill.   Gray above, whitish below, two white wingbars, white base to primaries creates a patch on edge of folded wing.   Indistinct gray eyeline, yellowish eye.  In flight, the distinctive white patches on outer wings are very visible.

Here are some of my favorite photos:

Going my way???

Fledgling Northern Mockingbird

Fledgling Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

I hope you have enjoyed these photos.  Click on the images to see enlargements.

Happy Birding!!

MLK day at San Angelo State Park


In yesterday’s post I said that I hoped that the fog would lift.  Well, lift it did, a couple of hours later.  It turned out to be a wonderful day, with the temps somewhere in the mid-seventies, with plenty of sunshine.  Ann and I decided to spend a few hours at San Angelo State Park.  Where else would we be??  🙂  It is so nice to be retired, and have such a great park only three miles away.

We just had a good time driving around, not only watching birds, but just enjoying watching other people enjoy it, too.  There were hikers, bikers, walkers, and we came across this fisherman that was just bringing his catch in from the shore.  A huge catch that it was.  Look at all the big Yellow Catfish, probably near 100 lbs worth, judging from the effort that it took the young man to lift them.  He even had to use a wheelbarrow to carry them in from the lake.  There is some fine eatin’ somewhere in town this evening. 🙂

Catch of the Day

We had a great day of birding, also.  Check out the list at the end of this post.  In addition to the usual suspects, we were joined by a Rock Wren, A Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and six Northern Bobwhites.  And a nice surprise.  We spotted the Phainopepla again that has been hanging around.  After chasing him through the mesquites, I came up with this photograph.  I think it is quite an improvement over my original image that I captured a few days ago.

Phainopepla

Click on either photo to see an enlargement.  Here is the list of birds that we saw on Monday, January 17, 2011

Number of species:     26

Northern Shoveler     6
Northern Bobwhite     6
American White Pelican     20
Great Blue Heron     2
American Coot     6
Killdeer     2
Greater Yellowlegs     4
Least Sandpiper     20
Long-billed Dowitcher     6
Ring-billed Gull     20
Herring Gull     2
White-winged Dove     4
Mourning Dove     2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker     1
Tufted Titmouse     0
Black-crested Titmouse     2
Rock Wren     1
Northern Mockingbird     10
Curve-billed Thrasher     2
Phainopepla     1
White-crowned Sparrow     12
Northern Cardinal     6
Pyrrhuloxia     5
Red-winged Blackbird     12
House Finch     6
House Sparrow     4

Happy birding!!

Foggy Monday Birds and a Beast


Okay, okay, I know I haven’t posted in a few days.  I’ve been waiting for a sunshine-filled happy day.  As I am writing this, it may not happen for awhile.  This morning it is very, very foggy.  However, I am hoping for the sun to break through later today.  So I will fill in with the latest birding results from yesterday, posted at the end of this post, and a couple of pictures.

Nine-banded Armadillo

What is a post without some pictures, right?  Yesterday, after doing a little birding, we were on our way out of San Angelo State Park, when we observed a couple of Armadillos rooting around, looking for something edible.  The above image  pictures one of them.  Also, a little earlier, while at the bird blind, I photographed this Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus).  I believe that it is a 1st year male. Click on either photo to see an enlargement. 

Red-winged Blackbird

The following is a list of birds that we saw and reported yesterday.

Location:     San Angelo State Park
Observation date:     1/16/11
Number of species:     24

Northern Shoveler     6
American White Pelican     20
Great Blue Heron     2
Red-tailed Hawk     1
American Kestrel     2
American Coot     12
Killdeer     2
Greater Yellowlegs     2
Least Sandpiper     6
Ring-billed Gull     50
White-winged Dove     6
Greater Roadrunner     1
Ladder-backed Woodpecker     1
Northern Mockingbird     10
Curve-billed Thrasher     1
Spotted Towhee     1
Canyon Towhee     1
White-crowned Sparrow     12
Northern Cardinal     4
Pyrrhuloxia     5
Red-winged Blackbird     10
Western Meadowlark     1
House Finch     6
House Sparrow     8

Happy Birding!!

White-breasted Nuthatch


Going through older photographs, I came across this image of a White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis).  It is not a bird that you will see very often locally here in the Concho Valley.  We were spending a few days at Davis Mountains State Park in July of 2010.  We were at their bird viewing area spending some time.  After awhile I looked across the street where there is a open picnic area.  I noticed that there was a post in the ground with a spigot on it.  It was dripping water and there were several birds around it.  I picked up my tripod and 500mm lens and traipsed on over there.  Not very soon after setting up my equipment, this nutchatche showed up and I was able to get some nice photos.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Sibley’s describes it as our largest nuthatch. This species is found in open woods with mature trees, most often oak and pine trees, where it’s nasal calls are heard frequently.

Friday, January 7, 2011.   27 species

Northern Shoveler     12
American White Pelican     30
Great Blue Heron     3
Northern Harrier     1
Cooper’s Hawk     1
Red-tailed Hawk     1
American Kestrel     1
Killdeer     2
Greater Yellowlegs     6
Least Sandpiper     20
Ring-billed Gull     100
White-winged Dove     4
Mourning Dove     2
Blue Jay     1
Black-crested Titmouse     3
Bewick’s Wren     1
Northern Mockingbird     12
Curve-billed Thrasher     1
Spotted Towhee     1
Canyon Towhee     1
White-crowned Sparrow     12
Northern Cardinal     8
Pyrrhuloxia     8
Red-winged Blackbird     100
Western Meadowlark     4
House Finch     12
House Sparrow     6

Happy Birding!!

American White Pelican


Since we have been seeing several American White Pelicans Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) at O. C. Fisher Lake at San Angelo State Park, I thought I would make that the featured bird today.

It is an immense bird, 62 inches length, a wingspan of 108 inches or nine feet, and weighs in at over 16 pounds.  It is white with black flight feathers that can be seen in flight, and has a pinkish or yellow-orange bill.  This photograph was taken at O. C. Fisher Lake in San Angelo, Texas.  It was while I was taking this picture, that Ann was almost run over by a Bobcat.  She was standing behind me, and the Lynx came charging past, in pursuit of a jackrabbit.

American White Pelican

Today when we visited the park, there were about 75 pelicans there.  Some new arrivals were a couple of Chipping Sparrows that we hadn’t seen yet at the bird-blind. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011   Total species 24

Northern Shoveler     6
American White Pelican     75
Great Blue Heron     3
Cooper’s Hawk     1
Killdeer     2
Greater Yellowlegs     8
Least Sandpiper     12
Ring-billed Gull     200
White-winged Dove     6
Mourning Dove     2
Black-crested Titmouse     2
Bewick’s Wren     1
Northern Mockingbird     6
Curve-billed Thrasher     1
Spotted Towhee     1
Canyon Towhee     1
Chipping Sparrow     2
White-crowned Sparrow     12
Northern Cardinal     6
Pyrrhuloxia     6
Red-winged Blackbird     30
Western Meadowlark     4
House Finch     24
House Sparrow     6

Happy Birding!!