Birding in San Angelo and number 199.

Thinks are looking up here in San Angelo in west Texas.  Several days ago I posted about the golf course at San Angelo Country Club, because I didn’t have any new birds to report.  Birds seemingly were scarce, and we didn’t see as many as we used to do.

Things changed today.  Ann and I are getting ready for my upcoming reception and book-signing at the Art Gallery in Fort Davis, so we haven’t had much time to bird.  This afternoon about 1:00 PM we decided to take a break and head to the parks at nearby Lake Nasworthy.  We birded until about 3:00, or about two hours and saw thirty-six species.  Wow!  What an improvement over the past few weeks.

The highlight of the day was spotting a Red-shouldered Hawk.  In our local checklist, it is listed as “uncommon – usually present but hard to find”.  We were about to leave Spring Creek Park when Ann spotted it on a tree branch, staring down into the weedy brush.  I quickly drove ahead about fifty yards, made a U turn and pulled back up so I could get a photo from my driver’s side car window.

Just as I got my Canon 7D Mark II with the Tamron 150-600mm lens lined up, the bird apparently spotted some prey in the brush.  He dove down and was out of sight for a few minutes.  We waited a bit and were ready to leave, when he flew from the brush and was visible through our windshield as he headed for the other side of the road.

I could see him far into the woods, so I turned the car around and drove back over.  I couldn’t get a bead on him from the car, so I got out and walked to the treeline.  I could spot him about fifty yards away in the the mesquites, sitting on a branch with his back to me.  I hand-held the camera and squeezed off a few shots, just seconds before he took off again.  I really didn’t know if I had good results until I got the images loaded into my digital darkroom.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

It turns out that I got lucky.  The red shoulders aren’t very visible but the Sibley’s guide says that they aren’t always visible on an adult.  Besides, when he flew over our windshield, we definitely saw the unmistakeable burnt-orange underparts.  By the way, this was to be our 199th bird on our quest to reach 200 species for the year, so we were pretty happy with that.  Of course, in any other year, we would have already seen a Red-shouldered Hawk by this time.

I also was able the get this beautiful female American Goldfinch.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

She was in the brush along the treeline in Spring Creek Park.  There were various other small birds, Dark-eyed Juncos, Black-crested Titmouses, Bewick’s Wrens, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, but I was unable to get usable photos of any of them because of the thick brush.

We also saw along the way, a flyover of a Red-tailed Hawk, a Northern Flicker, a Forster’s Tern on a buoy in the lake, and the other usual woodpeckers, sparrows, cormorants, and American Coots.

This may be the last post from me for a few says.  We will be leaving for Fort Davis on Thursday morning and not returning until next Tuesday.  I may have some new photos for you on our return.

Forgotten Red-shouldered Hawks

Photographing raptors, i.e. hawks, owls,eagles, etc. is really my favorite thing.  Sometimes I get these photographs and they disappear into my archives.  Going through those archives I came upon these images of a Red-shouldered Hawk.  I can’t say they are of the same hawk, but I do know that they were all taken in the vicinity of a nest down at Christoval, Texas, on the Dan Brown Ranch.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

I hope you enjoy these images.   I may have already posted one of them at an earlier time.  Click on any of them to see some outstanding enlargements.

Quiz 1 – Results are in!

Before I get to the main subject of this post, I need a favor from all of you.  You may have noticed that I now have a Bob Zeller Photography Facebook page.  Please check it out by clicking on the link or the link on the right side of this page.  Then do me a favor and click “like” for me.  I am new to all of this stuff, but I understand that if I get 30 “likes” something special will happen.  I don’t know what it is.  Maybe bombs will burst, fireworks will flare, streamers will fall, confetti will fall, I will get the key to the city, or I will get the the man of the year award.  Who knows, but I would like for all of you to have a look. 🙂

Okay, let get to it!  From all of the comments this week, my first Bird ID quiz has been a smash hit.  So I will not keep you in suspense any further.  Here are the results from 45 votes:

  • Lark Sparrow                        17 votes
  • Red-winged Blackbird       18    “
  • Sage Thrasher                          9    “
  • Common Grackle                    1    “
  • Red-shouldered Hawk          0   ”

    Female Red-winged Blackbird

The photo is a female Red-winged Blackbird, (Agelaius phoeniceus).  It sure fooled a lot of people.  The female is actually an attractave bird.  Most females of other species are usally kinda drab.  In the photo you can see just a smidge of red in the shoulder, though not always visible.  I threw in the choice of the Red Shouldered Hawk, to see if I could catch any of you off guard.  It has that reddish spot on the shoulder also.

I appreciate all of you that have voted.  Check back in tomorrow, Saturday April 21, to see what I have in store for you in Quiz #2.  Ann and I spent a couple of hours last night dreaming up the dastardly thing.  Heh! Heh!

Lark Sparrow

For those that thought it was a Lark Sparrow, here is what one looks like.

Sage Thrasher

And above, the third place Sage Thrasher.  The fourth place Common Grackle needs no introduction, besides, I don’t have a picture of one. 🙂  Click on any image to see enlargements.

Red-shouldered Hawk

I recently had the experience of seeing a Red-shouldered Hawk  (Buteo limeatus) sitting on the nest.  Later I saw him swoop down to get to a piece of raw meat on the ground.  This took place at Dan Brown’s Hummer House and bird refuge.  Dan, himself, tossed out the meat.  I was on hand with my Canon 7d with a 500mm lens, attached to a Manfrotto tripod.  My goal was to photograph the hawk as he grabbed the meat.  I was a little slow, or the bird was very, very fast.  Take your pick.  I prefer to say that he was just too fast for me. 🙂

Feeding Red-Shouldered Hawk

Anyway I missed the shot, but I did get a nice image of him feeding on the meat.   Sibley’s describes the Red-shouldered Hawk as a small forest buteo, usually found near water, hunts mainly mammals, some reptiles and amphibians from perches.  It is rather compact, stocky, and accipiter-like with relatively short, broad wings; all show translucent pale crescent across wingtips.  It has a noticeable red area on the shoulders.  This next photo shows him sitting on a tree branch.

Red-shouldered Hawk

On an earlier trip to the Davis Mountains, we spotted this next one in an open field, watching for a meal.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Enjoy the photos and click on any of them to see an enlargement.

In other news, Suzanne and Sid Johnson, of  Eldorado, Texas were fortunate to see a Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens) near the south entrance to San Angelo State Park on Saturday, January 8.   Dr. Terry Maxwell of Angelo State University, stated there has only been around eight sightings of that species in this area in the past half-century.   Naturally, I have been on the watch since then to try to get a glimpse of it myself.  So far, my search has been in vain.

Happy Birding

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Raptors, and especially hawks, fascinate me.  They soar majestically in the skies and sometimes nearer to the ground in their hunt for prey.  I watch in awe as they alight in tree-tops or on the ground.

This photo of a Red-shouldered Hawk gives me mixed feelings.  It and another one have started nesting on Dan Brown’s ranch near Christoval.  I had photographed one of them earlier.  In it, he is majestically resting on a tree branch staring intently at me as I took his photo.  This image is the second one below, and a print of it is framed and hanging above Dan Brown’s mantel.

But I have a certain un-easiness with the first photograph.  Indeed I am proud of the image, as it shows the hawk contemplating his dinner.  But, ethically, I don’t really approve of the way I got the job done.  You see, it was “staged”.  Dan Brown wants the hawks to stay longer, so he has taken to feeding the hawks, by throwing meat out for it.  In this photo, one of Dan’s help threw the snack so I get this great photograph.

I usually abstain from doing this, as I would rather get my pictures by catching these wild creatures doing things naturally.  I wouldn’t take pictures of animals or birds in a zoo and use them for publication.  But in this case, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the bird.  Of course, this is a wild bird, at least for now.  I would hate to see it get too used to humans.

Contemplating Dinner

Red-shouldered Hawk

Enjoy the photos, and as usual, click on either image to see and enlargement.

Happy Birding!

Hawks, Hawks, Hawks!

To me  there is hardly anything more beautiful than a hawk soaring through the air, on the hunt for prey.  I love to photograph them on the wing whenever possible.  But I take what I can get.  For example the Zone-tailed Hawk pictured here was perched in the rain, getting soaking wet.  That was the first one I had ever seen and that, of course, is the only photograph that I have, and I was lucky to get it, as it flew away seconds after I took the shot.  The Zone-tailed Hawk is often mistaken for a vulture because of it’s slouching posture when perching and it’s similar flying habits.

wet Zone-tailed Hawk

I have something new for my blog posts now.  When I am discussing subjects, such as  birds, animals, flowers, etc., I can assign a link, if one is available, to them as in the paragraph above.  If you click on any of those links, they will take to you to more in-depth articles.  So today I am going to show you some of my hawk photographs. 

First up is a Red-shouldered Hawk that I photographed at the Hummer House near Christoval, Texas.  Dan Brown, the owner, had put some meat out for it, and after devouring it, the bird perched in the tree.

Red-shouldered Hawk

 The following is a Northern Harrier that I photographed at San Angelo StatePark.  It was doing it’s usual thing, of flying low over the mesquite and brush.  Again it didn’t come close enough to me to get a great picture, but the image that I did get shows the distinct white wide stripe on the lower back and tail.

Northern Harrier

The Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk are very similar in appearance except that the Coopers is about 5 inches taller.  Other than that, they both are long-tailed and short-winged, and are agile in maneuvering to catch their prey. These two photos were both taken at San Angelo State Park.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

One of the larger buteo hawks is the Swainson’s Hawk.  This one was perched on the cross-bar of a utility pole outside the entrance to San Angelo State Park.

Swainson's Hawk

The buteo to which all other hawks are compared is the Red-tailed Hawk.  Similar in size to the Swainson’s hawk but very conspicuous with the red tail.  This is one that I was lucky enough to catch in flight, and one of my personal favorites.

Red-tailed Hawk

I hope you have enjoyed todays photos.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Well we made it to the Hummer House yesterday.  What a beautiful day for birding it was.   Saw a good collection of birds, but not as plentiful as there will be in a couple of weeks.  We did see a Painted Bunting, among others, but the highlight of the day was seeing the Red-shouldered Hawk nest.  This hawk is not common for this area as it mostly resides to the east of here. 

I hope to make more trips there so I can see the progress of the young ones after they have hatched.  I have posted some of my photos here for your enjoyment.  I am rather proud of them.  One image shows the hawk on the nest, the others are two images of  he or she in a nearby tree.

In other news Susanne Johnson reported 25 White-faced Ibises are (or were) at the water treatment ponds down in Eldorado,  plus some other water and shore birds.  Jodie Wolslager sent me a photo of about 25 Yellow-headed Blackbirds that she saw near the country club.  I had personally never seen such a large flock of those beautiful birds.  I may venture out that way later this evening to see if I can find them.  Also Sue Oliver sent me a photo of a Greater Roadrunner that she took near her house.

Red-shouldered Hawk on nest

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk