A Pre-Valentine’s Day Post


I am getting back into my routine since returning from the Big Bend.  The weather is moving up and down like a Disney roller-coaster.  93° last Saturday.  Maybe 45° today.  No matter, I try to get out for an hour or two, or three nearly every day.  The birding is improving, but having said that, it will probably be another wait for the spring birds to arrive.  But let me show you the photos I have gotten since my last post.  As usual, click on any image to see some nice enlargements.

Here in San Angelo we do have American Robins pretty regularly, but this year it seems there many, many more than in the past.  I see them almost everywhere I go.

American Robin - 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0,7 EV, ISO 3200, 450mm

American Robin – 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0,7 EV, ISO 3200, 450mm

This House Finch and the above robin were photographed early in the morning at the same darkish location, which accounted for the high ISO of 3200.  As you can see, they are sitting on the same branch.

House Finch, female - 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, +0,7 EV, ISO 3200, 550mm.

House Finch, female – 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, +0,7 EV, ISO 3200, 550mm.

I love to photograph the Northern Cardinals.  They are so photogenic, it is hard to get a bad image.

Northern Cardinal - 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 3200, 450mm

Northern Cardinal – 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 3200, 450mm

Loggerhead Shrike, AKA ‘the butcherbird’.  They love to impale their prey on a thorn or barbed wire before consuming them.

Loggerhead Shrike - 1/640 sec. @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 200, 600mm.

Loggerhead Shrike – 1/640 sec. @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 200, 600mm.

The Belted Kingfishers are not innocent either.  They dive and hit the water at about 100MPH, stabbing their fish, and giving themselves a nasty headache.

Belted Kingfisher, female. 1/640 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV, ISO 400, 600mm.

Belted Kingfisher, female. 1/640 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV, ISO 400, 600mm.

This Carolina Wren gave me a nice pose early one morning.

Carolina Wren - 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 640, 600mm.

Carolina Wren – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 640, 600mm.

Last week one day, we ventured out to about a dozen miles west of Eldorado, where this Burrowing Owl was making it’s home in a culvert.  When we arrived, we saw from about 100 yards down the road.  He was standing looking our way, like he was waiting for us to show up.  As we neared he jumped into the culvert, and turned and peeked out to look our way.  Of about 100 images this was one of my personal favorites.  My camera and lens gave me an excellent quality file to work with, and I was able to crop close and give you this portrait.

Burrowing Owl - 1/1600 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 400, 600mm.

Burrowing Owl – 1/1600 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 400, 600mm.

One day at San Angelo State Park ann spotted this Merlin off to the right of the car.  I only had time to shoot across Ann’s lap through her window.  The early morning gave me some good light.

Merlin - 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 1000, 600mm.

Merlin – 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 1000, 600mm.

Before we left the state park, we spotted this Red-tailed Hawk perched.  As I was starting to shoot, from about80 yards away, it decided to take flight.  I was ready, and I filled the frame with my lens.

Red-tailed Hawk - 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 320, 600mm.

Red-tailed Hawk – 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 320, 600mm.

I hope you enjoyed this post and all of the photographs.  I am working on adding images to my FineArtamerica store where you can buy prints and other items with my photography.

You may want to start a collection of my coffee mugs with birds or some of my landscape images.  They make fine gifts.  To browse and/or purchase, Click HERE.

One year ends, another begins……


Well, here it is the 29th of December and another year of blogging is about to come to a close.  I had threatened to stop with my final post of the year, but because of much encouragement from friend and readers, I will continue on.  This will be my 940th post, so maybe I can make it to 1,000 in 2017, and I will re-evaluate again when that time comes.

I must boast a bit about my success with this blog which is now in it’s 7th year.  Of the top 1,000 birding blogs on the web, I am number 190 as of this date.  I have had 209,856 hits by 46,707 viewers.  Of those, 2,318 have actually subscribed, where they will get an e-mail notification when I publish a post.  You can be a subscriber by clicking on ‘sign me up’.

But enough about me.  Let’s mention you, my loyal readers, that keep me encouraged by your likes and comments.  I love comments.  Feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts and feelings.

I can’t write a post with including a few photographs, which, I believe have improved greatly over history of this blog.  Of course that probably comes from practice, improved equipment and techniques.  Her are a few that I captured since Christmas day.

My favorite of this bunch is this Common Yellowthroat.  A very tiny, shy and elusive bird.  In my previous post, I had mentioned that Ann and I were getting up early to search for birds.  I can admit now that looking for the yellowthroat was our real reason.  Our persistence and patience paid off.  We parked every morning near a wet, reedy area, and watched and waited.  On the day after Christmas, he decided to gift us with a two minute viewing, early, right after sun-up.  Click on this and the following photos to see beautiful enlargements.

Common Yellowthroat - 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 5000.

Common Yellowthroat – 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 5000.

In the same area, this marsh wren was scurrying around.  I captured him a bit earlier than the yellowthroat, so the light was a bit darker.  That resulted in a high ISO number of 6400.  I used some software to decrease the color noise so the image is not great quality.  But I like the composition so here it is for your critique.

Marsh Wren - 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 6400.

Marsh Wren – 1/500 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 6400.

Across the water, this Black-crowned Night Heron looks like he is watching for a bus to come along.

Black-crowned Night Heron - 1/1000 sec. @f6.3, +0.3, ISO 2500.

Black-crowned Night Heron – 1/1000 sec. @f6.3, +0.3, ISO 2500.

I can’t resist trying to get photos of any Ruby-crowned Kinglet that I come across.  This one at Spring Creek Park.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 1/500 sec. @ f6.3. +0.3 EV, ISO 3200.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 1/500 sec. @ f6.3. +0.3 EV, ISO 3200.

Near the entrance to Spring Creek Park here in San Angelo, we spotted this Belted Kingfisher in a tree overlooking the water.  There were several twigs, etc, blocking him, but the spot focusing on my Canon 7D Mark II came through.

Belted Kingfisher - 1/1000 sec. @ f11, +0.3 EV, ISO 2500.

Belted Kingfisher – 1/1000 sec. @ f11, +0.3 EV, ISO 2500.

Another image of the always popular Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal. 1/500 sec. @f f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 3200.

Northern Cardinal. 1/500 sec. @f f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 3200.

As you have probably noticed, I love trying to photograph the tiny birds.  This one an Orange-crowned Warbler, scratching in the grass and weeds.

Orange-crowned Warbler - 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 2500.

Orange-crowned Warbler – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 2500.

Out at San Angelo State Park, we got lucky and saw two raptors.  The first is a beautiful Red-tailed Hawk, that co-operated and posed for this nice image.

Red-tailed Hawk - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +0.3 EV, ISO 160.

Red-tailed Hawk – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +0.3 EV, ISO 160.

My last photo before heading home, turned out to be one of my best images of a Merlin.  It wasn’t easy, and I almost deleted it when I saw the original in the computer.  Have a look:

Original merlin photo

Original merlin photo

He was about 300 yards away, and he looked tiny in the viewfinder.  With the naked eye it looked impossible to get a photo.  Fortunately, with my camera sitting solidly on my window sill, I was able to get that lone single focus dot on the breast of the bird.  I got home and loaded it into my computer.  First, I lightened it up.  I was surprised that the image was very usable.  This is what I came up with after really tight cropping, sharpening it up a bit, and adding some contrast.  Not bad, if I do say so myself. 🙂

 

Merlin - 1/1250 sec. @ f7.1, +0.3 EV, ISO 250.

Merlin – 1/1250 sec. @ f7.1, +0.3 EV, ISO 250.

Okay, that’s it for this, my final post of 2016.  I want to wish each and every one of you a fantastic Happy New Year of birding and shooting.

 

Pre-Super Bowl Images


I don’t know if I will go out birding tomorrow, so I will show you some photos from yesterday and this morning.  Of course, there is the possibility that I may get out Sunday morning, but if I do, I will show them in my Post-Super Bowl post. 🙂

These photos were all captured at Spring Creek Park here in San Angelo.  In no particular order, as we were just taking our time driving around.  Click on any image to see enlargements.

This is one of the bluest Western Bluebird that I have ever seen.  It was probably due to the early morning light.

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebird

We saw this Red-tailed Hawk across the water about 200 yards away.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

He didn’t hang around long.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Also across the water about the same distance, this Great Horned Owl sat on a bunch mistletoe in a mesquite tree.  We had been following him around all morning.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Last but not least, was the cute little Orange-crowned Warbler perched in the early morning sun.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

That is probably it for the weekend.  Hope you enjoyed the photos.

Happy Birding!!

Red-tailed Hawk – My favorite raptor


One of my favorite targets when I go hunting with my camera, is the Red-tailed Hawk.  I love all the raptors, but this one always makes me excited when I see one.  Then, I am all over myself, trying to get that special image.

Yesterday, I got another opportunity.  Cruising by the water at Spring Creek Park we spotted this Red-tailed Hawk across the water, about 150 yards away.  I wheeled the car around so my driver’s side would be directly across from his perch in a tree.

I put my SafariSack, a large bean-bag window rest, on the sill and rested my Canon 7D Mk II and Tamron 150-600mm lens on it.  As I focused in and started to press the shutter, he flew off the my left.  I continued to press the shutter as I did a quick pan.  I got off about ten shots in the space of two seconds.  This image is the only one of him that was completely within the frame, and even then he was in the upper left of the image.  I had to crop roughly 40 percent to get this composition.

The remarkable thing about it, my shutter speed was only 1/640 sec. At an aperture of f8 and the ISO at 250, it turned out to be an amazingly sharp photo.  I believe it to be one of my best of a Red-tailed Hawk.  This is pretty much how it came out of the camera.  No adjustments needed except for a minor touch-up with FocusMagic.  Did I ever tell you how much I love my Canon 7D Mark II?

Red-tailed Hawk in flight.

Red-tailed Hawk

This morning Ann and I took a quick trip out there again.  Really cold, about 32° when we got there.  No raptors, save for a Cooper’s Hawk that did a flyover.

I did get a few small bird photos.  This juvenile White-crown Sparrow decided to show me his back-side.

White-crown Sparrow - juvenile

White-crown Sparrow – juvenile

An American Goldfinch perched on a tree branch a few feet away from the car.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

The Gray Catbird is still hanging around, too.  This image as he was spotted deep in the brush.

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

Visiting the Big Bend – Part Two


In this part two or our visit to the Big Bend area,(click for Part one) I am going to show you more of the scenic grandeur of the place.  I know that this blog is mainly about birds, but sometime I just have to get out of that mode for awhile.  Not that I didn’t watch for birds during our visit.  We saw a total of 35 species, but I was also overwhelmed with all of the beauty.  You will understand when you see this scene to welcome you in the morning.

Big Bend Sunrise

Big Bend Sunrise

What a way to start the day.  For breakfast we headed to La Posada Milagro in the Terlingua ghost town for their fantastic burritos and steaming hot coffee.

Energized and ready to go, we piled in the car and headed out.  We entered the Big Bend National Park and headed for Ross Maxwell Highway.  It is a route that will take us past some high scenic views and on down to Santa Elena Canyon.  Again, I will mostly let the photos do all of the talking, as to be perfectly honest, I am not an expert on the geologic materials of the land.  A lot of lava created formations dot the area.

This highway skirts the western side of the Chisos Mountains and there are some great scenic pull-offs.  Such as the Sotol Vista pull-off where this photo was taken.  From an altitude of what I surmise to be about 6500 feet, you can see Santa Elena Canyon, about 20 miles distant.

View from Sotol Vista

View from Sotol Vista

This is Tuff Canyon, so named for the white material that is beneath most of the topsoil in the region.  There is a hiking path to the bottom of the canyon, but we were content to just roam the rim.

Tuff Canyon

Tuff Canyon

Tuff and volcanic rock formation.

Tuff and volcanic rock formation.

This next photograph, I have named “Texas Moonscape”.  One of my favorite photos of the trip.

"Texas Moonscape"

“Texas Moonscape”

A lone Loggerhead Shrike surveys the desert for maybe a snack.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Old ruins are scattered all over the big bend area, many of them are in this national park.

Old ruins and Cerro Castelan in the background.

Old ruins and Cerro Castellan in the background.

Farther along the way, we passed the Cottonwood Campground.  It is a popular RV campsite, but one of best birding areas in the park.  We decided to spend some time checking it out.  We saw many species there including this Vermilion Flycatcher.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Rock Wren

Rock Wren

Arriving at Santa Elena Canyon is an awesome sight to behold.  This image shows the Rio Grande exiting from it’s nine mile run through the canyon and heading downstream to cut more canyons on it’s journey to the Gulf of Mexico.  These walls reach a height of 1,500 feet.

Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon

After spending some time at the canyon, we decided to return by the Old Maverick Road.  It is a thirty mile rough, washboard road that will eventually return us to the park entrance, but not before showing some amazing scenery and this old Mexican Jacal.  A man by the name of Gilberto Luna built it when he was first married.  He lived there all of his life, had five marriages and many children, finally dying in 1947 at the ripe old age of 108.  So if you do the math, this jacal is roughly 150 years old.  The National Park Service manages to keep in close to original condition.

Gilberto's Jacal

Gilberto’s Jacal

That pretty much concludes our visit.  Of course, this is condensed as I had taken several hundred images.  But I believe I covered the main points.  I hope you enjoyed the journey,

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

and on the way out of the park, I managed to capture this amazing beauty.  What a great way to end the trip.  I can never get enough photographs of the beautiful Red-tailed Hawk.

Click any image to see beautiful enlargements.

Happy Birding!

 

Visiting the Big Bend – Part One


We just returned from a glorious trip to the Big Bend area of Texas.  That is the place where the Rio Grande makes that bend from flowing southeast to flowing northeasterly.  In that Vee shaped area is the Big Bend National Park, and adjacently, Big Bend Ranch State Park.  It is a harsh, isolated, but beautiful environment.  There you will find the wild Rio Grande cutting through narrow canyons with cliffs up to 2,ooo feet high.  The Chisos Mountain range is the center piece of the national park, with high peaks laced with hiking trails and home to black bear, mountain lions, and other wildlife.

This is where Ann and I, along with our dear friends from Tennesse, spent five wonderful days.  In this post, and part 2, I am going to show you some of the scenic land, along with some of the avian activity.  I will, for the most part, let my photos do the talking. They are random highlights from our adventure, and in no particular order.  Also, click on any image to see enlargements.

This is a view of the Chisos Mountains from about twenty miles.

Road to the Chisos

Road to the Chisos

A Cactus Wren looking for meal in the bark of a desert plant.

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

Greater Roadrunners abound in the area.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

Along the Rio Grande is a trail that leads to a natural hot springs bath, built back in the early 1900’s by J. O. Langford.  He was seeking relief for his own ailing health.  The original rock walls are still in place, and tourists can sit and dip their feet or slip on a bathing suit and go all the way.

Indian Pictographs

Indian Pictographs

Hwy 170, of which a portion is in Big Bend Ranch State Park, is known as one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the country.  The following two images are from that highway.  Across the river, of course, is Mexico.

Along the Rio Grande

Along the Rio Grande

Colorado Canyon

Colorado Canyon

A Say’s Phoebe perches on an ocotillo branch.

Say's Phoebe

Say’s Phoebe

When driving through the Big Bend stay alert.  You may see a scene like this sneak up on you.  A Red-tailed Hawk, having lunch in some high rock croppings.

Red-tailed Hawk at lunch.

Red-tailed Hawk at lunch.

I hope you are enjoying our journey, so far.  I am working at processing more of my photos from the trip and will be publishing Part Two in a few days.  Watch for it!!

 

 

 

A little of this and that…..


Today , because of some cold weather the past few days, I am just going to touch on a few odds and ends.

Being inside gave me a chance to go back through some of my old files.  One of my favorite subjects is the photographing the raptors.  Large hawks, etc.  Well, going through my old photographs of Red-tailed Hawks, I found an image that I had photographed back on September 27, 2013.  In checking my records I found that during that time, we were in Big Bend National Park.  I had taken this photo of a beautiful hawk, sitting on a fence post.  I had never posted it anywhere before.  Looking at this image again, I realized that I had mis-identified it.  Not a Red-tailed Hawk, but a beautiful Peregrine Falcon.  Back in those days, I didn’t know as much about IDing hawks as I do now.

The irony of it is that the Peregrine Falcon had been on my bucket list to get a great photograph of one.  I had seen one in flight in the distance but that is all.  Now, here is one that was right in front of me, and I never realized it.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

A few days before the cold front blasted through, our friends, Suzanne and Sid Johnson, invited Ann and I to come down and do some birding around the Eldorado, Texas area.  We jumped at the chance, as we love to bird with them, and the birding is usually good around there.

We visited the water treatment ponds there, and it was teeming with many water birds.  But we also saw our first Yellow-headed Blackbird and Marsh Wren of the year.  Always nice to add to our 2015 list as we still have a way to go to meet our goal of 210.  One of the highlights was an American White Pelican on the water.  As we drove around checking out the ducks, birds, etc. it was content to just swim and feed by itself.

Eventually, it decided to take flight.  I was a bit unprepared for it, but I jumped from the car and quickly was able to acquire it in the viewfinder of my Canon 7D Mark II with a Tamron 150-600mm lens.  As it flew toward me I rattled off a few shots at 10 fps.  It was shot at 273mm as I didn’t have time to zoom in closer to the 600mm focal length.  But with cropping I came away with this nice image.  1/8,000 sec. @ f11, ISO 3200.

American White Pelican

American White Pelican

This morning, my friend, Jim Miller, ranted in a post about Lightroom and Adobe’s CC (Creative Cloud).  He also jokingly referred to it as Adobe’s Cash Cow.  Anyway, he was telling how Adobe is making it harder to edit your photos, import the files, etc.

Personally, I don’t use Lightroom or the Adobe’s Creative Cloud.  I am the black sheep, I guess, but I use a much simpler method.  I download my photos to FastStone Image Viewer.  It is a cheap, read free, software.  I convert my RAW images there, then simply import them into my old Photoshop CS5 for editing.  I use an old secret recipe that has been handed down.  In other words I will not tell you the plug-ins that I use to assist me. 🙂

Using my methods I feel that my results speak for themselves.  I have been called the best bird photographer they have ever seen, by some of my peers.  I have been published in various magazines, including a back cover shot in National Wildlife Magazine.  I am not speaking negatively about Adobe Lightroom as I have several friends, those peers that I mentioned, that use it with great success. So it doesn’t matter what you use.  It is knowing how to use what you have.

I guess that’s it for today.  Click on any of the images to see some nice enlargements.  Hope you enjoyed the post and the photos.