Big Birding Saturday with Sue Oliver

Who is Sue Oliver you might ask.  She is a friend of ours and one of the best birders in this area.  We had been talking about doing this for the past several months.  I also promised that I would put her name in headlines.  (Hence the title of this post).  She works at her job all week and only has time to get out on Saturdays.  We set it up to leave about 8:15AM, and we should have decided on going after a “Big Day” number.  We ended up seeing 51 species, and it could have been more, had we done a better job of deciding the route that we would take.

Belted Kingfisher – female

In the birders jargon, a “Big Day” is one where you try to see as many birds as possible.  Ann and I have, or had a record of 44 in one day back in 2011.  That was just she and I, and we were not really trying for a big number.  It just happened that way.

Pyrrholoxia – female

The weather was pretty cold when we started.  It was around 40 degrees and very cloudy, but not really uncomfortable unless we rolled the car windows down at higher speeds.  But as you probably know, birders do not travel at high speeds.

Northern Cardinal

We decided to head for Mertzon, Texas, a little town only about 20 miles southwest of San Angelo.  We took a round-a-bout way, through ranch country on some dusty caliche roads, and after three hours,(yes that’s right, three hours) of not many birds, we arrived in Mertzon.  We promptly stopped at a convenience store to answer nature’s call.  At that time, we had only chalked up about a dozen birds.  They were mostly sparrow types, grackles, and a few doves.  We were disappointed the way our birding exploits were going because we had wasted our time on those backroads.  Of course, we had now way of knowing that there would be such a shortage of birds on that route.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

There was a little county park there in Mertzon, with a dam and a low-water crossing.  We decided to check it out as we had heard that it would be a great place for birds.  We were really correct on that score.  There were Cardinals, Finches, Pied-billed Grebes, Pyrrholoxia and a Great Blue Heron.  But the star of the show was a Ringed Kingfisher, a rarity here in this area.  It was apparent that it had invaded the territory of two Belted Kingfishers.  Those two were not making the Ringed KF welcome.  All the time we watched they were constantly chasing one another.  Patiently waiting, I did get a couple of photos when it happened to perch for a few seconds.

Ringed Kingfisher

Ringed Kingfisher

We stayed around for a bit to see if there were any more surprises.  Nothing more exciting showed up, except some American Goldfinches, American Kestrels, and another Red-tailed Hawk.  I think that by then, we had seen 35 different species.

By then it was only about 2:00 PM.  We decided that we would head for Eldorado, a drive of about 35 miles.  We thought that we could add a bunch to our list at the Water Treatment Plant ponds.  And we did.  Plenty of birds there, however, some of them were duplicates of birds that we seen in Mertzon.  But we added a Wilson’s Snipe and a Northern Harrier, and several others including an American Widgeon.

American Wigeon

On the way home, entering San Angelo, we saw the first two Ring-billed Gulls of the season, and some European Starlings.  So all in all it was another fun day of birding here in the Concho Valley.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Here is a complete species list for you who may be interested.

  1. Red-tailed Hawk
  2. Mourning Dove
  3. Common Raven
  4. Western Meadowlark
  5. Common Grackle
  6. Savannah Sparrow
  7. Vesper Sparrow
  8. American Kestrel
  9. Northern Mockingbird
  10. Loggerhead Shrike
  11. Red-winged Blackbird
  12. Green-winged Teal
  13. Turkey Vulture
  14. Northern Cardinal
  15. Pyrrholoxia
  16. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  17. Black Vulture
  18. House Sparrow
  19. Ringed Kingfisher
  20. Eurasian Collared Dove
  21. Belted Kingfisher
  22. Pied-billed Grebe
  23. Great Blue Heron
  24. Pine Sisken
  25. American Goldfinch
  26. Brown-headed Cowbird
  27. Northern Shoveler
  28. Eastern Phoebe
  29. House Finch
  30. Eastern Bluebird
  31. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  32. Great-tailed Grackle
  33. Lark Sparrow
  34. Western Scrub Jay
  35. Wild Turkey
  36. Double-crested Cormorant
  37. American Coot
  38. Gadwall
  39. Ruddy Duck
  40. Northern Pintail
  41. Northern Harrier
  42. Ring-necked Duck
  43. Redhead
  44. Great Egret
  45. Spotted Sandpiper
  46. Lesser Scaup
  47. Wilson Snipe
  48. Blue-winged Teal
  49. Ring-billed Gull
  50. Rock Pigeon
  51. European Starling

A better day than yesterday

After not having much luck down at the South Llano State Park bird blinds, we returned to our old stomping grounds here at San Angelo State Park.

Actually, Ann went out there earlier with Pam Guelker, another birder, and the two of them mowed the grass at the blind.  I couldn’t be of much help yet because the doc said to take it easy on my back until I get the next x-ray.  Yes, I know that gives me an available excuse. 🙂  Anyway, after they were through, Ann came back to the house and picked me up.

Cactus Wren

We went back to the blind first for about an hour and saw a good collection including a Cactus Wren.  (They had done a great job of mowing, by the way).  After that we did a little drive around and saw some Herons and Black-necked Stilts on the lake.  I also spotted an American Kestrel.  The first one in several weeks.

I have notice that I have several overseas readers.  At least one in each of England, Australia, and Canada.  Okay, so Canada isn’t overseas, but you know what I mean.   So a hearty Hello! from San Angelo.  I don’t need to add Texas, as the only San Angelo in the USA is right here in Texas.  I guess that is best.  I don’t think San Angelo, New Jersey or San Angelo, Wisconsin would sound right.  Not southwesternish enough.  (I have a feeling I will get letters.) 🙂

Happy Birding!!

Super Bowl weekend photos

Merlin on utility pole.

Dismal weather doesn’t hold me back.  We were in and out of the house, just hanging out and driving around.  Friday morning on the way home from breakfast we spotted a Merlin high up on a power pole.  I checked and it is a prairie sub-species.  Later we drove downtown along the river with Jodie Wolslager and saw several Hooded Mergansers again.  This time I got a photo of a female, with the familiar red Don King hairdo.  Also saw a female Belted Kingfisher, and a Ringed Kingfisher.

Yesterday morning, Ann and I went to the bird blind at the state park to

Wstern Meadowlark

check on the feed supply and ran into a couple of new-comers to San Angelo.  They are Mike and Diane Coleman, who have moved here from Fallon, Nevada, and birding is one of their hobbies.  We then drove through the park for a bit and saw some beautiful Western Meadowlarks plus some other interesting sights.  We saw a Northerh Harrier soaring near the lake, apparently hunting prey, and saw another Harrier sitting on a large rock near the shore of the lake, chowing down on a large fish.

I am going to put some photos here.  The weather, for the most part, was damp and chilly so a few of the photos were taken from the car. 

Sharp-shinned Hawk

The Sharp-shinned Hawk was photographed at park’s bird blind.  It flew in, scaring the crap out of all of the other birds, and landed in a smaller tree.  At the time I had my Canon 7D with my 100-400mm zoom lens in myhands.  For the shot my vision was limited by a tree, but I had just enough room to place my center focus point on the hawk and came up with a good enough image to be able to identify it.

The Great Blue Heron, with it’s breeding plumage was high up on a lamp pole

Great Blue Heron

 along the Concho River downtown.  For that photo I got out of the van.  I sought out a vantage point fron behind some trees and hand-held my 7D with my 500mm lens.  I then had Ann help me get up off the ground so I wouldn’t fall into the river.  It’s hell to get old. 🙂

The Roadrunner was photographed from the window of the van as we were driving around the park.  He had just caught what looked like a large grasshopper.  The Western Meadowlark was in a tree nearby also.  So enjoy the photos.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

Belted Kingfisher - female

Happy Birding!!

Hooded Merganser - female

Greater Roadrunner

Northern Mockingbird

Birding at Lake Nasworthy Dam

Ann and I went out again yesterday to see if the Ringed Kingfisher was still there at the Lake Nasworthy Dam   She was, but only briefly, as she left hiding to fly downstream.  We discovered that this place is a really great place for birding.  We saw a Great Blue Heron fishing.  Also a Green Heron, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, and a Killdeer.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

There were probably many more species in the trees and reeds, but I got involved in photographing the Great Blue Heron and the Green Heron.  Here some shots for you to see.

To get to this area, drive south on Knickerbocker Road, go past Bentwood Country Club, turn left at the bottom of the hill onto Beatty Road.  Follow it as far as it goes, follow the curve around to the right.  You will see a dirt road

The Catch of The Day

The Catch of The Day

branch off to the left.  That will lead you down around to the base of the dam.  Drive as close to the dam as possible.  After you get out of the car, walk towards the dam.  You will see some more shallow little pools of water among the boulders. 

Green Heron

Green Heron

Have binoculars and/or spotting scopes.  Watch the reeds across the river, look in the pools, and especially look carefully at the dam itself.  You may see different species of shorebirds or others, either along the bottom of the dam, or sitting up in hidden spaces, or on the rails above.  This is one place that I am going to add to my favorite hot spots list.  Please let me now what some of your favorite hot spots are, and I’ll mention them here.

In other news, I’ve heard that there are tentative plans for building an additional bird blind at the San Angelo State Park.  That will be nice for all the birders that frequent that place.  The water is way down at the lake.   It only gained a little over 3 inches from the rains, and that will probably be gone again soon.  The eleven or so American Avocets are still out there.

Happy Birding!

More photos at