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.

Testing the new Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DI VC USD G2 lens.


I had heard much about how Tamron had improved the new generation two of their 150-600mm lens.  I had owned the original version since it came out a couple of years ago.  I decided to make the upgrade, so I opened the box with much anticipation.  It appeared to be visually pretty much like the old one.  But on closer inspection, I saw that the tripod ring is removable.  Also, the zoom lens can be locked any position’

I took it out into the field to see how it performed.  Wow!!  First the auto-focus  seems to be much faster and the improved VC, Tamron’s version of image stabilization is advertised to be about four and half stops better without it.  What impressed me most is the improved resolution and sharpness.  The top photo is the original of a House Sparrow straight from the camera with no post processing at all, except for me adding my copyright.  I had the lens attached to my Canon 7D Mark II.  No tripod was used, but I had the camera resting on a bean-bag on the sill of my Ford Escape.  The same set-up was used for all of the images in this post.

House Sparrrow - original and un-retouched.

Chipping Sparrow, female – original and un-retouched.  1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 320.

This is the same image, cropped about 50-60%.  No post processing at all.  I can not see any loss of sharpness or resolution.

House Sparrow - cropped and un-retouched.

Chipping Sparrow, female – cropped and un-retouched.

Here is another.  A Yellow-rumped Warbler.  Cropped, but no other post-processing.  Notice the high ISO of 5000.

Yellow-rumped Warbler - 1/1600 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 5000

Yellow-rumped Warbler – 1/1600 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 5000.

So, as you can understand, I am as happy as a gopher in soft dirt.  I was very happy with first version and I had used it for two years.  But it was rare for me to be able to crop a photo and not have to do some post-processing.  One more thing before I forget, the lens was extended all the way to 600mm.  No loss of resolution, but that was true of the original version of this lens.  For my bird photography, I am zoomed to the full 600mm most of the time.

Here are several more images from the past week or so, many of them on very overcast and damp days.  And before you ask, yes, most of them have been post-processed.  I can’t get lucky all the time.

Eastern Phoebe - 1/1000 sec. @f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 640.

Eastern Phoebe – 1/1000 sec. @f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 640.

Here was a real challenge.  In the brush at Spring Creek Park, early in the morning.  We could barely see this Hermit Thrush.  The new lens managed to focus in the low light.  Here is the original.

Hermit Thrush - original - 1/800 sec, @ f6.3, + 1.0 EV, ISO 6400

Hermit Thrush – original – 1/800 sec, @ f6.3, + 1.0 EV, ISO 6400

Here is the the cropped and processed image.  I used Topaz DeNoise to remove any noise from using the high ISO of 6400.

Hermit Thrush after post-processing. Noise from the high ISO was removed using DeNoise.

Hermit Thrush after post-processing.

This handsome devil was perched atop a telephone, about 200 yards away.  He was probably digesting his breakfast that he got at the local Carrion CarryOut.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 320.

Another high ISO image, this American Gold finch gave me a fit, trying to get him in focus back in the deep brush, as he continually moved around.

American Goldfinch - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 5000.

American Goldfinch – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 5000.

This Northern Cardinal brightened the morning.

Northern Cardinal - 1/1600 sec. @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 640.

Northern Cardinal – 1/1600 sec. @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 640.

This juvenile White-crowned Sparrow was trying to stay hidden, without sucess, in the twigs.

White-crowned Sparrow - 1/1600 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 640.

White-crowned Sparrow, juvenile – 1/1600 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 640.

Ya gotta love the Vermilion Flycatchers.  They are little cuties.

Vermilion Flycatcher, female. 1/1250 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 250.

Vermilion Flycatcher, female. 1/1250 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 250.

One of the most difficult raptors to photograph is the American Kestrel.  Very elusive, always on the move and hard to get close to.  This image from about 120 yards.

American Kestrel - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 160.

American Kestrel – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 160.

After using this lens for about a week now, I am thoroughly happy with it.  I can’t wait to get out and shoot some more photos.  I hope you enjoyed these images.  Please click on any photo to see some very nice enlargements.

Until the next post, Happy Birding and Happy Shooting.

Comments are appreciated.

 

Let’s blog for another year.


In my previous post I mentioned that it was the seven year anniversary of this blog.  After much soul-searching, horn-blowing, champagne-drinkin’ and general partying, I have decided to go for another year.  Or at least make it until my 1000th post, which this one is my 927th.  Or which comes first.  We will whoop it up then and make another decision if need be.

The birding is still a bit slow, considering the time of the year.  I guess it is because of the continuing high temperatures here in San Angelo.  I think the summer birds got tired of the heat and left town.  Their replacements, the fall and winter birds, decided to delay their visit because it is still darned hot here.

But, we still get out several days a week, hoping to get to see something new or get good photos of any hangers-on.  Here are a few recent images that I am proud of.  I was using my Canon EOS 7D Mark II.  Lens was my Tamron 150-600mm.  I will begin to try to put my exposure data under each photo.  It is something new that I thought I would try.  Several of my readers say that they would like to know how I shoot my photographs.

We stopped near a shrubby area at the Isabelle Harte Multi-use area of San Angelo State Park.  We spotted some bird activity within, and after waiting a few minutes, this Yellow Warbler came out of the branches into view.  It was early in the morning, and the bird was backlit, thus the reason of the one stop EV adjustment.

Yellow Warbler - 1/1000th sec. @f7.1, +1 EV, ISO 1000.

Yellow Warbler – 1/1000th sec. @f7.1, +1 EV, ISO 1000.

This bobwhite was about 30 yards away, partially backlit and shaded by some tree branches.

Northern Bobwhite - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +1 EV adjustment, ISO 1000.

Northern Bobwhite – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, +1 EV, ISO 1000.

This Vermilion Flycatcher was high atop a tree branch, pretty far off, but my Tamron 150-600 long lens helped me out.

Vermilion Flycatcher - 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 160.

Vermilion Flycatcher – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 160.

There are still several Scissor-tailed Flycatchers in San Angelo State Park.  Most of them we have found lately are the short-tailed juveniles, but we did come upon this adult.  One of my favorite birds.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 250.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 250.

This morning we heard, before we saw it, this Cactus Wren.  Very rare for me to get so close to one.  Another one that was heavily backlit by the morning sun.

Cactus Wren - 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +1.7 EV, ISO 320.

Cactus Wren – 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +1.7 EV, ISO 320.

I hope you enjoy my post today.  I would love to hear your questions or comments, so let’s hear what you have to say.

Happy Birding!!


 

Recent Odds and Ends…..


The weather is continuing to be warm, read very warm, and the birds continue to be stressed and they keep to themselves hidden somewhere in the trees and landscape.  However, that doesn’t stop Ann and I from getting out a couple of hours each morning.  Although not getting many images, I have lucked out and got a few nice ones.  Here is a collection, mostly from the past several months that I believe that I may not have ever posted here.  Some may be even older.  My Facebook readers will probably recognize many of them.  If you can, PLEASE view this on a computer.  That way if you click on any image, you can see some very beautiful enlargements.

This Painted Bunting we found at an old mudhole that was on the verge of drying up.  If I were to go there this morning, I am sure it would be dry.  Anyway, I think this is one of my favorite photos of this bird, and I think it is a great start to this blog post.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

This Greater Roadrunner that I photographed yesterday at San Angelo State Park ranks as one of my best of that species.  I love the way the light enhanced the various colors of the feathers.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

Since I have been spending more time in the house, I have been at the computer going through images from the past few months, that I hadn’t edited or sorted.  This Pyrrhuloxia was photographed in the early morning light of July 21 of this year.

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

We came across this Greater Roadrunner one day at San Angelo State Park.  He was so close to me that I opted to get a portrait of him.  I found it quite interesting.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

I never pass up a chance to photograph these tiny Vermilion Flycatchers

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

In the birding community, the females don’t usually get their due.  The female Grosbeak, in my opinion is a beautiful bird as you might agree.

Blue Grosbeak - female

Blue Grosbeak – female

One of the cutest birds that I know of, is the Black-crested Titmouse.  But they also are very feisty and you don’t like to be messed with.

Black-crestedd Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

At the Hummer House down near Christoval, Texas I as enjoying photographing the many, many hummgbirds there.  I thought this image moved the cute meter up a notch.

Black-chinnedd Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Of all of my Great Horned Owl photos, I rank this image as one of my personal favorites.  I try to photograph this species at every opportunity.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

This photo would fool you.  As a juvenile Curve-billed Thrasher, it has neither the curved bill nor the orange eye of the adult.

Curve-billed Thrasher - juvenile

Curve-billed Thrasher – juvenile

Another bird that is difficult photograph is the Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  To happen to catch one with the red crown showing is a bonus.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Another one with the same degree of difficulty is the cute little Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

When I was much younger and not at all interested in birds of any kind, I used to think that all the little ones were sparrows.  The medium size up was all pigeons.  The really big birds. think large and XX large, were all eagles.  Then the ones on water were all ducks.   But now that I am getting more educated in the avian species, boy, am I ever getting surprised.   I have found that there are over fifty different species of sparrows alone. Wow! Holey-moly, Batgirl!!  Who’da thought!  Well, this Grasshopper Sparrow is one of the more unusual ones.

Grasshsopper Sparrow

Grasshsopper Sparrow

I think that will be all for this post.  I hope you have enjoyed reading and seeing the photographs.

’til next time,

Happy Birding!!!

Something New, Something Old


While trying to get new material, AKA photos, for my posts, the birds are not co-0perating much for me these warm days.  But, having said that, I do have a few new ones that I captured recently, and I will combine them with some older ones from my archives.   A few of them I may have never posted, so even they may be new to you.

First, I would like to bring to your attention an error that I made a few weeks ago.  An alert reader, Carla Savage, e-mailed me and asked me to re-check the ID of a photo that I posted on July 2, as a juvenile Curve-billed Thrasher.  It turns out that it is actually a female Brown-headed Cowbird.  There are similarities, and a friend had insisted that it was the Thrasher.  I took his word, and didn’t take a closer look.  As I said they are similar to each other, however the beak of the bird in the photos, is a bit too thick for a thrasher.  I thank Carla for correcting me.

Now back to some photos.  Here are a some from my archives.

I got lucky one day at the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.  This female Ruby-throated Hummingbird showed up and really got interested int the water dripping from the rocks.

Ruby-throated Hummingbidrd

Ruby-throated Hummingbidrd – female

While roaming along the brush line at the edge of Spring Creek Park, I saw this Carolina Wren perched on a branch.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

And one of my personal all time favorites, I photographed this American Kestrel at San Angelo State Park a few years ago.  Because it was so far away, the image didn’t lend itself to doing a close crop, so I opted for this nearly full frame adaptation.  Somehow, during editing I accidentally came up with this 3D effect.  I don’t have any idea, except a guess, how it happened.  But regardless how it happened, I love it.

American Kestrel in tree.

American Kestrel in tree.

A couple of years ago, during a little drive through Spring Creek Park, we spotted a large dark bird on a branch.  At first we thought it was just a Turkey Vulture.  But as we got closer we realized it was a Zone-tailed Hawk, and it had it’s lunch spread on the branch.  One reason we were initially fooled, is because the Zone-tailed Hawk behaves like a vulture.  It perches like one and flew like one.

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

A couple of years ago we made a trip to Pedernales State Park.  It is one our favorite birding spots when we want to make little trips out of town.  They have two large bird blinds that make for excellent bird viewing.  This is an image of a Summer Tanager that I got on that trip.

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

Now back to some more recent photos, I captured this Northern Bobwhite a few days ago at San Angelo State Park.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

This Greater Roadrunner showed up on the same trip to that park.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

This morning Ann and I visited a favorite spot near Twin Buttes Reservoir.  We saw several birds, but the following two photos were really the highlights of the one hour stay.  This adult male Painted Bunting…….

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

…….and this juvenile Vermilion Flycatcher, possibly a first year male.

Vermilion Flycatcher - juvenile

Vermilion Flycatcher – juvenile

I hope you enjoyed the photographs.  Click on any of the images to see some nice enlargements.

Happy Birding!!

July Fourth Holiday images


As I said before in my previous post, the weather is really warming now.  We have visited the local parks and as far as birding, the results are almost nil.  For example, Ann and I decided to check out the local parks around Lake Nasworthy this morning.  I never had a chance to press the shutter on my camera.  That is not good.  We have been having much better luck, though, at San Angelo State Park.  We have made three trips out there and by taking our time and driving over those approximately 20 miles of roads, I have picked up some very nice photographs.  We are usually home by noon as the temperatures start to reach 100° by then.  Here are some images from the past few days.  Click on any of them to see some nice enlargements.

We had reports of a Swainson’s Hawk nest, just a couple of miles from our home, off the frontage road of Loop 306.  To get a good view we had to park behind the local Steak Express and watch it from across the highway.  Thank goodness for long lenses. We parked there for about an half hour on two previous mornings and could only see a bit of feathers of a young one on the nest, behind some leaves and branches.  This third morning, we were treated with the arrival of the adult.

Swainsons's Hawk

Swainsons’s Hawk

We headed out to San Angelo State Park after that.  As we started driving around, we heard first the call of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a few minutes later we spotted him in the branches.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Another view of another Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

All over the park we could hear the call of the Bobwhites.  It wasn’t difficult to see some in the low tree branches.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

There is an abundance of Ash-throated Flycatchers in the park.  I was able to get really close to this one, for a formal head-and-shoulders portrait.

Ash-throated Flycatcher portrait

Ash-throated Flycatcher portrait

We spotted this Blue Grosbeak from a distance.  Too far for a decent photograph.  So we decided to wait.  We sat in the car with the engine turned off and eventually it, or one just like it, finally alit about 100 feet away.  He seemed to be happy.

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

Another bird that is hard to get close to is the Painted Bunting.  We would spot several high in the tops of trees, but, again,  too far for a photo.  But as with the Blue Grosbeak, we eventually got lucky again and I was able the capture this one.  One just need patience.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

The Common Night Hawk is just the opposite.  Pretty easy to photograph, but very difficult to find.  This one was in a tree in the Isabelle Harte Multi-use area of the park.  It was only about seven feet off of the ground, but because of their coloring we nearly missed it.  I was only about 20 feet away, in my car, AKA my mobile blind, when I made the photograph.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

We decided to move away as I don’t like to stay too close, even though I was well hidden.  But it did eventually fly from the perch and landed across the road in another tree.  I took this next photo from farther away, and as you can see, if I didn’t already know the bird was there, it would have been hard to spot.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

Happy Fourth of July


I am wishing everybody a happy and safe July 4th weekend.  Ann and I have been here and there since my last post, several days ago.  But, not to worry, we saw many of the avian species and I obtained a nice collection of photographs.  During that time we were invited to Stephen and Nakia’s place in the Davis Mountains.  They have several acres at an elevation of about 6,000 feet.  They have set up a nice birding area.  He had a portable blind, but I preferred my more comfortable mobile blind, AKA, my Ford Escape.  I was able to position it for nice observation and photo shooting.   I will show you a few of those images first.  Please click on any image to see a nice enlargement of each.

This photo will fool you.  It is a juvenile Curve-billed Thrasher.  Probably a first year, it hasn’t developed the long, curved bill or the bright orange eye of an adult.

CORRECTION:  It has been brought to my attention by one of my readers, that it is actually a female Brown-headed Cowbird.  I should have been more careful in checking the identification.  There are similarities but the main difference is the size of the bill.  A juvenile Curve-billed Thrasher would have been shorter, but much thinner.

Curve-billed Thrasher - juvenile

Brown-headed Cowbird – female

I love the little White-breasted Nuthatches, but they are dizzying to watch, as sometimes they are going up and other time going down head-first.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Identifying some of the flycatchers are difficult for me.  At first I thought this was an Ash-throated Flycatcher, but after seeking further advice, it was decided otherwise to be a Western Wood-Pewee.

Western Wood-Pewee

Western Wood-Pewee

In this photo of an Ash-throated Flycatcher, you can see the differences.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

A noisy, feisth Black-crested Titmouse made it’s presence known.

Black-crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

The hummingbirds had arrived in the mountains and I caught this female Black-chinned in flight.

Black-chinned Hummingbird - female

Black-chinned Hummingbird – female

We loved being in the mountains, but we were only able to spend one day there, because of commitments back home.  After taking care of those on our return, we spent time locally and captured more photos.

Bullock’s Oriole captured near Twin Buttes Reservoir, as were the following Eastern Phoebe and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Driving downtown near the Concho River, we saw this Green Heron on the other side of the water atop a dead tree.

Green Heron in tree

Green Heron in tree

Out at San Angelo State Park, we saw these two birds, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and the ever popular Greater Roadrunner.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

I hope you all enjoyed this collection.  I will be back sometime after the holiday.

 

Happy birding!!