Ladder-backed Woodpeckers

The two dominant woodpeckers of this area around San Angelo, are the Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes auriforns) and Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Picoides scalaris).  Other woodpeckers are pretty much rarities here.  However, the Flickers and Sapsuckers are around in pretty good numbers.  But, today I just wanted to show some of my latest photos of the Ladder-backed.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

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

Have a fun NFL weekend. 🙂

Winter in San Angelo, Texas

Well, winter fell on a Tuesday, here in San Angelo.  We woke up with three inches of the stuff on the ground.  Knowing it would be around for a very short while, I rushed out to San Angelo State Park for some wintry shots.  I wasn’t feeling 100% because of a medical problem that prompted me to go to the ER the previous evening.  I was much better, but I just drove through the park and got a few grab shots from the window of the car.  These are not esthetically my best, but they will serve to show you that we do have some pretty wintry scenes occasionally.

Snowy Creek

Cactus and snow

White-crowned Sparrow

Snowy Creek

Chilly finch on back patio

There you have it.  That may be the only chance I get any winter pictures from here.  But never say never.  January and February are historically the two coldest months of the year here, so there is always a chance of more.

San Angelo Visitors’ Center

Recently I uploaded this photograph to my Flickr page.  Afterword, Holly Stanley (her blog), commented on the image, and said that I should have sold it to the Chamber of Commerce.

San Angelo Visitors' Center

Well, here is the story behind the image.

The center was constructed about seven years ago.  That’s approximate as I don’t have the exact date on hand.  One morning after it opened Ann and I were strolling along the walkway on the opposite side of the river.  Along the river, a person can walk for a couple of miles and see egrets, herons and other birds. (See Wikipedia image below).  One of my favorites places to stroll with my camera.  As we walked we noticed that the Concho River was very calm, as smooth as glass, and was reflecting the building perfectly.  Across the river, in front of the center, the light was playing perfectly on the landscaped area.

I decided to try and get a perfect shot of it and the river reflection.  To get the perfect composition, to capture the complete width of the center, I had to find the right position.  I used the widest lens I had that would give the least distortion and searched for a spot.  Would you believe there was a tree at the exact point where I wanted to be.  I sat down on the ground, shoved my back up against the tree, and took this shot.  With a clear, blue west Texas sky with no clouds, I opted to use the tree branches to frame the image.

English: Park along the Concho River in San An...

Image via Wikipedia

At that time, I was working as a volunteer in the visitors’ center, greeting the tourists, and expounding on the virtures of staying in San Angelo.  I showed the image to the people that managed the Chamber of Commerce.  They immediately wanted to use it on their post cards that were sold there.  We negotiated and we reached an amicable agreement that was financially good for each party. 🙂

At a later time, they asked if they could put the image on a billboard on one of the highways entering the city.  We again negotiated and I sold them the rights to use the image on the billboard.  Here is a photo of the billboard.  They had to crop out the river so it would fit the approximate 50 ft by 10 ft area.   But of course, I didn’t complain.  Here is a photo of the billboard.

San Angelo Billboard

So the moral of the story is, keep your camera handy, as you never know when you are going to make that shot that is going to pay off for you.

Calling all Birders -Photo ID Challenge!!!!!

Here’s the deal.  This is not a contest.  However, I have a photo of what I think is a Cooper’s Hawk.  Karen (her blog), sent me a photo of what appears to me to possibly be another Cooper’s.  However, I am not certain, so I am posting both photos here.  Now I know there are a lot of birders out there.  I would like to hear from any/or all of you to read your opinions and comments.  My photo on top.  Karen’s on bottom.

Cooper's Hawk ??? )Bob's)

What hawk??? (by Karen)

There you have it.  Based on what you see in these photos, what do you think they are.  My personal opinion is that they are either Cooper’s Hawks, or Sharp-shinned Hawks.  BTW, the bottom photo was taken in the eastern United States.  The top one, of course, photographed here in San Angelo, Texas.  Click on either of them to enlarge.  So don’t be bashful, you won’t hurt anybody’s feelings.  Just give us your opinion.

Little But Proud – Green Herons

After my previous post about the Black-crowned Herons, several people remarked about the similarities between the juveniles and the Green Herons (Butorides virescens).   Here are several photos of some Green Herons that I have taken over the past year or two.  Something that I didn’t mention before, neither of these species is what you would call majestic, like the much larger Great Blue Heron which stands nearly 4 feet tall.  The Black-crowned is only 25 inches tall, and these Green Herons pictured below are still smaller at 19 inches.

Green Heron - adult

Green Heron - young adult

Green Heron - juvenile

Green Heron - juvenile

Green Heron - juvenile

Green Heron - juvenile

A little story about the 3rd and 4th photos from the top.  (I know you love a story.) 🙂

It was during the annual Lily-Fest at the International Water Lily Collection here in San Angelo.  It was the year 2009.  The festival is to bring the vast ponds of beautiful water lily blossoms to the attention of the masses.  They have music, vendors, etc.  But it seemed that at this presentation, two Green Herons decided to steal the show.  They flew into the ponds, of which there are five.  They skipped from one water lily pad to another, to the joy of the 300 or so people in attendance.  They were oblivious to the crowd as they tried to catch the little minnows that were in the water.

I hoped you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed bringing them to you.  Click on any of them to see an enlargement.

Birding 101 According to Bob

This ought to be a lot of fun.  I was surprised to get several comments in my previous post, that several of you were surprised that we had seen so many birds.  I am flattered that you think that it is such a big deal.  Actually, many serious birders will be saying, ” You spent four days and saw only 38??”.  (Note: My original post said 35, but after going through our notes, we discovered that we had left three off the list.)

Let’s start at the beginning.  About three or four years ago, I was just photographing any thing that came to mind; air shows, balloon fests, animals, scenics, etc.  Then I happened to be visiting some close friends, and I happened to shoot pictures of some birds in her front yard.  The photos came out pretty well, but I couldn’t  identify what they were.  That is not a good thing for a photographer, not to know what he is photographing.  So I got hold of some books on birds to see what the heck I had.

Then a local lady that I know here in San Angelo saw my photographs and tried to talk me and Ann into going “birding” with a group at San Angelo State Park at, get this, 7:30 AM in the morning.  I said, “Are you nuts?  Looking at birds at 7:30 AM??  It’s cold out there here in January”

So, about two months later, when it got warmer, she asked us again and we somewhat reluctantly decided to go.  I thought, what the heck, they can see all the birds they want and I’ll photograph them.  And that is what we did, and we actually enjoyed it, albeit we didn’t know a pigeon from a parakeet. 🙂

But, you know what?  We got hooked.  We started keeping our “life lists”.  Each time we saw a bird that we could identify on sight, that got added to our list.  Of course, I tried to photograph each one, too.  In fact, it was important at first, that when we saw a new bird, that we had a photograph that we could check with in our bird guide.  It made identifying them easier.

My personal “life list” is now at 236.  I added two new ones, the Olive-sided Flycatcher and a Black-chinned Sparrow, on our trip to Big Bend.  I didn’t get decent, (publishable) photos of them, but good enough pictures of them to make identification.  There is one bird that is native only to the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park.  The Colima Warbler.  It can be found if you can take the Lost Mine Trail into the mountains.  I can’t take the hike anymore, but there is always the chance one of the birds may wander astray.  I haven’t seen one yet.  That would be a “lifer”. 🙂 By the way, out of the 236, I have photographed perhaps 150 of them.

So it goes.  Ann and I go birding around here in San Angelo whenever we get the chance.  Our goal is to see how many we can see in a day.  Ann keeps up with the list, and I have my cameras.   One day we may see only 20, another maybe 37 or more if we’re lucky.  Really, really good birders may see 65 in a day, with a yawn.

On one trip, Ann and I were going to join Sid and Suzanne Johnson on a birding trip to Lake Ivie, about 60 miles away.  We started about 8:00 one morning, and we always watch for birds on the way.  By noon we had made only 30 miles to Ballinger, Texas.  We ate lunch there, and decided to take a different route to return home.  Again with birding on the way, we made it back by 4:30PM with a total of 47 different bird sightings.  We haven’t made it to Lake Ivie yet. 🙂

Each time is a new adventure.  We never know what we might see.  We might see one that is a new bird for us.  After all, in our area there is a total of 358 different species, somewhere out there.  I sure haven’t seen them all.    But with a set of binoculars and a camera, and a handy bird guide book, it may come easier.

So all of you, grab your binoculars, head to your back yard, and you may see something new.  If you do, snap a picture, e-mail it to me and we will see what it may be.  Try these for practice.  I took two photographs of each of these two birds.  I am not sure what they are.  The first two are of what I think can be an Eastern Phoebe, an Eastern Wood Pewee, or an Olive-sided Flycatcher, or maybe something else.  I don’t know what it is and I need help.

What is it????

What is it???

The next one is, I think, some kind of sparrow, but which one is it.  Sibley’s Guide to Birds says there are 36 different types.  I don’t know.  I hope one of you can help.

What is it???What is it???

What is it??

 As you can see, sometime even photos may not help, as they don’t always show enough detail.  These photos were snapped not under the best conditions.  But you can click on them to enlarge them and maybe one of my serious birder blog readers can help me.  Or maybe you can.  I am anxious to see what kind of comments I receive.

I am hoping that some of you get hooked on this addictive hobby.  It can be great fun.  Happy Birding!!

(UPDATE:  H. J. Ruiz over at Avian 101 has identified the first one as an Eastern Phoebe, as I had already surmised it to be.  However, he also IDed the second one as a female Red-winged Blackbird.  I dropped the ball on that one.  I was researching sparrows, and never considered it to be any other.  But the markings definitely point to the blackbird.  The bird was at a distance and I mis-judged the size.  Thank you, H. J.)

Pied-billed Grebes – Aquatic cuties

Middle Concho Park, here in San Angelo, Texas, has the Middle Concho River, then there are little lagoons, or sloughs that branch off a bit.  It is in one of these sloughs that we spotted this lone Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps).  It is a winter adult and was oblivious of me in our car, only about 50 feet away.  By the way, these are the best close-ups of a grebe that I have ever had.  Usually, I have had to contend with distances of several hundred yards, and have never been able to get shots like these.

Pied-billed Grebe - Image 8092


Pied-billed Grebe - Image 8091


Pied-billed Grebe - Image 8093


Pied-billed Grebe - Image 8089

To shoot these images, I used my Canon EOS 7D and Canon 500mm f4 lens with a 1.4 tele-converter attached.  I hand-held it, resting it on a Puffin’ Pad window rest, from our car.  Exposure was Aperture Priority, 1/2500 sec. @ f6.3 with ISO400, minus 1/3 EV adjustment.

I have never seen a dry grebe anywhere.  They are always on the water, diving every few minutes, to come up several yards away in a different spot.  Theyre never above the water long enough to dry off.  At least, that has been my experience.

Click on any image for an enlargement.  Enjoy. 🙂


YEE-HAH!! Published again…………

I have great news again.  I have been published again for the second time in National Wildlife Magazine.  But, strangely, it is the same photo of mine that was on the cover of the August 2010 issue.  This time it is on page 8 of the October 2011 issue.  If you didn’t see it last year, here is the image.

Prairie Dogs at San Angelo, Texas

  •  Canon EOS 20D with Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/3200 sec. @ f5.6 – ISO 3200
  • Lens focal distance – 380mm
  • Partial metering – Aperture priority

I apologize for being such a braggart, but I am kind of proud of my achievements over the years.  This photo of the old mission near Menard was published in the February 2007 issue of Wild West Magazine.  They were doing an article on this historic ruin and purchased the rights to use the picture.

Presidio De San Saba

 This photo of a water lily from the San Angelo International Water Lily Collection was publishd in the November 1999 issue of Photographer’s Forum Magazine.

"Magnificent Ballerina"

In the December 2008 issue of Texas Farm and Ranch Magazine, this quail photo appeared in an ad for “Blue Quail Hunts at the Felix River Ranch” in New Mexico.

Scaled Quail

When Ross McSwain decided to write his story, “See No Evil, Speak No Evil”, he approached me about a photo for the cover of the book.  This one of the barn and wagon is the one he picked.  Published in August 2008.

"Old Barn and Wagon"

And you thought that I only took bird photographs. 🙂

In other news, this probably will be my last post for about a week or so.  Ann and I are leaving Monday morning to spend a few days around or near Big Bend National Park.  We will be staying near Terlingua, the home of the annual National Chili Cookoff, which happens sometime in November.  Our room will actually be a little cabin at about 3 miles from the entrance to Big Bend NP.  Click this link, FarFlung Outdoor Center and if you like come down and join us. 🙂

Today and tomorrow will be spent doing the usual chores that pertain to traveling.  Checking my cameras and equipment, washing the car, buying last minute items, stopping the paper, and the mail, etc.  So don’t forget me in our absence and I will probably post again sometime next weekend.  Hopefully, I’ll have some more news and images from our trip.

Have a great week! 🙂

San Angelo Water Lily Fest – 2011

As I have mentioned in previous posts, San Angelo, Texas is home to the largest international water lily collection in the world.  Fans of the beautiful water plants and blossoms come here from all over the world to see and study our flowers.  Ken Landon, the curator is the man behind all of this, obtaining the plants from other countries so San Angelo can keep on having the best and the biggest.

The Chamber of Commerce presents an annual festival to show off the gardens and today was the day.  A new species that was developed and bred by Mr. Landon, was presented to the city, and by proclaiming through the state judicial system, it has been named the Texas State Water Lily.  Our State Representative Mr. Drew Darby was the man behind that effort.  The species’ name is Texas Dawn.  It is pictured below.

"Texas Dawn" - State Water Lily of Texas

While I was at the water lily gardens I strolled around and got these images of some of the other water lilies.

Blossom from San Angelo Water Lily Collection

Blossom from San Angelo Water Lily Collection

Blossom from San Angelo Water Lily Collection

Blossom from San Angelo Water Lily Collection

So is not to take up a lot of space with EXIF data, suffice it to say that I shot all images with my Canon EOS 7D.  I used my Canon f4-5.6 IS 100-400mm zoom lens.  Basic exposures were with Aperture priority, at  ISO 400.  I processed bottom four images with PhotoMatix HDR pro, then fine tuned in Photoshop.

Also while there I met a young budding photographer Amanda Berrie.   David Tarver, another local wildlife photographer was there, as were my old friends from the San Angelo Visitors Center.

I hope you enjoy the images.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

Remembering the Dark-eyed Juncos

Another of the forgotten species of birds that inhabit this part of west Texas is the Dark-eyed Junco. (Junco hyemalis).  In all honesty, I have never personally seen one here in San Angelo, but I have in nearby places such as the Abilene area and Fort Davis, for example.  Why they avoid San Angelo, I do not know.

The two types that I am familiar with are the Slate-colored group and the Oregon group.  Rather than try to tell you the differences in text, I will show a couple of  images that I took over the past few years.  In these photographs you can see the difference between the two.

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon group)

  • Photographed February 15, 2009
  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens  (400mm)
  • 1/500 sec. @ f5.6  ISO 400
  • Metering – center weighted
  • Aperture priority

Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored group)

  • Photographed November 10, 2010
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm f4 IS super-tele lens  (500mm)
  • 1/400 sec. @ f4 – ISO 3200
  • Metering – partial
  • Shutter priority

There are also some other variations of the junco that are not ususally seen  around west Texas.  They are Pink-sided, White-winged, Gray-headed and Yellow-eyed.

Click on either of the images to see enlargements.

While you’re here click Avian101 to read a guest article that I contributed to H. J. Ruiz’s blog about birds and birding.

To see more of my photographic prowess, click on my Flickr logo a the right of this page.