And another year begins…….


It has been eight years since I wrote my first post to this blog.  My first article was posted in September of 2009.  In that eight years, I have written 968 posts…..this one is number 969.  Hopefully, I can reach the 1,000th soon.  My blog has been viewed 222,164 times as of this writing, reaching readers in 168 countries.

Coincidentally, I also begin my 84th year on this planet, as today is my 83rd birthday. No applause, please.  It is just another passing milestone.  I am enjoying writing this now as much as I did when first started back in September of 2009.  I never dreamed that I would get this far, but here I am.

Okay, enough about celebrating.  Here are a few photos that I captured since my last post.  I hope you enjoy.

This Belted Kingfisher was along the shoreline of Lake O. C. Fisher at San Angelo State Park.

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Belted Kingfisher

I love photographing raptors, and this Cooper’s Hawk posed nicely for me in the trees.

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Cooper’s Hawk

The Great Kiskadees are back for another winter.  They normally are out of range here in Tom Green County.  However, 3 or 4 of them arrived a year ago and stayed all of last winter near Spring Creek Park.  Now, here again on almost a year later exactly, we spotted three again.  Perhaps the same as last year.  I have no way of knowing with certainty.

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Great Kiskadee

During a drive around San Angelo State Park, this young armadillo showed off for us.

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Nine-banded Armadillo

As I said, I love photographing raptors.  This a juvenile Swainson’s Hawk.

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Swainson’s Hawk, juvenile

How about an Osprey, another raptor.

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Osprey

Egyptian Geese are not on the official American Birding Association list.  However, they are a strange looking bird.

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Egyptian Goose

Swainson’s Hawk, adult.

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Swainson’s Hawk

It is always a task, trying to photograph the tiny birds such as this Wilson’s Warbler, but very rewarding.

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Wilson’s Warbler

And who can resist these tiny, feisty American Kestrels.  They are difficult to get in my viewfinder, as they move from one spot to another quickly.

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American Kestrel

Well, I guess that is about it for this post.  I hope you enjoyed my photos.  Now I believe I will celebrate my birthday the rest of the day. 🙂

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Birding Davis Mountains and Jeff Davis County.


Getting started on Monday morning before leaving, I had a doctor’s appointment to get a bi-weekly injection for what ails me.  Nothing serious, just something that has to be done every two weeks.  So after getting that out of the way, we stopped at the Mesquite Bean Grill in the Cactus Hotel for a breakfast of their fantastic Mesquite Bean Tacos and coffee.  We knew that would last us quite awhile.  So we were finally on the road at about 9:30 AM.

Our destination was the west Texas village of Fort Davis, the site of the namesake fort, which is one of best preserved frontier posts in the country.  I hope the citizens aren’t offended that I call Fort Davis a village, rather than a city.  But in my book if there aren’t any traffic lights, it is a village.  And a quaint village Fort Davis is.  I want to live there when I grow up.

So anyway, we headed out US67 west from San Angelo.  We would go through other villages: Mertzon, Barnhart, Big Lake (there is no lake there), Rankin, and McCamey.  Oh, I can’t leave out Gervin, but it is only an intersection, so if you miss the sign, you have missed Gervin.  Then we hit Interstate 10 to go through Fort Stockton, a location of ruins of another defunct frontier fort.  Then we hit the turn-off for Balmorhea, (more about that later in this post) and head for Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains.  That final leg of the trip is our favorite as we are able to watch for birds, hawks, etc.

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Red-tailed Hawk

After about a four and a half hour drive we arrived in Fort Davis.  We had munched on some light snacks on the road so we weren’t in need of a huge lunch, so we stopped at Stone Village Market.  You can get made-to-order deli sandwiches.  We opted for a pastrami on sourdough bread with all the fixin’s.  We took them with us and headed for the Davis Mountains Inn where we were going to stay for four nights.  It turned out that we were the only guests that first night.  We were so tired that after unpacking, we decided that would just rest the balance of the day.

Tuesday dawned bright, and after eating breakfast we decided to travel west on Hwy 166 to the turn-off to Hwy 505.  It had been recommended to us that along that stretch of lonely highway, many raptors could be seen, including Golden Eagles.  Along the way we saw many birds and animals, including this Pronghorned Antelope.

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Pronghorn Antelope

At a roadside park on Hwy 166, where there is usually good birding, we saw this one Summer Tanager, a female I believe.

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Summer Tanager, female

Our target bird for this day was the Golden Eagle that frequents the wide open areas along Hwy 505.  We missed the eagle but saw many Red-tailed Hawks, and some Cassin’s Kingbirds.  We vowed to come back another day to hunt for the eagle.

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Cassin’s Kingbird

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Red-tailed Hawk

On Wednesday morning we headed up to Lake Balmorhea.  We always enjoyed the drive to get there.  Up through the Davis Mountains and over Wild Rose Pass.

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Star Mountain from Wild Rose Pass

At the lake, we discovered that one of our favorite roads around the intake end, was closed, due to vandalism.  However, we were able to drive over the dam and along one side of the lake.  Here are a few of our highlights.

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Osprey, near the dam on Lake Balmorhea

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Scaled Quail

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Red-tailed Hawk

On Thursday morning, which would be our last day before heading home, we decided to look for the Golden Eagle again.  We tried to leave earlier this time, and drove directly to the desired area on Hwy 505.  This time we were in luck.  About two miles from the turnoff from Hwy 166, we came up on the eagle feasting on road-kill.  He was as startled as we were.  He flew up onto a fence post.  After checking my mirrors for traffic, I stopped the car in the middle of the road, and grabbed my camera.  I was able to get about a dozen images has he posed for me.  As I checked my mirrors again for traffic, he flew, but I missed any chance for an in-flight shot.  However, I was thrilled that I got such an opportunity from only about thirty-five yards.

But there is bad news.  I had taken an earlier shot of a dark bird in deep shadows, and had boosted my exposure by a stop and two-thirds. For you non-photographers, that means I over-exposed.  Well, I made a rookie error and forgot to change the setting back, so when I grabbed the camera for the eagle shot,  I had no time to adjust.  Hence the eagle was horribly over-exposed.  I had to try to correct it in my post-processing.  So here is the result.  Not a pretty sight, but acceptable.  You can see that the yellow bill and yellow feet are pretty washed out.

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Golden Eagle

After that we continued along the highway for another few minutes.  I then caught a few more photos.

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Broad-winged Hawk

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White-tailed Kite

It was still early in the day, so we decided to visit a friend’s place up in the mountains.  He has a bird-watching setup, complete with portable blinds and a water drip.  It was a drive of only six miles from the road entrance on Hwy 166.  But it is a pretty rough road and it took us about 30 minutes to get there.  I set up my camera in one of the blinds and got comfortable.  Here are a few highlights.

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Western Wood-Pewee

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White-breasted Nuthatch

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Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

On Friday morning we head back to San Angelo, satisfied with a fun, successful birding and photography trip.  I hope you enjoy this post as well as I enjoyed writing it.  Comments are welcome.

Happy Birding!!

Some Miscellaneous Stuff.


My wife just reminded me that I hadn’t posted for quite awhile.  After doing some extensive research, I found that she is correct.  It has been nearly a month.  I guess the dog days of summer got ahold of me.  One thing, though, and I think it is a plausible excuse.  I have some cancerous spots on the left side of my face that I am treating.  That involves smearing that Efudex chemical on my face for three weeks.  It is painful, itchy and downright distracting.  I quit that part of the treatment a couple of days ago, now I am using a soothing ointment to help with the healing.  Hopefully it should be cleared completely in another two to three weeks.

Because I am suppose do avoid the sun during the duration of the treatment, I haven’t been out too much.  But using a wide-brim hat, I did make a few short trips.

Some news items concerning San Angelo State Park.  It has pretty much recovered from the drastic storm that hit it about a month ago.  They are still trimming broken tree branches and doing general cleanup, but overall it looks pretty good.  A few days ago they replaced the busted fence around the bird blind, and repaired some other  damage to the building itself.

Here are a few images that I have gotten during those brief outings to the park.  Click on any one of them to see some nice enlargements.

Greater Roadrunner

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Loggerhead Shrike

Common Nighthawk

Green Heron

Western Kingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Loggerhead Shrike

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – juvenile

The birds are returning to the blind, now that it is back to normal operation again.  The fall and winter birds should be returning very soon.

Summer Birding at San Angelo State Park


I have been birding at San Angelo State Park for about ten years.  I have seen highs and lows.  The highs were in the years of 2007-2008.  Then O. C. Fisher lake started drying up.  Gone were a lot of the water loving birds, herons, ducks, etc.  You could literally walk across the lake and not get your feet wet.  Then there was a program where spraying was done to kill the mesquite.  Those trees and shrubs started dying and losing foliage, which was cover for some birds.  About that time, we had some welcome storms that brought water back into the lake.  The water reached the levels of 2007.  That was welcome as the water fowl started to return.  But now with withering temperatures we had recently, the lake is slowly dropping again.

I am not saying that birding is bad, but the birds that once were plentiful have had their numbers decreasing.   There was a time when we would always see large numbers of hawks, osprey, and other birds of prey.  Now we rarely see a raptor.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any.  It is just to show that they are scarce.  In our searches we have discovered one Swainson’s Hawk, two Red-tailed Hawks, and until yesterday we knew of only one Great Horned Owl that was hangout near the Isabell Harte picnic area.  That increased by one yesterday when I tell you of a nice experience we had.

Great Horned Owl

Yesterday morning, Ann and I decided to got to the park early, to check out the bird blind.  It had been recently damaged in a storm, but it was now open again to the public.  We drove down the lane to the structure and turned into the little parking area.  Lo and behold, sitting on the fence next to the blind and about ten feet from the door, was the Great Horned Owl, pictured above.  We sat in the car, or what I call our mobile blind.  I was able to get that shot and several others from there.  I was only about 35 feet from the bird, and to get out of the car would probably spook it.  We observed it for about 10 minutes, not wanting to disturb it.  However, after a few minutes, a volunteer that puts birdseed in the feeders drove up.  That spooked the owl and off he flew.  but it was an amazing experience, to be that close.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

We were at the blind for about an hour and we saw Painted Buntings, Northern Bobwhite,  Northern Cardinals, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Curve-billed Thrasher, Bell’s Vireo, Bewick’s Wren, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, (pictured above) and the usual doves, sparrows, etc.

After leaving the blind, we took a drive all through the park, seeking birds that don’t frequent the blind.  Here are a few photos from those drives during the past couple of weeks.

Blue Grosbeak

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Of course, I have so others that I haven’t processed yet, and some others that are just throw-aways.  But we saw around 40-45 species in the past couple of weeks.  Others that deserve mentions are Common Nighthawks, Western Kingbirds, Scissor-tailed Flycatachers, Black-throated Sparrows, Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Greater Roadrunner, Wild Turkey, Pyrrhuloxia, Canyon Towhee, Bullock’s Oriole, plus the various doves and sparrows.

Looking back at what I have written, I suppose that I may have painted a bleak picture of the birding.  But then I realized that most of the birds are here, just not in large numbers, such as the raptors.  You just have to look a bit harder to see them.  But, isn’t that the fun of the hunt????

So, I believe the birding at San Angelo State Park, is alive and well.

For information on purchasing prints click on the Bob’s Gallery button at the top of this page, or this link:https://bobzeller.wordpress.com/photo-album-guide/

Happy Birding!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Catch me live, in living color…..


To begin this post, I would like to let you know that yesterday, Thursday June 29, I was honored to be featured and interviewed on a local TV program, Concho Vally Live on KLST.  I spoke about photography, and showed several of my photographs.  Here is a link to see that interview if you want to finally meet and see me up close.  You will see that I am not the handsome hunk that you thought I was.  http://www.conchovalleyhomepage.com/concho-valley-live/photography-talk-with-bob-zeller-concho-valley-live-june-29-2017/754138109

It went pretty well except the person in charge, loaded the photos so they would loop rather than show individually, so each photo showed for only 5 seconds.  You will see that I had a difficult task to try to describe  of them.  Ashley Cunha did a great job doing the interview, though.   But I must say, she had the advantage of reading from the teleprompter, whereas I had to wing it.  I hope you enjoy seeing the show.

In other news, many of you have probably heard about the storm that hit San Angelo a week ago.  It was really devastating, millions of dollars damage through out the city.  We were one of the lucky ones.  Our flag pole got snapped in half, a portion of our fence blew down, and our roof lost a couple of shingles.  Other parts of town lost building, roofs, signage, etc.

San Angelo State Park, where we do most of our birding, and where I get many of my photographs, sustained major damage.  Trees uprooted, RVs destroyed or damaged.  The trails are impassable for the present, and of course closed until cleanup can be completed.  The park itself, was closed for about three days, then it opened yesterday, but only to travel paved roads.  Most of the RV sites have been cleaned up.  Here are a few photos that showed the damage.  The bird blind took a “direct hit’ I was told.  The roof was partially blown off and the fence was down.  I wasn’t permitted to take the trail back there to get a photo.

San Angelo SP storm damage

San Angelo SP  storm damage.

San Angelo SP storm damage

San Angelo SP

Fortunately, there were no serious injuries.  One lady obtained a cut on her head, when she got slammed around when her RV trailer got tipped over.  For me, this was one of the worst storms I had seen in years, in terms of the widespread damage.

This morning Ann and I finally made a serious attempt to see some birds and for me to get a couple of photographs.  Birding was slow but a couple of shots made it worthwhile.  Here are those results.

Swainson’s Hawk

Common Nighthawk

That is all for this post.  To see more photos, or make purchases, click the “Bob’s Gallery” button at the top of the page.  Enjoy!

Making lemonade from a lemon. And other stuff.


Since my last post I have been making several excursions to San Angelo State Park, in search of usable photos.  I have gotten several, but one stands out for me.  I was at the bird viewing blind at the park.  I had my Canon 7D MarkII, with a 150-600mm Tamron lens, mounted on my monopod.  While watching, I spotted a Northern Bobwhite in the distance, about 100 feet away, beyond the water feature.  As a whim I took the photo, not thinking about it being a saleable photo.  But after I got home and put in the computer in preparation for post editing, I realized that I might be able to make something out of it.

Here is the original.  Notice it looks a little bland and washed out and overall, not a very impressive  photograph.

Original Bobwhite photo

Here is the finished product, after cropping for composition, and just adjusting the contrast, a little color saturating, and lighting adjustment.  What fun!!

Northern Bobwhite

Okay, that’s your lesson for the day.  Don’t give up on what you may think is not a usable photograph.  Just some creative cropping and minor adjusting, can give you some surprising results.

I am still looking through my images from our Davis Mountains trip.  Here is another photo of a beautiful Scott’s Oriole.

Scott’s Oriole

And another shot of one of those feisty Acorn Woodpeckers.

Acorn Woodpecker

Going through some of my photos from past years, I sometimes come upon one that I didn’t initially care for.  But after taking a second look, and doing some re-editing, I can sometimes surprise myself.  Such was the case with this Carolina Chickadee that I photographed back in 2014.  I realized that my editing skills weren’t as good then as I am today.  Of course, advancements in software and techniques really help.

Carolina Chickadee

Click on this and the other photos and see some enhanced enlargements.  It make a huge difference in viewing them.

Until the next time, Happy Birding!!

A Hall of Fame award.


I received a very prestigious award yesterday that I would love to share.  Most of you know that before my photography I was very much into the music scene.  During the 60s, 70s, and 80s I was I was a wild saxophonist, playing with various bands and musicians over the years.  I retired from music in 1986.  Well, the West Texas Hall of Fame decided that I ought to have the Pioneer Award for the year 2015.  I received this plaque yesterday.  I was honored to receive it and glad that they didn’t have to present it posthumously. 🙂

Bob Zeller's Pioneer Award

Bob Zeller’s Pioneer Award

I will be back with some birding and photography posts after I return from a vacation next week.

While I am gone, you would enjoy reading of my musical exploits.  Click HERE.

There are six small and entertaining parts.  That will give you some insight as to why I was given this award.