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.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside…..


Holy Cow!  20° as I begin to write this.  If you can believe this, but at 2:00 yesterday afternoon it was 78°.  By 6:00 it was 30°.  A rip roaring cold front blasted it’s way in.  A good excuse to stay in today and write a post to this blog.  Lot’s of catching up to do.

We have been getting out most every morning lately.  The birding is really improving.  A good sign of that was that a few days ago, Ann and I counted 40 species……..all at Spring Creek Park.   Believe it or not, the Great Kiskadees are still here, or at least until yesterday.  I don’t know if they decided to head south again after last night.  I will keep you updated on that.  Here is my last photo of one that I captured about three days ago.  We were driving through Spring Creek Park and Ann said she heard one calling.  I thought that she was having effects from a glass of wine she drank the previous evening.  She said, “No, it sounds like this”.  She had her iPad turned on and she played the bird’s call.  The bird apparently heard that and answered her.  It flew into a tree right overhead.  I was able to capture the photo before it flew away over the water.

Great Kiskadee

Great Kiskadee

In other news, as I mentioned in my last post, I am up uploading photos for purchase.  You can buy framed prints, or home decor with my photo art.  It makes it easier for you that have wanted to purchase my art.  Click here – http://pixels.com/artists/1+bob+zeller

For un-framed prints, my 2017 Calendars, or my book, “Birds, Beasts and Buttes” contact me at bobzeller@pobox.com.

Okay, I am done self-promoting.  (hey, someone’s gotta do it 🙂 ).  Now onto my images that I have captured for you the past week or so.  All were taken with my Canon 7D Mark II and Tamron 150-600mm Gen2 lens.  Please click on any image to see some beautiful enlargements.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  1/1600 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 1250.

Yellow-rumped Warbler. 1/1000 sec @ f6.3, ISO 5000.

Yellow-rumped Warbler. 1/1000 sec @ f6.3, -0.3 EV,  ISO 5000.

Black-crowned Night Heron, juvenile. 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 6400.

Black-crowned Night Heron, juvenile. 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 6400.

American Kestrel. 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3 +0.7EV, ISO 2500.

American Kestrel. 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 2500.

Belted Kingfisher. 1/1600 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3EV, ISO 2500.

Belted Kingfisher. 1/1600 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3  EV, ISO 2500.

Savannah Sparrow. 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 320.

Savannah Sparrow. 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 320.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet. 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 500

Ruby-crowned Kinglet. 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 500.

Hermit Thrush. 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 1600

Hermit Thrush. 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 1600

White-faced Ibis. 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 1250.

White-faced Ibis. 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 1250.

Great Egret. 1/1600 sec. @ f10, -0.3 EV, ISO 100.

Great Egret. 1/1600 sec. @ f10, -0.3 EV, ISO 100.

Well, that’s it for this post.  Stay warm.  Merry Christmas and Happy Birding!!!

Do your Christmas Shopping with me.


Since Christmas is upon us, I thought I would give you some ideas to think about.  As you know all of my work is for sale.  So with two weeks to go, I think there is still time to partake of some of my bargains.

First, in conjunction with Pixels.com, I am offering a selection of my photos available on greeting cards, coffee mugs, and some home decor.  Check me out at http://pixels.com/artists/1+bob+zeller.

My hard cover book, “Birds, Beasts, and Buttes” is still available from me.  Featuring about 100 of my best photographs.  Original price 65.00, now with a Christmas price of 40.00 plus 10.00 shipping.  No shipping cost needed if you are in San Angelo and I can deliver it.  Contact me at bobzeller@pobox.com.

My DVD, “Bob Zeller’s World of Outdoor Photographs”.  Another 100 photographs accompanied with great music.  Running time about 17 minutes.  25.00 including shipping.  20.00 for San Angelo residents if I don’t need to ship.  Again, contact me at bobzeller@pobox.com.

I hope you will consider some of these.  The profits help pay for my equipment and expenses.

Okay, if you are still with me after me trying to get into your wallet, here are a few photos from the past few days.  Most of those days were pretty overcast, but today the sun is shining, so things are looking up.  By the way, I am still field-testing my new Tamron 150-600mm Gen2 lens.  I think you will agree that it is a fantastic lens and I should keep it.  Enjoy these images, and click on any of them to see enlargements,.

Great Egret - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 1600.

Great Egret – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 1600.

Lesser Black-backed Gull - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 2000

Lesser Black-backed Gull – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 2000

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron - 1/1000 sec. @ 6.3, ISO 6400

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron – 1/1000 sec. @  f6.3, ISO 6400

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron - 1/1000 sec @f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 6400

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron – 1/1000 sec @f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 6400

Dark-eyed Junco - 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, +.03 EV, ISO 6400

Dark-eyed Junco – 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, +.03 EV, ISO 6400

Loggerhead Shrike - 1/1250 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV ISO 3200

Loggerhead Shrike – 1/1250 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV ISO 3200

American Kestrel - 1250 sec. @ f6.3, _0,7 EV ISO 2500.

American Kestrel – 1250 sec. @ f6.3, _0,7 EV ISO 2500.

That’s it for this post.  I will be back in about a week or so with another.  Until then……

HAPPY BIRDING!!

 

What?? Shoot birds on an overcast day??


I have been thinking about the subject of this post for quite awhile.  Photographing birds on a heavily clouded, overcast day.  Today was one of them.  It reminded me of a close friend that almost refuses to try any photography if the sun isn’t shining.  The way to be sucessful is to forget about the color of the sky.  Think about the subject, your birds, and focus (pun intended) on photographing them, and not on the color of the sky.  If you want to photograph a blue sky, wait for a clear day.  If you want to photograph birds, be prepared to do just that.  You just do what you usually do.  In my case, I shoot shutter priority, set the shutter on about 1000/sec or higher depending on the lighting. I set auto ISO, and just let that exposure float along.  That is basically how I shoot birds regardless of the weather.

I also am prepared to boost the EV adjustment to the right about 1/3 or 2/3 stops.  Sometimes it may be necessary to go higher.  It may produce higher ISO exposures, but what’s the big deal?  Most popular SLRs have no problem with that.  It’s not going to keep me at home.  Like I said, just shoot what you would do on a normal day; cope with the usual exposure problems.  Focus on the birds and let the exposures fall where they may.  YOu will notice also, that in overcast weather, the color is nicely saturated.

On the subject of high ISOs, I know of a photographer that refuses to shoot if it is a high ISO day.  Hogwash!!  What kind of a photographer thinks that.  Not the kind that is very successful.  I hope my friend that doesn’t like overcast days, will think about what I have said, and go give it a chance.  Other than that quirk, she is a talented photographer.

Okay, now that I am through ranting, I will tell you about today.  I woke up with a forecast for the day, of cloudy with a 20% chance of rain.  The forecast held true.  It was very cloudy, looking like it could rain at any time.  In fact, a few times there was a hint of a few sprinkles on the windshield.  But they disappeared in a minute or two.  As usual, I didn’t want to stay home.  I am shooting with my Canon 7D Mk II and a Gen 2, Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  I will post the exposure data along with each image.  Click on any of those images to see enlargements.

We started out at Spring Creek Park at about 8:00 AM.  We were apprehensive about whether we would see any birds at all.  Most of the tiny birds were keeping themselves hidden.  However there were a few other hardy ones.  This yellow-shafted Northern Flicker was in a bush and I was able to get him in focus.

Northern Flicker - 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 6400

Northern Flicker – 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 6400

The resident Great Horned Owl made an appearance again.

Great Horned Owl - 1/1250 sec. @f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

Great Horned Owl – 1/1250 sec. @f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

After seeing that owl, we decided to go to San Angelo State Park, since it was pretty wet in and we were driving through some sloppy areas.  The state park provided some more paved roads.

White-crowned Sparrow - 1250 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV, ISO 1000.

White-crowned Sparrow – 1250 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV, ISO 1000.

Northern Cardinal, female - 1250 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 4000.

Northern Cardinal, female – 1250 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 4000.

As were taking a little drive through one of the picnic areas, we happened to glance towards the lake and saw hundreds of American White Pelicans and what looked like hundreds more of Double-crested Cormorants.  In this photo, I decided to change to aperture priority an set the camera to f8 to provide more depth of field, to capture more of this vast armada of water fowl.  This is just a small portion of the crowd.

Pelicans and Cormorants - 1/800 sec. @ f10, ISO 1000

Pelicans and Cormorants – 1/800 sec. @ f10, ISO 1000

That exposure set-up worked out fine, but I made a rookie error and forgot to set the camera back to my original setting of Shutter priority for the rest of the session.  But no harm, no foul, as the following photos came out very nice.  Buy this time, it was getting near noon, but the weather hadn’t changed except for the temperature, which was a little warmer.  Still very cloudy with occasional mist.

Eastern Meadowlark - 1/800 sec, @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 1250.

Eastern Meadowlark – 1/800 sec, @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 1250.

Curve-billed Thrasher - 1/1000 sec. @ f8, +0.7, ISO 1600.

Curve-billed Thrasher – 1/1000 sec. @ f8, +0.7, ISO 1600.

Lincoln's Sparrow - 1/640 @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

Lincoln’s Sparrow – 1/640 @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

As you can see, you can get great photos if you dis-regard the cloudy skies and just take what comes at you.  My ISOs varied, of course depending on whether the bird was in the open or in open shade or in the brush completely.  I came home happily with some good results for my efforts.  One additional thing I should mention, I am not foolish enough to shoot if it is raining.  Cameras and water do not mix well.

I hope you enjoyed this post and the images.  As I said, click any of the images to see some very nice enlargements.

Until the next post, Happy Birding!