Birding advice for San Angelo State Park


I live only three miles from San Angelo State Park, and most of you know from my posts, that I frequent the place four to five times a week.  I get a large percentage of my bird photographs there, but not where you would suspect.

1Y7A2203-net-hawk-red-tailed-bob-zeller

Red-tailed Hawk

Occasionally, I stop at the bird blind to see what species might have stopped by.  During those visits I often see birders from out of town, that are camping there. I have found that most of them go only to the blind to see birds.  They don’t know what they are missing.

1Y7A5181-net-woodpecker-golden-fronted-bob-zeller

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

I don’t know exact numbers, but I would suspect that there are 200-300 species that can be seen in the park, depending on the time of year.  As you know, they come and go with the migration and changing seasons.  But just a handful visit the blind.  That area mostly draws seed-eaters.  Remember, I said MOSTLY.  Others will stop by on occasion, because of the water feature.

1Y7A3244-net-kinglet-ruby-crown-bob-zeller

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

On a regular basis, you won’t see hawks, owls, egrets, flycatchers and other non-seed eating species.  Oh, yes, as I said, on a rare occasion one of these will stop by, if only for a drink of water, or to snatch an innocent sparrow.

1Y7A0268-net-owl-horned-bob-zeller

Great Horned Owl

I would recommend to leave your campsite, get in your car and just drive slowly over the twenty something miles of roads.  Watch the trees and brush for movement and you can get some pleasant surprises.  It is always fun to come upon some warblers, kinglets or gnatcatchers darting around.

1Y7A1243-net-pelicans-bob-zeller

American White Pelicans

O.C. Fisher Lake is another great spot.  Pelicans, egrets, herons, grebes and other water birds can be seen at or from the shorelines.

4G7A7825-net-avocet-bob-zeller

American Avocet

So my advice is to spend a couple of hours just cruising the park.  You will be surprised how many bird you can see.  After that, go to the bird blind and pad your lists. 🙂

For prints of these and some of my other work click HERE.

Until my next post, HAPPY BIRDING!!!

 

Advertisements

Lifer 301…..My Virginia Rail


In the world of birding, a lifer is a bird that an individual has seen for the first time in his or her life.  When I got into serious bird photography about ten years ago, I was only interested in photographing them.  In that vein, as I captured them on film, I found that I needed to be able to tell people what I was photographing.  I then started buying various guides so I could learn about the different species.  I also found that there are 383 different species just in my local area of the Concho Valley.  In my edition of Stokes Field Guide to Birds of North America, there are 854 species in the country.  Now get this, as of February 26, 2018, there are 648 species that can be seen in the state of Texas.  That is according to the Texas Birds Records Committee of the Texas Ornithological Society.    Wow!!  that is around 75% of the entire national count.  So if you want to see bird, Texas is the place to be.

Right now we are in the middle of spring migration.  Birds are moving north from Mexico, etc, to their northern homes.  Some stop here, others keep on moving more northerly.  So, the odds of seeing more unique birds is really great this time of year.  In the fall this is all reversed.

Anyway, as the years have gone by, I adopted the habit that most birders have, of keeping track of how many of these birds I have actually seen and have learned to identify.  Most I have photographed.  Others, I have observed closely with the help of more expert birders.  I have accumulated the “life list”.  I saw number 301 a few days ago.  It was my very first Virginia Rail, a very rare bird for the San Angelo area.

1Y7A7694-net-rail-virginia-bob-zeller

Virginia Rail

At the time, we, Ann and I, were watching for a Sora, another marsh bird, that had been reported.  We had arrived early, with a burrito and coffee, at the area where the Sora had been reported.  It was a small marshy area with reeds and cat-tails; the perfect habitat.  The Sora is a very shy bird that doesn’t like to show itself often.  So patience is the key.  We sat there for about 45 minutes while we finished our breakfast.  We were about to leave, when Ann saw a little movement.  We got some teasing little peeks through the grasses, then….what the??  I saw an orange bill.  Hey, wait a minute, Sora’s don’t have orange bills.  A few seconds later, the Virginal Rail, pictured above finally ventured into the open.

The Virginal Rail and the Sora both winter in Mexico and east along the gulf coast.  They then migrate to spend summer the northern states.  It was during this migratory trip that they decided to stop off here in San Angelo.  Possibly traveling companions.  Anyway, a few minutes after this exciting event, the Sora that we were originally looking for came out of the reeds at almost the same location.

1Y7A7765-net-sora-bob-zeller

Sora

So, getting a ‘tofer’ made for an exciting morning.  Getting great photos of each added a little sugar.  You can see my entire Life List by clicking on that button at the top of this page.

Until the next time

HAPPY BIRDING!!

 

Shooting from a blind or in the wild…….


I am a bit late with my first post of the year.  Not any huge reason for it, just a few scattered things that took up much of my time.  Of course, I could blame part of it on the weather which at times, has been a bit nasty.  Then there was a problem, not finished, that I am replacing my two front teeth with a bridge.  They had broken off and at first it looked that they would be extracted.  Then the dentist said they could be saved with a bridge.  So that was the option I decided on.  He did a root canal on each of them to start things.  Then there was the two-week healing time.  Then I went back last week to get ‘fitted’ for the new bridge.  Again, I am waiting for it to be finished, and finially on February 13, I will have a new shining smile.

1Y7A4353-net-owl-horned-bob-zeller

Great Horned Owl

So during that time, with those delays and the weather, I didn’t get out much.  However, on other projects, my calendar went well.  I still have a few left if anybody is interested.  Just contact me in the comments for more information.

1Y7A4472-net-hawk-coopers-bob-zeller

Cooper’s Hawk

I read an interesting post by a fellow nature photographer Jim Miller.  He frequents the various blinds and photo ranches around the state.  You can click here to read it.  If you like to photograph from bird blinds you will find it informative.  Personally, I don’t use blinds very often.  I prefer to get out in the wild and hunt down my photo opportunities.  I find it more fun and challenging.  The downside of photo blinds is you get so many photos that are repetitive, as the different birds resting on the same tree stump, etc.  But they do make nice posed portraits.  Also, there is the danger of including seed and feeders in the shots.  However, the better organized photo ranches try to avoid having that sort of thing in the camera’s line of sight.

Then there is the price.  It can cost anywhere from 150.00 and up to spend any time at those photo ranches.  Of course, there are perks. Comfortable chairs in a comfortable environment.  Well placed perches and seeds to lure the birds to the area.  You just have to sit back and wait for the birds to arrive.

Here in San Angelo there is a blind at the state park.  No cost to use it.  I use it on occasion, perhaps once in a two-month period.  It is decent and attracts birds.  However on that note, there are birds that are not attracted to bird blinds, simply because they are not seed eaters.  Examples are hawks, owls, flycatchers.  But even they, will occasionally make an appearance because of the water feature.

1Y7A4537-net-woodpecker-golden-fronted-bob-zeller

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

All of the photos in this post are captured in the wild.  In fact, about 95% of the photos I have posted here over the years have been taken in the wild.  I travel the parks and back roads of west Texas, in my quest for wildlife photos.  I use my Ford Escape as a mobile blind, shooting from the window.  I use a SafariPack bean bag for stabilization by draping it over the window sill.  My set-up of choice is a Canon 7D Mark II with a Tamron 150-600mm Gen 2 zoom lens.

Here are a few more images from the past few weeks.  As I mentioned above, all photographed in the wild.

1Y7A4710-net-kingfisher-belted-bob-zeller

Belted Kingfisher

1Y7A4864-net-hawk-red-tailed-bob-zeller

Red-tailed Hawk

1Y7A4896-net-bobwhite-bob-zeller

Northern Bobwhite

1Y7A4926-net-kestrel-bob-zeller

American Kestrel

So, it doesn’t matter what your preference is.  Photographing from a blind, or doing as I do, prowling the wild.  It is the the final outcome that is important.  Whatever you enjoy doing the most.  I hope you enjoyed this post and the photos.  Until the next time……..

Happy Birding or Happy Shooting to all!!!

 

A Birdy Merry Christmas


A brief post this Christmas Eve 2017.  I am going to interupt your festivities to wish you and all of my readers all over the world in 170 countries, a very Merry Christmas from the great state of Texas.

But I must post a photograph for you.  Here is one that I captured a couple of days ago.  One of my best of this species.  I hope you like it.

1Y7A3369-net-bluebird-eastern-bob-zeller

Eastern Bluebird

To me the Bluebird signifies happiness, and I hope it reaches all of you.

Until the next time…….. Happy Birding!!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Zellers


I just wanted to write a brief post to say that I am thankful for all of my readers in 168 countries.  I know that you non-U.S readeres don’t celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday, but it is special to us, as we do celebrate and give thanks for what we have.  As for my self, I am thankful that I have good health, including all of the parts that I was issued.  I still have my own knees, hips, tonsils, appendix, teeth and I have perfect eyesight except for reading.  I am missing some hair and a gallbladder, but, hey, I am 83.  You can’t expect me to be absolutely perfect.  I am also very thankful for my choice in picking a wife nearly 60 years ago.  Ann is the love of my life and my best friend.

But, really, I am so glad so many of you readers have stuck with me, and I am still welcoming new readers.  You have found that I have a quirky sense of humor, but on the other hand, you know I have a serious side, too.  As I have reached this age, I continue to have thoughts of stopping writing this blog.  I don’t know when I will write my final post, but you all will be first to know.

Ann and I continue to go out four or five times a week, seeking the enjoyment of seeing birds and wildlife, and getting more photos for your enjoyment.

1Y7A1913-net-goldfinch-american-bob-zeller

American Goldfinch

So that’s all for this post.  Time to dig into our Thanksgiving dinner.

Please click on my “Bob’s Gallery” button to see my newest and all of my photos.  If you would like to make purchases, the information is there for you.  I do appreciate all of you.

HAPPY BIRDING!!

 

HAPPY BIDRD

All in a Day’s Work


Somebody mentioned to me a few days ago, that I was good at making bird photos into a work of art.  I appreciate compliments like that, but it is all in a day’s work.  Some days are a bust when I am out looking for good photos.  On the other hand, when I have great days, it makes it all worth while.  Such was a recent day, when, although the birding was slow, the quality of what little we saw was great.

We were roaming through the local city parks, here in San Angelo.  It was cloudy, even a little foggy when we left the house.  Our first stop was at Spring Creek Park, but there wasn’t much to see.  The birds were in hiding, I guess, because of the dampness.  The fog lifted a bit as were were leaving so we headed to Middle Concho Park.  The skies brightened then although it stayed cloudy.

It made for nice even lighting.  We came upon this Vermilion Flycatcher and he was quite nice to give me some good poses.  It looked like we might have a pretty good day after all.

1Y7A1414-net-flycatcher-vermilion-bob-zeller

Vermilion Flycatcher

This House Wren was in a brushy area near the water.

1Y7A1486-net-wren-house-bob-zeller

House Wren

The most fun of all was seeing this bobcat.  In a large open area outside of the park, we had seen two bobcats from a distance.  Too far for photos, I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to get photographs.  They were both on the run, heading for the brush, so I wouldn’t have been too sucessful anyway.  We were beginning to leave the area, when I happened to look to the left into the brush.  I was thrilled to see this young Bobcat, laying there looking contented, and staring right at me.  It was one of those one-in-a-million chances.  I was about 150 feet away.  I stopped the car, turned off the engine, and proceeded to take as many photos as I wanted.  He didn’t move too much, except for opening and closing his eyes.  I surmise he had just finished a sucessful morning hunt, and was resting.  Anyway, after getting about 50 exposures, I drove away and let him sleep.  As beautiful as he was and I enjoyed watching him, there was nothing to gain by staying.  I hate to disturb or agitate any wildlife.

1Y7A1505-net-bobcat-bob-zeller

Young Bobcat

After leaving that park, we decided to head for home.  However, luck was still with me, and as we rounded a bend in the road, off to the right there was a wetlands area.  In a tree overlooking the water was this beautiful Osprey.  I drove down the road further, copped a U turn, and came back, driving in the weeds on the left side of the road.  I wanted to photograph him from my drivers’ side window.

1Y7A1560-net-osprey-bob-zeller

Osprey

So, anyway, I love days like that, when I turn a lemon into lemonade.  But I have been busy since my last post, so here are a few more memorable photos that I have gotten since then.

1Y7A1174-net-bunting-lark-bob-zeller

Lark Bunting

1Y7A1243-net-pelicans-bob-zeller

American White Pelicans at O.C. Fisher Lake

1Y7A1295-net-sparrow-black-throated-bob-zeller

Black-throated Sparrow

1Y7A1569-net-robin-bob-zeller

American Robin – pale adult

1Y7A1589-net-heron-great-blue-bob-zeller

Great Blue Heron

That’s all for this post.  Now, I would like to mention that Christmas is coming so how about checking out my on-line store.  Not only can you get prints of my work in any size, but also home accessories like coffee mugs, tote bags, etc., all featuring my photography.  Click on “Bob’s Gallery”  at top of this page for more information on how to purchase.

Also, I have several of my 2018 calendars left.  They make great stocking stufffers. Click here for info. https://bobzeller.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/my-2018-texas-tweeties-calendar/

Bob and Ann’s Great Adventure at San Angelo State Park


Ann and I are retired, as you all know.  Ann, after 38 years as office manager for the local Coca-cola Bottling Company;  me after two tours with the U.S. Air Force and several years as a self-employed business man.  Once, an owner of a lawn and landscape company and twelve years as a contractor for the San Angelo Standard-Times.  Now, even though I am retired, I am still a successful wildlife photographer, being published in several national publications.  But you can read more about my other shenanagans by clicking on many of the buttons at the top of this blog.

Now you may be wondering what we do with all of this time on our hands.  Ann is 78 years of age and I have just turned 83.  As you know we both have a love of wildlife, specifically birds at the present time.  So, since we live only three miles from San Angelo State Park, that is where we spend much of our time.

Our daily routine goes something like this.  I am usually the first to awake, around 6:00AM.  I get the coffee pot going, turn on the news to Fox and Friends, and check my iPad to see who is beating me at Words with Friends.  By 7:00, I have usually disturbed Ann enough that she awakens and joins me for another cup of coffee.

We discuss our plans for the day.  That usually includes discussing a birding trip, usually to the state park. So we decide to put off any chores that should be done around the house.  It can always be done the next day.  We get dressed, load up my cameras and assorted equipment.  She gets snacks and her bird listing note-book.  We head to Rosa’s Mexican Cafe for a breakfast burrito and taco to go.

We have an annual pass so it is economical to spend time at the state park, and we also have access to the gate combination in case we get there early.  After going through the gate, we head for one of the two boat ramps that are accessible to O. C. Fisher Lake.  There are about a dozen more ramps to the lake, but because of the extreme low level of the lake, they are about 500 yards or more from the water.  We like to park and watch for waterfowl while eating our breakfast.  We can usually get to see Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, American Coots, Great Egrets and assorted sandpipers and small sparrows.  One particular day, we were out of the car as I was trying to photograph some American White Pelicans.  Ann was a couple of feet behind me.  A Bobcat rushed through, chasing a rabbit, and almost knocked Ann off of her feet.

1Y7A9989-net-egret-great-bob-zeller

Great Egret

When we have finished eating, we start our drive through the park, driving slowly at about 5 MPH.  This particular morning we decide to head for the Isabel Harte mulit-use area.  Trails, picnic tables, etc.   Taking some back roads to get there we can sometime see hawks, owls and other small birds.  One particular area we slow almost to a stop and look carefully for Verdins or Yellow-breasted Chats that have been seen.  We are always looking for that next surprise.

1Y7A0268-net-owl-horned-bob-zeller

Great Horned Owl

Once at the Isabel Harte area, we head for a favorite spot for warblers and other tiny birds.  It is basically just a large shrubby area.  We park so we have a good view.  With patience we can see and photographer, Orange-crowned Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Blue-gray Gnatchers, etc.  It is always great fun to try to photography these flighty tiny birds.

1Y7A0783-net-warbler-orange-crowned-bob-zeller

Orange-crowned Warbler

After spending some time there, we reverse ourselves and head back for the other side of that area of the park.  On the way we may see Bobwhites and Greater Roadrunners.

1Y7A0486-net-roadrunner-bob-zeller

Greater Roadrunner

Numerous Loggerhead Shrikes.

1Y7A0685-net-shrike-loggerhead-bob-zeller

Loggerhead Shrike

Eventually we reach the other usuable boat ramp that I mentioned earlier.  From there we can sight American Pelicans far out on the lake.  Also there are  more coots, Ring-billed Gulls and Red-winged Blackbirds.  On occasion we have seen Peregrine Falcons streaking across the lake.  About ten years ago when there was more water in the lake, three Roseate Spoonbills arrived and spent a week.  A  rarity, as they are usually found near the gulf coast.  But that is the fun of birding.  You just never know when you might get a nice surprise show up in front of you.

1Y7A9605-net-kingfisher-belted-bob-zeller

Belted Kingfisher

Our drives through the park usually take about three hours, depending on how much time I spend getting (or not getting) photographs.  We stop at the blind sometimes if there we are not too tired, but we actually have much more fun and and success just on our drives.  We then head for the house, where I download the morning’s images for editing and Ann brings her monthly listings up to date.  Then, how about a little nap. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this little narrative about a day in our lives.  Feel free to comment.  Please. 🙂  We like to hear from you.