Sandhill Cranes near San Angelo


A few days ago I received an e-mail from one of my readers, Michelle Sundeen, informing me of some Sandhill Cranes that she had seen several mornings.  Since Sandhill Cranes are not regular visitors to this area, she definitely had my attention.

She told me that they were in a field northwest of San Angelo, near Miles, Texas.  As everyone that is acquainted with me knows, I “have camera, will travel”, so  Sunday morning, Ann and I took a drive out highway 67.  When we got to the location, we looked to the left into the fields and spotted them.  At first, with the naked eye, they appeared as tiny gray objects that I thought were sheep.  As soon as I put the binoculars on them, I saw them for what they really were.

There were several hundred on the ground, easily 400 yards away, and as we watched several more were arriving, in several flocks of around twenty-five each.  I had my Canon EOS 70D and Tamron 150-600mm lens.  First I tried to photograph some of incoming birds.  In the early morning sky, they appeared more as shadows, lacking in detail.

To get the best shots possible, I got out of the car, climbed down into a bar ditch, then up the other side and then onto a railroad track.  I knelt down and got into the steadiest position possible to hand-hold my long lens.  All these images are heavily cropped.

Sandhill Cranes arriving from roosting.

Sandhill Cranes arriving from roosting.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes a little closer.

Sandhill Cranes a little closer.

Sandhill Cranes doing mating dance.

Sandhill Cranes doing mating dance.

It must be that time of year, because there were numerous mating dances going on.  Click on any image to see enlargements.

Seeing the Sandhill Cranes added another specie to our 2014 Texas Big Year list, which brought our total to date to 117.

#114  Northern Bobwhite

#115  Barn Swallow

#116  Least Sandpiper

#117  Sandhill Crane

Bosque Del Apache Trip – Part II


The Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge consists of open fields, copses of trees, and several large lagoons or ponds.  Also included is a board-walk over one watery acre where there are reeds and water birds.  But the main part is the 12-mile driving tour that goes through and around these areas.  You may take your time and do it at your own pace.  You may stop anywhere you desire.  All you have to do is pull to the side of the road.  There are also many permanent viewing areas placed along the drive.  At the visitors center you can use the blinds and cactus gardens to see quail and other birds and small wildlife.  Rather than bore you with a lot of narrative. I will show some more images that I captured there.

But before I do that, I want to relate one our most thrilling experiences.  As we were doing the driving tour, we came upon this large lagoon that was filled with several species of ducks.  I spotted with my naked eye what I at first thought was a rather large white breasted duck.  Then through my binoculars, I realized that it was a hawk trying to sink it’s claws into a Northern Shoveler.  I figured that I might have as much as a minute to grab my 500mm and the tripod.  But just I reached for them, a beautiful Bald Eagle swooped down, snatched the duck from the hawk, and flew away.  An awesome image that I regretted that I wasn’t able to capture.

Gambel's Quail in tree

Cactus Wren

Black-throated Sparrow perched on Cholla

A young Western Meadowlark

Merlin in the brush

Sandhill Cranes in afternoon sun

So those were some of the highlights of the trip photographically, that is.  While in Las Cruces we enjoyed the fine Mexican food that can be found there.  However, a trip by Bob Zeller must have a dramatic ending, shouldn’t it.  After dining at La Posta restaurant in Old Mesilla, I stepped off the curb.  Then after seeing an automobile approaching, I stepped back up on the curb, slipped, fell and badly abraised my arm and hand.  So a trip to Walgreen’s drug store, for bandages, etc. ensued, followed by going back to our room to get cleaned up.  No broken bones, fortunately, but it will be several days before my arm and hand will be without bandages.

Organ Mountains, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Happy Birding!!

Bosque Del Apache Trip – Part I


Well, after a quick, but wonderful trip to Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, we are back and getting things back to normal here. 

The trip nearly didn’t happen.  The distance from San Angelo to Soccoro, New Mexico, the nearest city with lodging, is about 640 miles.  We decided that was too far to try to travel in one day.  After all, in addition to my wanting to do some photography, the three of us are also birders and we tend to get distracted if we see something perched on a telephone pole.  So we decided to stop in Las Cruces , NM and go from there the second day.

We had originally wanted to leave Monday morning, but because we could not get the lodging we wanted, we opted to stay at the Dream Catcher Inn, a bed and breakfast.  But even then, we could get our three night stay only starting on Tuesday night.  So we left on Tuesday morning. 

A good thing we did.  On Monday morning we awoke to no hot water at home.  Our hot water heater was leaking water and had to be replaced.  If we had left on that Monday morning we would have had a mess to clean up after getting home.  So things happen for a reason.

The inn is east of Las Cruces, up near the foothills of the Organ Mountains.

View from our room at Dream Catcher Inn

On Wednesday morning we woke to the view pictured above.  Our hosts, Ken and Anita McLeod, were already awake and had our breakfast ready.  Hot coffee, sizzling bacon, a wonderful egg quiche, and bowls of fruit.  We then hit the road for the Bosque Del Apache NWR.  It was a drive of about 140 miles, but well worth it, as you will see.

At the bosque, you can take a 12 mile self-guided driving tour through the refuge.  You can stop anywhere along the way and there are several observation points.  There are numerous lagoons filled with water birds of all kinds, dead tree snags in the ponds with Bald Eagles perched,  tall trees where you can find many hawks.  At one end of the reserve was a large concentration of several thousand Sandhill Cranes.  It was late in the day by time we reached them, and they were just arriving after spending the day feeding in nearby fields.

Sandhill Crane

I will continue with more in Part II.  More pictures to come.  My monitor crashed  yesterday morning, so I ordered a new one, but it will be a couple of weeks before it arrives.  But I did manage to get another image or two edited besides these.  Click on either one for an enlargement.

Birding San Angelo News and Photos


I haven’t posted to my blog for a couple of days.  It just got so bone-chilling cold today, that I decided to stay in.  So I haven’t decided on anything special to write about.  I did get my life list up to 220.  I added an American Pippit last week, thanks to Sue Oliver.  We ran into her at O. C. Fisher Lake and she pointed one out.  I haven’t gotten close enough to get a decent photo yet, but now that I know what they look like and where they are, I should be able to come up with a nice image soon.

Blue Grosbeak

The monthly Adult Birding Adventure is coming up this weekend.  I hope to see some more of you out there.  The number of birders that are participating is increasing, but always room for more.  The weather forecast looks good, too.

Bald Eagles - Llano, Texas

The Phainopepla that hung around for about a month has left the building.  He certainly kept to the same area while he was here.  Almost always in the same tree, but alternated with a couple of nearby ones.  He will be missed.

The O. C. Fisher Lake level is drastically decreasing, and therefore the shorebirds are getting harder to see.  But there are plenty to see if you have binoculars or a spotting scope.  A huge number of American White Pelicans have left, but there was still around two dozen yesterday.  We have been seeing at least one Herring Gull

White Ibis

Since plans for a second bird-blind has been put on the back burner, Ann and I have expanded the feeding area at the present one.  On the east side, we have added a couple more feeders so the viewing experience has been enhanced.

Nest week on the 15th, Ann and I, along with Jodie Wolslager are heading to New Mexico to spend a couple of days.  We plan on visiting the Boxque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.  I hope to bring back some new photographs, hopefully of some Snow Geese, Sandhill Cranes, and I hope to get lucky and see a Bald Eagle.

Ringed Kingfisher

By the way, these photos have nothing to do with today’s subject.  But I can’t resist not putting photos with my posts. 🙂  Enjoy them, and click on either image to see an enlargement.