Monday Morning Raptors

Where are all of the little birds?  A nice chilly morning gave Ann and I the idea to go birding around the local parks.  For some unknown reason it seemed that all of the birds had disappeared.  Maybe they know something we don’t know.  Anyway, we first made a stop at San Angelo State Park bird blind.  We saw doves, sparrows, and then to our surprise did appear a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  It zipped in, perched on an old oil drum at the back of the property for about ten seconds, then zipped off again.  During that ten seconds I was able to rip off about three exposures.  Luck was with me and I got this excellent pose.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

We then made our way out towards the parks around Lake Nasworthy.  A mile or two before the entrance to Middle Concho Park, we saw this Osprey perched on a mesquite branch over a small wetland.



In the park proper, we saw a juvenile (I think) Red-tailed Hawk just sitting pretty on another tree branch.  I wheeled our car into position and got a nice portrait that you see here.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

All in all, not a bad haul photographically, but a bad day for birding.  Again, where have all the birds gone?

Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks

You guys all know how much I love to photograph raptors.  I have posted many images of Red-tailed Hawks several times during the history of this blog.  Today I will feature several photos of the Cooper’s Hawk and of the Sharp-shinned Hawk.  These hawks are some of favorites along side of the red-tailed.  In fact, the sign on the side of my car features a Cooper’s Hawk, as do my business cards.

The following photographs were taken over the past few years.  There is much similarity between the Cooper’s Hawk and the Sharp-shinned Hawk.  The difficulty in making the right ID has me hoping that I made the right choice in naming these.

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

On a side note, when I photographed the top image, I was at the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.  Sitting next to me, co-incidentally, was Jim Miller, a fellow blogger and photographer from San Antonio, Texas.  Somewhere in his files, he has a photo nearly identical to mine.

The following is an image that I believe to be a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  You can see and understand the difficulty in identifying these two species.  I am sure that there will be letters and controversy after I post this.  It would have been easier if I had a photo of the both of them, sitting side by side.  It would show that the Cooper’s Hawk is a good 5 inches taller than the Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

I was, at first, reluctant to post the last, (above) photo.  Simply because I had clipped the tail.  But upon further consideration, I felt that it was too good an image to just discard it.

So, enjoy the photos.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

Sharp-shinned Hawk with Canon PowerShot SX40

We were in Big Bend National Park on the first of March this year.  I had taken many, many photos around that time.  I am just now getting back into my files from them to do some sorting.  I came across this image that I had nearly forgotten about.

I had purchased a new Canon PowerShot SX40 camera for use in taking on short hikes when I didn’t want to load myself down with my heavy equipment.  I had came across this hawk in the trees and decided that was an opportunity to see what the camera could do.  We were birding from the car, so I was probably only about  75 feet away.  I would say that the camera did a bang-up job.  Exposure was 1/200 sec. @f5.8, ISO 100.  Zoom was set at 150mm.  Hand-held.  I might add that I just finished printing a 12×16 enlargement that I am going to frame.  Only down-side that I can think of, is the viewfinder is a bit small and hard to get used to.

So if anyone is contemplating a new small lightweight, economically priced camera with a heck of a long zoom, this may be just the ticket.

Click on the image to see an enlargement.

The Day of Many Photographs

I try to be a bit witty sometimes with titles of my posts, but this past Saturday was a day that was memorable.  All kinds of photo ops.  I won’t say to much more, but just show you some of the results.

Photos mostly taken at Spring Creek or Middle Concho Parks here in San Angelo.  The exceptions are the second and third photos which were taken at a small downtown lake.  We were just driving around through the parks, and the birds seemed to be exceptionally cooperative.  Click on the images to see great enlargements.

Black-crested Titmouse

I got lucky, as I often do, as the Black-crested Titmouse was only about 20 feet from the car window.  He was completely oblivious of me.

Lesser Scaup - juvenile

Ring-necked Duck - female

Golden-fronted Woodpecker - female

Sharp-shinned Hawk

The Sharp-shinned Hawk gave me an exposure problem.  On the good side, he was perched only about 20 feet from the road-side.  The bad part, there was a limb that was casting a shadow over his head.

Great Blue Heron on log

Great Egret on the hunt

Both the Great Blue Heron and the Great Egret were about 150 yards away on the opposite side of the river.

Belted Kingfisher

Singing Eastern Bluebird

I decided not to include EXIF information in this post.  I just didn’t want to add the clutter.  If any of you want to know how I shot any particular image, just mention it in your comment.  And I do hope that you will comment.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Yestereday, despite the cold wind, Ann and I decided to venture out to the park again.  The sun was shining nicely, so it made up for the cool temps.  We stopped at the bird blind, but saw nothing that we haven’t seen the past few days.  But after deciding to take a short drive around the park, I spotted this Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus), sitting among the mesquites.  At least I think it is a Sharp-shinned.  They are easily confusedd with a Cooper’s Hawk.  But this one has the more rounder head of the Sharpie.  If anyone has a different opinion I would appreciate hearing.  I think it is one of my best images of this particular hawk.  You can click on it and see an enlargement.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Location:     San Angelo State Park
Observation date:     1/21/11
Number of species:     19

American White Pelican     30
Great Blue Heron     3
Black Vulture     30
Sharp-shinned Hawk     1
Red-tailed Hawk     1
American Kestrel     1
Greater Yellowlegs     20
Least Sandpiper     30
Ring-billed Gull     10
Mourning Dove     2
Black-crested Titmouse     1
Northern Mockingbird     20
Spotted Towhee     1
White-crowned Sparrow     24
Northern Cardinal     4
Pyrrhuloxia     4
Red-winged Blackbird     20
Western Meadowlark     2
House Finch     12

Back from the Big Bend, Part I

We finally got back home yesterday evening from the Big Bend area of the great state of Texas.  We traveled a total of about 1,100 miles and took around 500 images, most of what will end up in the proverbial round file.  But what great fun, so many margaritas, so little time. 🙂

This morning we had to lead our monthly adult birding tour at the San Angelo State Park.  Fewer birds than usual, but we met great new people.  Two of them were Tom and Judy Gargis from Fort Worth, Texas.  We first met them along the trails at Big Bend National Park before they were leaving for home.  Co-incidentally they were making a lay-over here at San Angelo State Park before heading for the metroplex.  Small world.

I have obviously a task ahead of me to edit a lot of images.  But first I wanted to post a few that I edited last night before turning in for some rest.  I spotted this North American Bobcat, also known as a red lynx or wild cat,  near the empty Rio Grand Village RV camping area.  He wandered out of the brush and decided to take a breather beneath a tree.  Fortunately, for me, he decided to rest several minutes, allowing me to get several exposures.  I had attached my Canon 100-400mm zoom lens to my Canon EOS 7D, and took the pictures hand-held from my van window.  Click any image to see an enlargement.



We spotted this Sharp-shinned Hawk in a tree about 30 yards off the highway in Big Bend National Park.  I parked up the highway and walked back silently to get this image with the same camera set-up as above for the bobcat.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

And last, but certainly not least, I have to include this photo of a Horned Lizard, more familiarly known as a Horned Toad, or Horny Toad.  I took this image this morning at San Angelo State Park.  This is the first one that I have seen in about 10 years.  They have been becoming scarce due to the increasing amounts of fire-ants in the state.  So I was pleasantly to see that there are still a few survivors.  This one was on the roadway, so after photographing it, I made sure that it scurried off the highway into nearby deeper grass.

Horned Toad

Hawks, Hawks, Hawks!

To me  there is hardly anything more beautiful than a hawk soaring through the air, on the hunt for prey.  I love to photograph them on the wing whenever possible.  But I take what I can get.  For example the Zone-tailed Hawk pictured here was perched in the rain, getting soaking wet.  That was the first one I had ever seen and that, of course, is the only photograph that I have, and I was lucky to get it, as it flew away seconds after I took the shot.  The Zone-tailed Hawk is often mistaken for a vulture because of it’s slouching posture when perching and it’s similar flying habits.

wet Zone-tailed Hawk

I have something new for my blog posts now.  When I am discussing subjects, such as  birds, animals, flowers, etc., I can assign a link, if one is available, to them as in the paragraph above.  If you click on any of those links, they will take to you to more in-depth articles.  So today I am going to show you some of my hawk photographs. 

First up is a Red-shouldered Hawk that I photographed at the Hummer House near Christoval, Texas.  Dan Brown, the owner, had put some meat out for it, and after devouring it, the bird perched in the tree.

Red-shouldered Hawk

 The following is a Northern Harrier that I photographed at San Angelo StatePark.  It was doing it’s usual thing, of flying low over the mesquite and brush.  Again it didn’t come close enough to me to get a great picture, but the image that I did get shows the distinct white wide stripe on the lower back and tail.

Northern Harrier

The Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk are very similar in appearance except that the Coopers is about 5 inches taller.  Other than that, they both are long-tailed and short-winged, and are agile in maneuvering to catch their prey. These two photos were both taken at San Angelo State Park.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

One of the larger buteo hawks is the Swainson’s Hawk.  This one was perched on the cross-bar of a utility pole outside the entrance to San Angelo State Park.

Swainson's Hawk

The buteo to which all other hawks are compared is the Red-tailed Hawk.  Similar in size to the Swainson’s hawk but very conspicuous with the red tail.  This is one that I was lucky enough to catch in flight, and one of my personal favorites.

Red-tailed Hawk

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

Photo editing

It’s cold and blustery this morning.  About  35 degrees with a wind chill of about 25.  So I have been sitting at my computer editing some of my photographs.  At the present I have been using Photoshop Elements as my editing software.  However, I have Photoshop CS4 on order and will have it in a few days.  I just want to emphasize  the importance of photo editing.  You can take what you may think is a badly exposed or badly composed image and make something of them.  I have a couple of examples here. 

First is the Sharp-shinned Hawk I photographed a few days ago, and posted it on my previous post.  When I took the original photo, I was sitting in the blind with my Canon 7D with a 100-400mm tele-zoom.  The hawk flew in and settled in the tree for a minute or two, about 15 yards away.  Because of the tree branches and a bird feeder limiting  my view I used spot focusing.  I had just enough room through the obstructions to get my center focus point on the eyes.  That’s important.  Get the eyes sharp and everything else falls into place.  If you don’t the picture is a bust.  But anyway, the intruding tree branches nearly threw the metered esposure off a bit.  The resulting original shows the hawk almost as a shadow.  But using my editing software I able to brighten it up, increase contrast,  then I cropped it close.  You can see the results below.  The “before and after”.

Sharp-shined hawk un-edited

Sharp-shinned Hawk - cropped and edited

The other photo is of a Black-crowned Night Heron.  I was down town on the River Drive.  Ann and I spotted him across on the other side of the river, about 75 yards away.   I got out of the van with my Canon 7D and my 500mm super telephoto.  In this case the camera done it’s usual great job, and very little editing was needed.  I just cropped it to improve the composition.  You can also see those “before and after pictures here.

Black-crown Night Heron - un-edited

Black-crowned Night Heron - edited

Of course, it is always nice to be close enough so you can compose full frame, and not have to crop, or not have to edit anything.  My Canon 7D comes the closest to getting a perfect exposure more than any camera I have ever owned.  It usually nails the exposure near perfect.  (No, Canon doesn’t pay me anything for pushing there equipment). 🙂

You can click on any photo to see an enlarged image.  Enjoy.

Happy birding and photographing!!

more photos at

Super Bowl weekend photos

Merlin on utility pole.

Dismal weather doesn’t hold me back.  We were in and out of the house, just hanging out and driving around.  Friday morning on the way home from breakfast we spotted a Merlin high up on a power pole.  I checked and it is a prairie sub-species.  Later we drove downtown along the river with Jodie Wolslager and saw several Hooded Mergansers again.  This time I got a photo of a female, with the familiar red Don King hairdo.  Also saw a female Belted Kingfisher, and a Ringed Kingfisher.

Yesterday morning, Ann and I went to the bird blind at the state park to

Wstern Meadowlark

check on the feed supply and ran into a couple of new-comers to San Angelo.  They are Mike and Diane Coleman, who have moved here from Fallon, Nevada, and birding is one of their hobbies.  We then drove through the park for a bit and saw some beautiful Western Meadowlarks plus some other interesting sights.  We saw a Northerh Harrier soaring near the lake, apparently hunting prey, and saw another Harrier sitting on a large rock near the shore of the lake, chowing down on a large fish.

I am going to put some photos here.  The weather, for the most part, was damp and chilly so a few of the photos were taken from the car. 

Sharp-shinned Hawk

The Sharp-shinned Hawk was photographed at park’s bird blind.  It flew in, scaring the crap out of all of the other birds, and landed in a smaller tree.  At the time I had my Canon 7D with my 100-400mm zoom lens in myhands.  For the shot my vision was limited by a tree, but I had just enough room to place my center focus point on the hawk and came up with a good enough image to be able to identify it.

The Great Blue Heron, with it’s breeding plumage was high up on a lamp pole

Great Blue Heron

 along the Concho River downtown.  For that photo I got out of the van.  I sought out a vantage point fron behind some trees and hand-held my 7D with my 500mm lens.  I then had Ann help me get up off the ground so I wouldn’t fall into the river.  It’s hell to get old. 🙂

The Roadrunner was photographed from the window of the van as we were driving around the park.  He had just caught what looked like a large grasshopper.  The Western Meadowlark was in a tree nearby also.  So enjoy the photos.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

Belted Kingfisher - female

Happy Birding!!

Hooded Merganser - female

Greater Roadrunner

Northern Mockingbird

Celebrating a Milestone

What milestone is that, you may ask.  Well, today I reached my 75th year on this great planet of ours.  I saw it coming, but just couldn’t delay it.  It may seem odd, but I have always watched my life in 25 year increments.  Age 21 didn’t do as much for me as age 25 did.   Oh, yeah, at 21 I could drink and carouse around, but I really didn’t think about aging until I hit 25.

At 25 you start to think that, hey, I better start growing up and acting my age, you know, act a little more mature.  Then at 50 you think that this is the top of the hump and you’re only going to start downhill.  Little do you know that you also start picking up speed.  So then between when I turned 70 and yesterday, I always said that I was in my early 70s.

So that brings us to today.  Can’t say early 70s anymore, now it will be upper 70s for awhile.  Wow, now that takes my breath away.  How can that be?  I feel the same now as I did yesterday.  Actually, I feel the same as I did when I was in my mid-60s.  And that’s what important.  Age is only a number, and as the saying goes, you’re only as old as you feel.

If you read my bio you noticed that I didn’t say much about my early years.  I was born a  little pudgy round little babe, but started to lose weight until at about five years of age I was kinda scrawny.  I got anemic, had to take weekly shots for several years to counter that.  I suffered through a bout of encephalitis, which at that time was, and maybe still is, a somewhat rare malady.  I had got bitten by a some kind mosquito they said, but I don’t remember much as I was in a coma for about five days.

Then at age twenty I decided to enlist in the Air Force.  My younger brother Jim decided to enlist also.  We went together to sign up.  Now Jim was two inches taller, out-weighed me by 50 pounds.  I was 6’1″ tall and only weighed 119 pounds.  Everybody expected me to get rejected, but instead it was Jim that couldn’t get in.  They said he had some kidney abnormalities.

During basic training in upstate New York, I contracted pneumonia.  I was put in the hospital.  There the docs decided to fatten me up.  I spent thirty days in there, but I came out a svelt 139 pounds.  Whoopee!!  I ended up spending a little over seven years in the service of my country, then got released because of a medical problem.  It seems that I have a little deal called Marfan’s Syndrome.  It caused my lung to collapse on two different occasions.  One of those times I was playing the saxophone at the Cactus Hotel Ballroom with Leonard King’s Orchestra.  (More about my music career in another blog)  So there is no cure for this so-called disease.  It is genetic.  But not to worry, it is not necessarily fatal as long as I take the right pre-cautions.

So having said all that, and I can’t believe I unloaded all that at this time, I will begin my quest of another 25 years.  Despite what I said above, my overall health is great.  My doctor says I am in great shape considering the shape I’m in.  And my doctor isn’t the type to joke around much.

So my special day today started with a Happy Birthday from my very special best friend in Knoxville, Tennessee, then Ann and I decided to go birding at San Angelo State Park.   Saw that same flock of about 250 American White Pelicans, some herons, egrets, etc.  We stopped at the bird blind.  Several birds for awhile, until a Sharp-shinned Hawk flew in and spooked them all away.

As soon as I finish this blog, if I can get myself to shut up, I may work on a new book that I want to publish.   It will be a deluxe edition of some of my best bird photos.   You know, a “Bob’s Greatest Hits” type of thing.   Then maybe Ann and I will go out some for a nice supper.

I wonder what the next 25 years will bring.  Hmmm………………………

Happy Birding!!