Good Friday Birding

I received my Canon 7D Mark II back from the factory Thursday evening.  I had a mishap a few weeks ago, and I had messed up the focus system.  I sent it off to Canon, and in eight days they had it repaired and back to me.  A great turn-a-round time.  Anyway, I was anxious to see if all was in working order.  It was, and I must say that I am so impressed with difference in the IQ of it over the 70D, which, by the way, produces darned fine images.  It performed greatly while I was using it as a back-up until I got the Mark II back.

So, anyway, we headed out to the local parks around Lake Nasworthy.  We didn’t stay there long.  We had forgotten about the long Easter weekend, and those parks were crowded with campers, hikers, RVers, walkers, bicyclists, fishermen, etc.  Not much chance of doing any nature photography there.

We went with Plan B and headed out to San Angelo State Park.  Not too many people there, mainly because of the absence of the lake.  Just the mile-wide dry lake bed.

We checked out the blind and caught a few birds there.  These three images needed very little post processing.  Just a bit light adjusting, and a tad more contrast.  Like I said, the Canon 7D Mark II is just amazing.



Canyon Towhee

Canyon Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

After spending about some time in the blind, we decided to just take a drive around the park to see what else we might come across.

We saw a Rock Wren up in the rocks of O.C. Fisher Dam.  Very difficult to see, and only if you happen to catch movement.  Ann spotted it, looking very tiny.  Actually too tiny, and too far away for a usuable photo.

A little later we did spot our first of the year Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.  I knew they were due to arrive, as usual, around the first of April.  It was in a small tree way off to the left of us.  I got this shot of him before he flew off.  I didn’t get a really tack-sharp photo, but that was my fault.  Hey, I’m not perfect.  Anyway, here is the result.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

I hope you enjoyed these photos.  If you are viewing them on your computer, or iPad, click on the images to see some nice enlargements.

Happy Easter!  and Happy Birding!!

Birding before the rains……

The forecast for yesterday was cloudy with an 80% chance of rain.  Well, for me that meant there was a 20% chance that it wouldn’t rain.  Ann and I ate breakfast and it hadn’t started to rain yet, so we were thinking that maybe we were home free.  We decided to head out.  On the way, we saw some ducks in a pond behind a nearby Firestone store.  We saw Green-winged Teals and Northern Pintails there.

Northern Pintail with Green-winged Teal in the background.

Northern Pintail with Green-winged Teal in the background.

We had not been to San Angelo State Park in several days so we decided to go to the the bird blind there.  We were hoping to see a Spotted Towhee that had been reported there.  It would be an addition to our 2015 Big Year list.  We were not disappointed as it did make an appearance, and the other bird species were quite active, considering the oncoming cold front.  We were able to see  many other species.  We were not so lucky in seeing a Verdin, that also had been reported earlier.  With the skies being heavily clouded the light was somewhat low.  However I was able to come away with these images.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

female Northern Cardinal eyeballing that upside-down peace sign created by that hanging branch of a Cholla plant.

female Northern Cardinal eyeballing that upside-down peace sign created by that hanging branch of a Cholla plant.

A feisty Spotted Towhee

A feisty Spotted Towhee





Black-crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

Shortly after that final photo was captured, it started to rain.  We skedaddled out of there.  We were happy to head home, as I felt we had come away with some nice images and we added two more to our 2015 Big Year list; Spotted Towhee and Northern Pintail.  We are now at 86, with “only” 124 to go to make our goal of 210 by December 31.  Should be a piece of cake.  Right?  Yeah, right.  Stay tuned…… 🙂

Migration is getting closer…..

I have been getting out and watching around for the fall arrivals.  Not too successful but did see the first Spotted Towhee of the fall out at San Angelo State Park.  We drove to Middle Concho Park and spotted two Pied-billed Grebes and a large flock of Black-crowned Night Herons.  I did not get any usuable photos of these because of the distance involved, so I will show you the two below from previous posts.  But it is a sign that migration is getting under way, albeit very late.

adult Black-crowned Night Heron

adult Black-crowned Night Heron – published in a previous post.

Spotted Towhee with an attitude.

Spotted Towhee with an attitude.  Published in a previous post.

Here are a few photographs I managed to get the past few days.

Common Nighthawk on mesquite brance at San Angelo State Park.

Common Nighthawk on mesquite branch at San Angelo State Park.

Northern Cardinal, female

Northern Cardinal, female

Yellow-crowned Nigh Heron at nearby K-Mart creek.

Yellow-crowned Nigh Heron at nearby K-Mart creek.

We can’t forget our four-footed friends.

White-tailed Deer at Spring Creek Park.

White-tailed Deer at Spring Creek Park.

Enjoy the pics until I get back with some more.  Click on any of them to see enlargements.

Quiz #2 – Final Results

Here we go again.  This second quiz garnered more votes than the first one, so it seems that the interest in them are growing.  I, for one, am really enjoying them, but of course I have an advantage.  I know the answer.  But I hope more of you are starting to use some photo guides to help you along.  It is not cheating to do so.  I encourage it.  This is the original picture that you were asked to identify.

So after a world-wide vote of 84 votes, here is the final tabulation:

  1. Spotted Towhee                                 39
  2. Black-headed Grosbeak                  19
  3. American Robin                                18
  4. Orchard Oriole                                     7
  5. Dark-eyed Junco                                 1

The correct answer is Spotted Towhee.  That means that nearly half of you readers got it right.  That’s not bad, as the wrong answers were birds that are very similar. as these pictures show.

Black-headed Grosbeak

American Robin

Orchard Oriole

Dark-eyed Junco 

So that does it for Quiz #2.  I will let you digest this for the evening.  Tune in tomorow, Saturday morning for the always exciting, Quiz #3. 🙂

San Angelo State Park Birds

Tuesday began with overcast skies again.  Temperatures were quite nice, though.  With the cloudy skies I decided to get out of the house and visit the blind at San Angelo State Park.  I love the lighting in these conditions; no bright sunlight or harsh shadows.  Ann had to do some household chores, so I could concentrate more on my bird photography, and less on just bird watching.

When I first got there, I first saw a Spotted Towhee, (Pipilo maculatus), darting in and out of some nearby brush.  Occasionally, he would flit up into a small tree.

Spotted Towhee

Then there were the two Pyrrhuloxia, (Cardinalis sinuatus), a male and a female.  Two very beautiful birds.  One, the male, was in a bird feeder.

Pyrrhuloxia (male)

The female was peeking around from a small log.

Pyrrhuloxia (female)

I hope you enjoyed the photos. Click on any image to see a beautiful enlargement.  More to come soon.

Random Sunday Morning Images

After the rains the past few days, I got out of the house for a few minutes this morning.  It was cool and damp.  I drove by San Angelo State Park to see if anything was stirring.  Not much action there, then I drove by the little pond in the Bluffs Addition.  Here are a few images from my expedition.  All were taken with my Canon EOS 7D with 100-400mm lens.  I will put exposure information beneath each photo.  Click on any of them to see an enlargement.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite, (Colinus virginianus).  1/640 sec. @ f7.1,  ISO 2000.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher(Toxostoma curvirostre).  1/640 sec. @ f9, ISO 3200.

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee, (Pipilo maculatus).  1/400 sec @f9, ISO 3200.

American Wigeon

American Wigeon, (Anas americana).  1/640 sec. @ f9, ISO 800.

Thanksgiving Day Odds and Ends

First and foremost, I want to wish all of my faithful readers and bloggers in the United States, a Happy Thanksgiving Day.  For you who live all of those other 116 countries, please have a Happy Day.

In my post about the Eastern and Spotted Towhees, check out this AOU link.  The American Ornithologists Union is the official authority about classifications of birds.  The are responsible for the renaming of the species as they see fit.  As I was saying in that post, the two above species were once one, the Rufous-sided Towhee.

Another bird that causes similar confusion is the Tufted Titmouse, or the Black-crested Titmouse that is found here in the western United States.  The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says on it’s AllAboutBirds website, “The Black-crested Titmouse of Texas and Mexico has at times been considered just a form of the Tufted Titmouse. The two species hybridize where they meet, but the hybrid zone is narrow and stable over time. They differ slightly in the quality of their calls, and show genetic differences as well.”

I would have liked to have had a nice photograph of a tom turkey, posed in it’s strutting position, with all of those tail feathers spread out, but I only have one it it’s normal pose.  Well, okay, I lied.  I do have one in the mating pose, but the light was bad and it isn’t as great as I would have liked.  I’ll show you both.

Wild Turkey - male strutting

Wild Turkey - male

Now, how about a little turkey humor to give you a little chuckle.  You all know about Chicken Little and her sky is falling tale.  Well, Mrs. Turkey Little was walking along and she saw a man dropping from the sky in a parachute.  She yells, “This guy is falling, this guy is falling!!”  🙂

Okay, I know you’re saying, “Bob, where in the heck do you come up with this stuff?”  Heck, I don’t know.  My imagination partly, and partly stealing jokes from other people.  But I do know that if you smile, you will live longer.  🙂

So keep on smiling along with me, and we’ll be blogging for many years to come. 🙂

Spotted and Eastern Towhees

A male Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus...

Image via Wikipedia

Katie Johnson asked me if I had any photographs of the Rufous-sided Towhees that she has seen near her home.  Well, Katie, alas and alack, I do not have photos of the Rufous-sided Towhees.  KIDDING!!  Actually I have photos of the Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus).  Several years ago, the people that are responsible for doing such things, separated the Rufous-sided Towhee into two distinct species, the Spotted Towhee and the Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), pictured here (not my photo).  So the rufous-sided is no more.  Giving Katie’s geographical location, I suspect she is seeing the Spotted Towhee.  They are, obviously, very similar.  As you can see from the above Wikipedia photo, the Eastern lacks the spots on the wings.  The four photos below are mine and they are all of the Spotted.

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

So there you have it.  I hope everyone enjoyed this article about the Eastern and Spotted Towhees and their differences.  Click on the images to see enlargements.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. 🙂

X-Bar Ranch – The Hike

Ann and I spent three wonderful days down at the Live Oak Lodge at X-Bar Ranch.  We had the place literally to ourselves.  No hunters yet, and no other guests.  So we spent most of the time eating, sleeping or watching birds.  However, on Tuesday we decided to take a little walk.

When we had checked in on Monday, Christy and Stan Meador, our hosts were pointing out different things to do.  Christy mentioned the various trails that would be open, as there were no hunters around.  During that conversation I thought I had heard the words “green trail’  and “six tenths mile”.

Dark-eyed Junco

So, when Ann mentioned that a walk would be fun, I interjected that the Green Trail would be great because it was only .6 tenths of a mile.  Heck, we have a little route around our neighborhood that we figure is a mile, and we handle that with ease.  This would be a piece of cake, right??  Not!!

We set off at approximately 10:45AM.  We had light jackets because it was a little cool and windy.  I had a camera slung over my shoulder.  Ann had binoculars.  We carried no water, because, heck, it was only six tenths of a mile., right?  We had drank up before we left, though.

We got to walking along, me taking the occasional snapshot along the way.  The trail was well marked.  No way could we get lost, so were just enjoying the day.  The trail is pretty rugged in places.  Hilly, not real steep, but rocky in most places, as it follows some water runoff areas or washes.

Spotted Towhee

 After about thirty minutes, I thought we should be very close to the end of the trail, because this trail was only six tenths of a mile, right?  Well we kept walking and were starting to get a little worn.  I am 76 years old, just recently recovered from a back fracture, and Ann is 72, so I began to think that maybe we unknowingly bit off more that we could handle.  Any time now we expected to see the cabins.  We walked more.  No cabins in sight.  We were both starting to really get concerned.  We were getting warm as the temperature started to climb, and had shed our jackets.  Also we were getting  very thirsty.  After about an hour or maybe a little more, we knew something was very wrong.  We knew we were on the trail, as it was marked and easily to follow.  We also knew by then that it was longer that we originally thought, but how much longer, we had no idea.

Finally, we got a glimpse of something in the distance.  I borrowed Ann’s binoculars and discovered that the cabins were still about a mile or more away.  We were stunned, and wondered how could this be.  We knew even if it was a mile, that the trail wouldn’t be in a straight line.  There were too many switch-backs in the hilly trails.  I tried to sit down on a rock to rest a minute while we were trying to decide whether we should try to call someone on our cell phone.  We decided that no one could reach us very fast, even if we found someone to contact. 

So we hugged each other a bit, prayed to the Man upstairs and decided there was only one way out, and that was just to go ahead, one step at a time.  I knew that if I sat down again, I wouldn’t be able to get back up.  There were very few places to sit, anyway.  Only an occasional rock.  By then I was using the only walking stick we had, plus a piece of tree branch that we had picked up.  Ann was making it without any aid, though with difficulty.   How she done it, I will never know.   In places, we were literally leaning on each other.  Plus we were chastising ourselves for being so foolish.

Northern Cardinal - female

After what seemed forever, actually about two hours and a half, we finally made it to the last gate.  It was similar but not exactly like a cattle guard.  For me, just getting across that was a struggle.  But make it, we did.  Thankfully, we sat down on a chair by the patio.  I found that God looks after fools and drunks……….. and we were sober.

Afterwords, we found trail maps in the lodge.  There are four trails a person can take.  The shortest is a mile and a half.  We DID NOT take that one. 

We got a valuable lesson that day.  Do not attempt such an undertaking unless you are absolutely sure of the facts, then go prepared.  In retrospect, we also should have let someone know where we were going.  But, what’s done is done.  On Wednesday, we didn’t leave the lodge.  We just sat on the patio and watched and photographed birds.  I needed to use the walking stick anyway, because I pulled a muscle in my hip during our hike.  But I am feeling great again.  No more hiking again for awhile, thank you very much.

By the way, Ann did not want me to tell this story.  She thought it would make us look stupid.  Maybe or maybe not.  After all, we just misunderstood what was said and did not get confirmation.

By the way, the length of the Green Trail is three miles……….

Happy birding! 🙂

Back from X-Bar Ranch

We got back from the Live Oak Lodge at the X-bar Ranch this morning.  Still in the act of getting caught on some of my stuff that needs doing.  We picked up Suzie, our Shi-Tzu from the sitters and she is glad to be back.  We had a great time and are looking forward to going back in the spring.

We saw a bunch of birds there that we don’t usually see around San Angelo.  There were many Hermit Thrushes.  I hadn’t seen one in the wild in a couple of years.  Susan and Sid Johnson, who live in Eldorado not far away, brought pizza out to our cabin Tuesday evening so they could bird with us for with a couple of hours.  Suzanne instantly brought our attention to a Dark-eyed Junco.  Darn, she’s good. 🙂 

Hermit Thrush

Wednesday morning Ann and I got out early and saw a Spotted Towhee, then a somewhat rare White-throated Sparrow.  That is another lifer.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of it.  It didn’t stay long enough to get a decent image. 

In other news, I have decided to start a Bird of the Week series.  It will begin tomorrow, so watch for it every Friday.  Earlier I had contemplated doing a Bird of the Day, but decided that series wouldn’t last very long at that rate.   But the weekly idea means I can string it out much longer.

As you can see, I have inserted a photo of the Hermit Thrush.  On Monday, I will show you some more images after I sort through them and do a little editing.  And I’ll have a little story about our hike.