Have camera, will travel


Everybody knows how much fun it is to see and photograph new or unusual birds.  I am no different.  I will, at the drop of a hat, jump in the car and head for some reported sighting of a rare bird or a nest of hatchlings.  Within limitations, of course.  I won’t suddenly book plane reservations to go see a miniscule, rare bird that was seen in the far off jungles somewhere.  But if I am within driving distance here in west Texas, count me in.

Such was the case a few days ago.  I got word from friends that a rare Lucifer Hummingbird (Calothorax lucifer) was visiting a feeder at a private residence down in Junction, Texas.  The property owner was posting the info on TexBirds.com and inviting everybody that was interested to drop by.  Because of other commitments, we weren’t able to go right away.  But Saturday evening, the Johnsons from Eldorado called us and wanted to go early Sunday morning.  We agreed to get up early, get breakfast at the Golden Arches and head down to pick them up.  We then headed to Junction, by way of Menard, doing a little birding on the way.

We finally arrived at the people’s home in Junction about 10:00AM, a distance of about 120 miles from San Angelo.  The Lucifer had been reported to be still in the area earlier in the morning.  We parked and observed the feeders for over an hour, but alas, apparently the Lucifer had left the building to head elsewhere.  So, with much disappointment, we returned to San Angelo

But that’s not always the case.  Most of the time we can be very successful in spotting our quarry, albeit sometimes with a little help.  A few years ago, Don Burt reported a very rare Ruddy Ground Dove (Columbina talpacoti) on his place over at Dove Creek.  I called and asked if I could come out and see if I could photograph it.  He answered to the affirmative and we headed out.  (Story continues below.)

Ruddy Ground Dove

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter – tripod mounted
  • 1/1600 sec. @ f5.6
  • ISO 400
  • Lens focal length 700mm
  • Aperture priority
  • Metering – center weighted average

Now I must admit, at this time, I was very, very new to birding, but very avid.  I was getting excited about photographing new birds, but I wasn’t always very smart about it.  In this case when we headed that way, I had now idea what the bird we were going to see looked like.  Duh…  I could have looked at a bird guide, but at that time I am not even sure I owned such a book.

But, good luck shined upon this naive, amateur birder.  Upon arrival to Don’s house, half of the members of the Abilene, Texas, Audubon Bird Society were already there.  I knew a couple of them and they graciously showed us what we were looking for.  We went around with them, and we eventually spotted the bird.  It was being a bit evasive, flying amongst the trees.

The property owner, Don Burt, called me aside.  He said, “Bob, around four o’clock that dove is going to show up along with a bunch of Inca Doves.  Why don’t you set up that big lens of yours about right here, and focus on that fence gate down there”.   So I did.  Right at the scheduled time the Incas flew in and right there along with them was the Ruddy Ground Dove.  I was able to get some very usable images of it.  Probably, the best of anyone there, as no one else had the long lens that I had.  So, even though I was a bit ignorant to begin with, I came out with what I wanted.

We are fortunate to have good friends, Sid and Suzanne Johnson, who live in Eldorado, Texas.  They are very avid birders, and they keep us up to date on the happenings down there.  It seems that Eldorado is a bit of a hot spot when it comes to having unusual birds appear.  We have driven down there to see Brown Pelicans, which normally reside near the Gulf of Mexico.   Other non-resident arrivals there that I have photographed have been, Horned Grebes and Tri-colored Herons.

I am not limited to rare sightings for travels.  A nest of new-borns will always pique my interests.  Usually word gets to me if  something is seen by friends, that they feel I would like to see.  A nest of young Red-tailed Hawks at Dove Creek got me going a few weeks ago.  The recent nest of Great Blue Herons near the Concho River was definitely of interest to me and I got some great photographs that you probably saw on my blog.

Last year Suzanne Johnson, our eagle-eyed friend, spotted a rare Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens) at San Angelo State Park.  I and Ann promptly headed there, only three miles from our home.  It was in the area that Suzanne had described, but it was moving from the top of one tree to another.  It took us quite a bit of hopping around with the tripod in hand, but eventually I got a fine photograph of it.

Phainopepla

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 teleconverter – tripod mounted
  • 11000 sec @ f5.6
  • ISO 125
  • Lens focal distance 700mm
  • Aperture priority
  • Metering – unrecorded

Right now I am on a quest to photograph some Crested Caracaras that are near, (you guessed it), Eldorado.  We have been there and have managed to see them from a great distance, but not in range for a good photograph.  But I am persistent and we know where they are nesting, and we will be back.

Well, I must go!  Red phone ringing!! 🙂

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds


Happy July4th everybody!!!

On July 1st I posted photos of the Black-chinned Hummingbirds.  Today I will show you some of my images of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris).

After publishing that post, Cindy Kilpatrick commented about the sharpness of my photos at such high ISOs.  I use a noise-reduction software called DeNoise, made by Topaz Labs.  It reduces noise without any loss of detail.  It sells for 79.95 and it is some of best money I ever spent.  I also use, in conjunction with that, another software called Focus Magic.  Between the two, I get these great results.

Click on any image to see a beautiful enlargement.  Enjoy.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 teleconverter – tripod mounted
  • 1/500 sec. @ f7.1
  • ISO 800
  • Lens focal distance 700mm
  • Metering – center weighted average
  • Aperture priority
Ruby -throated Hummingbird
  • Canon EOS 20D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens – hand-held
  • 1/60 sec. @ f5.6
  • ISO 400
  • Lens focal distance 400mm
  • Aperture priority
  • Metering – not recorded

    Ruby-throated Hummingbird at feeder

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter – tripod mounted
  • 1/200 sec. @ f5.6
  • ISO 800
  • Lens focal distance 700mm
  • Metering – Center weighted average
  • Aperture priority

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-conerter – tripod mounted
  • 1/250 @f5.6
  • ISO 800
  • Lens focal distance 700mm
  • Metering – Center weighted average
  • Aperture priority

Black-chinned Hummingbirds


Going through all of my images yesterday, I came to realize that I haven’t broached the subject of hummingbirds in quite awhile.  So, having that in mind, I thought that today I would post some of my photos of some Black-chinned Hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri).  The black-chins are the most predominant hummingbird in this area.  We do have some ruby-throats, and I will feature them in the next post in a few days.

Black-chinned Hummingbird - young male

  • Canon EOS 20D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/250 sec. @ f7.1
  • ISO 400
  • Lens focal distance – 400mm
  • Aperture priority
  • Metering – Partial

Black-chinned Hummingbird - female

This little gal was enjoying the mist over the pond at the Hummer House in Christoval, Texas

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter – tripod mounted
  • 1/000 sec. @ f5.6
  • ISO 1600
  • Lens focal distance – 700mm
  • Aperture priority
  • Metering – Partial

Black-chinned Hummingbird - male

This guy looks a little angry.  Something has his dander up. 🙂

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter – tripod mounted
  • 1/250 sec. @ f6.3
  • ISO 800
  • Lens focal distance –  700mm
  • Aperture priority
  • Metering – Partial

Black-chinned Hummingbird

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter – tripod mounted
  • 1/800 sec. @ f5.6
  • ISO 800
  • Lens focal distance – 700mm
  • Aperture priority
  • Metering – Center weighted

Lemonade from lemons – Mountain Bluebirds


I spent the day going through some of my old photos.  Looking for throwaways that I might try to salvage.  I came across these two Mountain Bluebird photos that I had taken back in February of 2010, during one of my many trips to the Big Bend area of west Texas.  I wanted to get close to some of these birds, as we don’t have them around my home area,  but it was not to be.  I had to settle for a couple images taken from a distance away.

I, for some reason or another, I hadn’t tossed them.  So I decided to see if I could make something of them.  So here are the originals and the end results.  Enjoy.

un-edited

Mountain Bluebird in brush

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/500 sec. @ f8
  • ISO 1000
  • Lens focal distance 400mm
  • Metering – partial

un-edited

Mountain Bluebird on fence post

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/500 sec. @ f8
  • ISO 500
  • Lens focal distance 400mm
  • Metering – partial

So as you can see, the final results probably won’t win any awards, but I do now have some usable photos of these beautiful birds.  Maybe on my next trip I will get some close-ups.   Click on image to see an enlargement.

Whistling visitors to San Angelo


On Friday, Ann, I, and Jodie Wolslager decided we were going to ignore the 100 degree-plus  heat and spend the day doing some birding and photography.  Jodie had just purchased a new Manfrotto tripod and a Wimberley gimbal head, and was anxious to give botha trial run.

We headed for Spring Creek  Park first, spent a little time there, then after that we went to Middle Concho Park.  Both parks are adjacent to Lake Nasworthy.  The Chamber of Commerce personnel were at the lake, getting ready for the annual drag boat races, so it was difficult to reach some of our favorite areas.

However, we did come across these Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.  Though not a rarity, they are not here in great numbers, preferring the eastern part of the state.  Unfortunately, at the location of the ducks, there was also a proliferation of trash.  The first photo shows the original image.  The second is my edited version, more tightly cropped and missing the garbage.

un-edited original

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks - edited

Here are the pertinent photographic particulars.  You will notice that I reduced the EV exposure by a minus 1/3.  That was to tone down the sun-drenched rocks behind the ducks.  I cloned out the trash items in Photoshop CS5.

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens with 1.4 tele-converter
  • 1/400 sec @ f16 – minus 1/3 EV adjustment
  • ISO 400
  • Lens focal distance  700mm
  • Partial metering
  • Aperture priority
  • Camera mounted on Manfrotto tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

I hope you enjoyed the photos.  Click on either one to see an enlargement.

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)


Sometimes I find it hard to decide which bird to write about, when I haven’t been in the field for a few days.  Such was the case today, since I haven’t been outside because of my eye surgery.  Which, by the way, is finished and my eyesight is beyond excellent.  Can’t wait to get back out tomorrow.

So, anyway, to pick a subject I threw my Stokes bird guide on the floor and it opened up to the Killdeer page.  Just kidding.  I respect my bird guides too much to toss them around carelessly.  But I did just go through my bird photo collections and randomly picked this bird out.

Killdeer

  • Canon 7D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/640 sec. @ f9
  • ISO 640
  • Lens focal distance 400mm
  • Metering: partial
  • Aperture priority

Killdeer on nest

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/2500 sec. @ f6.3
  • ISO 400
  • Lens focal distance  375mm
  • Metering:  partial
  • Aperture priority

The Killdeer is a tricky little bird, as it can try to lure you away from it’s nest, by pretending to be have a crippled wing.  It will do a controlled flopping in a direction away from the eggs.  Those eggs are usually in plain sight, among some pebbles in open ground, roof top, or driveway, but carefully camoflaged to make them hard to spot.

Killdeer eggs

  •  Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/500 sec. @ f9
  • ISo 400
  • Lens focal distance  360mm
  • Metering:  center weighted average
  • Aperture priority

As you can see, the new-born chicks are fuzzy, long-legged, big-eyed and tiny.

Killdeer chick

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens with 1.4 tele-converter – hand-held
  • 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1
  • ISO 400
  • Lens focal distance  700mm
  • Metering:  center weighted average
  • Aperture priority

The Killdeer is a resident of Texas year round.    I hope you enjoy the photos and the narrative.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Reminder:  You can still vote until August 14 for my photos in the National Wildlife Magazine photo contest.  Just click here: People’s Choice

Owl at Spring Creek Park


This morning Ann and I made a quick trip out through Spring Creek Park.  We chanced upon this juvenile Great Horned Owl in a tree.  Ann’s sharp eye is what spotted it initially.  Further along, and across creek, we spotted a Yellow-crowned Night Heron.  I hope you enjoy the photos, and click on either one for an enlargement.  The EXIF data is below each one.

Great Horned Owl

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS telephoto lens with 1.4 teleconverter
  • 1/2500 sec @ f6.3 – plus 1/3 EV adjustment
  • ISO 3200
  • Lens focal distance 700mm
  • Shutter priority
  • Partial metering

    Yellow-crowned Night Heron

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS telephoto lens with 1.4 teleconverter
  • 1/2500 sec @ f5.6 – minus 1/3 EV adjustment
  • ISO 640
  • Lens focal distance 700mm
  • Shutter priority
  • Partial metering

Note:  For both shots I hand-held the camera with the aid of my Puffin’ Pad platform resting on the window sill of my car.  Also, to vote for one of my photographs in National Wildlife Magazine’s annual contest, click here  People’s Choice .

Chili Macho Nachos – Update


Just a few adjustments that I must make to the fore-published recipe for Ann’s Chili Macho Nachos.  First, I might mention that with the mentioned amounts of the various ingredients, you will have enough for about four plates of the nachos.  That’s figuring you will fill the plates with around fifteen to twenty scoops.

Also, one commentor mention about seeding the jalapenos.  Hey, what do I know?  I only write this stuff.  I checked with Ann and she said that, yes, you should take the seeds from the jalapenos. 🙂

So, with that out of the way.  Here is a photo of a female Bullock’s Oriole that I took yesterday morning near the entrance to San Angelo State Park.

  • Bullock’s Oriole – female
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens withe 1.4 tele-converter – hand-held
  • 1/2500 sec. @ f5.6 – plus 2/3 EV adjustment
  • ISO 320
  • Lens focal distance 700mm
  • Partial metering

Enjoy the photo and click the image to see an enlargement.  Don’t forget the voting is still open for that Peoples Choice Awards at this link: People’s Choice Award.  I appreciate everyone’s help. 🙂

Tale of the Take – Fledged Great Blue Herons


This past Monday morning, before I had to see the doctor for my pre-surgery instructions, I went with Ann for a little drive along the Concho River, here in downtown San Angelo.  Along the way, we saw activity up in a Great Blue Heron aerie.  It was about 50 feet high in a tree overhanging the river.  With our binoculars we discovered that there were three fledglings, nearly old enough to fly.

It was a very exciting moment, so I got my tripod and camera out of the car and set it up about another 50 feet away from the tree.  The sun was right at me so the birds were back-lit in the morning sun.  To photograph them from the side with better light I would have to have been in the river itself.  I compensated by adjusting my EV (exposure value) setting.  I exposed around 75 images and the  following are three of my favorites. 

The first is of the fledglings themselves.  The second has the adult mother.  The third shows one of the fledges peeking over the edge of the nest, maybe thinking about making the big jump.  I hope you enjoy my cute captions.  Click on either one for an enlargement.

"All My Children"

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens with 1.4 tele-converter
  • Bogen-Manfrotto tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head
  • 1/1250 sec @ f13 – Plus 1/3 EV compensation
  • ISO 1000
  • Lens focal distance 700mm
  • Aperture priority
  • Partial metering
“But, Ma, we’re hungry!”
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 100-400mm lens
  • 1/640 sec @ f10 – plus 2/3 EV compensation
  • ISO 320
  • Lens focal distance 320mm
  • Aperture Priority
  • Partial metering

    "We double-dare ya!"

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm with 1.4 tele-converter
  • Bogen-Manfrotto tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head
  • 1/320 sec @ f10 – plus 2/3 EV compensation
  • ISO 100
  • Lens focal distance 700mm
  • Shutter priority
  • Partial metering

You can still vote for me.  Click on this link People’s Choice Award, then check off your favorite photo.  I appreciate you. 🙂

Gone for a few days, but I’ll be baaaaaack :-)


I will be gone from blogging for a few days.  I am scheduled for cataract surgery Tuesday and I don’t know if I will have time to post on Monday.  I have to go through pre-op stuff.  At any rate, I will be thinking of y’all.  I don’t know why I have to go through this surgery.  I thought it was only for old people, and I am only 76 years old. 🙂

I will show you a couple of pictures here, in keeping with my policy of having at least one picture in any given post.  Incidentally, the polls are still open so be sure to keep the votes coming in by clicking on this link, People’s Choice Award.  If per chance my photos don’t show up, just type Zeller (that’s me) in the search window.  Just click the green arrow next to the photo that you like best.

Pyrhuloxia

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 100-400mm lens
  • 1/2000 sec @ f6.3
  • ISO 1250
  • Lens focal distance  365mm
  • Shutter priority
  • Partial metering
      
Bullock’s Oriole
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens with 1.4 tele-converter – hand-held
  • 1/2500 sec @ 6.3
  • ISO 2000
  • Lens focal distance  700mm
  • Shutter priority
  • Partial metering

These photos were taken at San Angelo State Park, here in San Angelo, Texas.  You can click on either of them to see an enlargement.  Don’t forget me, ‘cuz I’ll be back in a few days.