July Fourth Holiday images


As I said before in my previous post, the weather is really warming now.  We have visited the local parks and as far as birding, the results are almost nil.  For example, Ann and I decided to check out the local parks around Lake Nasworthy this morning.  I never had a chance to press the shutter on my camera.  That is not good.  We have been having much better luck, though, at San Angelo State Park.  We have made three trips out there and by taking our time and driving over those approximately 20 miles of roads, I have picked up some very nice photographs.  We are usually home by noon as the temperatures start to reach 100° by then.  Here are some images from the past few days.  Click on any of them to see some nice enlargements.

We had reports of a Swainson’s Hawk nest, just a couple of miles from our home, off the frontage road of Loop 306.  To get a good view we had to park behind the local Steak Express and watch it from across the highway.  Thank goodness for long lenses. We parked there for about an half hour on two previous mornings and could only see a bit of feathers of a young one on the nest, behind some leaves and branches.  This third morning, we were treated with the arrival of the adult.

Swainsons's Hawk

Swainsons’s Hawk

We headed out to San Angelo State Park after that.  As we started driving around, we heard first the call of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a few minutes later we spotted him in the branches.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Another view of another Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

All over the park we could hear the call of the Bobwhites.  It wasn’t difficult to see some in the low tree branches.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

There is an abundance of Ash-throated Flycatchers in the park.  I was able to get really close to this one, for a formal head-and-shoulders portrait.

Ash-throated Flycatcher portrait

Ash-throated Flycatcher portrait

We spotted this Blue Grosbeak from a distance.  Too far for a decent photograph.  So we decided to wait.  We sat in the car with the engine turned off and eventually it, or one just like it, finally alit about 100 feet away.  He seemed to be happy.

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

Another bird that is hard to get close to is the Painted Bunting.  We would spot several high in the tops of trees, but, again,  too far for a photo.  But as with the Blue Grosbeak, we eventually got lucky again and I was able the capture this one.  One just need patience.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

The Common Night Hawk is just the opposite.  Pretty easy to photograph, but very difficult to find.  This one was in a tree in the Isabelle Harte Multi-use area of the park.  It was only about seven feet off of the ground, but because of their coloring we nearly missed it.  I was only about 20 feet away, in my car, AKA my mobile blind, when I made the photograph.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

We decided to move away as I don’t like to stay too close, even though I was well hidden.  But it did eventually fly from the perch and landed across the road in another tree.  I took this next photo from farther away, and as you can see, if I didn’t already know the bird was there, it would have been hard to spot.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

A Few More Weekend Highlights


Ann and I got out to the local parks this weekend.  With the cooler weather, low 90s for us, it was quite comfortable.  The birds are still a bit sparse but things are looking up.  Here are some highlights.  On Saturday we opted for a visit to San Angelo State Park.  This female Northern Bobwhite had just led her covey across the road, and I guess she hopped to this branch to make sure all was clear.

Northern Bobwhite - female

Northern Bobwhite – female

I am not a fan of the Starlings, but I thought this particular one was very pretty.

European Starling - winter adult

European Starling – winter adult

This morning we decided for a quick trip to the local parks.  There had been some rains during the night and the birds were still quiet.  But luck was with us.  At Middle Concho Park, we had, for the past week or so, observed a Swainson’s Hawk, either in flight or just short glances of him in the distance.  Today, Ann spotted him ahead of us, up in plain sight at the top of a tree.  I quickly pulled to the side of the road where I could get a good view of him.  In the first two shots, he was partially obscured by some branches near his face.  I had to pull the vehicle forward about three feet, and as I did, two huge RV motorhomes passed between me and the bird.  Fortunately, after they had passed the hawk was still there and I was able to get some very nice poses of him before he took flight.  This one of them.  The others I will save for another post.

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

That is all for this short post.  Click on the images to see great enlargements.

Birding fun in Uvalde, Texas


Okay, boys and girls, hang on to your hats.  I have a brazilion photos to show you from our two day trip to Uvalde, Texas.  At only about 195 miles south of San Angelo, it has much to offer in the way of birding.

Green Jay

Green Jay

First, I would like to mention that we arrived Wednesday afternoon at the Live Oaks Bed and Breakfast.  Owned and operated by Pat and Gaye Morris, it is a perfect way to spend a few days.  All the amenities that you would expect, plus a great breakfast.  Four rooms inside the main house, and three individual casitas of which we stayed in one called “Treehouse”.  No, silly people, we weren’t in a tree, but a wonderful little comfy cabin.  Click the above link for more information.

We decided to come to Uvalde when a Facebook friend, Bob Shackleford mentioned that his place was nearly overrun with Green Jays.  That really got my attention, as that was one bird that have dreamed of seeing and photographing for years.  I contacted him and invited myself to visit him when we came to Uvalde.  He has this delightful little bird blind, and sure enough there were more than enough Green Jays to satisfy any photographer.

Bob Shackleford's bird blind

Bob Shackleford’s bird blind

We were able to check in early Wednesday afternoon, so I called Bob and we decided to pay him and his wife, Marianne, a visit.  He wanted us to try out the blind immediately, and for a few minutes, I was rewarded with photo opportunities right away.

Green Jay

Green Jay

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

We didn’t stay in the blind very long since it was very hot, and we wanted to visit with Bob and Anne (pronounced Anna) a bit longer, before we had to go check in to our little casita.  Before we left, we made arrangements to return the following day which was my birthday, and spend the day.  Anne, had already baked a cake for my birthday.  How great is that?

Green Jay

Green Jay

The following morning, after a sumptuous breakfast, cooked by Gaye, we headed back to the Shacklefords.  We headed right for Bob’s “Chicken House Bird Blind”.  Of course, I first photographed another Green Jay, then a few others.  Here are a few highlights.

Green Jay

Green Jay

Northern Cardinal, female

Northern Cardinal, female

Yellow-rumped Warbler - Audubon variety

Yellow-rumped Warbler – Audubon variety

Black-crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

Later, after going back to our room for a brief nap, we returned to have supper with the Shacklefords.  Wow!  That man knows how to use a barbeque grill.  He grilled some chicken breasts along with a bunch of veggies.  Then to top it off we had some of Anne’s pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting and pecans.  Fantastic!

After that, Bob mentioned that we should drive out along the highway, as we could probably find some various hawks.  So we all piled into our little Ford Escape and headed out.  Here are some of the highlights of that drive.  There are many.  I forgot to mention, click on any of the photos in this post and you will see beautiful enlargements.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

Forgive the clipped wings in the above photo, but I thought it was too beautiful to leave out of this post.

Scaled Quail - in late afternoon light.

Scaled Quail – in late afternoon light.

Harris's Hawk

Harris’s Hawk

Two Crested Caracaras share a utility pole crossbar.

Two Crested Caracaras share a utility pole crossbar.

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

A drive along a country drive wouldn’t be complete with seeing one of these vultures.

Black Vulture surveys the landscape.

Black Vulture surveys the landscape.

After saying goodbye to the Shacklefords, and promising to return in a few months we headed to our room, feeling great about our birding and photographic adventures.  We had hoped to see a Great Kiskadee, but that will have to wait until the next time.

The next morning after another great breakfast, I began my first day as an eighty-year old, and we headed back to San Angelo.  We were making good time, so we made a brief stop at the South Llano River State Park.  They have wonderful bird blinds there so we had time to check out one of them.

Nashville Warbler photographed at South Llano State Park

Nashville Warbler photographed at South Llano River State Park

For the trip, we saw a total of 40 species of birds.  We added two to my life list: Green Jay and Long-billed Thrasher.  That life list now stands at 275.  Maybe I can get to 300 before I turn 90.

For my 2014 Birding Big Year list, I added those two plus the Crested Caracara and the Harris’s Hawk, bring the total to 189.  Only eleven to go to make my goal of at least 200 species seen this year.

I feel great and I think it is going to be fun being an 80 year-old.  That is as long as I stay away from those senior centers and not let those old people influence me. 🙂

The Surprises Keep Coming……


After getting that amazing photo of the Bobcat, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be so lucky again for awhile.  However, the following day, Ann and I decided to go back for some serious birding.  We were very disappointed with the lack of birds.  Hey, isn’t this migrating time?  Where are the birds?  Hard to say, as I sure can’t predict the behavior of the avian community.

Anyway, on the way to Middle Concho Park, I decided to turn into a smaller area called Hot Water Slough Park.  The first thing I noticed was a large bird on the ground, and as we watched it flew up into a nearby tree.  Well, I’ll be danged if it wasn’t a Swainson’s Hawk.  I hurriedly tried to maneuver my car into a position so I could photograph it from my driver’s side window.  The bird co-operated and remained perched for me.  Had I tried to leave my vehicle, it would for sure have flown.

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

We continued into Middle Concho Park, but nary was a bird to be seen.  We left there and decided to return to Spring Creek Park.  Again, there was a distinct lack of birds there, too.  However, we are pretty patient.  We cruised along the river bank and all of a sudden, Ann exclaimed, “There’s an owl”.  Wow!  It was a Great Horned Owl, and almost directly overhead.  As I again tried to maneuver my car for a vantage point, she said, “There’s another one!”  Sure enough, above and slightly left was another adult, but it was partially hidden in the branches.  I was able to get some nice shots of the first one.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

So even though there were few of the regular birds that make up the normal population, it was nice to see these nice surprises.

The very next day, we tried again.  Again, we were rewarded with another great surprise.  As we turned into Spring Creek Park, we came upon a large dead tree next to the river bank.  In past years, we had seen hawks, and other birds perched there, but usually it is empty of any bird life.  This time there was an Osprey sitting there.  One of the first of the winter season.  It was very close, as I again, was able to get my car into perfect shooting position.  The first image is from a spot where he was un-obstructed by branches.

Osprey

Osprey

After getting several shots from that spot, I moved a few yards and took the following photo.  Notice he is on the same branch, but I think this image looks a bit more natural.  I am undecided as to which one I like the best.

Osprey

Osprey

I hope you enjoyed this post and the photos.  There is a lesson to be heard here;  never give up as you never know what surprises may lie in the next tree.

Red-tailed Hawk and Swainson’s Hawk


More about my favorite subjects, the raptors.  These two species of hawks, the Red-tailed and the Swainson’s, can cause ID difficulties to the unsuspected.  They are similar in shape and sizes.  The adult Red-tailed is easy to identify by checking out the red tail.  But beware, the younger ones have yet to get that color into the tail.  As for the Swainson’s, the adult has that unmistakeable brown bib.

Anyway, here is an adult Red-tailed Hawk that I photographed Thursday afternoon at Middle Concho Park here in San Angelo.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Here is a Red-tailed Hawk in flight that I photographed several months ago.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

Below are a few images of the Swainson’s Hawk.

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

The next photo isn’t too great aesthetically, but we happened to come across the adult Swainson’s Hawk protecting her baby from he brutal 110 degree Texas sun that day, about a year ago.

Adult Swainson's Hawk shielding her baby from the hot sun.

Adult Swainson’s Hawk shielding her baby from the hot sun.

Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Here is something new that I have added to my blog.  Click here to see my new website featuring my Fine Art Gallery.  I have just started adding photos to it so you will have to check it periodically, as it is a work in progress.  I hope you like it.  From there you just gaze at my work, and if you get interested in buying, you can also do that.

The birds are coming! The birds are coming!!


We are finally starting to see some more birds arriving again.  Where we would see just empty waters at Middle Concho Park, here in San Angelo, Texas, we are seeing now a few more waterbirds, and other migratories.

Wood Ducks

Our latest trip allowed us to see some Least Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, and four Wood Ducks.  On that latter one, I got an improved photo over the one I showed in a previous post.  We also saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and possibly a second one.  I was unable to get a photo, but the red nape and center white feathers on it’s back were pretty distinctive.

Swainson’s Hawk

We also saw a flyover of about a dozen geese, but I was unable to identify them, as they were moving pretty fast.  I got a pretty good image of a Swainson’s Hawk, and also one of a Belted Kingfisher as he was intent on watching for a meal in the waters below him.

Belted Kingfisher

In the case of the Wood Ducks and the Belted Kingfisher, the birds were quite a distance away and I had to rely on some creative cropping to get these close-up images.  My old friend, the Great Egret, was still hanging around and I have a hard time resisting getting more images of him.

Great Egret

So that’s it for this post.  It is raining this morning, but later, if it clears out, I may make another run to see what is arriving today. 🙂

About those Swainson’s Hawks


So many times I have posted about hawks, but I realized that I had never mentioned the Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni). It is slightly smaller than the red-tailed and I guess that is why I sometimes confuse the two, especially if it is a younger hawk and I am unable to see the color of the tail-feathers.  The folowing images were captured out here in west Texas.  In flight, their wings are rather long,  tapered, and more pointed than the red-tailed.  They can also be identified by their white throat and large chocolate bib.

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Photo EXIF data:

Swainson’s Hawk on utility pole crossbar :

  • Canon EOS 7D with Canon 100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/800 sec. @ f10 minus 1/3 EV – ISO 250
  • Partial metering – Aperture priority

Both images Swainson’s Hawk in tree:

  • Canon EOS 20D with Canon 100-400mm zooms lens
  • 1/1600 sec. @ f10 – ISO 400
  • Partial metering – Aperture priority

I didn’t have any photos of a Swainson’s in flight.  That surprised me, as I have so many pictures of various flying hawks.

I hope you enjoy these pictures, and have a great week.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Sept 11 Birding Report Photos


When I posted earlier I hadn’t checked out my photos from the trip yet.  I really didn’t think I had any worth posting, but I did come across these two that are worth looking at.  They were both photographed this morning.

The first is the Swainson’t Hawk, probably a late juvenile and the second is the cute little Snowy Plover.

Swainson's Hawk

 

Snowy Plover

I hope you enjoy the photos.  Click on either one for an enlargement.

Sept 11 San Angelo Birding Tour Report


Wow, what a great time we had this morning for the monthly Adult Birding Adventure at San Angelo State Park.  There were only six of us so somebody missed out on some fun birding.  It could be my fault, because I sent reminders a few days earlier that usual, and some people may have forgotten.  I would like to thank Mark Frank from Goodfellow AFB for joining us.  He is a very personable young man and he enjoyed being with all of us seniors.

But here is a full list:

3  Bullock’s Orioles

12  Scissor-tailed Flycatchers

3   Golden-fronted Woodpeckers

1   Greater Roadrunner

4   Black-crested Titmice

2   Pyrrholoxias

12   House finches

12  Red-winged Blackbirds

24   White-winged Doves

3   Northern Cardinals

12   House Sparrows

12   Northern Mockingbirds

6   Canyon Towhees

4   Brown-headed Cowbirds

3   Common Nighthawks

12   Turkey Vultures

1   Northern Harrier

3   Roseate Spoonbills

15   Least Sandpipers

6   Greater Yellowlegs

1   Snowy Plover

10   White-faced Ibises

5   Great Blue Herons

2  Double-crested Cormorants

1   Tri-colored Heron

2   Black-necked Stilts

6   Killdeer

1   Great Egret

1   Mississippi Kite

75   Wilson’s Phalaropes

6   Mourning Doves

8   Common Grackles

4   Barn Swallows

18   Blue-winged Teal

1   Black-chinned Hummingbird

That is a total of 35 species as a group.  In addition Ann and I saw a Swainson’s Hawk on entering the park, then on the way out we saw a Cactus Wren.  Also yesterday, Ann and I saw a Dickcessel at the viewing area. the first that we had seen at that location.

This morning we had started with a stop at the bird blind and spent about 30 minutes there.  Just saw the usual birds there, nothing exciting.  Then after that we drove around to the boat ramp where we had access easily to the shore of O. C. Fisher Lake.  We hiked along ths shore line for maybe a quarter to a half-mile, and that is where we were able to see so many water birds.

Along with the Peregrine Falcon that Ann and I saw several days ago, it has been quite an exciting week.  After hiking this morning as much as we did in this 90 degree heat, I feel that I am getting back in shape after my broken back problem.  I may be able to tackle some of those trails in Big Bend National Park next month.  I guess getting old can be fun after all.  🙂

Happy Birding!!

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.