About those Ruby-crowned Kinglets


It has been a long time since I have written about the Ruby-crowned Kinglets.  I tried to see some yesterday morning but they were not to be found.  So I am going to write about them anyway.  These photos were taken about a year ago, and I took them from my archives.  They are tiny birds.  They flit around in thick underbrush.  They think they can hide from my long lens.  To actually get the images showing the ruby colored spot on the head of the male was a bonus.  It is usually concealed.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

In actuality, I was only about 25 feet away from him, sitting in my car/blind.   At the Cottonwood Campground in Big Bend National Park there is an area along the boundary of the area where there is fence that is partly obscured by thick vines and brush.  I brought my car close and drove very, very slowly at a silent idling speed along the area.  I was constantly looking into the brush with my binoculars.

We finally noticed a lot activity in the dense foliage.  We stopped and silently watched the kinglets and some other sparrow types hassling  each other.  I had my Canon EOS 7D with a 100-400mm zoom lens at the ready.  I spotted one kinglet throught the viewfinder and tracked him through branches, trying to catch him at a brief stop.  That is the only way one is going to get a photograph.  To make it easier, I set the focus so I was using only one center focus point.  Otherwise, the lens goes wild trying to get the bird in focus between the vines and twigs.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Enjoy the photos and click on any of them to see enlargements.

On the subject of birding, Ann and I are on a quest to see at least 210 birds this year.  Our previous annual record is 194 and we feel that if we stay alert we can get to our new goal.  We are off to a good start.  Here is our list for the first four days of the new year.  I will update you as we go. 41 is our current total.

  1. Mute Swan
  2. Gadwell
  3. American Wigeon
  4. Mallard
  5. Northern Shoveler
  6. Redhead
  7. Ring-necked Duck
  8. Lesser Scaup
  9. Bufflehead
  10. Hooded Merganser
  11. Pied-billed Grebe
  12. Eared Grebe
  13. Double-crested Cormorant
  14. Great Blue Heron
  15. Great Egret
  16. Black Vulture
  17. Osprey
  18. Red-tailed Hawk
  19. American Coot
  20. Killdeer
  21. Ring-billed Gull
  22. White-winged Dove
  23. Great-horned Owl
  24. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  25. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  26. Eastern Phoebe
  27. Vermilion Flycatcher
  28. Black-crested Titmouse
  29. Eastern Bluebird
  30. Western Bluebird
  31. Northern Mockingbird
  32. Curve-billed Thrasher
  33. European Starling
  34. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  35. White-crowned Sparrow
  36. Northern Cardinal
  37. Western Meadowlark
  38. Common Grackle
  39. Great-tailed Grackle
  40. House Finch
  41. House Sparrow

2014 off and running……


Ann and I celebrated New Years Day by trying to get a big start on our 2014 bird count.  The best we have done in previous years is 194.  Our goal this year is to try to hit 210.  So off we went to spend a couple of hours before we wanted to watch the Rose Bowl Game.  We are both natives of Michigan, albeit we haven’t lived there in 60 years.  But we are still Michigan State fans.  Many of you older generation folks may remember the great Earl Morrel, the quarterback for MSU the lead the Spartans to multiple Rose Bowl wins.  Later he starred as the great backup for John Unitas in the NFL.  He went to high school at the same time I did.  We knew each other, but distantly, he was the BMOC (big man on campus).  I was the local nerd.

So back to birding.  We counted 32 species in a couple of hours, so maybe that will give us some momentum towards our 210.  It was cool and windy, but sunny and cloudless.  Photographically, I didn’t come away with much.  We saw a beautiful Great Egret feeding along a small waterway, so we watched and waited for him to take flight.  When he did I was able to capture some nice images.  This is one that I liked.  Photographed with my Canon EOS 70D and 100-400mm lens.  Shutter priority, 1/3200 sec. @ f5/6, minus 1/3 EV adjustment, ISO 320.

Great Egret in flight.

Great Egret in flight.

So let’s lift our glasses, (binoculars or tumblers, your choice) to having a great 2014.  Happy New year to all. 🙂

Ladder-backed Woodpecker Video 2


First and foremost, I need to give credit to my dear friend, Shannon.  She generously took up some of her valuable time to tutor me, and walk me through the process of uploading and embedding videos.  I would say she done a fine job.

After publishing that “test” run in my last post, I thought I would go out and try for some more.  My target was to get a video of a Great Blue Heron grazing along the water.  Alas, none were to be seen.  But lo and behold, I came across the same Ladder-backed Woodpecker, pecking the same hole in the same tree as my previous post.  I took the opportunity to try to improve on that.

I again used my new Canon EOS 70D with a 100-400mm lens.  I was in my vehicle, parked about 15 feet away.  The bird was oblivious to me, since I was hidden in the car.  The camera worked perfectly as advertised, the auto-focus stayed on track, and the exposure seemed to be right on the money.

Here is the result:

This video is best viewed from my blog, rather than from this e-mail.

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.

Osprey

Osprey

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?

Testing the Safari Flash Booster


I had read about the Rogue Safari Pop-up Flash Booster a few weeks and decided to order one, only 34.95 from B&H Photo.  It didn’t arrive until we returned from our Houston trip.  It is a neat little thing.  Weighs only 2 oz.  It clips to your hot-shoe, but is fashioned so it fits over the camera’s pop-up flash.  You clip it on and when you need it, simply push your pop-up flash button.  The flash pops up behind the Rogues fresnel lens.  It will give you about 8 times more light, giving you more range to around 70 feet or so.

I took it out with me yesterday to see if I could give it a test.  Here are the results.  We spotted this owl up in the branches of a tree, where it was pretty dark.  I am guessing the distance was about 75 feet, actually out of the advertised range.  I am giving you the before and after shots.  Straight out of the camera.  No adjustments.

Owl - before using the Safari Flash Booster.

Owl – before using the Safari Flash Booster.

Owl - after using Safari Flash booster.

Owl – after using Safari Flash booster.

As you can see, there is a quite noticeable difference even at that distance.  I previously had a Better Beamer, which I ended up not using much, because it involved assembling it onto my large Canon 550EX speed-lite, and I didn’t like the bother.  This little thing is a snap to use, and it takes only an instant to attach it to the camera.  For photos and more info, click on the link at the beginnng of this post or go to http://roguesafari.com.

November First Birding


Since Ann and I hadn’t been out since we got back from our wonderful Houston trip, we finally got time to get out a bit Friday afternoon.  Still not many birds at the parks around here.  Last year at this time it was pretty common for us to around 30-35 birds within a couple of hours.  This time we saw about 15.  Anyway, what we did see gave us good rewards.  First we (Ann) saw this Great Horned Owl high in a tree in Spring Creek Park.  It was in the shade and it gave me a chance to use my new Rogue Safari Flash Booster.  More about that in a blog this weekend.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Then we proceeded around the horshoe bend of the park.  At one point across the river, about 150 yards away we saw this Osprey high in a tree.  There was no room to maneuver to car for a shot, so I exited the vehicle with my Canon 7D with a 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  I approached the river bank, and using a small bench to prop my elbow, I hand-held the camera for the shot.  I was quite pleased with the result that you see here.

Osprey

Osprey

I hope you enjoyed the photos.  Click on either one for some outstanding enlargements.

Final images from Houston…for now…


I was going through my images from Houston and found a few more birds that I could have included in the two previous posts.  With those, I decided to also add some of our personal photos from our last evening there.   Shannon and Scott decided that on Saturday night they would fix a fire in the pit, and with the children, we would roast ‘s’mores’.   This all took place right next to their creek.

Eastern Phoebe in early morning light.

Eastern Phoebe in early morning light.

Ann and I on creek bank.  Ann knitting, me shooting with my Beast.

Ann and me on creek bank. Ann crocheting, me shooting with my Beast.  Photo courtesy of Shannon.

Spotted Sandpipe on log in creek.

Spotted Sandpiper on log in creek.

Shannon raking leave around the picnic table.

Shannon raking leaves around the picnic area, getting ready for the s’more roast.

White Ibises feeding in nearby creek.

White Ibises feeding in nearby creek.

Scott, Shannon's hunk husband getting the firepit ready.

Scott, Shannon’s hunk husband getting the firepit ready.

Shannon’s mother, Jane, was also in attendance but I didn’t get any photos of her or the children.  I am sorry about that, but at that time I hadn’t anticipated that I would be putting them in a blog.

During our stay we saw two life birds, a Pileated Woodpecker and a White-tailed Hawk.  No photographs of either, not quick enough on the shutter.  Click on any image to see enlargements.

More from Houston trip


My last post described the great wildlife in and around Shannon’s back yard near Houston, Texas.  Here are a few more photos I took during that great week, including this sequence of a Great Egret making a landing in their creek.

Great Egret making a landing.

Great Egret making a landing.

Great Egret landing.

Great Egret landing.

Great Egret fishing in the creek.

Great Egret splashing down.

In the nearby trees a spider was working in the early morning light.

Early morning spider web.

Early morning spider web.

White Ibises were all around us it seemed.  Beautiful, long-billed wading birds found around the gulf coast.  Their favorite food are the river snails found in the creek.

White Ibis

White Ibis

White Ibises

White Ibises

Back in the yard, Shannon’s children are finding some large grubs in her compost bed.  I think they named this one Moe.

Texas-sized grub.

Texas-sized grub.

Shannon and grub.

Shannon and grub.

Shannon goofing off with grub again.

Shannon goofing off with grub.

The woodland birds were waking up and we spotted this nearby Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

A Snowy Egret made a late appearance.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

So our four fun days ended there and we returned home to San Angelo with great memories.  Can’t wait to go back.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Avian Wings over Houston


Last week Ann and I had the wonderful pleasure of visiting some dear friends in the Houston, Texas area.  Shannon and her family showed us some east Texas hospitality at their home.  They actually have a small creek that crosses their land that was full of birds, large and small.  So, needless to say, we had no really desire to go anywhere else to do any birding.  Perhaps on our next visit we may expand out to some other sites.  But they had enough to keep us busy.  White Ibises roamed the place, as did various herons and egrets.  We saw a total of 40 different species, during the trip, which included a short visit on our way, at the blinds at Pedernales State Park near Fredricksberg.

Today I will feature some images of a Tri-colored Heron.  This photo was taken from Shannon’s back yard.  What nice views to have from there.

Tri-colored Heron showing off his beautiful plumage.

Tri-colored Heron showing off his beautiful plumage.

Shannon is a decent photographer herself, and she was dying to try my 500mm lens.  So I assisted her with setting her up with the tripod and she came up with the following photographs.

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

I would say that she is doing very well.  I needed to pry that lens out of her little fingers before we left to come home.

My next post will have some more photos from this delightful trip.  Click on any image to see some enlargements.  To see my entire blog on your computer, go to this on this link: https://bobzeller.wordpress.com.

Notes from a Saturday morning


I and Ann ate our usual breakfast at McDonald’s and that’s where it all started, I guess.  Some bully stole my toy from my Happy Meal™.  You can’t trust those 6-year olds.  Anyway, I had forgotten that this particular morning was when the Concho Valley Photo Club had their monthly meeting.  I had recently told them that I would join.  So after getting home, I realized that the skies were a bit cloudy, my favorite conditions for photography.  Forgetting about the meeting, I decided to head for my local favorite birding areas.  Ann opted to stay home and work on finishing up some glorious looking afghans she is making for gifts.

As I was driving into Middle Concho Park, I was greeted by five small dogs of a breed that I was not familiar.  At the same time a truck rushed by me, going in the opposite direction.  My first instinct was that somebody had just dumped the dogs on the road to get rid of them.  Thankfully, as I continued on my way, I passed a campsite where a lady said they were hers.  I was tempted to say that she shouldn’t be letting them run loose, for their own safety, but by then the dogs had returned to her.  I am not a trouble maker.

Weekends are usually busy at the parks, with day visitors and weekend campers.  This day was no different.  I was approaching a large area where there were about eight campers and motorhomes parked tightly together.  Obviously, a family reunion or something of that nature.  I was about seventy-five yards away when I spotted an Osprey high atop a dead branch of a tree, overlooking this group.  It was feeding on a fish.  I backed off about twenty-five yards, turned the car so I could shoot from my drivers side window with my Canon 7D and 500mm lens.

Osprey feed on fish.

Osprey feed on fish.

I took several images from a distance of about 100 yards.  But because of the clamor or the people below, who were completely oblivious of what was going on above them, the bird decided to take his meal elsewhere.  My lens was still focused on him so I held the shutter down.  Unfortunately, with no time to make a great composition, I clipped his wing.  But I feel that the images are still exciting, as you can still appreciate the action.

Osprey taking off.

Osprey taking off.

Osprey in flight.

Osprey in flight.

Notice how the Osprey always positions the fish so the head is always pointing forward.  I guess they feel they are more streamlined that way.

As I continued on my way I saw some beautiful Great Blue Herons on the other side of the river.  They are one of my favorite wading birds.  This one was just enjoying the beautiful weather.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Here is an image of a Belted Kingfisher watching the water from a power line across the river.  These guys are amazing.  When they spot a small fish, they dive at high speed, crashing into the water at seemingly a hundred miles per hour.  It is a wonder that they don’t get a concussion.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

I decided to call it a day, and when leaving the area, what did I see over a wetland area?  Of course, another Osprey sitting in a dead mesquite.  Even though most of our winter birds haven’t arrived yet, it was still a nice way to end an exciting morning.

Osprey in dead mesquite.

Osprey in dead mesquite.

My apologies to my fellow members of the Concho Valley Photo Club.  I will try to make it next month, unless……….. 🙂

Click on any image to see enlargements.