Birding at the Mud Hole


Near the Twin Buttes Reservoir, there is a low depression where water stands after we have had some rains.  Mudders, defined as immature adults that love to play in the mud with their pickup trucks, are always driving their vehicles through it and keeping it pretty well churned up.  The water will usually take three or four days to either soak in or evaporate.  The area is surrounded by five large mesquite trees.  The combination of the trees and convenient water makes it a very nice little birding oasis.   All one has to do is to park close by and watch.  That is, providing you do it on a week day, when the mudders are absent.

So, that is what Ann and I did the past two days.  First we stopped by early in the morning at a local Jack and Jill’s for take-out coffee, a roll and a burrito.  We took them with us to this mud hole, parked and set in for a few hours of birding and photography.  We spent two to three hours each morning.  We saw a total of 28 individual species for the two outings.  I will give you that list at the bottom of this post.  Here is a sampling of the birds that we saw.  Click on any image to see enlargements.

The Yellow Warbler is one of favorite of the warbler species.  It is always a joy to see this one in the trees.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

I missed a shot of a beautiful mature male Blue Grosbeak.  But this young one perched on a branch nearby.  Just as I got him in the view-finder and focused he decided to fly.  I punched the shutter just in time to catch him as he took off.

Blue Grosbeak - first year

Blue Grosbeak – first year

Another favorite summer bird is the Painted Bunting.  This is the first one that we saw this year as they are just starting to arrive.  Thae harsh early morning sunlight did me know favors but I got this acceptable image.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

The Orchard Orioles are also new arrivals. The adult male stayed deep in the trees and I didn’t get an acceptable shot of him, but this first year male gave me an opportunity.

Bullock's Oriole - female

Orchard Oriole – first year male

I always admire the Canyon Towhees.  They are rather quiet and somewhat bland in color, but I still think they have a cerain beauty about them.

Canyon Towhee

Canyon Towhee

There were plenty of Lark Buntings around.  This is a female.  I had posted a photo of a beautiful male in my previous post.

Lark Bunting - female

Lark Bunting – female

I believe this one was named by a Mr. Richard Cissell.  Kidding!!  This weirdly named Dickcissell is another difficult bird to find.  I love the coloring.

Dickcissell

Dickcissell

Ann spotted this flash of yellow in the trees.  I was trying to spot it, too, and it finally lit on this branch only about ten feet away.  Only then, did I realize what it was.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  A Yellow-breasted Chat, although not rare, is usually pretty shy and most of the time, very difficult to find.  This is only the second time I have ever seen one and had the opportunity to photograph it.

Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat

This Cactus Wren was still around, working on it’s nest.

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

Here is the complete list of the birds we observed during those two days:

  1. White-winged Dove
  2. Great-tailed Grackle
  3. Northern Mockingbird
  4. Killdeer
  5. Lark Sparrow
  6. Cactus Wren
  7. Blue Grosbeak
  8. White-crowned Sparrow
  9. Vesper Sparrow
  10. Barn Swallow
  11. Brown-headed Cowbird
  12. Lark Bunting
  13. Ash-throated Flycatcher
  14. Pyrrhuloxia
  15. Painted Bunting
  16. Bullock’s Oriole
  17. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  18. Northern Bobwhite
  19. Bronzed Cowbird
  20. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  21. Yellow Warbler
  22. Western Kingbird
  23. Yellow-breasted Chat
  24. Dickcissell
  25. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  26. Canyon Towhee
  27. Curve-billed Thrasher
  28. Orchard Oriole

Back after a brief rest……


I have been reminded that it has been about ten days since I last posted.  Sorry about that, folks.  It has been a somewhat traumatic ten days.  I was diagnosed with a severe urinary tract infection nearly two weeks ago.  An anti-biotic was prescribed.  It was the type that can have a nauseous side effect.  And it did.  We had previously made plans for a three-day trip to the Big Bend, leaving the 26th.  Up until that date, we were trying to decide if we had to cancel, as I was having some difficulty.  We decided not to cancel, and on the 26th we left, after Ann loaded the car.  I wasn’t feeling really great, but decided the worse that could happen would me spending a restful three days in a motel bed.

Well, that was not to be.  I started to have serious problems with light-headedness, nausea, and nearly passing out as soon as we arrived.  The EMTs were called to the motel, and after much discussion, we decided to return to San Angelo the following morning, with orders to see the doctor to have the meds changed.  We ended up going to the Emergency Room here in San Angelo.  By then, we were informed that the urinary tract infection was gone and to stop the meds.  To be brief, it was determined that the unsteadiness, headaches, etc., were caused by a serious sinus infection.  We had been thinking that the all the problems were caused by the prescribed antibiotics.

The sinus infections has improved although not completely gone, and I have been able to get back out the past few days and catch up on the avian populations in the San Angelo area.  We are now seeing returning grosbeaks, buntings, flycatchers and others.  All good signs of returning summer birds.

Here are a few images that I have captured since my last post.  These are from San Angelo State Park.  Please click on the images to see enlargements at their best.

Lark Bunting

Lark Bunting

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

Blue Grosbeak - female

Blue Grosbeak – female

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

On Sunday, May 1, we ventured out to the Twin Buttes Reservoir.  I managed to get these photos although we were constantly near a bunch of noisy off-roaders in the vehicles.  Of course, the area is open to everybody, but I think a few of them were trying to make it uncomfortable for us.

Lark Spararow

Lark Spararow

Lark Bunting

Lark Bunting

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

Killdeer

Killdeer

By the way, lest I forget, during the few hours that we were in Big Bend National Park, I came away with the only photo of the short trip.  this Cassin’s Kingbird on an ocotillo branch in the desert.

Cassin's Kingbird

Cassin’s Kingbird

I Love Love Migration!


Boy Oh Boy, do I love this time of the year!  I don’t know why, but there seems to be an abundance of birds around the lakes and parks here in San Angelo.  It could be that all of the violent storms in east Texas could have pushed more migrating birds in this direction; or it could be that Ann and I have, with practice, developed our birding instincts and sharpened our eyes.  Whatever it is, I have been pleased at all of the photographs I have been managing to capture.

So enough talk, and let’s get to them.  Remember to click on any image to see enlargements, especially if you are viewing this on a computer.

I am going to start off with this action photo of a Western Kingbird.  By the way, it was the first of that specie that we have seen this year.  A new arrival, and a beauty.

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

I chose that picture to get you excited and so you would watch with anticipation for the next photos.  The next photo is of the same bird, just relaxing.

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

From Mary Lee Park at Lake Nasworthy, some Willets.

Willets

Willets

Willet in flight

Willet in flight

From K-Mart Creek.  My name for the water in the bar ditch near the old K-Mart site, a Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

The next few photos are from other local parks and San Angelo State Park.  This is a Canyon Towhee.

Canyon Towhee

Canyon Towhee

This Cotton-tailed Rabbit seems to be thinking, where the heck did all of these birds come from?

Cotton-tailed Rabbit

Cotton-tailed Rabbit

Great Horned Owl.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Bell’s Vireo sings from a tree branch.

Bell's Vireo

Bell’s Vireo

Yellow-headed Blackbird grazing in the grass.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Black-crowned Night Heron staring at the water, hoping to catch a meal.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

Last but certainly not least, this image of a cute Grasshopper Sparrow.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow

You may remember that Ann and I saw 44 species on a recent outing.  Today, April 21, we surpassed that with a total of 50 for four hours of birding, and that doesn’t count the rabbit.:-)

I hope you enjoyed the photos.  A reminder, any and all photos are available for sale.  Just contact me, if you would be proud to have one of my works hanging on your wall.

 

Happy Birding!!

Surprising San Angelo State Park


Back in about 2007 the water was high in O.C. Fisher Reservoir at the park.  Mesquite, cactus, and other trees and plants were in abundance.  There was plenty of fish in the lake and the park was healthy.  All species of wildlife thrived.  A person could go out there to go birding or to photograph that wildlife with great success.  It was nothing to see an osprey or a hawk on any given visit.

Then the great drought hit the area.  It has been only a couple of years or so ago that the lake was bone dry.  Not a drop of water to be seen.  You could walk across the lake without getting your feet damp.  Then it was decided to destroy most of the mesquite and underbrush.  That was done with several controlled burns.  The park took on the image of a burned-out forest fire.

Then several months ago, we were blessed with a deluge.  Huge amounts of rain fell on the North Concho River watershed, and the lake, in days, got back to the level of 2007, and perhaps a bit more.  We are now getting some more periodic rainfalls and the park is coming back.  Everything is looking much greener.  Of course, it will be much longer for the fish to return in large amounts, but the birds and wildlife is making a great comeback.  And that is what this post is all about.

Ann and I spent the past couple of days there checking out the birds.  Yesterday, we saw 44 different species of birds, and we didn’t even stop at the bird blind.  We probably could have added a few more there.  We just took a very leisure drive throught the south section of the park.  Here are a few images from that drive.  As always, click on any image to see beautiful enlargements, especially if you are reading this on a computer.

Driving near the area where the ‘buffalo roam’, in other words the fenced off part of the park where the bison are kept, we were surprised to see a couple of Cattle Egrets meandering near the animals.  This specie is not around every year, but I love their plummage.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

The Bobwhites were calling and we could hear one nearly every part of the park we visited.  this one was in a nearby tree.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

A Pyrrhuloxia quietly watching over the area.

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

A Curve-billed Thrasher.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

This Greater Roadrunner was calling, perhaps for a mate.  First time I had come across one making any kind of a sound.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

In another area we were surprised by four Yellow-headed Blackbirds.  Another specie that we hadn’t seen in a couple of years.  During migration it not unusual to come up with some surprises.  They were deep in the grass so photographing them was difficult.  Here is one of the better images.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Driving towards the boat ramp, actually the only one of more than a dozen that is actually near the water, we spotted this Killdeer in the parking lot.  We discovered that it was sitting on two eggs.  This bird is peculiar in that it doesn’t use a nest per se.  It just picks a spot on the ground, usually a gravel surface, and drops the eggs there.

Killdeer sitting on two eggs.

Killdeer sitting on two eggs.

And speaking of eggs and young birds, we have been returning to Spring Creek Park periodically to check on the offspring of a Great Horned Owl.  Here is my latest photo, taken two days ago.  It appears to be around four weeks old in my humble opinion.  As you can see it is standing on the nest.  It’s ears are beginning to shape up.  It won’t be long before it ventures out farther on a tree limb.

Great Horned Owlet

Great Horned Owlet

That’s it for this post.  Try to make it out to San Angelo State Park soon, and you may see some of these 44 species that Ann and I saw yesterday:

  • White-winged Dove
  • Blue Jay
  • Great-tailed Grackle
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Mourning Dove
  • Cactus Wren
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  • Barn Swallow
  • Canyon Towhee
  • Song Sparrow
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • House Sparrow
  • Northern Bobwhite
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  • Killdeer
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • American Coot
  • Gadwall
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • House Finch
  • Lark Sparrow
  • American Pippet
  • Common Raven
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Curve-billed Thrasher
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird
  • Black Vulture
  • European Starling
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Black-throated Sparrow
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Black-crested Titmouse

 

 

 

South Llano River SP report


We traveled to the South Llano River State Park as we had planned.  However, we picked the wrong day to go.  The morning that we left, was the morning that the weather decided to take a wrong turn.  A cool front moved in and strong winds changed to come out of the north.  Needless to say, the birding there was not up to the usual standards for that park.  But that didn’t keep birders, including us, away.  The blinds were crowded with “snow-birds”.  Those people from the northern states that spent the winter there and hadn’t decided to go home yet.  I can’t say that I blame them from hearing reports of winter staying longer in the northern states.

A few pictures that I managed to get.

American Robin

American Robin

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

We did manage to add three more photos to our 2016 list.  That helped salvage the day:  A Black-chinned Hummingbird, a Purple Martin, and a Yellow-throated Vireo.

Back here in San Angelo, we got out to bird in the local areas.  We saw various birds, including a 1st year Orchard Oriole.  It was too far away for a decent photo, although I got a salvageable image to make an ID.  That was another for our 2016 list.  Also we spotted another owl’s nest and I got this photo from about 75 yards away.  It is tightly cropped for the close-up.

Great Horned Owl - female on nest.

Great Horned Owl – female on nest

Driving around the San Angelo State Park I picked a couple more images.

White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

That’s about it for the past few days.  Migration is starting so we will be watching for some Bullock’s Orioles and perhaps some Painted Buntings and several more species by the end of the month.  Let’s hope.:-)

Happy Birding!!

Fun April Birding


Migration is underway and we are still waiting for many spring birds.  Scissor-tailed Flycatchers have been sighted.  We saw three ourselves, but too far away for photos.  However, Ash-throated Flycatchers are beginning to appear in large numbers.  I got my first nice photo of one a couple of days ago.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

We had to make our regular stop at Spring Creek Park to check on our family of Great Horned Owls.  We caught the female off the nest, taking a break from caring for junior.

Great Horned Owl - female

Great Horned Owl – female

Meanwhile, back at the nest it is ‘home alone’ all over again.  The kid seems to be gaining weight.  I would estimate him to be about three weeks old.

Great Horned Owlet

Great Horned Owlet

Later, back on the nest, the mother seems to be daring me to step over that twig.

Great Horned Owl - mother on nest

Great Horned Owl – mother on nest

I would like to mention that for these photos, I was around fifty yards away.  With my long lens, there is no need for me to get closer and agitate the birds.

Nearby, I captured this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in some bushes.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

We headed to San Angelo State Park where I managed to capture a few more resident birds.

Driving along the base of the O. C. Fisher Reservoir dam, Ann spotted a Rock Wren flitting around the rocks.  I had never been able to get a nice close-up of one before.  Up on those rocks, they are hard to see, and difficult to get one in the viewfinder of my camera.  But my perseverance paid off, and I was able to get this one, again with my long 150-600mm Tamron lens.  The image is still quite cropped to get this close-up.

Rock Wren

Rock Wren

Elsewhere in the park, I got these photographs.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

American Robin

American Robin

We finished the day by catching this hard to spell and hard to pronounce,  Pyrrhuloxia.

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

So that’s all for today.  Tomorrow we are off to the South Llano River State Park.  Reports are coming in of several migratory birds there.  Plus, there’s alway great food at Lum’s Bar-B-Que before coming home.  I’ll report on the journey in a few days.

Spring is Here!!


Spring sprung a few days ago.    There are reports of some of the arriving summer birds, but I haven’t seen very many of them yet.  But soon, we will be having orioles, buntings, and other colorful birds to watch for.  In the meantime, here are a few photos that I managed to get during the past few days.

We drove to San Angelo State Park as we had heard of some Scissor-tailed Flycatchers that had arrived there.  We missed them, but I got some nice sparrow photos.  (Click on any photo to see some nice enlargements.)

This Song Sparrow was having a difficult time in the wind.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

This Vesper Sparrow was having an easier time…..

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

…..and this Black-throated was taking it pretty calmly.

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Wandering down in the grass, this Greater Roadrunner was having a great time doing a bit of hunting.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

Back out at Spring Creek Park, we had to check on our owls.  There was nothing we could see on the nest, as it is pretty high up in a tree, but the parents to be were taking a break in a nearby tree.

Great Horned Owls

Great Horned Owls

While we were there in the park, we decided to check out the brushy areas, where we can usually find some of the tiny birds.  We saw several kinglets, but the only photos I came up with was of this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

After getting those photos we cruised along the water and was treated with this Great Blue Heron, about 200 yards away across the water.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

That’s about it for this post.  We’ll get out and about again in the next few days, after completing some yard chores.

Until then, Happy Birding!!

I don’t remember the last time I have mentioned this, but I would like you to know that ALL of my photos that you see on any of my posts are for sale.    Also I still have copies of my book, “Birds, Beasts and Buttes”, and my DVD of 100 of my best photos.  Just e-mail me at bobzeller@pobox.com. for more info.