Mississippi Kites


Mississippi Kites are beginning to be seen in our area.  I haven’t seen one yet, but I am on the look-out.  I have memories of a nice experience back in May of 2011, about four years ago.  We had been birding at a neat birding place near Abilene, called Cedar Gap Farm.

We had just left the place and were about a half-mile down the road when I glanced to the left and saw a juvenile Mississippi Kite atop a utility.  I stopped the car, got out with my camera, and took a closer look.

The bird was crying out, and as I looked skyward, an adult, probably it’s mother, was circling with some little nugget of food.  As I watched it swept down and fed it in the mouth of the little one and flew off.  I was intent on getting a photo of the young one so I set up my big 500mm lens on a tripod about thirty yards away.

As I was beginning to get some serious photos, the bird was still crying out.  I was very fortunate that the adult flew down and again gave a large beetle type of insect to the baby.  I was able to get these photos.

juvenile Mississippi Kite

juvenile Mississippi Kite

Mississippi Kites - dinner time

Mississippi Kites – dinner time

I hope you enjoyed this short post.  Click the images to see enlargements.

Birding the Big Bend – Part I, Fort Davis


Over social media such as FaceBook I have seen comments from many people who have never visited the Big Bend area, wanting more information about birding, lodging, the national park, and other areas of interest.  So I have decided to do a couple of posts telling about our experiences and favorite stops.

Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon – Big Bend National Park

Ann and I have two main areas of interest when we visit the Big Bend area of west Texas.  One is the biggest area near the bend of the Rio Grande.  That includes Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park.  Our other favorite area, that I will write about in this post, is Fort Davis. In the area there are the Davis Mountains, Davis Mountains State Park, McDonald Observatory and Balmorhea.  I should also include the actual Fort Davis, one of the best preserved frontier forts in the country._MG_1609 036-net-fort-davis-bsob-zeller

An ideal trip for Ann and I would be to leave from San Angelo, head south to Sonora, and take I-10 west until finding Hwy 17 that leads to Fort Davis.  Traveling on I-10 is typical as Interstate travel can be.  The fun starts when you make the turn off onto Hwy 17.  You will travel through Balmorhea, then head through the beautiful Davis Mountains into the city of Fort Davis.

There are several places to stay in Fort Davis.  At the Davis Mountains State Park there is the Indian Lodge.  Nearby is the Prude Ranch and Fort Davis Motor Inn.  Ann and I prefer to stay at the Davis Mountains Inn, a nice little bed and breakfast.

Davis Mountains Inn

Davis Mountains Inn

We like to eat at the historic Fort Davis Drugstore.  Great food, and upstairs is the Drugstore Art Gallery, where yours truly, (that’s me) has numerous prints for sale.

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker – Davis Mountains State Park

Birding is great at the Davis Mountains State Park, about seven miles northwest of town on Hwy 118..  There are two recently renovated bird blinds and plenty of birds.  On occasion, if you are lucky, you might spot some Montezuma Quail.  That place is one of our favoite birding areas.  The blinds are very good at attracting birds.  You can elect to sit inside and observe through the windows, or sit in the convenient stools outside.

Southwest of town on Hwy 118 is the Chihuahuan Nature Center and Botanical Gardens.  When we last visited it was literally humming with various species of Humming Birds.  There is also some very nice hiking trails.

Black-chinned Hummingbird - female

Black-chinned Hummingbird – female

One of our favorite things while in the area, is to take the Wildlife Viewing Loop.  It is a 75 mile drive heading northwest on Hwy 118, going by the McDonald Observatory high in the mountains.  A few miles later you will see a park on the left at Madera Canyon.  Pause there for awhile as it is a very good birding area. A Stellar’s Jay, was just seen there just a few days ago.  After that continue the loop, bearing left to Hwy 166, always looking out for the hawks and other birds and wildlife that inhabit the area.  You will end up back in Fort Davis, ready for a good meal at the Drugstore or a pizza from Murphy’s Pizza.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

After a good night’s sleep, a trip to Balmorhea sounds like a nice side journey.  The drive is north on Hwy 17 for about 40 miles.  We love that trip, because the drive itself is a great birding drive.  Hawks in abundance; Aoudads and Pronghorned Antelope line the mountain ridges.  And who can not stop to photograph Wild Rose Pass.

Wild Ross Pass

Wild Ross Pass

As you approach Balmorhea, you will see Balmorhea State Park.  It is small and it’s main feature is the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool.  But it also has a wetlands area where you can see some great birds.  East of town, is Lake Balmorhea, where during the colder months many species of water birds, ducks, egrets, herons, grebes, etc. can be found.  A Bald Eagle is usually seen hanging around, too.

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup

Be sure to schedule your Balmorhea trip to include lunch at the Bear Den. It bills itself as “the cutest restaurant in town”.  Great Tex-Mex food and cold beer.

In the evening, you might be interested in driving south to Marfa, where you can see the famous “Marfa Lights”, that mysteriously glow after sundown in the direction of the Chinati Mountains.  We have see them every time that we have visited there.  Very strange, indeed.  They are just east of town on Hwy 90 where the Texas Highway Department has erected a special viewing area.

After a couple or three days here, we are ready to go south to the area of the Big Bend National Park.  That area will be the subject of Part II.

Northern Bobwhite and more……..


Since my last post on June 1, my time in the field has been limited.  I have been trying to catch up on personal issues pertaining to keeping up our yard, a little house cleaning, and this morning a plumber is coming to install new fixtures in our bathroom.  So, I was only able to get out for two hours on June 2, and a couple of hours yesterday, June 7.

But the good news is, I did manage to get a few nice images to share with you.

For anybody that has been concerned about the scarceness of the Northern Bobwhite, I can assure you they are certainly alive and well in San Angelo State Park.  While driving through the entire area we were never out of earshot of at least one of them calling.  We also saw visually about ten of them, perhaps more.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Male and female Northern Bobwhite

Male and female Northern Bobwhite

Although we enjoyed seeing so many of the bobwhites, we didn’t ignore  the other birds.  As a matter of fact, we observed thirty different species.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get useable photos of all thirty, but that is to be expected when I am in the birding mode, versus just out for the photography.  Some we just saw as they flew nearby, or were in thick brush, or I simply just didn’t like my photo.

We spotted this night heron in the draw behind the Walmart super-center.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Well, that is about it for this time.  Hopefully, I can have more for you the next time.  Click on any photo to see enlargements.

Bison, a bird and more…….


We have been going out to the San Angelo State Park more recently, mainly because we are so excited to see the lake actually having water in it.  While we are there we also like to do a little birding and watch for other photo ops.

As we were driving out towards the boat ramp on a a recent afternoon, we passed a few of the park’s bison herd up near the fence.  I couldn’t resist trying to get a nice photograph.  Here is what I decided to come up with.  I hope you enjoy.  Prints are available, of course, as all of my photographs are.  Just contact me.

Portrait of a Bison

Portrait of a Bison

Also, we got a chance to see this female Blue Grosbeak.

Blue Grosbeak - female

Blue Grosbeak – female

I have been digging into my archives again.  I usually get in trouble when I start messing with my old stuff, but I came across some of my old water lily photos that I took at the International Water Lily Collection here in San Angelo.  I probably have posted them a few years ago, but most of you haven’t seen them.

Water Lilies

Water Lilies

Lady in Red

Lady in Red

"Prima Donna Magnifico" (Magnificent Ballerina"

“Prima Donna Magnifico” (Magnificent Ballerina”

So you see, I am also able to produce some fine photos other than birds when I have a mind to.  That last photo has won several art competions and contests.  It was one of my last photos in which I used film.  An art professor at San Angelo State University saw the photo at one of my shows and suggested that name.

Click on the photos to see some beautiful enlargements.

Images from Memorial Day Weekend


The weather has been pretty un-settled in Texas as most of you know.  Consequently, my forays into the field to get photographs have been limited the past several days.  However, what I did get, I think you will enjoy.

This first one is of a Franklin’s Gull that I captured at  the now partially full O. C. Fisher Reservoir.  Ann and I had driven out to check on the new water level.  Far in the distance, we saw some birds in the air.  They were so tiny that I couldn’t make out what they were.  I hand-held my Canon 7D MkII and Tamron 150-600mm lens as steady as I could.  I managed to get the auto-focus locked on.  I squeezed he shutter and got this and several other images.  At home in the computer I enlarged the image so I could see what it was.

Franklin's Gull original photo from the camera, at 600mm.

Franklin’s Gull original photo from the camera, with a 600mm lens.  Before I took this shot, the bird was merely a dot with the naked eye.

Franklin's Gull - heavily cropped image

Franklin’s Gull – heavily cropped image

I love my camera setup.

From other areas of San Angelo State Park, I got these photos.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

This morning we ventured out to Spring Creek Park, the site of severe damage from the storms that we have had.  It appears that there is still some unrest as the birds were not available in abundant numbers.  However, I did manage to the this nice image of a Bullock’s Oriole.

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

I would like to mention that O. C. Fisher now has about 17,000 acre feet of water.  However, even though it now looks like a large lake, that is still only about 12% of what it could hold.  The capacity of the lake is 115,742 acre feet.

After the rains…….


You have probably noticed that I haven’t posted in nearly two weeks.  The weather has been damp, drizzly, and cool at times.  That didn’t bother me much, but it limited my visits to my favorite areas.  But the big news is, we have had in the past couple days around 5 inches of rain on the watersheds to our O. C. Fisher Reservoir.  The lake was a dry bed, and now in the last 48 hours has become a huge bodyof water with an elevation rise of 18 feet.  And the water is still flowing into it from the North Concho river that crested at 20 feet above flood stage yesterday, the highest rise since 1974.  I took a look at the lake yesterday afternoon, and it has the most water I have seen since 2007.  A long way to go to be completely full, but it is definitely a first step.  More rain is forecast for the following week.

So, I am going to just post the photographs that I have managed to get since the last edition, during short visits to various locations around the area.  I hope you enjoy, and click on any image to see enlargements.

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Bulock's Oriole

Bulock’s Oriole

Painted Bunting - female

Painted Bunting – female

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

Bronzed Cowbird

Bronzed Cowbird

Dickcissel

Dickcissel

Vermilion Flycatcher - female

Vermilion Flycatcher – female

Another fun forty species day!


Note:  To get full enjoyment of viewing these eighteen photos, it is better to view this post on a computer or device where you can click the photos to see enlargements.

It’s always fun to go out and see a large number of species.  Along the gulf coast and down in the south Texas Rio Grande Valley, it is easy to do so, as birds fill the trees there.  However, out here in west Texas, we have to go on the hunt.  So on that note, Ann and I started out by checking out the owl’s nest at Spring Creek Park.  We failed to spot the owlets as they stay pretty much hidden down in the nest.  We did spot the male guardian in a nearby tree again.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

We didn’t spend too much time there but headed to San Angelo State Park.  We saw several more species and I got these images.

The Brown-headed Cowbird, like the infamous European Starling, is also a beautiful bird if you overlook it’s nasty reputation.

Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

We spotted this female Northern Bobwhite in a small tree.  I think the wind blew up her skirt.

Northern Bobwhite - female

Northern Bobwhite – female

And then, of course, was this image of one of my favorite flycatchers.  He looks a little wind-blown, too.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Another flycatcher in large numbers during the summer months here in west Texas.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

From there we decided to head for the Twin Buttes Reservoir area.  The large lake is not large anymore.  The drought really took it’s toll.  In the park area, there are a few rutted areas where water is still standing from recent rains.  It was at one of these places where we found numerous birds having a real pool party, minus the hor’deurves.  We just parked nearby, turned off the engine, and just watched and waited and I was rewarded with numerous photo ops.

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting - female

Painted Bunting – female

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Bronzed Cowbird

Bronzed Cowbird

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

Killdeer- chick

Killdeer- chick

Bullock's Oriole - female

Bullock’s Oriole

Then watching from the cheap seats in the trees were these spectators.

Bullock's Oriole - male

Bullock’s Oriole – male

House Finch

House Finch

Summer Tanager - first spring male

Summer Tanager – first spring male

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Of course, these are just a portion of the birds that we saw.  I wish I could have photographed every specie that we observed, but of course that would be next to impossible.  For example, we saw a Yellow Warbler that would have made a nice image, but it stopped in a nearby shrub just for a few seconds, just long enough to start reaching for the camera, but gone before I could get it to my eye.