Going to the Big Bend again

Monday morning we are heading back to our favorite place, the Big Bend area of west Texas.  This time we are hoping to get in on the spring migration if we are not too late.  A couple of weeks ago we attempted the trip but returned after one day because of some health issues.  Now we are feeling up to snuff again.  We will be staying at the Gage Hotel in Marathon on Monday night.  Then Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we will be at the Far-Flung Casitas in Study Butte.

Here are a few photos that I managed to get this week between the cold spells that were coming and going the past few days.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

young Great Horned Owls

young Great Horned Owls

Great Blue Heron with young

Great Blue Heron with young

Enjoy the photos and click on any of them to see enlargements.  I’ll be back with a new post next weekend.  You can also follow me on Facebook.

Don’t pay the ransom, I’ve escaped…..

Okay, I know that many of you had received an e-mail saying that I was in trouble in the Philipines and needed money.  I assure you, I am alive and well and in the United States.  And, trust me, any checks that I receive will be destroyed.  It was a scam.  Some hacker decided to entertain himself by stealing my contact list, e-mail account, and just making a heck of a lot of trouble for me.  I now have a new account and my new address that you can contact me by is: bob.zeller@aol.com.  I am sorry about any inconvenience and/or any trouble that this hacker may have caused.

I have found that it is easy to laugh about it this morning, but I can assure you that it was no laughing matter yesterday.

Turtle on log

Turtle on log

In keeping with my practice of including a photograph with any post, this is a turtle that I photographed many, many years ago near Lajitas, Texas.  It was shot on film.  I included this image, because many of you enjoyed my previous turtle photo.  I do, at times, photograph creatures that aren’t of the avian variety.  You can click on the image to see an enlargement.

Hark, the lark, the Meadowlark

There I am again, getting cute with a catchy title.  But, I have to get your attention.  Today I have some Western Meadowlark images to show you.  I went out with Ann on Sunday morning to try and get some more improved images than what I have seemed to have gotten lately.  I was starting to doubt my own talents.  The day was one of those days where the birding was a bit sparse, but it was probably because of some chilly winds.  That is, chilly early morning, then it warmed to upper 70s in the afternoon.  I can hardly call that chilly.

Anyway we came across an area where there were several Western Meadowlarks, both on the ground and in the trees.  One thing that I have noticed about them, is they like to keep their back to you.  Maybe it is some kind of defensive thing, but it is hard to get nice photos of their beautiful yellow breasts.  Having said that, though, I did get a shot of one lurking in the grass a little further away.  I was able to capture it with my 500mm lens with a 1.4 tele-converter.  I used the same set-up on the other two images as well.

Mind if I lurk a little bit??

Here’s another with a side view.

Western Meadowlark’s great profile

This one keeps looking over his shoulder.

Here’s lookin’ back at ya. 🙂

In closing, here is a frontal view of a Western Meadowlark that I captured back in the year 2009.  I was undecided about posting it because of the reeds that are in front of his face.  But the picture grew on me, and I think that the growth adds a bit of a natural look.  I hope you agree.

Western Meadowlark on barbed wire.

I hope you enjoyed these photos.  I am going to the central Texas area tomorrow.  First to visit Hornsby Bend Bird Sanctuary in Austin, then on Wednesday we will go to the Canyon of the Eagles at Lake Buchanan and take the Vanishing River Cruise and hopefully get some images of some Bald Eagles.  So my next post will be around next weekend.

Northern Cardinal – the “Redbird”

Northern Cardinal, (Cardinalis cardinalis).  No matter what you call it, nobody can resist liking this flashy, red bird.  It can be found throughout most of the midwest and eastern part of the country.  Ann and I took a short trip to San Angelo State Park on Sunday morning and I took this photo at the bird blind there.

Northern Cardinal

While going through my archives this morning, preparing for this post, I came upon a couple more images that I think you may have never seen.  I think this next one had been splashing in a pond before me getting the photo.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

I hope looking at these photos will help jump-start your week.  There is something about looking at happy birds, that can give a person a feel-good feeling.

Wishin’ for a Wigeon

I have been fascinated with the American Wigeons (Anas americana).  I guess it’s because I’ve always seen them from a distance and they always looked strange to me.  They have a white crown that, from far away, always looked fuzzy and out of focus.  I never could get a decent photograph, but I kept wishin’ that an opportunity would someday arise. 

That changed a couple of mornings ago.  I happened to drive by this little pond that is in the Bluffs residential division.  It was really cold and nasty.  Windy and blowing rain.  I was having second thoughts of being in the area.  The storm hadn’t hit yet when I had left the house.  But as I drove by the pond, there were a couple of these ducks fairly close to the road on the right.  I decided to drive on by, turn around and come back and see if I could get a photo from the car.

American Wigeon

I was in luck.  The rain stopped for a few minutes.  I crept closer along the left side of the road and rolled down my window.  I was able to use my Canon 7D with a 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter from that position.  I was only about 60 feet away and was able to nearly fill the frame.  Exposure was 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, -0.3EV, ISO 2000.  Spot metering and aperture priority.

Brown Creeper – revisited

In the birding community, if a person sees a rare bird, it is customary to get a picture of it to prove the authenticity of the sighting.  When we saw the Brown Creeper that I mentiond in my previous post, I got out of the car to try and get some shots of it.  It was scrambling around, moving fast through the trees.  I tried to get it in my sights and when I was able to, I fired off what shots I could get.  Some went wild, and my shots went off in the air, so to speak.  A few made “contact”.  That was why I said that none of my images were publishable.

However, yesterday, I pulled up one of the images to see if I could salvage something.  This one below looked promising, so I opened it in Photoshop.  I kicked it, stomped it and cropped it.  I used FocusMagic on it then ended up over-sharpening it a bit, but in the end it was a pretty identifiable photo of the bird.

Brown Creeper - pre-edit

Brown Creeper

Also, after screening my other images from that day, I liked this photo of a female Ring-necked Duck, (Aythya collaris).  One of the oddities of this specie is that you will be hard pressed to make out the ring around the neck.  But both the male and female have white rings on the bill.  Go figure.

Ring-necked Duck - female

Both photographs were taken with my Canon EOS 7D and Canon 100-400mm zoom lens.  Spot metering with aperture priority.  Hand-held.

Brown Creeper:  1/500 sec. @ f11,  ISO 400.

Ring-necked Duck:  1/500 sec. @ f11, -0.3EV,  ISO 500.

Green-tailed Towhee – 2nd chance

What a difference a day makes.  I went back out to the photography blind at San Angelo State Park yesterday to see if I could get a better exposed photo of the Green-tailed Towhee.  The sky was cloudy, but it wasn’t raining.  There was an abundance of birds to be seen, and the light was perfect.  There was this Canyon Towhee (Melozone fusca) eating seed that was put on this log.

Canyon Towhee

There also was this Lesser Goldfinch, (Carduelis psaltria), hanging sideways on a branch sticking out of the pond.

Lesser Goldfinch

How about a female Northern Cardinal, (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Northern Cardinal - female

Or a Pyrrhuloxia , Cardinalis sinuatus), a relative to the Northern Cardinal.


Don’t you love the bokeh on the three above above photos?  A few minutes later about a dozen Northern Bobwhites, (Colinus virginianus) came running into the area.  What fun it was watching them scurry around.  This is a photo of one of the females.

Northern Bobwhite - female

Oh, lest I forget why I decided on this post, the Green-tailed Towhee, (pipilo chlorurus), finally made an appearance.  He flew in from the surrounding brush and made himself at home in this bird feeder.  I took this shot, then he was gone.  I haven’t seen him since.

Green-tailed Towhee

I hope you enjoyed looking at these photos.  I have this habit of wanting you to see all of my photos at once.  I don’t have any left for the next post.  So you know where I’ll be tomorrow.  There is no time to rest, but I must keep going to satisfy my readers. 🙂

All images were shot with my Canon EOS 7D with Canon 500mm lens, tripod mounted.  No tele-converter was used.

Click on any of the images to see an enlargement.  Have a Happy Super Bowl Weekend. 🙂

Mute Swans – A rarity in San Angelo

The past few weeks Ann and I had seen these two Mute Swans (Cygnus olor), out around the Lake Nasworthy area here in San Angelo.  One evening it was late, and they were pretty close to shore in Mary Lee Park.  I decided to take a few photos of them.  It was when I was taking a closer look at the images, then looking in my guides, that I discovered they are very, very rare to Texas.  They are usually found in the Northeast and Great Lakes area.  When Ann sent our sightings to E-Bird they immediately put them on their Rare Bird Alert list.

Mute Swans

It’s funny how you can see something and just take it for granted.  As I said, we got used to seeing them, and it was not a new specie to us, and we didn’t realize that it wasn’t supposed to be around here.  I must say, though, that if they hadn’t been continually dipping their heads in the muddy water they might have been prettier.  But I am not particular.   I photograph what I see.  Like the guy said, “you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your swans”. 🙂

Pertinent photo info:  Canon EOS 7D with Canon 100-400mm lens.  1/2500 sec. @ f8, -0.3EV.  Center-weighted metering and aperture priority.  Hand-held.

Click on image to see an enlargement.

Woodpecker and San Angelo Blind.

I made a quick trip to the San Angelo State Park this morning.  Jim Miller  had told me that the windows had been replaced and I wanted to check them out.  I agree with him, they are more solid than before and should last awhile.  While there, Ann and I decided to check out the birds.  I managed to get this photo of a Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes auarifrons).  

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Photographed with Canon EOS 7d and Canon 100-400mm lens.  I was shooting into the sun but by using spot metering I managed to get a pretty decent shot.  I put my center focusing point on the bird and the camera done it’s job.  Camera to subject distance about 22 feet, 1/500 sec @ f8, ISO 640.  Aperture priority.

I shot the image in RAW and did the post processing in Photoshop CS5.

A Harbinger of Spring

While driving by Rock Slough Park, near Lake Nasworthy several days ago, we spotted several birds in the little area.  Cedar Waxwings, Eastern Bluebirds, along with this American Robin, (Turdus migratorius).  They say that robins are signs of spring’s arrival.  Maybe so, maybe not.  While we have these species year around here, it makes a for good subject for this post.  Plus, is spring not just around the corner?  🙂

American Robin

Photographed with my Canon EOS 7d with Canon 100-400mm lens.  1/640 sec. @ f8, ISO 250.  Center-weighted metering and aperture priority.  Click on image to see an enlargement.