The Dog Days of Summer

Okay, it is starting to get hot down here in San Angelo.  I should have seen it coming.  After all, I have lived here for about 55 years.  But, to be truthful, I wouldn’t live anywhere else.  This is a city of over 100,000 that has everything a person would need.  A beautiful river runs through the town and we have three nearby lakes.  Great parks where I tend to do most of my birding and photography.  Sure it gets warm in the summer, but with our low humidity it is bearable.  I will say this, today is June 14, and we haven’t recorded our first 100° day yet.  But the day isn’ t over so today might be the day.

But as for the birding, this is the time of the year that if you don’t get out in the morning, you are missing the best part of the day.  In the afternoon, windless and warm, the birds like to lay around the house, too.  That is not to say that I don’t try.  But most of the time we are back home by noon.  Then I sit down at the computer and edit the morning’s catch.  And that includes throwing out hundreds of baddies, blurred or I some I just really don’t like.  If I shoot 200 images and get five keepers, I am a happy man.

On that note, here are a few images that I have gotten the past few days.

This White-eyed Vireo was one that almost got tossed.  He was in the dark brush and I had to up the ISO on the camera and that produced quite a bit of noise (grain).  But I liked the pose with that bit of an insect in the beak.

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

There are a lot of the Western Kingbirds around here now.  They don’t seem to mind the heat.

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

Driving through San Angelo State Park, it seemed that we were always hearing the Northern Bobwhites, no matter what our location in the park.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

We were driving around Twin Buttes reservoir the next day, and low and behold we saw the same two species again.  You guessed it, another Western Kingbird and a Northern Bobwhite.

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

Northern Bobwhie

Northern Bobwhte

However, in addition, after hearing a Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the trees and after some searching, I got this photo.  The bird has a delicious katydid in it’s beak.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

I will finish this post with this photograph of an Ash-throated Flycatcher.  Not the greatest image as he was pretty far away.  I got my long lens on him and snapped anyway.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

So that’s it for this time.  I hope you enjoyed the photos.  Click on any of them to see some nice enlargements, especially if you are viewing them on a computer.  I don’t know how that works on an iPhone.


Post Processing? or Not?

A lot has been said about post processing.  In the old days of film, you took a roll of film to your local camera store or a WallyWorld to get it developed.  (Or if you had a darkroom, you could do it yourself.)   That in itself is a kind of post processing.  Depending on how good the individual was at his job, you got back a set of decent 3×5 prints.  Sometimes the color was off on one of them due to batch processing.  Then you could take that one negative back and have him or her custom print it.  In other words, adjust the color, or brightness, or whatever was needed to get the print right.  Post processing.

Now in the 21st century we are in the digital age.  We take photos with our digital camera.  Again we can take the memory card to your favorite “developer” and have them do the prints for you.  Or, again, you can do the processing yourself.  Regardless of how good the camera is, it can never get the absolute picture that you saw with your naked eye.  But most individuals are satisfied with what comes out of the camera.  They are good enough to show their friends and relatives, or post to a popular social media.  Or to sell.

Some people say, “get it right in the camera, and there is no need for post processing.”   An image from the camera does look ‘right’.  Or does it?  Look at the following photos of mine.  The images from the camera do look right.  I would probably would be able to sell them the way they are.  But, when I do my post processing, or digital darkroom work, as I like to call it, all of a sudden the photos look more like what I saw before I took the picture.

Click on the photos and examine each one and you will know what I am talking about.

Western Kingbird from the camera.

Cassin’s Kingbird from the camera.

Western Kingbird after post processing.

Cassin’s Kingbird after post processing.


White-breasted Nuthatch from camera

White-breasted Nuthatch from camera

White-breasted Nuthatch after post processing.

White-breasted Nuthatch after post processing.

In no way do either of these photo look “tricked up” or faked in anyway.  The changes are subtle, but noticeable enough to give more naturalism to the images.

It is very, very rare for me to NOT to post process, or at least check the images out to see if any edits need to be made.  Not that my photos don’t look good from the camera;  it is just that I know that the camera just can’t record all the minute details, or see as well into the shadows as well as my human eye.  So as you can see, it doesn’t hurt to do a bit of post processing, or editing, then you know for sure your result is closer to what you saw in the viewfinder before you clicked the shutter.

For the record, I use PhotoShop along with a couple of choice plug-in programs.  “An old family recipe ‘that was handed down………..”,  just kidding.. 🙂

Jerry, over at Quiet Solo Pursuits, talks more about this at the end of his current post.  Click on the link to see his take on it.


It doesn’t get any better than this……..

This morning Ann and I decided to again take a little drive out to Spring Creek Park, near Lake Nasworthy.  As we were driving through, I was reminded very much of a post that a fellow blogger wrote recently.  Shannon, who lives in the Houston area has an ideal place to go when she is feeling down and unable to cope.  She gets out and strolls through the large trees and by the creek that is on her land.  Check out her poignant post and her photos (click) here.  I can relate very much with her as many times I have felt that I just wanted to get away.

Today was an example.  The weather promised to be another hot day, and Ann and I decided to try and beat the heat and took a short drive to some local parks near Lake Nasworthy.

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

Sometimes we just drive slowly through the trees, and part of the time we leave the car and stroll.  I always have my camera in hand.  We saw a beautiful Vermilion Flycatcher, one of my favorite birds.  An equally pretty bird that arrived recently to spend the summer is the Western Kingbird.  Nearby was a Great Blue Heron strolling, watching for a quick lunch.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

For us it doesn’t get any better.  I think my overall health is much better when I can get out as often as I can.  Ann is much happier when she can accompany me, so that is an added bonus.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

All three of the photos were taken this morning on our driving slash stroll.  I just doesn’t get any better than this.  In all, I think we saw about twenty-seven different species in a short two hours. Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Painted Bunting, Pyrrhuloxia and Western Kingbird

Here are a few more images from our sucessful birding over the weekend.  All were taken at San Angelo State Park.  We saw so many birds that it took me extra time to organize and edit them.  First up is the beautiful Painted Bunting, (Passerina ciris).  I shot this and the Pyrrhuloxia both with my Canon 7D and 500mm lens with 1.4 tele-converter.  Bunting exposure was 1/250 sec @f8, +0.7EV, ISO 3200.

Painted Bunting

Next is this nice shot of a Western Kingbird, (Tyrannus verticalis).  This bird just arrived in the area a few days ago.  Exposure 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, +0.7EV, ISO 2000.  Canon EOS 7D and Canon 100-400mm lens.  Hand-held.

Western Kingbird

Who can forget the gorgeous red and gray tones of the Pyrrhuloxia, (Cardinalis sinusatus).  That is pronounced Pie-rule-loxia.  A beautiful bird in the cardinal family.


Enjoy the pictures and click on any of them to see an enlargment of each.  Voting is still open until Thursday afternoon in our weekly bird quiz #3.  Click on this link:  BirdQuiz  then make your selection.  Good luck!

I’m Off the Couch.

After a few days of feeling under the weather, then another few days just too darned lazy to write, here I am again.

Honestly, last week I just had a slight sinus infection and a spell of laryngitis that absolutely frustrated me.  I live to talk, and I get quite irritated when I can open my mouth but have nothing come out.  I wasn’t very easy to get along with. 

Curve-billed Thrasher

Then, came the weekend.  I was feeling much better, but I had to lead my monthly birding adventure at the state park.  After that I became a couch potato for the weekend.  The reason??  It was the Masters Tournament from Augusta National Golf Club, in Augusta, Georgia.  This TV tournament is one of my favorites to watch, and I was hoping for another Tiger Woods spectacle.  It almost happened.  Aside from his private life, I think he is the best golfer to come along in years.

So, back to the world of birding and photography.  The birds were not very co-operative Saturday morning at the park.  Could be that they knew about the coming storms or were just down out of the wind.

But good news is coming.  We were doing our regular chores at the bird blind at the park this morning.  We talked to Pat Bales, one of the rangers, and he spotted a Bullock’s Oriole and a Western Kingbird.  Both early this morning.  We had already seen the first Black-chinned Hummingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and a Ash-throated Flycatcher a few days ago, so indications are that the summer birds are moving in.

Northern Cardinal

So I hope to post some pictures of the new arrivals later this week.  I am now ready to get off my duff and get into the field.  That includes, hopefully, a trip to the Eldorado waste water ponds.  A couple of rarities were spotted there over the weekend.  An Upland Sandpiper and a Least Tern.  Both are very unusual species for the area.

The two images in this post were photographed at San Angelo State Park this past Saturday morning during the monthly birding adventure.  Click on either one to see an enlargement.

Kingbird nest re-visited

Since I took nearly seventy photos of the Western Kingbird on Thursday, I had this image showing the kingbird to the side of the nest watching over the babies.  At first I thought it was to under-exposed, but thanks to good photo editing I was able to brighten it up enough to post here.  By the way, the fledges are just about ready to attempt to leave the nest.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they were flying by tomorrow.

Western Kingbird on nest.

This morning as Ann and I were driving around after taking care of the bird blind, we came across this Brown Rock Dove.  It is not a rare bird, but one that is seldom sighted.  This one was near the Prairie Dog village at the San Angelo State Park.

Brown Rock Dove

Also I got lucky again, spotting this Northern Bobwhite, in a tree calling to a mate.  I heard it before I saw it.  Happy Birding and enjoy the photos.  Click on the images for an enlargement.

Northern Bobwhite

Nesting Correction

Okay, I am learning.  It seems that I made a mistake in my previous post.  I went by that nest today.  The light was better, and better still, the mother bird was easier to identify along with her young ones.  It is not an Ash-throated Flycatcher as I said previously.  It obviously is a Western Kingbird with her chicks.  I got lucky again and got what I think, is a great photo of her and her hungry fledglings.  So enjoy this photo below and click on the image for an enlargement.

In other news, Ann, Jodie Wolslager, and I made a trip to Llano State Park down at Junction a few days ago.  An enjoyable trip despite rainy on the way down, then hot and humid after we got there.  The bird blinds there, four of them, were really sweat-boxes because of the high humidity.  However, we saw many birds that we don’t usually see around San Angelo.  A Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-throated Vireo, both lifers for me, and a Black-throated Sparrow.  Those birds are around here but not in the large numbers as they are down there.  I want to make a return trip soon.

Western Kingbird with hungry children

Memorial Day – New Images

This has been a rather quiet holiday weekend for Ann and I.  Yesterday, Sunday, I spent most of the day in front of the TV.  As I have done for as many years as I can remember, except for the three that I spent in the Air force near Istanbul, Turkey, I watched the Indianapolis 500 auto race.  When I was a kid my dad and would spend Memorial Day listening to that great race on radio, then later watching it on TV.  So it’s a little like a tradition for me.  Of course, like everything else, it has changed over the years.  I remember that 50 years ago, I think it was Jim Hurtabise qualified at 150 miles per hour.  It was thought then, that would be an unsurpassed record.   Yeah, right.  This year, Helio Castroneves qualified right at 228 miles per hour.  That’s 235 mph on the back stretch.  Hmmm…..

This morning, the actual Memorial Day, Ann and I done our daily enjoyable task of going to San Angelo State Park to get the feed out for the birds at the wildlife viewing area.  Since we had nothing better to do this day, we decided to spend a few hours doing a little driving around the park.

Western Diamond Back Rattlesnake

Even though it is getting a little warm we still found that the birds are still active.  We saw no snakes though.  I mention this because a few days ago as we were driving down the path from the bird blind, we came upon a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.  It was sunning itself in the path, and as we approached, it started to move back into the deep grass.  But not before I got a photo of it that I have posted here.  So beware when you are hiking there.  These snakes, if alerted they will move out of the way.  But if you surprise one, it will coil into a defensive posture.  You will hear the rattle, and they can strike out to the length of their body, maybe a few inches further if they put enough force behind the strike.  They can come out of their shoes, so to speak.

Lark Sparrow

In my experience, when wading through deep grass, watch carefully, but don’t be afraid to be a little noisy, as they may sense you coming and move away.  But my wife, Ann, doesn’t take chances.  She makes sure that she walks behind me.  🙂

But, today, as I said, no rattle snakes.  I got a couple of new photos that I will post here.  One of my best photograph of a Lark Sparrow.  This one stayed in place long enough for me to pick up my big 500mm lens.  I took the shot hand-held from the window of the mini-van.  Later I got this cute shot of a Western Kingbird.

Western Kingbird

Click on any photo to see an enlargement.

So we hope that everybody has enjoyable holiday.

Happy Birding!!

Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)

Western Kingbird

Many signs of spring are now appearing all over the Concho River Valley.  Besides the many bluebonnets and other wildflowers, the spring birds are arriving.  One is the Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis).  Just a few days ago there weren’t any, now all of a sudden they’re everywhere.  It makes you wonder how all bird species know when to be at a place at a certain time.  They obviously arrive indivually as I never have seen a them arriving as a large group or flock.  Now I have seen American White Pelicans (Pelicanus erythrohynchos) arrive in large flocks.  They are a beautiful against a blue sky, forming a slow whirling vortex, then all landing in the water as a group.

Tomorrow Ann and I, along with Ken Corley, are making a short trip down to

Western Kingbird

 Dan and Cathy Brown’s Hummer House.  Dan told us on the phone that the birds are plentiful there, and he also mentioned that a large hawk was in a nest nearby, close enough that he thought I might come away with some photographs.  So we’re looking forward to having a look.

If your interested in my recent back problems, I was surprised to see that my MRI shows that I have a fractured back.  A compression fracture in my lower spine.  I am having treatment on it to relieve the pain and it still may slow me just a tad.  I still intend to try to get some photographs, however crawling on the ground to get them may not be an option for awhile.

Happy Birding