Sparrows, Sparrows, Sparrows


Since this blog is basically about birding, and bird photography, I have been sitting here pondering what to put in my next (this) post.  Thinking back, I didn’t know a sparrow from a pigeon before I got into serious birding.  Well, I guess pigeons were bigger, right?   Anyway, now I have come to appreciate just how many species of birds there really are.  In the area where I live, according to the people that know these things, there are thirty different species of sparrows alone.

To be perfectly fair, actually they are not all sparrows.  Four of those species classified in the sparrow family are towhees, three are longspurs, and one is a junco.  That still leaves twenty-two named sparrows, just here in the Concho Valley.  There are more than fifty species including other regions of the country. 

Like any other non-birder, I thought all sparrow looked alike.  Wrong!  Since I now consider myself a birder, albeit a little new at it, I have discovered that there are really many beautiful sparrows to be seen and photographed.  You can see from the following examples.

House Sparrow

Pictured above is the common House Sparrow (Passer domesticus).  Now I ask, isn’t this a pretty little bird.  Nice rich colors of brown, with that little patch of gray on his head, and that black chest, not to be confused with the Black-throated Sparrow.

Black-throated Sparrow

The above is the afore-mentioned Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata).   Another little cutie.

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus)  Another pretty bird with distinctive markings that you can’t miss.

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla).  So these are five of my favorites.  Now when you see a sparrow, take a closer look, and you may be surprised at what you see.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

MLK day at San Angelo State Park


In yesterday’s post I said that I hoped that the fog would lift.  Well, lift it did, a couple of hours later.  It turned out to be a wonderful day, with the temps somewhere in the mid-seventies, with plenty of sunshine.  Ann and I decided to spend a few hours at San Angelo State Park.  Where else would we be??  🙂  It is so nice to be retired, and have such a great park only three miles away.

We just had a good time driving around, not only watching birds, but just enjoying watching other people enjoy it, too.  There were hikers, bikers, walkers, and we came across this fisherman that was just bringing his catch in from the shore.  A huge catch that it was.  Look at all the big Yellow Catfish, probably near 100 lbs worth, judging from the effort that it took the young man to lift them.  He even had to use a wheelbarrow to carry them in from the lake.  There is some fine eatin’ somewhere in town this evening. 🙂

Catch of the Day

We had a great day of birding, also.  Check out the list at the end of this post.  In addition to the usual suspects, we were joined by a Rock Wren, A Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and six Northern Bobwhites.  And a nice surprise.  We spotted the Phainopepla again that has been hanging around.  After chasing him through the mesquites, I came up with this photograph.  I think it is quite an improvement over my original image that I captured a few days ago.

Phainopepla

Click on either photo to see an enlargement.  Here is the list of birds that we saw on Monday, January 17, 2011

Number of species:     26

Northern Shoveler     6
Northern Bobwhite     6
American White Pelican     20
Great Blue Heron     2
American Coot     6
Killdeer     2
Greater Yellowlegs     4
Least Sandpiper     20
Long-billed Dowitcher     6
Ring-billed Gull     20
Herring Gull     2
White-winged Dove     4
Mourning Dove     2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker     1
Tufted Titmouse     0
Black-crested Titmouse     2
Rock Wren     1
Northern Mockingbird     10
Curve-billed Thrasher     2
Phainopepla     1
White-crowned Sparrow     12
Northern Cardinal     6
Pyrrhuloxia     5
Red-winged Blackbird     12
House Finch     6
House Sparrow     4

Happy birding!!

Foggy Monday Birds and a Beast


Okay, okay, I know I haven’t posted in a few days.  I’ve been waiting for a sunshine-filled happy day.  As I am writing this, it may not happen for awhile.  This morning it is very, very foggy.  However, I am hoping for the sun to break through later today.  So I will fill in with the latest birding results from yesterday, posted at the end of this post, and a couple of pictures.

Nine-banded Armadillo

What is a post without some pictures, right?  Yesterday, after doing a little birding, we were on our way out of San Angelo State Park, when we observed a couple of Armadillos rooting around, looking for something edible.  The above image  pictures one of them.  Also, a little earlier, while at the bird blind, I photographed this Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus).  I believe that it is a 1st year male. Click on either photo to see an enlargement. 

Red-winged Blackbird

The following is a list of birds that we saw and reported yesterday.

Location:     San Angelo State Park
Observation date:     1/16/11
Number of species:     24

Northern Shoveler     6
American White Pelican     20
Great Blue Heron     2
Red-tailed Hawk     1
American Kestrel     2
American Coot     12
Killdeer     2
Greater Yellowlegs     2
Least Sandpiper     6
Ring-billed Gull     50
White-winged Dove     6
Greater Roadrunner     1
Ladder-backed Woodpecker     1
Northern Mockingbird     10
Curve-billed Thrasher     1
Spotted Towhee     1
Canyon Towhee     1
White-crowned Sparrow     12
Northern Cardinal     4
Pyrrhuloxia     5
Red-winged Blackbird     10
Western Meadowlark     1
House Finch     6
House Sparrow     8

Happy Birding!!

American White Pelican


Since we have been seeing several American White Pelicans Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) at O. C. Fisher Lake at San Angelo State Park, I thought I would make that the featured bird today.

It is an immense bird, 62 inches length, a wingspan of 108 inches or nine feet, and weighs in at over 16 pounds.  It is white with black flight feathers that can be seen in flight, and has a pinkish or yellow-orange bill.  This photograph was taken at O. C. Fisher Lake in San Angelo, Texas.  It was while I was taking this picture, that Ann was almost run over by a Bobcat.  She was standing behind me, and the Lynx came charging past, in pursuit of a jackrabbit.

American White Pelican

Today when we visited the park, there were about 75 pelicans there.  Some new arrivals were a couple of Chipping Sparrows that we hadn’t seen yet at the bird-blind. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011   Total species 24

Northern Shoveler     6
American White Pelican     75
Great Blue Heron     3
Cooper’s Hawk     1
Killdeer     2
Greater Yellowlegs     8
Least Sandpiper     12
Ring-billed Gull     200
White-winged Dove     6
Mourning Dove     2
Black-crested Titmouse     2
Bewick’s Wren     1
Northern Mockingbird     6
Curve-billed Thrasher     1
Spotted Towhee     1
Canyon Towhee     1
Chipping Sparrow     2
White-crowned Sparrow     12
Northern Cardinal     6
Pyrrhuloxia     6
Red-winged Blackbird     30
Western Meadowlark     4
House Finch     24
House Sparrow     6

Happy Birding!!

American Kestrel


The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) has to be one of  my favorite small hawks.  They are beautiful, colorful, and agressive as hawks usually are.  Stokes Field Guide of North American Birds describes it as a small long-tailed falcon with long, narrow, pointed, and strongly tapered wings.  Some strong identifying marks are the two vertical stripes on the white face.  It is often seen hovering or perched on wires in open spaces, hunting insects, birds and small mammals.  They are plentiful around the west Texas area.  I captured this photograph at San Angelo State Park a year ago, after he led me on a merry chase through the trees and picnic areas.  I finally caught up with him as he stopped atop a tree and let the wind blow his plummage.

American Kestrel

I hope you enjoy the photograph and you can click on it to see an enlargement.  Below is our latest bird count from this morning.

Wednesday January 5, 2011   Total species   21

Northern Shoveler     12
American White Pelican     50
Great Blue Heron     1
Northern Harrier     1
Ring-billed Gull     100
White-winged Dove     6
Mourning Dove     2
Ladder-backed Woodpecker     1
Black-crested Titmouse     2
Northern Mockingbird     6
Curve-billed Thrasher     1
Spotted Towhee     1
Canyon Towhee     1
Vesper Sparrow     1
White-crowned Sparrow     24
Northern Cardinal     6
Pyrrhuloxia     6
Red-winged Blackbird     20
Western Meadowlark     10
House Finch     18
House Sparrow     6

Happy Birding!!

Cooper’s Hawk


First I’d like mention that in the future, all, if any, of our bird counts will be listed at the bottom of my posts.  Also, I have decided to dispense with my Bird of the Week series, because I intend to put the desired information with photos that I post daily.

This is a photograph of a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii).  Ann and I were at the bird-blind at San Angelo State Park yesterday morning.  As we sat and watched, all of a sudden the birds that regularly visit left in a rush.  The reason was that the hawk had swooped in.  He lit in the tree branch, hopefully to catch a meal.  After finding that the birds were in hiding, he eventually flew off, but not before I was able to get a few photos.  I hope you like it.  Click on it for an enlargement.

Cooper's Hawk

Sibley’s describes this hawk as a medium-size accipiter with a relatively large head, long tail and holds wings straight when soaring.  They and the Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) are similar to the Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentillis) in shape, habits, and plummage.  Northern Goshawks are not usually found in the Concho Valley.  All are agile when pursuing small birds through trees and bushes.  I identified this as a Cooper’s because of the flatter  head and thinner streaks on the breast.

We were only able to spend an hour at the San Angelo State Park bird-blind this morning.  Because of that our bird count that follows is a bit shorter.  Only 14 species.   Just the usual suspects today.  Still waiting and hoping for some Pine Siskins to make an appearance.

Tuesday January 4, 2011 – Total species  14 

White-winged Dove     6
Mourning Dove     2
Black-crested Titmouse     2
Northern Mockingbird     7
Curve-billed Thrasher     2
Spotted Towhee     1
Canyon Towhee     2
White-crowned Sparrow     12
Northern Cardinal     8
Pyrrhuloxia     6
Red-winged Blackbird     100
Western Meadowlark     8
House Finch     12
House Sparrow     2

Happy Birding!!

Northern Bobwhite – Jan 3 birding list


When Ann and I arrived at San Angelo State Park yesterday (Sunday) morning, we saw this Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus).   Actually, there were two, but as they scurried away I was only able to capture one.  There is also another species of quail in this area; Scaled Quail (Callipepla squamata).  I haven’t seen one in quite awhile, but I am sure they are here, lurking about in the tall grass somewhere.

Northern Bobwhite

Scaled Quail

The above photo appeared in Texas Farm and Ranch Magazine a couple of years ago. Tomorrow look for a photo of a Cooper’s Hawk that I photographed this morning.   Click on any image for an enlargement.

Here is the bird count for this morning Monday, January 3.

Cooper’s Hawk     1
Red-tailed Hawk     2
White-winged Dove     4
Black-crested Titmouse     2
Northern Mockingbird     4
Curve-billed Thrasher     1
Canyon Towhee     1
White-crowned Sparrow     6
Northern Cardinal     6
Pyrrhuloxia     4
Red-winged Blackbird     20
Common Grackle     10
Brown-headed Cowbird     1
House Finch     6
House Sparrow     4

Happy Birding

Miscellaneous Goings ‘On


Now it’s back to the usual routine, after returning from our trip to the Big Bend.  But what a great time we had.  But that was then.  This is now.

White-crowned Sparrow

Back to the feeding and care of the wildlife viewing area at San Angelo State Park.  The winter birds have started returning.  In the last three days, we have spotted three Ring-billed Gulls, six White-crowned Sparrows, and about a dozen Northern Shovelers.  Probably there are many more on the way.

Northern Shoveler

I have been busy getting an order of 300 Christmas Cards ready for my Edward Jones agent.  I have a show opening on November first at Crockett National Bank of my wildlife photography, so I have been busy cutting mats and framing my selections.  So many projects, so little time. 🙂

I also completed the design on my 2011 calendars, they are being printed, and they should arrive in about three weeks.  If anyone is interested in having one, contact me.  I think this my best edition yet.  They’re printed on high-gloss photographic paper.

I heard from Jim Miller today.  He is at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio for some advanced military training of some sort.  He had been assighned here to Goodfellow AFB for quite some time.  He had been quite active in birding and photographic circles around the area.  He now says that he probably will get an assignment to one of the facilities in San Antonio, Texas.  He will be missed.

Happy Birding!!

Happy Valentines Day


Great Horned Owl

Ann was still under the weather today, so I decided to do a little birding my own this morning.  To start with, in the tree next door I saw and three Inca Doves, one Northern Cardinal, one Bluejay, and three House Sparrows.  I then headed to the San Angelo State Park three miles away. 

I stopped at the bird blind and put out some sunflower seeds.  Boy, they

White-crowned Sparrow

 must have been hungry because inside of two minutes there was birds all over the place.  Upon leaving blind I drove back down the lane and something caught my attention to the left.  I stopped and saw a huge Great Horned Owl about eighty yards in the trees off to my left.  I picked up my Canon 7D, with my 500mm and 1.4 teleconverter and shot this picture from my van.  A little later in the morning I photographed a White-crowned Sparrow that I have pictured here.

Cruising on around the park, I saw a Kildeer, an American Kestrel, a Rock Wren, and a Golden-fronted Woodpecker.  Coming back to the house, back in the tree next door, I spotted what I am certain was a Brewers Blackbird.  I was home in time to catch the Great American Race, the Daytona 500.  Hey, did you think that all I do is go birding?? :’)

Click on the photos to see and enlargement.

More photos at www.zellertexasphotos.com

Happy Birding!!