Birding Davis Mountains and Jeff Davis County.


Getting started on Monday morning before leaving, I had a doctor’s appointment to get a bi-weekly injection for what ails me.  Nothing serious, just something that has to be done every two weeks.  So after getting that out of the way, we stopped at the Mesquite Bean Grill in the Cactus Hotel for a breakfast of their fantastic Mesquite Bean Tacos and coffee.  We knew that would last us quite awhile.  So we were finally on the road at about 9:30 AM.

Our destination was the west Texas village of Fort Davis, the site of the namesake fort, which is one of best preserved frontier posts in the country.  I hope the citizens aren’t offended that I call Fort Davis a village, rather than a city.  But in my book if there aren’t any traffic lights, it is a village.  And a quaint village Fort Davis is.  I want to live there when I grow up.

So anyway, we headed out US67 west from San Angelo.  We would go through other villages: Mertzon, Barnhart, Big Lake (there is no lake there), Rankin, and McCamey.  Oh, I can’t leave out Gervin, but it is only an intersection, so if you miss the sign, you have missed Gervin.  Then we hit Interstate 10 to go through Fort Stockton, a location of ruins of another defunct frontier fort.  Then we hit the turn-off for Balmorhea, (more about that later in this post) and head for Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains.  That final leg of the trip is our favorite as we are able to watch for birds, hawks, etc.

1Y7A9348-net-hawk-red-tailed-bob-zeller

Red-tailed Hawk

After about a four and a half hour drive we arrived in Fort Davis.  We had munched on some light snacks on the road so we weren’t in need of a huge lunch, so we stopped at Stone Village Market.  You can get made-to-order deli sandwiches.  We opted for a pastrami on sourdough bread with all the fixin’s.  We took them with us and headed for the Davis Mountains Inn where we were going to stay for four nights.  It turned out that we were the only guests that first night.  We were so tired that after unpacking, we decided that would just rest the balance of the day.

Tuesday dawned bright, and after eating breakfast we decided to travel west on Hwy 166 to the turn-off to Hwy 505.  It had been recommended to us that along that stretch of lonely highway, many raptors could be seen, including Golden Eagles.  Along the way we saw many birds and animals, including this Pronghorned Antelope.

1Y7A9033-net-antelope-bob-zeller

Pronghorn Antelope

At a roadside park on Hwy 166, where there is usually good birding, we saw this one Summer Tanager, a female I believe.

1Y7A8910-net-warbler-wilsons-bob-zeller

Summer Tanager, female

Our target bird for this day was the Golden Eagle that frequents the wide open areas along Hwy 505.  We missed the eagle but saw many Red-tailed Hawks, and some Cassin’s Kingbirds.  We vowed to come back another day to hunt for the eagle.

1Y7A8944-net-kingbird-cassins-bob-zeller

Cassin’s Kingbird

1Y7A8963-net-hawk-red-tailed-bob-zeller

Red-tailed Hawk

On Wednesday morning we headed up to Lake Balmorhea.  We always enjoyed the drive to get there.  Up through the Davis Mountains and over Wild Rose Pass.

IMG_0704_2-net-wildrose-pass-bob-zeller

Star Mountain from Wild Rose Pass

At the lake, we discovered that one of our favorite roads around the intake end, was closed, due to vandalism.  However, we were able to drive over the dam and along one side of the lake.  Here are a few of our highlights.

1Y7A9193-net-osprey-bob-zeller

Osprey, near the dam on Lake Balmorhea

1Y7A9214-net-quail-scaled-bob-zeller

Scaled Quail

1Y7A9157-net-hawk-redtailed-bob-zeller

Red-tailed Hawk

On Thursday morning, which would be our last day before heading home, we decided to look for the Golden Eagle again.  We tried to leave earlier this time, and drove directly to the desired area on Hwy 505.  This time we were in luck.  About two miles from the turnoff from Hwy 166, we came up on the eagle feasting on road-kill.  He was as startled as we were.  He flew up onto a fence post.  After checking my mirrors for traffic, I stopped the car in the middle of the road, and grabbed my camera.  I was able to get about a dozen images has he posed for me.  As I checked my mirrors again for traffic, he flew, but I missed any chance for an in-flight shot.  However, I was thrilled that I got such an opportunity from only about thirty-five yards.

But there is bad news.  I had taken an earlier shot of a dark bird in deep shadows, and had boosted my exposure by a stop and two-thirds. For you non-photographers, that means I over-exposed.  Well, I made a rookie error and forgot to change the setting back, so when I grabbed the camera for the eagle shot,  I had no time to adjust.  Hence the eagle was horribly over-exposed.  I had to try to correct it in my post-processing.  So here is the result.  Not a pretty sight, but acceptable.  You can see that the yellow bill and yellow feet are pretty washed out.

1Y7A9275-net-eagle-golden-bob-zeller

Golden Eagle

After that we continued along the highway for another few minutes.  I then caught a few more photos.

1Y7A9304-net-kite-white-tailed-bob-zeller

Broad-winged Hawk

1Y7A9314-net-kite-white-tailed-bob-zeller

White-tailed Kite

It was still early in the day, so we decided to visit a friend’s place up in the mountains.  He has a bird-watching setup, complete with portable blinds and a water drip.  It was a drive of only six miles from the road entrance on Hwy 166.  But it is a pretty rough road and it took us about 30 minutes to get there.  I set up my camera in one of the blinds and got comfortable.  Here are a few highlights.

1Y7A9408-net-pevee-western-wood-bob-zeller

Western Wood-Pewee

1Y7A9435-net-nuthatch-white-breast-bob-zeller

White-breasted Nuthatch

1Y7A9448-net-jay-woodhouses-bob-zeller

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

On Friday morning we head back to San Angelo, satisfied with a fun, successful birding and photography trip.  I hope you enjoy this post as well as I enjoyed writing it.  Comments are welcome.

Happy Birding!!

Advertisements

Davis Mountains, here we come…….again.


Here I am again, really late with another post.  I am not lazy, I just procrastinate a lot.  So…… again, time got away from me.  Of course at my age of 83, time really gets flying……a sign that I am going downhill, I guess.   So anyway, what have I been doing the past couple of weeks, you may ask.  Well, I have been out shooting almost every day.  The fall migration is getting started, the weather is beautiful, not as hot, and it is fun to be outside.  It keeps me young.  I need that.

As for the title of this post, Ann and I are leaving Monday, the 11th, for Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains.  We will be doing a lot of photography in the area from an altitude of 5,000 feet to 8,000 feet.  We will be staying at the beautiful Davis Mountains Inn near Fort Davis.  It is a nice comfortable Bed & Breakfast.  We will be returning on Friday the 15th, hopefully with a bunch of photographs for a future post.

I have mustered a good bunch of photos since the last post, of course.  I will present a few of them for you here.  Just scroll down, and if you get to the end, 🙂 , there is a link to my Photo Gallery.  Click on any of these to see enlargements.

Cooper’s Hawk.

Yellow Warbler

Red-tailed Hawk

Bell’s Vireo

Swainson’s Hawk

Curve-billed Thrasher

Ash-throataed Flycatacher

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow-breasted Chat

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Northern Cardinal, female

Least Flycatcher

Wilson’s Warbler

Great-crested Flycatcher

Red-tailed Hawk

Bewick’s Wren

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

I hope you have enjoyed this post and the photos.  To see more of my photographs, click this link to my on-line Photo Album.

Some Miscellaneous Stuff.


My wife just reminded me that I hadn’t posted for quite awhile.  After doing some extensive research, I found that she is correct.  It has been nearly a month.  I guess the dog days of summer got ahold of me.  One thing, though, and I think it is a plausible excuse.  I have some cancerous spots on the left side of my face that I am treating.  That involves smearing that Efudex chemical on my face for three weeks.  It is painful, itchy and downright distracting.  I quit that part of the treatment a couple of days ago, now I am using a soothing ointment to help with the healing.  Hopefully it should be cleared completely in another two to three weeks.

Because I am suppose do avoid the sun during the duration of the treatment, I haven’t been out too much.  But using a wide-brim hat, I did make a few short trips.

Some news items concerning San Angelo State Park.  It has pretty much recovered from the drastic storm that hit it about a month ago.  They are still trimming broken tree branches and doing general cleanup, but overall it looks pretty good.  A few days ago they replaced the busted fence around the bird blind, and repaired some other  damage to the building itself.

Here are a few images that I have gotten during those brief outings to the park.  Click on any one of them to see some nice enlargements.

Greater Roadrunner

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Loggerhead Shrike

Common Nighthawk

Green Heron

Western Kingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Loggerhead Shrike

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – juvenile

The birds are returning to the blind, now that it is back to normal operation again.  The fall and winter birds should be returning very soon.

Fun with creative editing….


In times like this, when the weather is hot and the birding is slow, it is time for….drum roll please………..Creative Editing.

Actually, I did get out for a little while Sunday morning.  I didn’t want to spend too much time as I wanted to get home in time to watch Andre Beltre, of the Texas Rangers, get his 3000th base hit.  In the history of baseball, only 30 others had accomplished that in their career.  But, heck, you are not interested in hearing about baseball.

So, back to the original purpose of this post.  While we were out, Ann, a couple of family friends, and I, were birding at San Angelo State Park.  As I said, not too much going on, but we did spot a Northern Bobwhite perched and singing in the distance.  In the distance, is an understatement, as we could barely see him with our naked eyes.  I put my bean bag on the window sill, turned off the engine to prevent anymore vibrations.  I settled my Canon 7D Mark II with my Tamron 150-600 G2 lens, on the beanbag.  With that solid bed, I fired off a few shots at 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, plus 1/3 stop of EV adjustment.  ISO was 800, which promoted a little digital noise.  Here is the original, looking through that long lens.  I was at a distance of approximately 100 yards.  Remember, with the naked eye it looked even much further away.

Northern Bobwhite

Since that was the only usable image from that outing, I loaded it into the computer to see if I could make something out of it in my digital darkroom.  The result follows below.  First, you can see how I first cropped it.  In doing so, it left part of the tree taking up space, too close to the quail for my liking.  Fortunately the sky was an even blue all around, so I just cloned the tree out very easily.  After all, I was after a nice photo of the bird, not the tree.  It was just a distraction in this case.

The first thing I did was get rid of the tiny bit of noise that the higher ISO of 800 created.  There wasn’t much, as the Canon 7D Mk II handles high ISOs very nicely.  But I have a plug-in, Topaz DeNoise, that does a great job of eliminating digital noise.  Very easy to use.

Now, even with taking those precautions described above, the image wasn’t tack sharp.  But that is going to happen when you crop an image so tightly, especially since the original was shot from so far away.  I do all of my cropping and editing in Photoshop CS5.  I do not use their sharpening, though.  I have a great plug-in, called Focus Magic.  Photoshop’s sharpening method with the so-called “Unsharp Mask” just messes with the pixels.  Focus Magic actually corrects the focus very naturally.  But having said that, evev after I use the Focus Magic, I sometimes tweak it a little more by using the Photoshop’s focus tool and paint it a little lightly.  A very neat trick.

After that I tweaked the contrast and color saturation a bit.  And there you have it, my little secret recipe that has been handed down over hundreds of years.  Not bad, if I do say so myself.  I hope you like it. 🙂  (Click on either image to see nice enlargements.)

Northern Bobwhite

And yes, in case you were wondering, Andre Beltre did get his 3,000th  hit,. After that, I took a nap. 🙂

Oh, in case you missed it my beautiful 2018 calendars are here.  Click this link for more information: https://bobzeller.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/2018-calendars-on-the-way/

Summer Birding at San Angelo State Park


I have been birding at San Angelo State Park for about ten years.  I have seen highs and lows.  The highs were in the years of 2007-2008.  Then O. C. Fisher lake started drying up.  Gone were a lot of the water loving birds, herons, ducks, etc.  You could literally walk across the lake and not get your feet wet.  Then there was a program where spraying was done to kill the mesquite.  Those trees and shrubs started dying and losing foliage, which was cover for some birds.  About that time, we had some welcome storms that brought water back into the lake.  The water reached the levels of 2007.  That was welcome as the water fowl started to return.  But now with withering temperatures we had recently, the lake is slowly dropping again.

I am not saying that birding is bad, but the birds that once were plentiful have had their numbers decreasing.   There was a time when we would always see large numbers of hawks, osprey, and other birds of prey.  Now we rarely see a raptor.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any.  It is just to show that they are scarce.  In our searches we have discovered one Swainson’s Hawk, two Red-tailed Hawks, and until yesterday we knew of only one Great Horned Owl that was hangout near the Isabell Harte picnic area.  That increased by one yesterday when I tell you of a nice experience we had.

Great Horned Owl

Yesterday morning, Ann and I decided to got to the park early, to check out the bird blind.  It had been recently damaged in a storm, but it was now open again to the public.  We drove down the lane to the structure and turned into the little parking area.  Lo and behold, sitting on the fence next to the blind and about ten feet from the door, was the Great Horned Owl, pictured above.  We sat in the car, or what I call our mobile blind.  I was able to get that shot and several others from there.  I was only about 35 feet from the bird, and to get out of the car would probably spook it.  We observed it for about 10 minutes, not wanting to disturb it.  However, after a few minutes, a volunteer that puts birdseed in the feeders drove up.  That spooked the owl and off he flew.  but it was an amazing experience, to be that close.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

We were at the blind for about an hour and we saw Painted Buntings, Northern Bobwhite,  Northern Cardinals, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Curve-billed Thrasher, Bell’s Vireo, Bewick’s Wren, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, (pictured above) and the usual doves, sparrows, etc.

After leaving the blind, we took a drive all through the park, seeking birds that don’t frequent the blind.  Here are a few photos from those drives during the past couple of weeks.

Blue Grosbeak

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Of course, I have so others that I haven’t processed yet, and some others that are just throw-aways.  But we saw around 40-45 species in the past couple of weeks.  Others that deserve mentions are Common Nighthawks, Western Kingbirds, Scissor-tailed Flycatachers, Black-throated Sparrows, Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Greater Roadrunner, Wild Turkey, Pyrrhuloxia, Canyon Towhee, Bullock’s Oriole, plus the various doves and sparrows.

Looking back at what I have written, I suppose that I may have painted a bleak picture of the birding.  But then I realized that most of the birds are here, just not in large numbers, such as the raptors.  You just have to look a bit harder to see them.  But, isn’t that the fun of the hunt????

So, I believe the birding at San Angelo State Park, is alive and well.

For information on purchasing prints click on the Bob’s Gallery button at the top of this page, or this link:https://bobzeller.wordpress.com/photo-album-guide/

Happy Birding!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Check my New Gallery Page


Hi there everyone.  I am always trying to think of ways to improve this blog.  I think you will really enjoy my new Gallery page.  Just click the Gallery button at the top of this page, or click here.  The photographs are stunning.  You can scroll and scroll and scroll.  I will keep adding to them almost daily as I try to get all of my photos in it.   Try it out.

In other news, the weather has been nice here again,   The storms have passed and the dog days of summer have set in.  I haven’t been out as much as usual lately, though.  As I mentioned, I have been working on setting up my gallery page.  Also, I am putting together a collection of photos that I will present on a local television show on June 29.  It is called Concho Valley Live, a 30-minute show that airs daily on KLST at 4:00PM during the week.  They have asked me to appear on their June 29 show. (write that down.)  I hope my San Angelo area readers will tune in.  KLST is a CBS affiliate.

Hear are some photos from the past week or so that I managed to get.  Click one any of them to see enlargements.

The Bell’s Vireo was flying between a couple of trees.  He had a companion, and they were chasing each other around.  Finally one of them perched long enough to allow me to get this photo.

Bell’s Vireo.

It seems that even though were traveling all over the San Angelo State Park, we were never away from hearing one or more Northern Bobwhites.  I managed to find this one in a tree.

Northern Bobwhite

The Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are now set in for the summer.  This is another from San Angelo State Park.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Making lemonade from a lemon. And other stuff.


Since my last post I have been making several excursions to San Angelo State Park, in search of usable photos.  I have gotten several, but one stands out for me.  I was at the bird viewing blind at the park.  I had my Canon 7D MarkII, with a 150-600mm Tamron lens, mounted on my monopod.  While watching, I spotted a Northern Bobwhite in the distance, about 100 feet away, beyond the water feature.  As a whim I took the photo, not thinking about it being a saleable photo.  But after I got home and put in the computer in preparation for post editing, I realized that I might be able to make something out of it.

Here is the original.  Notice it looks a little bland and washed out and overall, not a very impressive  photograph.

Original Bobwhite photo

Here is the finished product, after cropping for composition, and just adjusting the contrast, a little color saturating, and lighting adjustment.  What fun!!

Northern Bobwhite

Okay, that’s your lesson for the day.  Don’t give up on what you may think is not a usable photograph.  Just some creative cropping and minor adjusting, can give you some surprising results.

I am still looking through my images from our Davis Mountains trip.  Here is another photo of a beautiful Scott’s Oriole.

Scott’s Oriole

And another shot of one of those feisty Acorn Woodpeckers.

Acorn Woodpecker

Going through some of my photos from past years, I sometimes come upon one that I didn’t initially care for.  But after taking a second look, and doing some re-editing, I can sometimes surprise myself.  Such was the case with this Carolina Chickadee that I photographed back in 2014.  I realized that my editing skills weren’t as good then as I am today.  Of course, advancements in software and techniques really help.

Carolina Chickadee

Click on this and the other photos and see some enhanced enlargements.  It make a huge difference in viewing them.

Until the next time, Happy Birding!!