Great Birding in Davis Mountains

We returned from our week stay in Fort Davis on Friday afternoon.  It was probably our best birding trip ever when we look at the numbers.  For the four days we spent there we saw a total of 73 different species, high-lighted by our sighting and photograph of a Montezuma Quail.  It had been very elusive to us as we had missed seeing it on a half dozen previous trips.  This time we visited a friends bird-watch setup at his place high in the Davis Mountains.  We have to thank Stephen Hambright for his hospitality and use of his blinds.

Montezuma Quail

I took about 1,000 images there, along the highways in the area, and at Lake Balmorhea.  It will take me several more days to go through all of them.  I am having day-surgery on my nose tomorrow, so I want to do this post today, Sunday, and show these four photographs.  The rest will have to wait several more days until my next post.  Bythe way, click on any image to see a glorious enlargement.

There were several Black-headed Grosbeaks in abundance in the mountains.

Black-headed Grosbeak

We spent two mornings at Stephen’s place.  I think most of our sightings were there.  Besides the Grosbeaks, we saw a Hepatic Tanager, Summer Tanager, Western Tanager, Say’s Phoebe, Wood Pewees, Scrub-jays, and various others.  I will be showing some of those in future posts.

Say’s Phoebe

On Wednesday evening we traveled out highway 505, a desolate road with no traffic for miles.  We were in search of possibly some bald eagles.  We struck out on those, although we did see a huge Common Black-Hawk.  We did see and photograph some Scaled Quail.  They seemed to be everywhere along the way.

Scaled Quail

Those are all that for now.  I hope to be posting again towards the end of this coming week.  I will have to see how this minor surgery goes tomorrow.

I now will have 12×16 inch prints on hand if any of you want one.  Of course, that goes for any photo that you have seen on any of my posts.  They are 40.00 each, but that includes shipping.  If you live in San Angelo, you pay only 30.00 if I can hand deliver it.  Just contact me at or 325-656-6241.

You can also order limited photos from my FineArtAmerica website at

Until my next post in a few days, Happy Birding!!


The Day the Birds Stopped Co-operating

We just had a day of fun birding, seeing a good variety of species, but for the photography, it was somewhat of a bust.  I missed shots or they were to far away to get good close-ups.  But I am not complaining.  A bad day birding beats a good day of sitting in my office at the computer.

At one point, we spotted a Cooper’s Hawk high in a tree, about 65 feet off of the ground.  It’s back was toward me.  As I was maneuvering my mobile blind, AKA my Ford Escape, I startled a Great Horned Owl in a tree branch right in front of me.  I hadn’t seen it.  It instantly flew off, and that startled the Cooper’s hawk, and it, too, left the scene.  I missed two great opportunities there.

But not to be discouraged we drove on.  We stopped and parked near the water’s edge where a Gray Catbird had been seen previously.  We spent about 15 minutes just sitting and watching.  We never did see the Catbird, but just as we were about to leave, we spotted a splash of yellow about 125 yards across the water in thick brush.  With our binoculars we discovered at Common Yellowthroat flitting around.  I put my super zoom camera lens on it, but it was really to tiny and too far for a decent shot.  But, doggone it, I am going to show you what I got, anyway.  Look very close, and you can see the Yellowthroat in the center of the picture.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

At one point, Ann was looking across the water, and said she could see an owl.  I scoped out the trees over there and I couldn’t see it.  I moved the car along and had another look.  Sure enough, after a few minutes of carefully scanning the trees with my binoculars, I finally saw it, too.  How Ann was able to spot it so easily, is beyond me.  I stopped the car, and turned off the engine so I could steady the camera better.  It was about 175 yards away.  I was able to get a fair shot of it.  At least, it made up for the previously missed owl photo.  Here is the heavily cropped photos.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Also, again across the river, (what is it about all of the birds appearing across the river) we spotted a Belted Kingfisher.  Just a dot of white until we put the binoculars on it.  I decided for another long range shot, this from about 150 yards.  Not bad.

Belted Kingfishe - female

Belted Kingfisher – female

Again, at another location across the water, we could barely make out this Black-crowned Night Heron.  I am so thankful for my long Tamron 150-600mm lens.  I am really giving it a workout today.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

Some photos along the water came out much better.

This Wilson’s Snipe was not doing a great job of hiding from me.

Wilson't Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe

A Pied-billed Grebe glides silently and happily on the water.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

A Great Blue Heron rest on a log across the water, but at a much closer location.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Back into the more wooded areas we caught a few smaller birds.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Pine Warber

Pine Warbler – female

White-crowned Sparrow - juvenile

White-crowned Sparrow – juvenile

I hoped you enjoyed this post.  Click on the images to see enlarged photos.


Happy Birding!!

Banding the Hummingbirds

As most of you know, Ann and I spent the weekend down at the Casitas of Far Flung Outdoor Center in Study Butte, Texas.  We arrived there Thursday afternoon and found out that Kelly Bryan of Fort Davis, was going to be banding hummingbirds there the following morning.  We had planned on going birding in the Big Bend National Park, but this sounded exciting and made up our minds that we were going to attend the event.

At 8:00 Friday morning, Kelly pulled up with his equipment.  Along with his friend, Carolyn Ohl, from Alpine, they proceeded to put covers on all of the existing hummingbird feeders.  They then took another one to the center of the courtyard area, and set it in a cage with a large opening.  The idea was that all the hummers in the area, upon finding the other feeders useless, would eventually locate the cage with the feeder inside.  It worked handsomely and several birds were caught.

Kelly and Carolyn carefully retrieved each bird and put it in a little cloth sack, which they took over to the bench where Bryan would do the banding.  He then carefully takes the bird from the bag and proceeds to examine it to check the overall condition of the hummer and take measurements.  All such information is recorded in his log book.  After that, he puts a very tiny metallic band on the leg with the date, location, etc.  These bands are very light, with it taking 5,000 of them to weigh an ounce.

On completion of this operation, the hummingbird is then ready for release.  Kelly simply puts it in his palm, (or yours) for a brief few seconds of rest, then the bird flies off.  It is quite a thrill to watch.  In one photo below, an Anna’s Hummingbird is resting on Ann’s palm seconds before taking flight.  Click on all photos to see enlargements.

After getting her new band, this Anna's Hummingbird gets a drink with the help of Bryan before taking flight.

After getting his new band, this Anna’s Hummingbird gets a drink with the help of Kelly before taking flight.

Anna's Hummingbird rest briefly in the palm of Ann's hand before taking flight.

Anna’s Hummingbird rest briefly in the palm of Ann’s hand before taking flight.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

After watching these proceedings, Kelly and Carolyn suggested that we go down to Lajitas and check on the hummingbirds that hang around the restaurant area there.  There we were very fortunate to see three new hummingbirds that we had never seen before.  Not only the Anna’s, which was new to us, but both a Broad-billed and a Blue-throated Hummingbird.  All three of them lifers for me and Ann, bringing our life-list total to 267.  (but who counts?)  Plus we spotted a Black-chinned and a Rufous Hummingbird.  In all, there were five different hummingbird species in that one area.  A real bonanza.

Since we were there just for the weekend, we didn’t do too much birding per se, except for a quick trip to the Cottonwood Campground in Big Bend NP to do check out a few.

But for the weekend, I think we saw a total of around 40 birds, and added the ones below to our 2014 list.  Our goal is 210.

#44  American Kestrel

#45  Eastern Meadowlark

#46  Common Raven

#47  Loggerhead Shrike

#48  Mountain Bluebird

#49  Sage Thrasher

#50  Scaled Quail

#51  Black-chinned Hummingbird

#52  Anna’s Hummingbird  (lifer)

#53  Eurasian Collared Dove

#54  Blue-throated Hummingbird  (lifer)

#55  Rufous Hummingbird

#56  Broad-billed Hummingbird  (lifer)

#57  Northern Flicker

#58  Pyrrhuloxia

#59  Townsend Warbler

#60  Chihuahuan Raven

#61  Great Roadrunner

#62  Ruby-crowned Kinglet

#63  Cactus Wren

Blustery day images……

It is nice to have rain here in west Texas, but I would love to have it in larger amounts.  I know that sounds selfish, but these little sprinkles we have today, along with the cool temps and blustery winds, don’t do much to ease our drought.  We need some big gully-washers.

Heron chicks on nest.

Great Blue Heron chicks on nest.

Nevertheless, I did get out a little today.  First I stopped at the Shannon Clinic to get an innoculation, then while downtown, checked on the young ones on the Great Blue Heron nest.  The chicks are getting larger, but staying near the nest so they are available so their mother, pictured atop a nearby branch, can bring them their daily meals.

adult Great Blue Heron

adult Great Blue Heron

From there we decided to check in at San Angelo State Park and see if there had been any recent run-off into the lake.  Surprisingly, there was an acre or two of very, very shallow water.  Well, it’s a start.  But most likely it will evaporate before we get another measurable rain on the watershed.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

While driving around the park we saw our first roosting Common Nighthawk of the year.  We had seen several in flight a few days ago, when they were feeding on the flying insects in the evening.  We also saw this Curve-billed Thrasher nearby in a tree.  I just love the fierce look that these guys always have.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

Since the weather was seemingly getting a little more inclement, we decided to head for the house.  Click on any image to see some enlargements.

Calling all Birders -Photo ID Challenge!!!!!

Here’s the deal.  This is not a contest.  However, I have a photo of what I think is a Cooper’s Hawk.  Karen (her blog), sent me a photo of what appears to me to possibly be another Cooper’s.  However, I am not certain, so I am posting both photos here.  Now I know there are a lot of birders out there.  I would like to hear from any/or all of you to read your opinions and comments.  My photo on top.  Karen’s on bottom.

Cooper's Hawk ??? )Bob's)

What hawk??? (by Karen)

There you have it.  Based on what you see in these photos, what do you think they are.  My personal opinion is that they are either Cooper’s Hawks, or Sharp-shinned Hawks.  BTW, the bottom photo was taken in the eastern United States.  The top one, of course, photographed here in San Angelo, Texas.  Click on either of them to enlarge.  So don’t be bashful, you won’t hurt anybody’s feelings.  Just give us your opinion.

Another Northern Cardinal image

I keep going back through my old archives when I have spare time.  Today when I was adding photos to my flickr page, I came across this Northern Cardinal ( Cardinalis cardinalis) image that I had taken with my old Canon 40D back in 2008.

Northern Cardinal

We were sitting in the bird blind at San Angelo State Park, when it flew in and perched atop a desert sumac.  I had my Canon 500mm with a 1/4 tele-converter attached, mounted on a tripod with a Wimberley II gimbal head.  Exposure was 1/500 sec. @ f5.6, ISO 500.  Center weighted metering with aperture priority.

I love the flashy color of the cardinals.  They are one of my favorite birds to photograph because they are naturally photogenic.  Click on the image to see an enlargement.  Also, click on the Flickr logo on the right side of this page and have a look at some other work of mine.

Scenes from the Big Bend

In the photos for this post, I wasn’t going after asthetically perfection.  These are just a few images from the area that I thought you would enjoy.  They are snap shots of a desolate, remote part of TexasTerlingua Ghost Town and Study Butte are really one and the same.  Two remote desert communities that run together with no visible boundary.  Just a few hundred people inhabit the area.  But having said that, they do have a school, bank, church, medical clinic, etc.  Personally, I love the area for what it is.  A place to go and just lay back and forget your troubles.

One distinct thing about the place.  You can drive around and see things of unusual nature.  You wonder where they came from, what possessed people to come up with things.  You never know what you will see around the next bend in the road.

Old ghost town ruins

Old ghost town ruins

Old ruins near Study Butte

Remnants of another time, a bygone era.  In the early 1900s a mercury, or quicksilver mine existed in the area.  Today all that is left is ruins of old buildings, piles of slag once removed from the ore, and signs of rusting equipment scattered here and there.

Terlingua ghost town sculpture

This is the result of some enterprising sculptor being creative in the desert.  In and around the Terlingua Ghost Town are small art studios or galleries.  I use those terms loosely, as many of the artists just moved into some of the adobe ruins, or an old van and done some renovation.  I don’t know what the above sculpture above represents.  Perhaps, a dragon-fly with it’s 6-foot wingspan,  or a giant mosquito, of which there are very few in the desert, or maybe just an imaginery bug.  Anyway, it is just planted there in the sand.

An abandoned home??

This is an old abandon house trailer and pickup truck.  They are still attached together.  They both need a little work.

Red-tailed Hawk

A Red-tailed Hawk flies overhead.

Desert Sotol

A familiar sight in the desert.  The sotol standing vigil with the gap of the Santa Elena Canyon in the far distance.

Balanced Rock at the Hoodoos

Along Highway 170, by the Rio Grande River, there is an area of eroded formations called the Hoodoos.  This 10-foot diameter balanced rock looks like it is nearly ready to fall into the river.  Look carefully and you can see daylight underneath.

Passing Wind

Don’t ask.  I have no idea what it is supposed to be either.  There are sails furled on those masts.  To the right is an old conning tower from a submarine. (or maybe a replica).  A large number 643 painted on the side.  There is a camper trailer parked to the side.  I have never seen an individual on the premises.  It is located on the road that passes by the Terlingua ghost town.

Terlingua Ghost Town cemetery

This old cemetery at the Terlingua ghost town has grave sites dating back to during the 1800s.  It is still in use today.

Greater Roadrunner

A Greater Roadrunner, or chapparal, on a rare patch of grass.  He doesn’t seem to know what is going on either.  Time to move on.

I hope you enjoyed this selection of photos from far southwest Texas.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.  For more photos from the Big Bend and other images, click on my Flickr logo on right side of this page.