Mid-November Musings

Of course, I could have said mid-November blues, but that sounds so discouraging.  Again, our high record temperatures here in the San Angelo area, has kept the birding slow.  The northern birds are reluctant to  come this far south until the temps get down a bit.  Fortunately, that time is coming next week.  Unfortunately it took me the past two weeks to amass enough photographs for this post.  The good news, fortunately I did get a nice collection to show you from our sporadic trips into the field.

Let’s see, my last post was on October 29.  Sorry, folks, I didn’t mean to wait so long, but here we go.  I am just going to post photos more or less in the order I got them.  By the way, click on any of them to see some very nice enlargements.

On October 30 we took a little time, early in the morning, to run to Spring Creek Park.  We had been watching for the Great Horned Owl that frequents the area.  We almost missed him when he appeared in a nearly bare tree near the water.  Of course, some little twigs almost got in the way.  I think that he thought he was hidden.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV at 6400 ISO.

Continuing along the water, we saw this Great Egret doing a little hunting of his own from a tree branch.

Great Egret

Great Egret – 1/000 sec. @ f6.3, -0.3 EV at 500 ISO.

We didn’t get out again until November 3.  This time we visited San Angelo State Park.  The only usable image I captured then was this beautiful female Pyrrhuloxia.


Pyrrhuloxia – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 1000.

On November 4 we ventured to Middle Concho Park.  There I found this gorgeous Great Blue Heron just hanging out along the shore line.  It was another beautiful day, just right for basking in the sun near Lake Nasworthy.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 1250.

On the way home we spotted this Osprey high on a utility pole.


Osprey – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 1600

November 13 found us back at Spring Creek Park, where we happened to meet fellow birder, Randy Hesford.  We were sitting under some trees eating a burrito and sipping coffee, when he drove up next to us.  He had just spotted a Wood Duck and wanted to give us directions to where we could see it.  I hadn’t seen one in the past couple of years, and I grabbed at the chance.  All bird photographers have nemesis birds, birds that they have difficulty finding and getting good photos.  This duck is one of my nemesis birds, and I was happy to get this photo.  It wasn’t that easy,though.  I had to leave my blind, aka my Ford Escape, and hike to the shoreline, hoping I wouldn’t spook him.  Before getting out of my vehicle, I grabbed my other camera, another Canon 7D Mark II, only with a 100-400mm zoom lens.  It is a lighter setup, easier to handle when I am walking.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck – 1/1250 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 640.

We didn’t get back out to Spring Creek Park again until the 17th of November.  We were searching for some Golden-crowned Kinglets that have been seen, but they eluded us.  Instead I was fortunate to see three little Dark-eyed Juncos hopping among the branches of a tiny tree.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 4000.

From there we decided to go over to Middle Concho Park.  There, we spotted this red-shafted Norther Flicker high atop a tree.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker – 1/1000 @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, at ISO 320.

We finished the day with this beautiful Western Bluebird.

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebird – 1/1600 sec. @ f7.1, +0.3 EV, at ISO 3200.

I hope you enjoyed these photos from the past couple of weeks.  With the exception of the Wood Duck, all other photos were with an identical Canon 7D Mark II and my Tamron 150-600mm lens.  Incidentally, I have upgraded that lens to a second generation Tamron 150-600mm lens.  It has some refinements over the original and I will be using it in the future.

So, until my next post, Happy Birding!!

Wood Duck – Filling my bucket list.

I think every bird photographer has a certain hard-to-get bird on his or her ‘bucket list’.  A bird that has escaped every effort made to get a photograph of it, or even see.  Mine was the elusive Wood Duck.  In all of my eight years of birding, I had only seen one, and it was a lone female on a very rainy day and the bird wasn’t that attractive.  I wanted an adult male in it’s bright colors.  Well, I finally got the chance.

We were out at Middle Concho Park driving through.  Off to my left, far across the disc golf course, I saw the head of a goose pop up along the near shoreline.  At about 150 yards, I couldn’t make out any details.  So what to do.  I drive across the golf course, of course.  Upon arriving, I can see that the goose was a some domestic breed and I started to drive away.  At that moment, some Mallards moved out from the shore, and lo and behold, lagging a bit behind them was this beautiful male Wood Duck.

I immediately pulled along parallel to the shoreline so I could snap photos.  I snapped a couple of long distance shots of the Wood Duck.  It started to move a bit closer but still moving the same direction.  It fell in among the Mallards, but within seconds it took flight.  I was quick with my shutter and got off several photos.  Here are three of them.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

Wood Duck and female Mallard

Wood Duck and female Mallard

Wood Duck lifting off.

Wood Duck lifting off.

What great fun that was!  But there were more birds to see and photograph.  We were surprised to see much activity, as the weather was cool and windy with a threat of showers.  We continued on and we saw a huge flock of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.  They were milling around, also near that disc golf course.  Here is a likely pair.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

An Eastern Bluebird didn’t mind the dreary weather.

female Eastern Bluebird

female Eastern Bluebird

All of that happened yesterday, Sunday November 15.  Today, the 16th we decided to press our luck again.  The winds were much higher, but the temperature was mild.  Very overcast.  Again, not much activity, but enough to keep us interested.

This Great Egret was content to just sit in the tree and stay away from the water.

Great Egret

Great Egret

This Great Blue Heron wasn’t in the mood to fish, and just decided to just stand and look beautiful.  The cloudy overcast brought out his nice blue and gray colors.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Finally, we decided to call it a day, but not before we spotted this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a first of the year for us.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

That gives us 181 sightings for our 2015 Big Year list.  Far below our goal of 210, but we still have over a month to go. 🙂

The birds are coming! The birds are coming!!

We are finally starting to see some more birds arriving again.  Where we would see just empty waters at Middle Concho Park, here in San Angelo, Texas, we are seeing now a few more waterbirds, and other migratories.

Wood Ducks

Our latest trip allowed us to see some Least Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, and four Wood Ducks.  On that latter one, I got an improved photo over the one I showed in a previous post.  We also saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and possibly a second one.  I was unable to get a photo, but the red nape and center white feathers on it’s back were pretty distinctive.

Swainson’s Hawk

We also saw a flyover of about a dozen geese, but I was unable to identify them, as they were moving pretty fast.  I got a pretty good image of a Swainson’s Hawk, and also one of a Belted Kingfisher as he was intent on watching for a meal in the waters below him.

Belted Kingfisher

In the case of the Wood Ducks and the Belted Kingfisher, the birds were quite a distance away and I had to rely on some creative cropping to get these close-up images.  My old friend, the Great Egret, was still hanging around and I have a hard time resisting getting more images of him.

Great Egret

So that’s it for this post.  It is raining this morning, but later, if it clears out, I may make another run to see what is arriving today. 🙂

Wood Ducks – a new lifer

I knew that we have the occasional Wood Duck, (Aix sponsa), in the area, but I have never had the opportunity to see one.  We ventured out to Middle Concho Park, to see if any migrants had paid us a visit, and we spotted this pair of non-breeding adults.  I was happy to add them as number 247 to my life list.  Again, the morning sun was very bright from my left, and with the glare from the water, getting a good exposure was difficult.

Wood Ducks – adult, non-breeding

Driving further along the bank of the river, we saw this Great Egret,

Great Egret

then we flushed this Great Blue Heron from a nearby tree.

Great Blue Heron