July Fourth Holiday images


As I said before in my previous post, the weather is really warming now.  We have visited the local parks and as far as birding, the results are almost nil.  For example, Ann and I decided to check out the local parks around Lake Nasworthy this morning.  I never had a chance to press the shutter on my camera.  That is not good.  We have been having much better luck, though, at San Angelo State Park.  We have made three trips out there and by taking our time and driving over those approximately 20 miles of roads, I have picked up some very nice photographs.  We are usually home by noon as the temperatures start to reach 100° by then.  Here are some images from the past few days.  Click on any of them to see some nice enlargements.

We had reports of a Swainson’s Hawk nest, just a couple of miles from our home, off the frontage road of Loop 306.  To get a good view we had to park behind the local Steak Express and watch it from across the highway.  Thank goodness for long lenses. We parked there for about an half hour on two previous mornings and could only see a bit of feathers of a young one on the nest, behind some leaves and branches.  This third morning, we were treated with the arrival of the adult.

Swainsons's Hawk

Swainsons’s Hawk

We headed out to San Angelo State Park after that.  As we started driving around, we heard first the call of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a few minutes later we spotted him in the branches.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Another view of another Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

All over the park we could hear the call of the Bobwhites.  It wasn’t difficult to see some in the low tree branches.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

There is an abundance of Ash-throated Flycatchers in the park.  I was able to get really close to this one, for a formal head-and-shoulders portrait.

Ash-throated Flycatcher portrait

Ash-throated Flycatcher portrait

We spotted this Blue Grosbeak from a distance.  Too far for a decent photograph.  So we decided to wait.  We sat in the car with the engine turned off and eventually it, or one just like it, finally alit about 100 feet away.  He seemed to be happy.

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

Another bird that is hard to get close to is the Painted Bunting.  We would spot several high in the tops of trees, but, again,  too far for a photo.  But as with the Blue Grosbeak, we eventually got lucky again and I was able the capture this one.  One just need patience.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

The Common Night Hawk is just the opposite.  Pretty easy to photograph, but very difficult to find.  This one was in a tree in the Isabelle Harte Multi-use area of the park.  It was only about seven feet off of the ground, but because of their coloring we nearly missed it.  I was only about 20 feet away, in my car, AKA my mobile blind, when I made the photograph.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

We decided to move away as I don’t like to stay too close, even though I was well hidden.  But it did eventually fly from the perch and landed across the road in another tree.  I took this next photo from farther away, and as you can see, if I didn’t already know the bird was there, it would have been hard to spot.

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

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.

 

Birding getting better…….


It must be the cooler temps that we have had the past few mornings.  Ann and I went out to the local parks for a few hours.  It might be my imagination, but there seemed to be more activity than we have had recently.  We saw 26 species.  Although not a great number, but it did include a few surprises.  A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, three Yellow Warblers, a Carolina Wren, just to name a few that we don’t see everyday.

Here are some images that I managed to get.

Ann, my bride and spotter, saw this Green Heron across the water about 100 yards away.  I maneuvered our car around so I could park on the bank and shoot across the water.  The photo turned out great, thanks to my Canon EOS 7DmkII and my Tamron 150-600mm lens.  Heavily cropped, of course.

Green Heron

Green Heron

This Yellow-billed Cuckoo presented a challenge.  He and a companion were frolicking in the trees so I had to move the car several times to get into position, and he was far above my head..  For those of you who wonder why I didn’t get out of my car, the answer is that the birds don’t co-operate as well when I am visible.  The car makes an excellent bird blind.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

We decided to drive out Spillway Road where we sometimes see nice bird activity.  Along the way, I spotted this juvenile male Painted Bunting.  I was disappointed that we didn’t see an adult male, but it was nice to be able to get this image.

juvenile male Painted Bunting

juvenile male Painted Bunting

Unfortunately the above three were the only acceptable (to me) images that I got.  Seeing 26 species doesn’t alway translate into photographs, I am sorry to say.  Most of the birds are either too far away, hidden in the trees, or flying by faster than I can get the camera off of my lap. 🙂

In my best Arnold Schwarznegger voice, “Owl be bach”. 🙂

Northern Bobwhite and more……..


Since my last post on June 1, my time in the field has been limited.  I have been trying to catch up on personal issues pertaining to keeping up our yard, a little house cleaning, and this morning a plumber is coming to install new fixtures in our bathroom.  So, I was only able to get out for two hours on June 2, and a couple of hours yesterday, June 7.

But the good news is, I did manage to get a few nice images to share with you.

For anybody that has been concerned about the scarceness of the Northern Bobwhite, I can assure you they are certainly alive and well in San Angelo State Park.  While driving through the entire area we were never out of earshot of at least one of them calling.  We also saw visually about ten of them, perhaps more.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

Male and female Northern Bobwhite

Male and female Northern Bobwhite

Although we enjoyed seeing so many of the bobwhites, we didn’t ignore  the other birds.  As a matter of fact, we observed thirty different species.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get useable photos of all thirty, but that is to be expected when I am in the birding mode, versus just out for the photography.  Some we just saw as they flew nearby, or were in thick brush, or I simply just didn’t like my photo.

We spotted this night heron in the draw behind the Walmart super-center.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Well, that is about it for this time.  Hopefully, I can have more for you the next time.  Click on any photo to see enlargements.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo


Before I start, I wish to welcome all of the new readers that have subscribed to my blog in the past several months.  One of them, in particular, caught my interest.  Duane Sugarbaker, of my hometown of Muskegon, Michigan recognized my former street address there at 913 Fleming Avenue on this image inserted in my last post.  He well should have, as he lived at 901 of the same street.L1000216-band-card He and I and my brothers were childhood friends back in the ’40s.  Talk about a small world.  I haven’t seen him in around 65 years.  Duane, tell all the guys from our sandlot baseball team, hello. 🙂

This blog now has 1,472 subscribed readers, plus hundreds more who haven’t subscribed, in 150 countries.  It has received, since the beginning about four years ago, 111,295 hits.  Rats, I was going to give a prize for the 110,124th hit, but it got away from me.  Sorry about that. 🙂

Okay, now about today’s birding.  Ann and I decided to see if there were any birds about at Spring Creek and Middle Concho Parks.  We spent about two hours, and only saw 17 different species.  So much for the mid-summer doldrums.  Here is one photo of a Black Vulture wandering around in the grass.

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

However, one of the highlights was spotting a Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  They usually keep themselves hidden.  This one did so, partially, but I was unable to get a decent shot.  So I will show these images from my archives.  I don’t think I ever blogged about them, anyway.  If I did it was probably several years ago.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

They perch pretty much upright on the branch, usually with their bill pointing upward.  Their white breast stands out when you are looking for them in the trees.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

I don’t usually publish photos with birds and their tail cut off, but it didn’t hurt the composition in this photo, I don’t think.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

I hope you enjoyed the photos and the narrative.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

Coming this weekend, Part III of my on-going Yakkety-Sax Man epic.  If you haven’t done so check out Part I and Part II.

Also, I have now sold nearly 100 copies of my book “Birds, Beasts and Buttes”.  They are still available from my Blurb publisher on the right side of this page.

The Crazy Yellow-billed Cuckoo


Are  Yellow-billed Cuckoos (Coccyzus americanus), really crazy?  I don’t think there has been any scientific evidence to that.  When I was a kid, I would hear things like, “Bob, you’re crazy as a cuckoo”, or “Bob, have you gone cuckoo?”.  Perhaps I was, but that is not what this post is about.  We are talking about a bird.

I haven’t posted anything in several days.  It was simply because I have been busy, getting my book published, (more on that later), looking for photo ops, getting a little nap time in, etc.  Ann suggested this morning that it was time that I wrote something.  So I got off of Facebook, put my crossword puzzle aside, and started trying to decide what to write about.    I settled on throwing virtual darts at my files.  Aha!!  A hit, right on the Yellow-billed Cuckoo file.

This bird has a yellow bill, (duhhh), a distinctive white breast, and has an upright posture when perching on a branch.  It spends the summer in mostly eastern and central United states.  Would you believe it is a close relative of the Great Roadrunner.  Now there is one crazy bird.  This first picture was taken way back in June of 2007.  It was the first YBC I had ever seen.  I was using a Canon EOS 20D then with a 100-400mm lens.  Exposure 1/2500 sec. @ f5.6, ISO 200.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

The following two images were taken in May of 2010.  I used my Canon EOS 7D and Canon 500mm f4 lens with a 1.4 tele-converter attached.  Exposure 1/800 sec. @ f5.6, ISO 500 for both photos.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

I hope you enjoyed the photos.  Click on either of them to see some great enlargements.  You can see more of my collection by clicking the Flickr Logo on the right side of this page.

Also check out my recently published book, “BIRDS, BEASTS, AND BUTTES”  You can preview the first 15 pages at http://www.blurb.com/books/3402703 or by clicking on the link on the right side of this page.  Hint:  You can also buy it there if you like.

For autographed copies contact me direct at e-mail: bobzeller1@aol.com.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo


Yellow-billed Cuckoo. (Coccyzus americanus).  This woodland cuckoo preys mostly on tent caterpillars.  Also likes insects, bird eggs and tree frogs. When it is heard on summer afternoons, it is supposed to be a sign of coming rains.   It summers throughout the country except for the west and northwest.  Their migratory path is back down into Mexico.

This image created at San Angelo State Park, San Angelo, Texas on May 28, 2011.  Click on the photo to see an enlargement.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

  • Canon EOS 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens with 1.4 tele-converter
  • 1/800 sec. @ f5.6
  • ISO 500
  • Lens focal distance  700mm
  • Metering – partial
  • Aperture priority

May 8th Park Birding Tour


Our monthly birding tour at the San Angelo State Park went well this morning.  The weather was not as great as we would have liked, the temp only being only in the 60s under cloudy and windy skies, but we ended up seeing about 25 species and had a great time.

The highlight for me was seeing my first Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Eastern Kingbird of the season.

Joining us were John Olson, Pam Guelker, Ken Coley, Jackie Willis, Linda White, Suzanne Johnson and a lady named Cris who is here at Goodfellow AFB for the next seven weeks.  She is from Nebraska and was thrilled to see many birds that she hadn’t seen in her area.

Here are a couple photos of this fun event.  Click on either image for an enlargement.  Happy Birding!!

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Eastern Kingbird