‘Tis the season for Warblers


Oh, the weather outside is…….nasty.  And getting colder by the minute as you can see by the snow falling on this blog.  Yes, a Siberian Clipper, or what is best known around these parts as a Blue Norther is going to come whistlin’ in.  I don’t think there is anything between San Angelo and the Canadian border except a snow fence.  And I’ll bet a dollar it is laying on the ground.

So, what about those warblers.  I don’t think I have ever written a post about them.  At least not collectively, anyway.  We have a few that winter around here, and I thought you might like to see some pictures of each.  So, not in any particular order I present………

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

The Yellow-rumped Warbler is probably the most seen here in the San Angelo area.

Black and White Warbler

Black and White Warbler

A neat story about the Black and White Warbler.  What an original name.  Anyway, I was at the bird blind at San Angelo State Park, sitting there watching to see what birds might fly in.  Suddenly, the Black and White flew in, perched on that twig.  Fifteen seconds later it was gone.  I had never seen one before, and I have never seen one since.  It is a very rare bird around here, and I was at the right place at the right time.

MacGillivray's Warbler

MacGillivray’s Warbler

The MacGillivray’s Warbler is very similar to the Nashville Warbler pictured below.  But check the eye.  The MacGillivray’s has the barred eye.

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

Without that black cap on the Wilson’s Warbler, it would be confused with the Yellow Warbler pictured below.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

I hope you enjoyed these photos.  Click on any of them to see some enlargements.

Yellow-rumped Warbler and more….


Today it was very cloudy, but warm and windy at about 77 degrees.  But it is more or less the calm before the storm.   Tomorrow it is supposed to be only 42°, then on Saturday even lower at 32°.  Those are predicted highs.

But enough about the weather.  I went out this Thursday morning to see if there were any birds around.  Not very many, we found out.  We did see a few at Spring Creek Park;  Western Bluebirds, House Finches, American Goldfinch to name a few.  Also the Ladder-backed Woodpecker of video stardom in my previous blog was still there.  I wonder if he is planning a nest at that location.

Here a couple of shots of a Yellow-rumped Warbler that I obtained.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

An Eastern Phoebe made an appearance, too.  Something familiar about that tree branch.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Meanwhile this squirrel watched all of the proceedings from above.

Squirrel

Squirrel

I hope you enjoyed this post and my photographs.  More to come in a few days, I hope.  Maybe that cold front will finally bring in some more of the birds that we have been missing.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.

By the way, my book would make excellent Christmas gifts for that birder in your family.  Click on “Birds, Beasts and Buttes” on the right side of this page to get preview and order if you like.  For autographed copies, contact me at bobzeller@pobox.com.

Images from a beautiful day……


We have had some very beautiful weather the past few days.  It is a very nice respite from the cold days that we had previously.  Ann and I got out to do a little birding, and I got some new photographs.  That was a bonus, as I hate to come home from birding empty-handed.

First up, I got very lucky getting this photo of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  It was in some thick brush along a fence at Spring Creek Park here in San Angelo.  We were in the car and maneuvered close to the fence, about 15 feet away.  We saw the bird in there, flitting around, and eventually it exposed itself long enough that I was able to get a few images.  If you look close, you can see the tiny red crown, that is usually concealed.  I hand held my Canon EOS 7D with a 100-400mm lens for the shot.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Along the way, we saw several Yellow-rumped Warblers on the ground and in the trees.  This is another tiny bird that moves quickly and is hard to photograph.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Another bird that we usually see on almost every visit to the lake parks, is the Great Egret.  This image was really under-exposed, so I decided to not correct it, but to just adjust the lighting of the egret itself.  It now appears like it is wading in moonlit waters.

Great Egret

Great Egret

We also saw this Ladder-backed Woodpecker working away in a mesquite tree.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Lastly, how could I not show this image of one of my favorite subjects, the Vermilion Flycatcher.  The wind was up a bit, and he seemed to be enjoying the swaying of the small tree branch.  I also like that I was able to get a catch-light in the eye.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

I hope that you enjoyed these photographs.  Click on any of them to see an enlargement.  To see more of my images, click on the “Fine Art” logo in the left side of this page.  There I have some galleries for you to browse.

Saturday morning images Nov 16.


Here are a few photos from a short three-hour birding trip to Middle Concho and Spring Creek Parks.  The first two images are of a Cooper’s Hawk.  The same bird, but taken in two different trees.  It was on the move but we followed it.  The sky was bright but cloudy, and the subject was back-lit in both images.  The Cooper’s is often confused with the Sharp-shinned Hawk.  The Cooper’s is the larger of the two, but since I hadn’t had them close together, I opted for the Cooper’s because of the flatish head.  The horizontal breast markings show that it is an adult.

Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

We came upon several Yellow-rumped Warblers.  I was able to get this close shot when one lit on a small tree just a few feet from the car.  It wasn’t there but for a few seconds.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

This Great Blue Heron was taking it easy atop an old concrete pier.

Great Blue Heron

We saw a good many birds, including our first Cedar Waxwing of the season.  Here is a complete list of our 29 sightings.

  1. Northern Mockingbird    4
  2. Great-tailed Grackle    35
  3. House Finch    2
  4. Northern Cardinal    3
  5. American Kestrel    2
  6. Eastern Bluebird    8
  7. Red-winged Blackbird    7
  8. American Coot    16
  9. Great Blue Heron    4
  10. Northern Harrier    1
  11. Double-crested Cormorant    9
  12. Pied-billed Grebe    1
  13. Mute Swan    2
  14. Vermilion Flycatcher    1
  15. Cooper’s Hawk    1
  16. White-winged Dove   20
  17. Golden-fronted Woodpecker    5
  18. Blue Jay    2
  19. Black-crested Titmouse    4
  20. Ladder-backed Woodpecker    1
  21. Yellow-rumped Warbler    3
  22. House Sparrow    10
  23. Belted Kingfisher    3
  24. Ring-billed Gull    11
  25. Gadwall    3
  26. Cedar Waxwing    3
  27. Eastern Phoebe    2
  28. American Robin    1
  29. Mallard    6

Enjoy the photos and click on any of them to see enlargements.

More Fun at Middle Concho Park


I hope you guys aren’t getting bored and tired of hearing about Middle Concho Park, because here is another post about it and Spring Creek Park.  I actually got a SPAM comment from a guy that said my posts were starting to get boring.  Well, I say to him, “live with it”.  I am writing what I think my own readers like, and “I ain’t gonna change”.  Anyway, I don’t think anyone will find this post boring.

So, today started out the same as usual.  We ate breakfast at the ‘Golden Arches’.  After that we went and voted.  I asked Ann what she wanted to do and she said let’s go birding.  I needn’t have asked, really.

When we got to Middle Concho there was a lot of bird activity all at once, in just one small area.  Bluebirds, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Woodpeckers, etc.  I was searching with my binoculars for what I thought was a wren, when I suddenly saw a Common Nighthawk in my lenses.  As you can see from the picture below, he was pretty well blending in with the surrounding tree branches.

Common Nighthawk

I was thrilled to see this bird, as I thought they had all left, as they are usually gone by mid-October.  I maneuvered my car so I could use my big lens and get this closeup.

Common Nighthawk

I then was able to get this shot of a Ladder-backed Woodpecker in a tree.  He was working very hard.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

We had seen a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker a few minutes earlier.  We searched but could no locate it again.  I really would have liked to get a shot of it.  We’ll keep watching.  After spending about an hour and a half at Middle Concho Park and listing about twenty species, we decided to get to the other side of the river into Spring Creek Park.  So we bade goodbye to the squirrels and birds and headed out the gate.

Squirrel

Now, to get to Spring Creek Park involves about a four mile drive, this is just to get to the other side of the river.  You have to drive back down Red Bluff Road to Knickerbocker Road.  Then you head south over the Lake Nasworthy Bridge then take a right on Fisherman’s Road.  Following that for a couple of miles takes you right into Spring Creek Park.

Anyway, about a mile after we left Middle Concho Park, we came upon two dogs wandering in the middle of Red Bluff Road.  They were acting like they were lost and this was an area about a mile from any residential area.  One was a Welsh Corgi who looked very exhausted and moved to a shade tree as we stopped.  The other was a young Beagle who was very happy to see us.  Only the Beagle had a tag, but since they were acting like BFFs, we assumed they belonged to the same owner.

The tag on the Beagle showed the name of the veterinarian that cared for him.  We didn’t want to leave the dogs, as it was very warm by then, and they needed water.  We decided to load the dogs in the car and head for that vet’s office back in town.  The staff there knew the owners so they took the dogs off of our hands and said they would make sure they got back home.

I was about ready to head back to the house by then, but Ann says, ‘what the heck, the day is still young’.  So, you guessed it, we headed back out to Spring Creek Park.  I am glad we decided to do that, because a few minutes after we got to the park, an older gentleman who is familiar with our car, hailed us and told us he knew where we could get a good picture.

He led us to a huge pecan tree and about twenty feet off the ground was a young Great Horned Owl.  I don’t know if I would have seen it if the guy hadn’t pointed it out, even though Ann and I are always watching the trees.  Anyway, I was able to get some very nice photos.  This first photo is my initial image that I immediately got.

Great Horned Owl

After I got the above image, we left it and continued a drive through the park.  About fifteen minutes later, we came back by the tree and the owl had moved to another branch, and up higher.  I found that if I set up my tripod farther away and used my large 500mm lens I could get another good photo.  Here is the result of that.

Great Horned Owl

So that ended our day in the parks.  But we had fun, got some nice images, and rescued two great dogs.  It couldn’t have been any better. Click on any image to see an enlargement.

The Great Blue Heron – plus……Lifer 241


We took a run out to Middle Concho Park today.  One of the highlights was catching a photo op of the Great Blue Heron, (Ardea herodias).  The Great Blue is I believe my favorite of all of the herons to photograph.  This one flew up from the river and lit high in the top of a tree on the other side.  I love the way the light breeze was blowing his plumage.  He was about 125 yards away.

I was in the car, but I was facing the wrong way to get a shot from the drivers side.  I got out and hand-held my Canon 70D with 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter, resting against the hood of the car.  Exposure was 1/1250 sec. @ f8 with a ISO of 125.  Center-weighted metering and aperture priority.  Click on the image to see a beautiful enlargement.

Great Blue Heron

As I said above, that was one of the highlights.  There were others and one was the spotting of not one, but two Brown Creepers, (Certhia americana).  The Brown Creeper is another rarity for the San Angelo area, so I was very pleased to see these two.  And, by the way, since I had never saw one before this was lifer number 241 for me, if anyone is keeping count.  I did get photos for confirmation, but they are not publishable quality by my standards.  They are good enough for identification purposes.

It was a good birding day.  In all we saw these 35 species:

  1. American Coots   35+
  2. Northern Shoveler   50+
  3. Gadwall   12
  4. Northern Mockingbird   4
  5. House Finch   12
  6. Great Blue Heron   9
  7. Pied-billed Grebe   6
  8. Cinnamon Teal   11
  9. Great-tailed Grackle   4
  10. Belted Kingfisher   2
  11. Ladder-backed Woodpecker   2
  12. Common Grackles   6
  13. Red-winged Blackbird   2
  14. Golden-fronted Woodpecker   6
  15. Great Egret   2
  16. Green-winged Teal   8
  17. Brown Creeper   2  (lifer)
  18. Meadowlark   6
  19. Yellow-rumped Warbler   2
  20. Eastern Bluebird   2
  21. Cooper’s Hawk   1
  22. European Starlings   8
  23. Black-crested Titmouse   3
  24. Dark-eyed Juncos – slate   12
  25. Mallard   2
  26. Northern Cardinal   2
  27. Blue Jay   1
  28. Savannah Sparrow   1
  29. American Robins   2
  30. Forster’s Terns   2
  31. Ring-billed Gulls   50+
  32. Northern Pintail   2
  33. Hooded Merganzer   1
  34. Ring-necked Ducks   50+
  35. White-winged Dove   1

Shooting in Overcast Light


I am sure most of you have heard how great it is to photograph on overcast days.  The reasons are that the light is diffused, and there are virtually no shadows.  Plus the colors tend to be more saturated, especially if there has been rain showers.  In this case we are not talking about saturated with wetness, but more vibrancy in the colors.

Black-crested Titmouse

Such were the conditions Tuesday morning.  There was no rain falling in the area but it was heavily clouded.  I waited until late morning, around 11:00, to go out to the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.  During bright sunny days, this blind is not the greatest for photography at this time of day.  Mainly because of the direction in which the blind faces.  But this day, it wouldn’t have mattered which way it faced.  It was perfect lighting from any direction.

Pyrrhuloxia peeking through branches

I couldn’t believe my good fortune when arriving there.  As you can see from the photos, the light is perfect.  There was no feed in the feeders, but I took care of that and put out enough to satisfy the birds that were still hanging around.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

I set up my Bogen-Manfrotto tripod with the Wimberley gimball head.  On that I mounted my Canon EOS 7D and Canon f4 500mm lens.  I had no need for the 1.4 converter at the blind.  I also had my 100-400mm lens with me, but found no need to use it during this shooting session.

I was quite comfortable sitting and shooting from an open window.  I had a few munchies and a bottle of Gatorade with me so I was content to just sit and watch for a few photo ops for over an hour.

Anyway, in conclusion, unless you are specifically looking for blue skies and puffy white clouds, get out there with your camera on those dreary days.  You will surprise yourself with your results.

Photo data, all aperture priority and center-weighted metering:

Black-crested Titmouse:  1/640 sec @ f7.1, -0.3EV, ISO 160.

Pyrrhuloxia:  1/800 sec @f7.1, -0.3EV,  ISO 400.

Yellow-rumped Warbler:  1/640 sec @ f7.1, -0.3EV, ISO 400.

What?? Not Another Birding Trip??


Okay, I confess.  My name is Bob Zeller and I am a hopeless birding addict.  I tried to stop, but the withdrawal pains are too severe.  When I see a bird that I don’t recognize, I frantically dive into my thirty-some bird guides, tearing pages to make that elusive identification.  To add to my habit, I am also fanatic about wanting to photograph every bird I see.  I wade in the muck, crawl in the weeds, get tick-bit, all so I collect those photos.

So, to satisfy our cravings (Ann is addicted, too), we invited the Johnsons from Eldorado to join us.  We wanted to see if we could see more species this day than the day before, which I believe was 40.  We again set out for Middle Concho and Spring Creek parks.  Both parks in the same area, one on one side of the river, and the other park on the other side.  So the habitats for both are quite similar.  I have a few photo highlight for you.  Click photos to see beautiful enlargements.

Portrait of a Northern Mockingbird

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Belted Kingfisher

Great Blue Heron

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Horned Grebe (photographed previous day)

Here is the total species of 42 that we spotted.

  1.  Northern Mockingbird
  2.  Great-tailed Grackle
  3.  American White Pelican
  4.  Great Egret
  5.  Great Blue Heron
  6.  Northern Shoveler
  7.  Double-crested Cormorant
  8.  Ring-billed Gull
  9.  American Goldfinch
  10.  White-crowned Sparrow
  11.  American Coots
  12.  Pied-billed Grebe
  13.  Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  14.  House Finch
  15.  Lesser Goldfinch
  16.  Gadwall
  17.  Black Vulture
  18.  Eastern Phoebe
  19.  Yellow-rumped Warbler
  20.  Black-crested Titmouse
  21.  Bufflehead
  22.  Turkey Vulture
  23.  Red-winged Blackbird
  24.  European Starling
  25.  Western Meadowlark
  26.  Northern Cardinal
  27.  Cinnamon Teal
  28.  Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  29.  Vermilion Flycatcher
  30.  Eastern Bluebird
  31. Wild Turkey
  32.  American Robin
  33.  Green-winged Teal
  34.  Common Raven
  35.  White-winged Dove
  36.  Northern Flicker
  37.  Cedar Waxwing
  38.  Common Grackle
  39.  Belted Kingfisher
  40.  Clay-colored Sparrow
  41.  Blue Jay
  42.  Northern Harrier

As you can see we did break our previous day record.  These were seen during an approximate four hour period.  Click on any image and you can see beautiful enlargements.

Click my Flickr Logo at the right side of this page to view more of my photos.

I’d like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year!

Yesterday’s birding and new lifer


Ann and I decided that another nice day deserved to be spent birding.  We spent a couple of hours at Middle Concho and Spring Creek parks, then we got a call on our cell phone from Suzanne Johnson down at Eldorado.  A Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), had been spotted at the water treatment ponds.  So we left immediately to get down there.  We saw it and I got a nice photo of it.  It was lifer number 239 for me.

Common Goldeneye

Canon EOS 7D with Canon 500mm f4 IS lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  Exposure 1/1600 sec. @ f8, -0.3EV, ISO 400.  Partial metering and aperture priority.  Captured from our car, using a Puffin Pad window support.  Distance to subject was about 100 yards.

Total of 40 bird species spotted:

  1.  American Coot
  2.  Northern Mockingbird
  3.  Great Blue Heron
  4.  Pied-billed Grebe
  5.  Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  6.  Cinnamon Teal
  7.  Gadwall
  8.  Northern Shoveler
  9.  Great Egret
  10.  Green-winged Teal
  11.  Wilson’s Snipe
  12.  Great-tailed Grackle
  13.  Red-tailed Hawk
  14.  European Starling
  15.  Western Meadowlark
  16.  Double-crested Cormorants
  17.  Yellow-rumped Warbler
  18.  House Finch
  19.  Savannah Sparrow
  20.  Eastern Bluebird
  21.  Vermilion Flycatcher
  22.  Ring-billed Gull
  23.  American Coot
  24.  Wild Turkey
  25.  White-winged Dove
  26.  Northern Flicker
  27.  Red-winged Blackbird
  28.  American Goldfinch
  29.  Lesser Scaup
  30.  Eared Grebe
  31.  Northern Pintail
  32.  Horned Grebe
  33.  Ruddy Duck
  34.  Canvasback
  35.  Common Goldeneye
  36.  Ringed-neck Duck
  37.  Killdeer
  38.  Lark Bunting
  39.  Egyptian Goose
  40.  Eurasian Collared Dove

Two more from Middle Concho Park


Friday opened cool and cloudy, but by 11:00AM it was bright and sunny.  We decided to return to Middle Concho Park where we had seen so many species the day before.  Again there were an abundance of birds.  We birded there for an hour or so, then we drove over to the adjacent Spring Creek Park.  Here are two photographs that I captured there.  A Blue Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri), and an American Robin (Turdus migratorius).

Blue Jay

American Robin

As I said the good news was that it was bright and sunny.  On the downside I didn’t have the best light that I would have had if it had remained cloudy.  Boy, I sure am hard to please, aren’t I??  But it did make it difficult to expose properly for the Blue Jay.  As you can see, it worked out okay, though.  The American Robin was in open shade where the light was more even, so the job was easier.

During our birding, we saw a couple of hawks, several herons and egrets and others.  In all, we saw 21 species, as I have listed below.

I hope you enjoyed the photos and narrative about our birding exploits.  Have a great weekend.