Sunday, September 28, 2008

September 28th Report - San Angelo State Park

An interesting and frustrating morning in the blind. Frustrating because the light was harsh and nasty and while there was a good number of birds in the area, the lighting made it almost impossible to get anything worth bringing home.

Interesting because of the species that were out. Specifically, I cannot remember a time when there were more Northern Mockingbirds and more Pyrrhuloxia than there were today. The place was covered in both species. The Mockingbirds were being very territorial and the Pyrrhuloxia were being camera shy. Hope that this is a preview of coming attractions as we get deeper into Autumn and the Pyrrhuloxia are more willing to take chances to take food.

The laundry list is posted here. A couple of surprises, though. Only 1 Northern Cardinal all morning. No hummingbirds. I've still been seeing hummingbirds pretty regularly at my house in the evening, so it may be a case of the morning was too cool (mid 50's) for the hummingbirds to come out. There were quite a few Lesser Goldfinches first thing this morning.

Image: Lesser Goldfinch, San Angelo State Park, ©2008 Jim Miller

Friday, September 26, 2008

September 7th Report - San Angelo State Park

Black-crested Titmouse, (c) 2008 Jim MillerNote: This is the last of the catch-up articles for now. I still need to do an equipment entry, but that's coming later...

Interesting weekend of shooting. Yes, the entry is only for my Sunday services out in the park, but I was out on Saturday as well. Weather was predicted to be mostly clear all weekend so I spent Saturday with wildflowers and part of the Official Texas Longhorn Herd.

Sunday morning I went out to the blind for a fairly productive morning. Light was somewhat harsh but I was able to work around it.

I ended up spending about 2 hours in the blind and had a pretty wide range of birds come through. I won't go into the laundry list because I've once again misplaced the laundry list. But Longhorn Cattle, (c)2008 Jim Millerfrom the images there were a few notes and quotes.

- Quite a few juvenile Northern Cardinals. Most were looking for some supplementary feeding from Mom & Dad
- Brown-headed cowbirds were numerous. Kind of disappointing...
- A male Bullock's Oriole was playing games with me throughout the morning. I was lucky enough to get a couple ID quality images off, but there was always a branch or something in the way
-Some of the male House Finches are taking on almost a pink hue around their head. Not sure if they're juveniles getting their colors in or if it's something with the season.

Overall it was a good visit with about 300 shots in 2 hours. Couple of keepers in there...

Black-crested Titmouse, San Angelo State Park, ©2008 Jim Miller
Longhorn Cattle, San Angelo State Park, ©2008 Jim Miller

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

September 21st Report: San Angelo State Park

Curve-billed Thrasher with stained beak, San Angelo State Park, ©2008 Jim Miller
Mixed day in the blind. Bird action was slow and continues to slow as the birds who are migrating out leave and the birds that are due for their winter stay show up.

The positive for the day was my first blind siting of a Blue Jay. I see a few Blue Jays now and then at my house, but the habitat is more conducive to Blue Jays. Better food sources for them and more amenable vegetation. But I'd never seen one within the confines of the blind. I had noticed on my visit during the week to clean the hummingbird feeder that somebody had listed one, but to borrow a quote from one of my favorite movies, I thought somebody was pulling my lariat. But sure enough, he showed up in one of the upper branches long enough to be seen and then take off. I have a couple of images, but they're at best good for identification/confirmation purposes. I've modified the blank checklist and it is online in the resources to the right.

The laundry list is posted here. Some scattered notes:

- A couple of Northern Cardinals, though nowhere near the numbers of a couple of weeks ago. Saw juveniles, but they were fending for themselves but were squawking for Mom & Dad who were unwilling to provide additional assistance. Apron-strings have been cut.
- Titmice took forever to show up, but eventually did make it in
- The Curve-billed Thrashers (pictured) have found the prickly pears and are stained up.

For about 2 hours in the blind, it was under 100 images shot. Hope the migrants show up soon.

Image: Curve-billed Thrasher with stained beak, San Angelo State Park, ©2008 Jim Miller

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

August 30th/September 1 Report: San Angelo State Park

Curve-billed Thrasher, San Angelo S.P., ©2008 Jim Miller
Note: This is a catch-up entry. I have one more to go...

Labor Day weekend at San Angelo State Park was relatively positive. For a 3-day weekend, I worked really hard and played really hard. I was finishing up my framing jobs for the exhibit at Crockett National Bank (see my August 24th entry). It was the first time I'd put together so many frames for one project, so I had to space it out over a number of sessions. That weekend's sessions (which took most of an afternoon) was attaching the hanging wires and doing final quality assurance checks. But enough about business.

I took some chances with the blind over the weekend. I had not spent much if any time in the late afternoon at the blind. I had done it a couple of times last year with poor results and I had pretty much given up on the blind being anything other than a morning blind. Then one of my fellow photographers pointed out that light wise, theoretically, the blind could be very much a light neutral blind. The blind is pointing a few degrees off of due South. So depending on the strength of the light, late afternoon had some potential.

Mornings remain the more productive time. The light is very usable in the morning and the numbers of birds seem to be much better. But evenings at this time of year seem to have a little bit of potential. I need to experiment with a fill-flash, though the color temperature thing worries me a bit.

Image: Curve-billed Thrasher, San Angelo S.P., ©2008 Jim Miller

Sunday, September 14, 2008

September 14th Report: San Angelo State Park

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, San Angelo S.P., ©2008 Jim MillerFirst a quick note. I have blind reports that I need to catch up on for the previous 2 weeks and I hope to have those out in the next day or so. As has been the norm, it's been a long year this month.

Strange morning in the park. I had high expectations for the light as I was leaving home for the park, but by the time I got there the skies had gone more overcast than I had hoped. As such I was regularly shooting in the beginning at ISO 400, f5.6, in the 1/30-1/50th range. Certainly not good for stop action for some of our more active birds (i.e. Black-crested Titmice).

Traffic was reasonably slow up until about 20 minutes before I had to leave. Species spread was very tight--only 13 different species. Last week the number was at about 20. The laundry list is here--I've decided that from this point forward for San Angelo State Park I will use my blind checklist and put it into a new PDF rather than trying to type all of the information.

The highlights and lowlights...

Highlight: Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. A couple of males were hitting the feeder. I got some perched shots but the light was not strong enough for me to attempt an in-flight shot. I saw my first Ruby earlier in the week in my backyard, but these were the first pictures I was able to get of them. Awesome looking birds.

-- No Northern Cardinals this morning. Not a one. The place was flowing with them last week with males, females, and juveniles, but today not a one. May have been the overcast skies or it may be that they have again made a switch in foods back to proteins to get ready for the winter. I did spot one on my way down FM 2288 towards the South Shore entrance.
-- Very few house finches. Maybe a couple all morning
-- Cowbird population is down a bit from last week

Titmice were the most frequent visitors this morning. Both White-winged and Mourning Doves are understandably spooked this time of year and were not their normal heavy feeding selves.

Decent morning in the blind. Looking forward to more next week.

Image: Ruby-throated Hummingbird, San Angelo S.P., ©2008 Jim Miller

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New Feature: Checklists

I've been working on this off and on over the last couple of weeks, but I think it's ready for prime time and your scrutiny. I have made available a checklist of birds seen in the blind at San Angelo State Park.

This checklist is specifically for birds in the blind. There are certainly more birds in the park. The O.C. Fisher shore has a couple dozen additional species on it that are not included, plus there are other species I have seen elsewhere in the park (Summer Tanager for one) that I have not included in the checklist. This site is aimed towards photo blinds and as such I wanted to keep the list towards things I've actually seen in the blind.

Weather permitting, I will be out either Thursday night or Friday afternoon to put a small stack on the wall and see how they work out. As the story goes, no plan (or checklist) survives first contact with the target audience.

While I'm at it, I am offering an open invitation to users of public blinds (South Llano River S.P. comes to mind) as well as land/ranch owners who offer blinds for rent: If you have a checklist or would like to establish a checklist, I'm more than happy to post it here. Contact me and we'll talk.

Monday, September 8, 2008

August 23/24 Report: San Angelo S.P.

House Sparrow (Male), San Angelo State Park, ©2008 Jim Miller
In between getting pictures assembled and hung at the bank and a silly thing called work, I went out to the blind on the weekend of August 23rd and August 24th.

Interesting set of days at the blind. When the light was good, I didn't have much bird action. When the light was bright and harsh, I'd have plenty of birds. An ornithological Murphy's Law situation, I'm guessing. For the two days in the blind I'm showing a hair under 450 images shot. When birds are flowing well (and the light is good), I can shoot more than that in one day.

I won't do a laundry list because honestly I cannot find my laundry list from this particular visit. Anecdotal evidence from the pictures I shot shows a large number of Northern Cardinals, White-winged and Mourning Doves, Sparrows, Curve-billed Thrashers, and Black-throated Hummingbirds. The hummingbirds were nice enough to perch themselves on the trees near the recently moved feeder, and those porvided some unique shots.

I see some pretty good shots in and amongst the ones I've highlighted in Lightroom and these are likely ones that will make their appearance at Santa's Market and the Greater San Angelo Craft Guild show in November and December respectively.

Image: House Sparrow (Male), San Angelo State Park, ©2008 Jim Miller