Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year in Review

Northern Cardinal (Female), San Angelo State Park, ©2008 Jim Miller
I hope that your Christmas was merry and safe and you are ready to ring in the new year as I am most certainly going to in this neck of the woods.

19,237--that's the number of frames that I shot with my Canon 30D this year as of the writing of this entry. That means that I was fortunate enough to get to a lot of places this year and fire off a lot of frames. At this rate, I will likely be able to justify my 50D just as the 60D is starting to come out about this time next year.

Again, I was very fortunate to get out and take a lot of pictures. But equally as fortunate to meet some awfully nice folks and share some time talking about birds, butterflies, flowers, and photography.

Right at the top of the list, I need to thank the entire membership of the Concho Valley Photography Club. They put up with seeing a small collection of my images once a month and provide some constructive feedback on the images that I bring to the party. Especially big thanks go out to Bruce, Bill, Chris, Ernie, and Andrew. Since my arrival they have welcomed me with open arms and allowed me into their circle. Thanks guys.

I need to also thank the Friends of San Angelo State Park for not only providing my favorite bird blind and some awesome trails, but also welcoming me into their family as well. Special thanks go to Ruth and Gary, though for completely different reasons.

At a bare minimum, I also need to thank the following people:

- Bob & Ann Zeller, for the great conversations in the blind as well as Bob's help in getting me my show at Crockett National Bank
- Laura West at Crockett National Bank, for allowing me the opportunity to borrow some wall space for a couple of months
- Terry with San Angelo Birding Club for providing me with numerous bird identifications over the year
- The staff, management, and volunteers of South Llano River State Park
- The staff, management, and volunteers of San Angelo State Park, with special thanks going to Kurt & Pat
- Dan & Cathy Brown at the Hummer House
- Earlene at Cedar Gap Farm
- Bob Petersen from the Petersen Ranch for a great day of shooting back in April
- River Bend Natureworks in Wichita Falls for allowing me time inside of the butterfly exhibit to make some outstanding images
- The Services Division of the 17th Force Support Squadron for an outstanding 2008 Santa's Market experience
- mPix
- B&H Photo
- Adorama
- Sam's Club San Angelo
- And you the readers for helping me out with some identification information, new places to hang out, and otherwise provide me with additional encouragement and/or direction.

2008 was an outstanding year, but I can't wait to see what 2009 has in store for me. You will join me, won't you?

Image: Northern Cardinal (Female), San Angelo State Park, ©2008 Jim Miller

Sunday, December 21, 2008

December 21st Blind Report - San Angelo State Park, And Equipment Failure...

Paint Rock Pictographs, Paint Rock, Texas, ©2008 Jim Miller
A morning of frustrations in the blind. Yesterday I was out at a field trip to Paint Rock--an area about 35 miles east of San Angelo that has Native American Pictographs. It was a field trip with the Concho Valley Photography Club. As it turns out, the light was much more favorable yesterday for bird photography than it was today--slightly overcast with good diffused light. Today it would have been better to be out at Paint Rock--directional sunlight to highlight the Winter Solistice rock/painting effects. Oh well, stuff happens.

Frustration number two was the death I had in the family. My Bogen/Manfrotto 3265 tripod head has died. For those that are not familiar, the 3265 is a pistol grip style ball head. It is rated for 5.5 pounds. The 30D with the battery grip, the 300mm f4 IS, and the 1.4x extender is about 5.2 pounds. This morning I noticed that the head had almost no rigidity to it. My guess is that with the passage of time, and a little bit of abuse and/or overweighting with my current setup that I destroyed part of the internal mechnaisms. She has served me well, having survived four years in Iceland and another nearly 3 years here, though admittedly I've used it far more often here than I ever contemplated using it in Iceland. It helped me through a very dry period of photography for me when I couldn't hold my camera due to a broken wrist. She will be missed.

Because I've bought into the RC2 system, I will likely replace it with another RC2 compatible head. I'd like to replace it with a 322RC2, but I'll probably end up with the 488RC2.

Traffic at the blind is very good. Ladder-backed Woodpecker was back out today and spent a good portion of time in and around the blind. Many Northern Cardinals were also making the rounds.

The Northern Bobwhite invasion continues. At one point today I counted 14 at once. One thing I'm confused about (and perhaps one of my loyal readers can help me with this onLadder-backed Woodpecker (Male), San Angelo State Park, ©2008 Jim Millere). One of the theories that floats around is that in dry years the quail population gets mighty tiny. This year, if media reports can be trusted, was supposed to be a bit of a dry year. Yet we have a veritable Bobwhite invasion at the bird blind and on another occassion I saw a pretty large brood over on the North Shore of the park. Any thoughts?

No laundry list today. Didn't take any notekeeping material out to the park. My hope is to get out there at least once more before the New Year.

Paint Rock Pictograph, outside Paint Rock, TX, ©2008 Jim Miller
Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Male), San Angelo State Park, ©2008 Jim Miller

Sunday, December 14, 2008

December 14th Blind Report - San Angelo State Park

Northern Bobwhite Invasion
My plan was not to go to the blind this morning. My plan was to go to the Audubon Christmas Bird Count that was going on today. Unfortunately my Saturday night extended into Sunday morning in a less than positive way and I ignored my alarm clock when it went off early this morning. So the next best thing was to drag myself out of bed around 8 and head out to the blind. Good 2nd choice, me thinks...

The blind was very active with lots of color. The laundry list is posted here.

The most amazing part of the morning had to be the full-on invasion of Northern Bobwhite Quail. Now I've seen Bobwhites at the blind before. During most of the spring and summer the norm was to see a mating pair make the rounds, though occassionally I'd see a 3rd (usually a male). Today there was an onslaught of about a dozen. The photographer sitting in the blind with me mentioned that he saw one off in the distance behind the water feature. I agreed and said I thought I saw a couple more. Within seconds that couple more ended up with the dozen or so that walked through.

Woodpeckers were very active this morning. A male Golden-Fronted was making frequent trips into the blind, hitting the seeds that were out there both in perched areas well as on the ground. I'd never seen ground-feeding behavior from the Golden-Fronted so that was a little bit of a surprise. Male and female ladderbacks were in the blind as well and spending a large amount of time close. Admittedly I did not see the female ladderback--the photographer who was in the blind with me took a shot and I confirmed on the photographic evidence he sent me. That also was the first time I've had evidence of a female visiting the blind.

The other surprise sighting of the day was a Greater Roadrunner. Not that they are necessarily unusual, but I've just never seen one in the blind this time of year.

Fun morning in the blind and I hope to make it out again soon.

Image: Northern Bobwhite Invasion, San Angelo State Park, ©2008 Jim Miller