Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blog of Interest: Texas Tweeties

A friend and fellow photographer in the San Angelo area has started a new blog and I invite you to check out his new blog.

The blog is called Texas Tweeties and it is written by Bob Zeller. Bob and I (along with his bride, Ann) have shared more than a few mornings together at the blind in San Angelo State Park. Bob makes some outstanding images of many things, but his bird photography is the best of what he does. Please take a couple of moments to visit his piece of the web.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Great News!!! New blind planned for San Angelo State Park

Great news to share this morning. I received an e-mail last night from Ruth Jordan, president of Friends of San Angelo State Park's advisory board, that a proposal to build a 2nd bird blind at the park has been approved.

There are still hurdles to clear before this becomes a reality. A site has to be located and that site needs to be approved by Texas Parks & Wildlife. Money needs to be allocated or located for the project. And a design needs to be made for the new structure.

While those hurdles are significant, I have no doubt that these can be overcome and we'll have a second place to watch the birds and make some more beautiful images. A big thanks to Ruth, Gary, and all who shepherded this project through its initial steps and fingers crossed that things move smoothly to make this happen. Wouldn't it be great if by spring migration a new structure were ready to go?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September 14th Report - San Angelo State Park

One final opportunity on this trip to spend some time out at the park. The weekend was a total washout when it came to photography and birding. Not that I am complaining--there is no such thing as bad or unwelcome rain in West Texas, especially as dry as it has been this year.

But come Monday the liquid sunshine went away and after getting the kids off to school (a special treat), I went out to the park for some much needed down time after driving back and forth to Dallas and before getting ready to hop on the plane and head back to Ohio.

The rain from the weekend was still very evident. The walk up the road was squishy--not quite mud everywhere but certainly the presence of soft ground. In the blind area there was still a little bit of standing water, but not much.

There was more color present than at my previous visit. Doves still dominated the landscape, but the first bird of the day was a Black-chinned Hummingbird. At one point there were three hummers flying around the area, but the light was minimal and I wasn't able to get a fast enough shutter speed to do justice with the images.

Still no Brown-headed Cowbirds or Red-winged Blackbirds. I'm guessing they're foraging elsewhere. House finches were few and really were towards the end of the visit.

A few Northern Cardinals were in the area--primarily one family unit but there were a couple of strays here and there. One Ladderbacked Woodpecker was doing some work on Tree D in the blind area. Also of note was a Curve-billed Thrasher. Both the Cardinals and Thrasher were in reasonably obvious signs of molt--out with the old and in with the new.

But the show stopper of the day was the Yellow Warbler. I had seen this bird last year and got a brief glimpse of it on my last visit. But this time it put on quite a show for me, giving me my best images yet. I would have killed for a 500mm or 600mm to get things even bigger, but I was happy with the end results.

Next trip into the blind will probably be around Christmas time unless business takes me back to San Angelo sooner.

Image: Yellow Warbler, San Angelo State Park, ©2009 Jim Miller

Thursday, September 10, 2009

September 6th Report: San Angelo State Park

As I mentioned a while ago, I still will have a couple of opportunities to head back to the old homestead to take care of business, spend some productive time with the family, and also get the opportunity to visit the blind.

While home for some planned medical issues, I had the opportunity to go back to San Angelo State Park and spend some quality time in the bird blind. Before I got out there I was lucky enough to meet up with one of the park staff that I dealt with regularly while a member of the board of Friends of SASP. He had a couple of moments and was nice enough to give me a sneak peek at a new structure going into the park. I won't go too much in depth because the final pieces have not been worked out yet. But suffice to say that I am very happy with the direction that things are going in at the park and the new structure, once put in place, will make photographers very happy.

As to the visit in the blind... I spent about an hour or so in the blind. It wasn't nearly as long as I would have like to have spent, but again there were other priorities for the trip and the fact I had any time to spend in the blind was amazing.

A recent heavy rain had added some life to the place. A couple of things caught my eye as to the state of the area. First was that there was a veritable plethora of doves, both Mourning and White-winged. This bodes well for the upcoming hunting season in the Concho Valley.

Second was the significant lack of cowbirds, both Brown-headed and Bronzed. This seems to be reasonably typical of this time of year, but I'm hoping that the efforts by the park to thin out the ranks by putting out the rolling trap have been successful.

There was not a lot of color in the blind. Most of the yucca plants have reached the end of their blooming cycle and the salvia appears to have been trimmed back quite a bit. Add this to the fact that this year there is no hummingbird feeder up, and the predictable results is that there was only one Black-chinned Hummingbird making the rounds. I saw but one Northern Cardinal pair during my time in the blind. Actually a mating pair and a youngster, but they didn't spend much time there--my presence may have spooked them. No woodpeckers, no Pyrhulloxia, no orioles, no Painted Buntings.

I was also surprised at how few house finches were around. I am hoping it was either just a time of day thing or just luck of the draw.

Black-crested Titmice were making the rounds as well. During my drive for my "preview of coming attractions" I saw both a Greater Roadrunner and a number of Turkey Vultures.

It was awful good to be home again and hopefully I'll get the chance again soon.

No images yet--I'm only traveling with my netbook and it doesn't have the power necessary to run Lightroom or Photoshop. Guess the images will just have to wait until I get back to Ohio. It should be interesting to see where my level of skill is given that I have shot less than 100 images in the last three months.