Category Archives: European Starling

Red-tailed Hawk

Palo Pinto Winter

The winter in Palo Pinto county is slowly coming to a close. We missed a lot of the hard stuff. It was a bitter sweet victory. Missing the white stuff and most of the hard freezes; means a surplus of bugs for the upcoming camping season. Good for the birds, not so good for the campers. Desi and I love our white stuff when we get it… though, we like it to be in short doses.

We are preparing for the upcoming Backyard Bird Count and heading west with friends. Palo Pinto Mt. State Park will be a new venture and challenge for us. The count at the site will be an all new area for us which means new birds. This weekend should be a fun one.

As for now, I am happy for every feathery friend I see. The Finches, Cardinals, Nuthatches and Dove are emptying the feeders at a pretty good rate around our place. Sharp-shins, Red-tails, Red-shoulders, Marlins and Kestrels are all over the county. Meadowlarks, European Starlings, a variety of sparrows and Eastern Blue Birds have every inch of Fort Wolters accounted for and inhabited. Blue Jays and Starlings are spattered throughout the Northwest part of Mineral Wells. Many will stay during Spring migration but I will be sorry to see the Finch and Nuthatch move on.

Meadowlark
Meadowlark

I bought a new 650mm-1300mm Opteka lens as a toy. Very inexpensive at 260.00. The lens has rec’d a ton negative publicity. It does eat up your light, distorts any imperfection and has to be manually focused; I love it. For the price… the capture above and below were both taken with this lens. At nearly 75 yards for the Meadowlark and 50 yards on the dove… no tripod… 260.00 vs. thousands… you be the judge. May not be National Geographic level but it works fine for identification. The Meadowlark shot was on a heavily overcast day.

White_winged dove
White_winged dove

Happy Birding!!!

Meadowlark Flock

Tracking the Meadowlarks Day Two

As promised, I revisited the location from yesterday; time to track down that Meadowlark. This time his flock was with him. Hopefully this group of photos will help you, help me. Eastern or Western? My vote is Eastern. We were looking at lighter tails, maybe less buffy cheeks. The yellow is very distinctive on the neck but as far as I can tell does not come up on the cheek. Lighting was better today than yesterday. Best of luck! Maybe these will allow someone to get 80 percent sure.

While plodding along, I came across a group of Eastern Bluebirds in a ravine. Pretty neat. A sole Northern Mockingbird was traveling with the troop. Further up I came across a young deer and a couple of Turkey Vultures. As I was crossing another ravine, I scared up a flock of what looks like female Red-Wing blackbirds. Not 100% on that.

This location is behind an OLD ABANDONED softball field that has been grown over for many years. It is just off Knight street. There is a large section of woods and a ravine with about three feet of water in it.

The location is just Northeast of Mineral Wells, Texas (North Central Texas). Within the confines of the old Fort Wolters Military base. Lots of Mesquite and underbrush.

Meadowlark
Meadowlark
  • Aperture: ƒ/9
  • Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T3i
  • Taken: 13 December, 2012
  • Focal length: 300mm
  • ISO: 800
  • Shutter speed: 1/1000s

Meadowlark
Meadowlark
  • Aperture: ƒ/9
  • Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T3i
  • Taken: 13 December, 2012
  • Focal length: 300mm
  • ISO: 800
  • Shutter speed: 1/1250s

Meadowlark
Meadowlark
  • Aperture: ƒ/9
  • Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T3i
  • Taken: 13 December, 2012
  • Focal length: 300mm
  • ISO: 800
  • Shutter speed: 1/1000s

A pair of fantastic beauties… The crazy thing -they had this plumage all summer. Don’t they look great sitting on top of a long abandoned set of lights. This softball field has not seen a player in over a decade.

Starlings on the lights
Starlings on the lights
  • Aperture: ƒ/9
  • Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T3i
  • Taken: 13 December, 2012
  • Focal length: 300mm
  • ISO: 800
  • Shutter speed: 1/1250s

Coming across the little one was a nice treat. I absolutely loved the way the fall reds played out to frame her as she left the area.

Deer at dusk
Deer at dusk
  • Aperture: ƒ/7.1
  • Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T3i
  • Taken: 13 December, 2012
  • Focal length: 300mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter speed: 1/60s

So, Red-wing Blackbird females? Please let me be right on this one. =/

Red Wing Blackbird
Red Wing Blackbird female
  • Aperture: ƒ/9
  • Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T3i
  • Taken: 13 December, 2012
  • Focal length: 300mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter speed: 1/320s

Red Wing Blackbird
Red Wing Blackbird Female
  • Aperture: ƒ/9
  • Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T3i
  • Taken: 13 December, 2012
  • Focal length: 300mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter speed: 1/400s

Mineral Wells – Sunday Birding List

The short, it was a great Sunday for birding in my little Mineral Wells neighborhood. I checked off four more birds on my list. Wren, Raven, Bunting, Finch. For me to check off… I must capture clear photo documentation. Keeps me honest! Shameless, non-paid plug… The Canon T3i has made that part of this hobby so MUCH EASIER. No more XS-1 for birding. It is now serving as the designated Macro camera. The T3i was purchased last week along with the Canon 70-300mm IS USM lens. The auto focus is stellar for the fly-by’s. Enough of the plug but I do love the new toy.

My First Bunting:

Indigo Bunting - female
Painted Bunting - female
  • Aperture: ƒ/5.6
  • Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T3i
  • Taken: 12 August, 2012
  • Focal length: 300mm
  • ISO: 800
  • Shutter speed: 1/200s

I owe a debt of gratitude to Jim Peterson from nctexasbirds.com for helping identify the little green looking thing. Birds can be tough even for serious minded folk. Thanks Jim for your incredible guidance.

Painted Bunting - female
Painted Bunting - female
  • Aperture: ƒ/5.6
  • Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T3i
  • Taken: 12 August, 2012
  • Focal length: 300mm
  • ISO: 800
  • Shutter speed: 1/200s

This weekend I changed out the feeders from Black oil seed to nuts and fruits. The change in bird scenery was instant. Blue Jays, Cardinals, Wrens, Buntings, and Finches. Prior to this weekend, it was sparrows, doves, Titmice, with a light spattering of Chickadees. So, I caught my first House Finch, Carolina Wren, Painted Bunting, and Blue Jay in the yard. The food change worked quick. Prior to this weekend, these guys have avoided my yard like a man avoids an ex when past due on child support. Bad analogy – but so true. Prior to this weekend, I had no idea that Buntings were so tiny. The do remind me of the mighty Titmouse. Good Night! It is late and I have to be up in 5 hours, so this completes the short.

I love this photo – Bit characters in a play.

European Starlings
European Starlings - conventional roll call
  • Aperture: ƒ/10
  • Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T3i
  • Taken: 12 August, 2012
  • Focal length: 300mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter speed: 1/125s

Sunday yard count and the Mineral Wells, Texas neighborhood list: European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren, White-Winged Dove, House Sparrow, Northern Mockingbird, Tufted-Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Great-Tailed Grackle, House Finch, Painted Bunting – female, Raven(?), Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture and Mississippi Kite. Only the Chihuahuan Ravens, Vulture and Starlings were not directly in or over my yard at the time of the photos. Have no clue about identifying one black bird from another. Grackle, Raven, Crow… only the vulture is easy to pick out. – That bunting was something else. Great fun to watch.

The Kite in the neighborhood is starting to visit less regularly.

Northern Mockingbird on birdbath
Northern Mockingbird on birdbath
  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T3i
  • Taken: 12 August, 2012
  • Focal length: 300mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter speed: 1/250s

Mallard Duck +2

Random Nature Photos for July

Month of July, 2012 – While perusing my Mineral Wells neighborhood, I capture random nature photos here and there that have nothing to do with an upcoming post. For no other reason than storage, they get posted at Flash by Z from time to time and deleted off the hard drive. This is one such writing.

One of my favorite birding locations has an old, unused foot bridge. The trail to the birding location is covered in Poison Oak, Poison Ivy and spiders. Nature is beautiful, but it can be a bitter-sweet concoction of bull nettles, spider bites and bee stings. This mixture is something I wish to bypass; more especially, with me in shorts. So today, I shot it from afar to share with all. As you will can see, the vegetation is a heavy mix, contains a great water source, perching locations and cover. Birding is always good when the time of day is right. The sun was wrong for shooting but without the direct sun, it would be solid shadows. Even with the sun, I miss a lot of photo opportunities.

This day was a good one. We located another Mississippi Kite, several Cardinals and my first ever Summer Tanager. Fantastic!!! Need help with a spider identification, any takers? See below. Thanks in advance. Well, it is time to upload photos, turn off the computer, and hope for a cooler tomorrow. The 106 to 111 range is already getting old. ALOHA! <--- I can dream, can't I?!

Make sure to check out the links below the gallery!

Female Grackle
Shameless Plug!! Great-Tailed Grackle - female
  • Aperture: ƒ/5.6
  • Camera: X-S1
  • Focal length: 132.3mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter speed: 1/250s

Free NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY desktops available. No subscription, no fee. Download with no hassle. UPDATED – Ten additions if you have not visited lately.

Birding 101 – New content for new birders. Read Birding 101. It describes the birth of my passion for these flighty little creatures. I also discuss the few essentials necessary for getting started.

Bee Working Hard

Morning walks and birding

It was a gorgeous morning for a quick walk in our little Texas town. Seven a.m. is my favorite time of day; even when it’s prior to the morning coffee. Desi and I quickly dressed before the heat hit Mineral Wells full tilt. I grabbed the XS-1 and off we went. Critters are scurrying about, while the dove coo overhead. Fantastic time of day. A Cardinal can be heard in the distance as well as the buzzing of bees. Birding is not always about looking for birds. For me, it is about getting out in nature. One cannot necessarily commune with nature while in the neighborhood, but one can get away from daily stress and enjoy the moment. Some men hit walls to relieve stress; I prefer to watch, listen, walk and capture moments in time stopped with a click of the shutter.

We counted eight species of birds during our 30 minute walk, located some bees, and saw a squirrel or two. My sharped-eyed wife found a Red-Bellied Woodpecker high in a tree. She amazes me. I walked past the tree ignoring what I knew to be Western Kingbirds fighting overhead. Mixed in with them was this woodpecker. Click. Cardinals were everywhere. Fantastic. House Sparrow, House Sparrow, more House Sparrows. Western Kingbirds, Northern Mockingbirds, Young Scissor-Tail, and White-Winged doves lining the wires as we walk. Kingbirds and Mockingbirds dive down into the street to grab unlucky insects. Great morning for a walk.

Time to load up the photos and turn off the computer. What will tomorrow bring?

Female Grackle
Shameless!! Great-Tailed Grackle - female

Bee Working Hard
Bee Working Hard
  • Aperture: ƒ/4.5
  • Camera: X-S1
  • Taken: 31 July, 2012
  • Focal length: 31.1mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter speed: 1/500s

European Starling Cross

European Starlings on the block

It was an early morning walk.
The sun was just starting to rise.
There is a large bare tree sticking up in the middle of a church parking lot.
Unusual place for a tree to be.
Even more unusual that it was filled with large black birds with white polk-a-dots.

In my 45 years of life, I have never seen a European Starling in Mineral Wells. Strange looking birds with a robust shape. According to an online friend, these Starlings and their polk-a-dots were out of season. This was their winter coat. They are shimmery black with hues of blue in the summer. I also discovered that these birds are great songsters and can mimic. I grabbed a few photos and went back to the house. Later in the day I returned but the birds were gone without a trace. For the last few days, I have returned and searched the area but to no avail. Is this the last time these birds will visit the neighborhood? I hope not. Another personal friend said that these birds were a “problem” in Stephenville, Texas. If I want more photos, I will be travelling 40 minutes south of my current location.

European Starling Cross
European Starling Cross
  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: X-S1
  • Taken: 18 July, 2012
  • Focal length: 158.6mm
  • ISO: 250
  • Shutter speed: 1/1000s