Red-shouldered Hawk Flyby

While looking at my blog the other day I realized that it has been a while since I last updated or posted anything. My bad. I guess I can’t expect people to come here and view my photography or read what I have to say if I don’t actually post anything. Funny how that works.

So I was out back yesterday, waiting for something to come along when i looked up and saw a rather large bird flying over the field. At first I thought it was a vulture, but as it turned and started toward me, I realized it was a hawk. I had to look it up, and ask some friends on FaceBook’s Birds of Texas group, and it was identified as an immature red-shouldered hawk. While not a spectacular shot, I do like the sharpness of the eye as it watched me watching it as it flew over.

Red-shouldered hawk as it few overhead.
Red-shouldered hawk as it few overhead.

This was shot with the new Canon 5DS-R 52mp camera. I’ve been very happy with the camera thus far, even for wildlife shots. One thing it gives is the ability to crop to insane levels, which works well if your main audience is the web. Here is a 100% crop of the area around the eye.

100% crop of the hawks eye
100% crop of the hawks eye

The lens used was the Canon 100-400L (old version) and as you can see, even with older glass, the results are pretty impressive.

So, my goal is to keep this blog updated more. I’ll post, you read and enjoy. Is that a deal?

 

Texas Winter Week

Ask pretty much anyone who lives in Texas and they will tell you that generally speaking, we don’t get much of a winter here. That said, this week appears to be our week for Winter here in East Texas and today we had what will probably be our only significant snowfall. Whenever this happens, the feeders are a frenzy of activity as, I’m just guessing here, the birds start to think that the sky is falling and the world is coming to an end.

So, with my back door open and camera pointed to the back porch around the feeder (yes, my wife was yelling at me that she was freezing), I saw some interesting visitors that I thought I would share with you. It did seem that the large falling flakes of snow was playing havoc with my autofocus. Something that I was not counting on.

Here is a Dark-eyed Junco. They are a cute little bird to mostly feeds on the ground. My outside cats, Earl and Dakota, usually keep them on their toes but with the cold weather, I’ve been keeping them warm in the barn.
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And this cute little thing is a Tufted Titmouse. They are regular visitors to the feeder and make a terrible racket if you are disturbing them.

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After a bit of taking their pictures, I noticed that all of the birds just disappeared. I thought maybe I had made too much noise or something. Then I spotted this Red-shouldered Hawk in the tree near the back porch. Although mostly hidden, the snow was not helping with its usual method of camouflage. Apparently it was hungry too and was looking for an easy lunch. The little birds hid and it finally flew away. No more than 5 seconds later, the smaller birds began to reappear.

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And what would winter bird pictures be without the colorful Mister and Misses of the bird kingdom, the Northern Cardinal. The white background really makes their red colors pop out of the frame.

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Another regular visitor this time of year is the American Goldfinch. These little ones pass through each year as they come down south to get away from the cold. We are, of course, happy to have them visit.

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But this little guy, this is the first time I’ve seen him around. If I’m reading my guide correctly, this is a Purple Finch. Apparently I am right on the eastern border of their winter range so when I saw two of them, I considered myself blessed.

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That’s it for today. As the day is drawing to a close, the snow is already beginning to melt away. So, from the house on the snow-covered hill, until next time, enjoy God’s beautiful creation.

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New Camera, New Life, New Post

The past year and a half has been a crazy roller-coaster of a ride. It all started with deciding to sell our house in Flower Mound, TX just because someone knocked on the door wanting to buy it. Then trying to decide where we wanted to live, only to find a place where we least expected, near the east Texas town of Overton. During all of this, there has been little time for photography as moving, job searches, relocation, and settling in has been the main focus of our time. But now, as things are finally starting to get into a somewhat normal routine, Canon released the long awaited update to the EOS 7D, the EOS 7D Mark II. To say that I have been anxiously waiting for this update for more than just a couple of years is an understatement. While I liked the old 7D, the new version really benefits from the latest auto-focus technologies and is a real winner in the wildlife arena.

So, with all that behind me, maybe now I can start getting serious about my photography “hobby” once again and begin posting more often. Let’s start with this visitor to my yard from yesterday. This red-shouldered hawk was gracious enough to sit and pose for me long enough to get outside with the big lens and take its portrait.

Enjoy, and hope to be back soon!

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Canon 7D mark II, Canon 600mm F/4 IS
1/1600 @f/4, ISO 800

Ft Worth Nature Center

Today, Karen and I woke up early and headed over to the Ft Worth Nature Center to be there when they opened the gates at 8am.  I had been told that a bald eagle had been spotted down around the river area and I thought we’d try our luck at finding it.

When we got to the gates, there were a few other vehicles waiting for them to open, and a few guys in camo standing around talking.  The sky was completely overcast and it was still in the 40s, but I got out and tried to strike up a conversation.  I could tell by the beanbag mounts on their doors that these guys were photographers, and the way they were dressed, they appeared to be looking for wildlife.  I tried to ask them about the best locations to shoot here, but they didn’t appear willing to share any of their “secret” places with me.  That was a first for me.  Ever other time I have met photographers out and about, they were more than willing to share whatever they knew.  These guys must be a different breed of photographer.  When I asked if they were with a specific group of anything one of them looked at me and said, “a photography group” as if to say “well duh!”  I got the hint.

About that time the lady came to open the gate and we entered the area.  We drove along the river and our first stop was the boardwalk at the marsh area.  As we were approaching the bird blind on the boardwalk, I looked over to notice a deer crossing the river.  I hurriedly set up my tripod and was able to capture a few frames before it was all the way across!

While still at the marsh boardwalk, I spotted a red-shouldered hawk on a tree near the bank of the river.  His feathers were being blown by the wind and even he looked a little chilled.  He stuck around for quite a while before finally flying away.  Gave us plenty of opportunities to capture his image.

As we began to leave the boardwalk, Karen pointed out a large white bird that was flying right at us.  I looked through the 600 and wasn’t really sure, but it looked like a pelican.  I wasn’t sure because I’ve never captured one before, but as it got closer, (and as I found later when I looked it up), it is indeed an American Pelican.  These guys can get large with a wing span of up to 9 feet!  This one flew right at me and at one point was so large in the viewfinder he no longer fit!

But it wasn’t enough for just this one pelican.  There was a whole flock of them.  At one point they flew right over our heads, at which point I was glad they weren’t mad at us for any reason.  I did capture this shot of a few of them flying in formation.

One last bird as we were leaving the marsh area.  This little song sparrow was sitting on the high grass just a singing away.  The cold and gray sky didn’t seem to darken his spirits any.

From here, we drove around a bit and found “Prarie Dog Town”.  I knew I was going to be in trouble here.  I have this thing for small, cute, critters, and sure enough, I shot quite a few frames at this location.  I just couldn’t get enough of these little guys.  Every time I would get a shot that I really liked, they would turn around and do something else cute.  So, here are a few of the many shots that I took.

 

And what could be cuter than the husband prarie dog kissing his wife good-bye as he leaves for work.

Okay, enough silliness.  Our next stop was Greer Island.  Yes, there is a sign as you cross over to the island that alligators have in fact been seen in the area, but we didn’t see any today.  I’m guessing that the cold water has those cold-blooded creatures looking for warmer climates right about now.

Hoping to see some more bird life, we were quietly waking through the woods on the island, when all the sudden, we hear a loud voice and then the sound of little girls screaming (playing).  Yep, all the birds flew away.  Luckily, once things calmed down again, I did happen to catch the sound of a downy woodpecker doing his business on the side of a tree.

And finally, as we were leaving the island to conclude our visit I spotted a great blue heron on the shore of the island.  He was just hanging out at the edge of the water as ducks swam by.  One last picture before we left.

All in all, not a bad day.  Got to explore some new places, and even through it was cold and the sun refused to shine, I was still able to find some photo-worthy opportunities.  If nothing else, the Prarie  dogs alone were worth the trip! And speaking of prarie dogs, one more before we go…

These guys are just too cute.  I could stay there and shoot these guys all day long.

All photos taken with the Canon 7D and the Canon 600mmL f/4 IS usm lens

Red-shouldered Hawk

So, if you can’t catch the hawk as if flies through your yard, go to his yard.

This evening, Karen and I spent some time at the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA) to do a little practicing with our cameras before heading to Yellowstone in two weeks.  This is only the second time I’ve been our there, and as I said the first time, I’ve got to get out there more often.  There is wildlife all over the place.  Too many times we yearn for the exotic wildlife we see on television while ignoring the exotic wildlife in our own back yards.

Today, along with meeting a couple of new friends, I got a few good shots of a Red-shouldered Hawk as it sat on an old tree looking for dinner.  A very magnificent bird.  I don’t know if this is the same fellow that flies through my yard scaring the little birds or not, but if I were a little bird, I would run too.  Check out the talons on this guy!

Another new bird to add to my list now is the American Coot!  Can’t say I have ever noticed these guys before, but they are pretty cool looking water fowl.  Black and shiny with the red eyes, white bill, and the black ring on the bill.  They were diving for dinner and didn’t seem to mind the hawk watching over their territory.

It was a good day for wildlife, photos, and making new friends.  I look forward to returning again in the near future and possibly maybe even helping out in the area.