January 16, 2018 Falcon Lake State Park, Texas

Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

Same Birds From a Different Perspective

Warning: A long post today, and it is birds again, for those that do not share my interest in the subject.

The Setup
The Setup

With a limited variety of avian subjects available at my site, I thought I might try something new and go for a new perspective to add a little something different to my images. So I borrowed Sam’s quilt and pillow from the back of the Prius, pulled a dinette cushion from the motorhome, and tried to make as comfortable a setup as possible for myself on the concrete pad at my campsite. This to give me a new, lower, and hopefully more interesting perspective on my feathered friends. Note my trusty slingshot on the picnic table bench, more on that later.

The Cleanup Crew ( Javelinas )
The Cleanup Crew ( Javelinas )

What I had failed to consider when I decided to go this route were my neighbors, the parks’ resident javelina population. These guys have been coming in to clean up all the leftover seed on the ground since the first day I set up my feeding station. As soon as I stop shooting for the day, I take in all the feeders, since the javelinas have no problem knocking over the posts that may hold feeders or standing on their hind legs to get at feeders in the bushes or the lower branches of the short trees around the perimeter of the feeding area.

Javelina Mom and Young
Javelina Mom and Young

For the most part, the females and their young have been no real threat and after a few warning shots of pebbles from the slingshot, they have been easily discouraged  from entering the yard while I am photographing.

Javelina
Javelina

However, there are a couple large boars who are a bit more aggressive and tend to take objection to my training methods ( slingshot ). On a couple of occasions , these fellows have not only stood their ground, but have aggressively challenged me after I had attempted to dissuade them from feeding while I was photographing the birds. They have bluff charged me, snapping and popping their gums, only stopping about fifteen feet away from where I was standing ( which, by the way, was with the picnic table between us and I within arms length of my open motorhome door, after all I may not be wise, but I’m not stupid ), so these guys have gotten my heart pumping on a couple of occasions.

Well, one afternoon while laying out prone on my concrete pad, a movement to my immediate right caught my eye and I turned to find a female and her young silently walking past me to check out the opportunity to feed. I could have reached out and touched her … she was that close! When I moved, she was probably as scared as I was, and she bolted out of the yard into the surrounding bush, with her young one right on her tail. At that point it occurred to me that had it been one of the aggressive males rather than this more docile female, the outcome may have been quite different. The encounter made me think it prudent to not put myself in this potentially hazardous position again, so these are most likely the only ground level bird shots I will get here.

Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow

The Olive Sparrow is a creature of the edge, almost always staying in the shadows of the underbrush, just every now and then darting out a bit to grab a morsel, then quickly retreating to the safety of cover. Initially, I thought this staying in the shadows would make for some tough shots, but the more I looked for moments where there were some highlights on the shadowed bird, the more I  grew to attempt more of these shots, and ended up quite pleased with the results.

Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow
Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

As with the Olive Sparrow, the two Thrashers here, the Curve-billed and the Long-billed, also tend to seek the protective cover of the edges of the yard.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

However, unlike the sparrow, these guys do, on occassion, hop up on the surrounding bushes and even venture up on the tray feeders.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

They are pretty much constantly in motion though, not staying out in vulnerable areas long, before retreating to cover.

Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

Got a kick out of the timing of this shot … sometimes you never know what you got until you view it on the computer screen.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

These guys are a true nuisance here as they were in the nearby Salineno birding area where I volunteered two winters ago. Unless deterred ( slingshot ), they descend on the feeding are in droves, their numbers driving out the birds I want to photograph and cleaning out all the food I put out.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

Another nice shadow area shot, although the cardinals are not all that shy about venturing out into the light.

Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Green Jay
Green Jay

Still one of my favorite birds to watch, these jays pretty much rule the roost in the feeding area. If other birds are on a particular feeder, they have no problem crowding them off. They do not feel a need to wait their turn.

Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay

I really do like this lower perspective angle on these small birds.

Green Jay
Green Jay
Inca Dove
Inca Dove
Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

I have no idea how this Mockingbird sustained the damage to his upper bill, but he seems to be doing just fine, though his looks have suffered.

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

Though certainly not easy to do, getting down to a Wren’s eye level gives a new and interesting perspective on this tiny energetic bird.

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren
Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites

Each day I look forward to the arrival of the Northern Bobwhites, now venturing in to feed at least two or three times a day.

Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites

You can right click on these images to get a much larger version of the photograph, showing some of the fine detail in the feathers of these birds.

Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites

Once again, the ground level perspective seems, at least to me, to really add a little something to these shots.

Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite

As long as I am lying relatively still, these guys will walk as close as ten feet from me, making for some nice intimate shots. In fact, quite often they come too close for me to be able to focus on them with the long lens I am using.

Male Northern Bobwhite
Male Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite
Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites

Well, that about wraps up my attempts here at ground level bird photography. Really hope I get to try this again at a javelina free location.

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December 19, 2013 On the Road Again

MH andMooseFalcon Lake to Port Aransas, Texas

Got up early this morning and cleaned house and got the RV ready for traveling today. Decided around 7:30 to go sit in my blind for a couple of hours and see if the quail will come in this morning. Decided to just fill the feeders up and let the blackbirds chow down with no interference from me, rather than risk scaring the quail off by shooing the #*%#@! blackbirds away.

Male Bobwhite Quail
Male Bobwhite Quail
Female Bobwhite Quail
Female Bobwhite Quail

 

 

 

 

 

 

( As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version. )

I lucked out and four of the quail eventually came walking in through the brush and started feeding of the scattered seed on the ground around the feeder.

Cardinal on mirror
Guess he wasn’t looking at me after all

 

My cardinal buddy from yesterday was still around, but I guess it wasn’t me he was so interested in after all, but he sure is fixating on something in the motorhome.

 

 

 

Goodbye to my least favorite visitors
Goodbye to my least favorite visitors
Goodbye to my least favorite visitors
Goodbye to my least favorite visitors

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to get on the road to Port Aransas by 10 AM, so around 9:30, I exited the blind and began closing up shop. I hadn’t used the blind before so this was going to be my first attempt at getting it properly collapsed and in it’s traveling bag. The blind collapses to a circle of less than 2 feet in diameter and only 4” or 5 “ high, but how you get it to that stage is not all that simple, at least not the first time you try it. With the included written instructions in front of me, I wrestled with the blind for 20 minutes or more with no success. The written, very poorly illustrated ( drawings, not photos ) instructions are useless, as I had been warned, but somewhere I remembered seeing that there was a video on UTube that you could actually understand, and sure enough, there is. What did we ever do before the internet? After watching the video, twice, it took me all of about a minute to get the blind collapsed and in its carrying bag and I was on the road by 10:30.

I headed south down Route 83 to Rio Grande City and picked up FM 755 north, a surprisingly good road with no traffic or towns to go through, and it took me to Route 281 north, then east on Route 285 that took me to Route 77 north to Robstown, where I joined Route 44 east until it runs into Route 358 east that runs through Corpus Christie and takes you to Mustang Island and on up to Port Aransas.

Dust storm
Do you suppose they ever have to dust?
Nearing Robstown
Nearing Robstown

 

 

 

 

 

Texas dust storm
Getting worse!

The run was uneventful, though the 40 mph crosswinds were a little unsettling at times, especially when they were stirring up dust storms from freshly plowed fields along the way, primarily as you approached and left Robstown where some of the plowed fields stretched uninterrupted to the horizon.

Arrived at the beach around 3:30 and it didn’t take long for the dogs to realize that we had returned to one of their favorite stomping grounds. Unfortunately, the weather is not that great, socked in with fog, plus the strong southeast winds combined with the just passed full moon don’t leave a lot of beach dry for the motorhome.  I will be watching the tide before setting up for the night.

Male Bobwhite Quail
Male Bobwhite Quail
Female Bobwhite Quail
Female Bobwhite Quail
Curve billed thrasher giving it the evil eye
Curve billed thrasher giving it the evil eye

 

 

 

December 10, 2013 Falcon Lake, Texas

Brown thrasher
Brown thrasher

This morning started to show some signs of the overcast skies breaking a little and the forecast called for it to warm up a little, so, seeing that my feeder setup was attracting some attention, I guess today would be a good day to start getting serious about getting some decent bird shots. For the first time on this trip, today I will set up the photo blind!

My bird photo studio
My bird photo studio

 

 

The blind allows me to get closer to these small birds than I otherwise could and also gets me closer to the ground resulting a in a better perspective than when shooting from a standing position, kind of getting down to their level.

 

 

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

 

Pyrrhuloxia
Pyrrhuloxia
Mockingbird
Mockingbird

 

 

 

 

 

Prryhuloxia portrait
Prryhuloxia portrait
Brown thrasher portrait
Brown thrasher portrait

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Javelinas
Here comes trouble
Prryhuloxia
Prryhuloxia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green jay
Green jay
Pyrrhuloxia
Pyrrhuloxia
Green jay
Green jay
Prryhuloxia
Prryhuloxia

 

 

 

 

 

Green jay
Green jay
Prryhuloxia female
Prryhuloxia female
Prryhuloxia
Prryhuloxia

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 9, 2013 Falcon Lake, Texas

Green jays in the feeder
Green jays in the feeder

( You can click on any image to get a larger, sharper version. )

Awaken from a sound sleep at 3 AM with the loud crash of my 5 gallon mud bucket of birdseed being rolled off the picnic table outside my bedroom window. Fortunately, I had secured the lid and thus a rather portly raccoon was more than a little upset that his efforts at thievery had failed. When I went out with the dogs at daybreak, I found that said raccoon had gotten his revenge by destroying my just purchased feeder, devouring all the orioles jam, and generally making a mess of my feeding operation. He also had somehow wheeled my 5 gallon bucket of seed all the way across the cleared area around the campsite until his attempt at theft was stopped by the thick brush surrounding the site. In all he moved this bucket almost 40 feet from the picnic table, but still was unable to get the lid off.

I repaired and refilled my feeder station and also placed my 5 gallon bucket of seed on the roof of the aluminum campsite shelter, 8 feet off the ground. The shelter has metal supports so I don’t think anyone should be able to get at it up there. I guess I will just have to take my feeders in at night.

Campsite feeder setup
Campsite feeder setup

Right after getting everything set back up, I had quite a bit of activity.

Collared peccaries
Campsite guests

 

First, some uninvited guests, collared peccaries, who pretty much cleaned up all the spilt seed the raccoon scattered around the ground last night.

 

 

 

Collared peccary zeroing in on lunch
Collared peccary zeroing in on lunch

 

 

I got a kick out of this one trying to figure a way to get to the feeder.

 

 

 

 

Female cardinal under the feeder
Female cardinal under the feeder
Northern cardinal
Northern cardinal

 

 

 

 

 

A pair of cardinals also chipped in on cleaning up the spilled seed.

Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay

 

 

 

 

 

Green jays are a bird that doesn’t go much farther north than this part of Texas, like our northern blue jay, he is quite the feeder glutton, but makes the blue jay look rather dull in comparison.

Green jay
Green jay
Golden fronted woodpecker
Golden fronted woodpecker

 

 

 

 

 

Then a really pleasant surprise, one of my all time favorite birds showed up for a brief second, a golden fronted woodpecker!

Golden fronted woodpecker
Golden fronted woodpecker