March 19, 2016 Salineno Birding Area, Texas

Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove

Tomorrow it all Ends

Hard to believe that five months here have passed so quickly, but with the recent heat, I would have to say, I am ready to head for cooler climes.

Salineno Birding Area
Salineno Birding Area

It dawned on me that I had never shown you the bird feeding yard here at Salineno, the scene of all these small birds in flight shots. So the image above shows you where all the action takes place and where 80 % of all the shots shown on this blog were taken.

Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove

The other 20% were taken next to where my motorhome is parked, just a hundred feet or so from the the feeding yard shown above.

Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove

On many of my two days off, I haul my portable post (feeding) prop over to my site and set up a small feeding area of my own.

Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove

Here I have no overhanging branches and shadows to contend with, as I do in the main yard. Also have a completely different type of background where I can get some nice soft pastel colors to show as a backdrop for the birds.

Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove

You can probably tell I kind of liked the interaction of this White-tipped Dove and the Great Kiskadee, set against that wonderful watercolor wash background.

Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Great Kiskadee and White-tipped Dove
Long-billed Thrasher and Great Kiskadee
Long-billed Thrasher and Great Kiskadee

The Dove was not the only other bird to contest the Kiskadee for the peanutbutter/lard/cornmeal mix concealed in the top of the post.

Long-billed Thrasher and Great Kiskadee
Long-billed Thrasher and Great Kiskadee
Long-billed Thrasher and Great Kiskadee
Long-billed Thrasher and Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee and Green jay
Great Kiskadee and Green jay
Long-billed Thrasher and Great Kiskadee
Long-billed Thrasher and Great Kiskadee
Long-billed Thrasher and Green Jay
Long-billed Thrasher and Green Jay
Great Kiskadee and Green jay
Great Kiskadee and Green jay
Great Kiskadee and Green jays
Great Kiskadee and Green jays
Great Kiskadee and Green Jay
Great Kiskadee and Green Jay
Great Kiskadee and Green Jay
Great Kiskadee and Green Jay
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals

It’s that time of year and the males are fighting.

Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Altamira Oriole and Green Jay
Altamira Oriole and Green Jay
Audubon Oriole and Green Jay
Audubon Oriole and Green Jay

” What you doing down there, Shorty !”

Northern Cardinals and Green Jay
Northern Cardinals and Green Jay
Northern Cardinals and Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Northern Cardinals and Golden-fronted Woodpecker

A Couple New Closeups

Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite

We have two coveys of Northern Bobwhites that come in several times a day so I thought I ought to make some effort to get a couple nice ground level shots of these neat little birds. Above a female and below the male.

Male Northern Bobwhite
Male Northern Bobwhite
Ladder-backed Woodpeck
Ladder-backed Woodpecker

A male Ladder-backed Woodpecker with a nice soft green background. The background, up until this last week, would have been bare branches with bright sky holes, but now the mesquite trees are displaying their spring green finery.

Female Black-headed Grosbeak
Female Black-headed Grosbeak

And finally, a rare South Texas visitor, one female Black-headed Grosbeak, visiting us regularly over the past three weeks.

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January 24, 2016 Salineno Birding Area, Texas

Moving in on the Oriole
Moving in on the Oriole

A Little Fun in PhotoShop

Incoming Blackbird, We're Outta Here
Incoming Blackbird, We’re Outta Here

Let’s see, now i have more than a few decent shots of small birds in flight, let’s figure out what to do with them.

On a Mac at least, right clicking on any of these images will open a larger, sharper version in a new window.

Rainbow of Birds
Rainbow of Birds

Every now and then, I have managed to capture multiple birds in flight in one image, sure doesn’t happen often, but as I’ve stated before, this small birds in flight thing is a numbers game, and I have the time, and place, to take a lot of shots.

Colorful Quartet
Colorful Quartet
Three Birds Incoming
Three Birds Incoming

So I thought, why not combine parts of several of my better images with some of the good shots that already have multiple birds in them … just play around and amuse myself in PhotoShop.

Three Orioles
Three Orioles

Since all of these shots are taken on a tripod and I don’t move the camera sometimes for a  hundred flight shots or more ( I am manually focused on a spot where I hope the birds will be ), many of these shots have the exact same background as several others making combining images a breeze.

Quartet
Quartet
Four Birds
Coming and Going
Cardinal and Jays
Cardinal and Jays

These shots should give you an idea of the sometimes almost unbelievable color you can see in the yard here in Salineno. I have been sitting here watching these guys now for three months and it still amazes me.

Great Kiskadee and Altamira Orioles
Great Kiskadee and Altamira Orioles
Three birds
Make Room !
Three Birds
A Seat for All
Five birds
Not enough Room for Five

Only two of the birds in the above image were added, guess which ones.

Unwanted Intruder
Unwanted Intruder
Six Birds
Six Birds

This combined image gives you an idea of how difficult it sometimes is to shoot here because of the shadows of the overhanging branches. These shadows from the mesquite tree looming over the seating area move about the yard as the sun tracks across the sky, casting shadows over all the props I have set up in the yard to bring the birds in close for viewing. So many good shots are ruined by these shadows being cast over dark parts of the birds, such as the heads of the Green Jays and the Audubon Orioles, making their eyes indistinguishable from the dark feathers surrounding them.

Green Jay and Northern Cardinals
Green Jay and Northern Cardinals

The two shots combined here were taken at the very end of the day as the sun set behind me around 6 PM.

Hope you may have enjoyed these, let me know what you think!

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When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !


 

January 20, 2016 Salineno Birding Station, Texas

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

Another Week in Salineno

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

More good weather, and yet more bird shots. As I continue practicing, I find the percentage of decent shots keeps improving, leaving me with a new problem … too many images to now process, and what to do with them. Just how many images of an oriole, or a great kiskadee do I really need ?

To see a larger, sharper version of any image, simply right click on the image and a new window with the larger version will open ( on a Mac, at least ).

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

Yet my duties require me to sit in front of all these beautiful birds for 9 hours all but every day and I still have almost two more months to go here, and I can’t get out of the habit of setting up me camera and tripod when I settle in for my day’s ” work “.

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

But where I initially was shooting 1000 or more shots a day, I could quickly delete all but 30 or so that I would have to examine closer on the computer to see if they were sharp enough to bother processing. Now, out of that same 1000 shots or sometimes even more, I find I now have 100 or more that demand closer examination … and that is keeping me busy processing images for pretty much all of my free time.

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

Northern Cardinals

 

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

After we close the gate at 4 PM each day, there is about a one hour window where I can set up and shoot with the setting sun at my back and get some pretty nice shots of these colorful birds with the shaded bushes in the yard as a dramatic dark background.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

I never know how these will turn out as I shoot them because there is so little time to check the images on the camera’s monitor due to the constant action. The Cardinals, along with the hundreds of nuisance Red-winged Blackbirds, constitute what we term the ” cleanup crew “, the birds that come in just before sunset and pretty much vacuum the grounds of any leftover seed and cracked corn.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

While we always have several pairs of cardinals in the yard all day long, all of a sudden, just after 4 PM, about a dozen or more pairs materialize, and I set up a prop to try and lure most of them to come flying into a precisely located perch where I have the light just so and the background just the way I want it.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

Then it’s just a matter of prefocusing on a point where I think they will be, and shooting off volleys of shots as they descend. As I have said before, then it’s just a numbers game, hoping they hit my prefocused spot, hoping they have their wings in the right position, etc.

Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals

Sometimes the results are quite dramatic, like above when I have the good fortune to catch more than one bird in the prefocused point, something that very rarely ever happens.

Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal

The female Northern Cardinal is considered by most to be a drab counterpoint to the brilliant red male, but in my humble opinion, certainly under these lighting conditions, she is anything but.

Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal

The gorgeous pink undersides of her wings and tail, unseen normally except when taking these sort of shots, make her quite the beauty.

Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

I search the surrounding woods for new props almost daily and came up with this one that I set up to get shots of our two woodpecker species here at Salineno, the Golden-fronted and the Ladder-back Woodpecker.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites

We have a covey of a dozen Northern Bobwhites that visit us a couple of times a day. No props for these guys as they are pretty much strictly ground feeders.

Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

My first flight shot of one of our Long-billed Thrashers. This bird often comes walking into the yard rather than flying and does most of his feeding on the ground, so attempts to get flight shots of him are few and far between.

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee

And finally, yet more shots of our Great Kiskadees and Green Jays.

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay

Though they now seem almost common to me, the Green Jay is one of the most colorful birds I have ever photographed. The blue head, the blue-greens of the tail feathers, bright yellow underside and outside tail feathers, along with it’s black mask … just a bird one never gets tired of shooting.

SPECIAL NOTE:

After 8 faithful years of flawless service, my IMAC died on me a few days ago. I will not be able to process images or do any blog posts until I have a new IMAC delivered and I go through the painful experience of getting it up and running. As of January 30th I have one ordered and hopefully enroute, but with no phone service and a very weak internet signal here in Salineno, it undoubtedly will take me a while to get everything I need loaded on the new unit, so please bear with me in the interim.

November 11, 2015 Salineno, Texas

Finally Arrived at this Year’s New Winter Home

Green Jay
Green on Green

Well, I finally completed the long journey from Alaska to the Mexican border, having arrived here in Salineno, Texas on November 1st. This will be my first volunteer stint since retiring and hitting the road two and a half years ago, also the first time I will remain in one spot for five and a half months, almost like settling down again.

I must apologize for the lack of recent posts but I do have a bit of a dilemma here … a very weak to often non-existent Verizon internet signal. I am provided with a wonderful spot for my motorhome here, full hookups, lots of privacy in a nice setting, but no useable internet, one of the few places I have been where my Verizon Jet-Pac gets no signal, or only one bar of 3G. As a  result, where doing a blog post with a decent signal might take me half an hour, here this particular post, with only a few images, took about four hours, the uploads are pretty slow, to be kind. There have been promises made to look into exploring how an internet signal might be brought in here, so maybe the situation will improve sometime this winter. Until then, posts will be made on a weekly basis, I hope.

The Salineno Birding Station is a joint venture of the Valley Land Trust, owners of the property, and the United States Fish and Game Department, who manage the volunteers here. Having visited this spot in 2010 and again in 2013 for bird photography, I thought this might be a good place to sit still and recover a bit from this summers activities. The primary hosts here, Lois and Merle, who have volunteered at Salineno for six years previous to this winter, will show me the ropes, and, hopefully, I will be up to the task.

It took the three of us about a week of hard work pulling grass and weeds, trimming downed trees and limbs, to make the place presentable after a summer where the place is left on it’s own. Then the feeders go out and we start working on bringing the birds in. I was a little surprised how quickly they started showing up.

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

Green Jay
Green Jay

The absolutely gorgeous Green Jays were the first to come in. This is one of the few spots in the United States where you can see this brilliantly colored bird and there often are so many of them in and out of here that it is soon possible to think of them as just another bird, simply because of their numbers, certainly not their plumage. At this time we have probably a dozen or more of them, and that number increases as their natural foods start to disappear as the season progresses ( this will be true for most of the bird species here ).

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

A pair of Golden-fronted Woodpeckers also soon appeared. This is one of my favorite birds here. The male has a red spot on the top of his head and the female can be distinguished from the male by the lack of that red spot.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Also showing up regularly is a juvenile Ladder-backed Woodpecker …

Juvenile Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Juvenile Ladder-backed Woodpecker

… still working on growing in all his colorful red head feathers.

Salineno is known for attracting three species of orioles, the Altamira, Audubon, and Hooded Orioles.

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

And it didn’t take long for the first pair of Altamira Orioles to appear. This is one of the largest and most brilliantly colored of the orioles.

Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole

A pair of Audubons also soon arrived. This oriole is one of the most sought after birds here at Salineno, one of the best spots to find one.

Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole

We also have a single female Hooded Oriole coming in on a regular basis now and Merle and Lois say that the male usually shows up a week or two later. I will get a photograph of these guys later, I hope.

Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow

Another bird birders come here for is the Olive Sparrow, certainly not as colorful as the orioles, but again, another species for which Salineno has proven to be be a good spot to encounter one. These little guys are a little more difficult to get a good shot of since they generally stay on the ground and around the edges, preferring to be very near some type of cover.

Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

The Long-billed Thrasher is another fairly common bird here and one of my favorites to photograph.

After ten days of feeding here, there have been forty different bird species that have visited, a number that normally increases to about twice that before the season ends.

Chachalaca
Chachalaca

One of the species that regularly shows up and tends to clean out all the food is the Plain Chachalaca, a chicken sized game bird that we tend to try and discourage, mostly unsuccessfully. This gluttonous bird makes off with the oranges, devours every kind of seed that we spread, breaks feeders and feeding platforms with it’s substantial weight, and simply proves to generally be an unwanted pest … but is not easily discouraged. We have what is most likely a family unit of seven birds coming in several times a day.

A list of species seen here so far ( and we are only ten days in! )

In years past the total number of sightings varies between 70 and 80.

  1. Green jay
  2. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  3. Northern cardinal
  4. Olive Sparrow
  5. Altamira Oriole
  6. Audubon Oriole
  7. Inca Dove
  8. White-tipped Dove
  9. White-winged Dove
  10. House Sparrow
  11. Great Kiskadee
  12. Common Yellow-throat
  13. Osprey *
  14. Turkey Vulture *
  15. Crested Caracara *
  16. Northern Mockingbird
  17. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  18. Long-billed Thrasher
  19. Plain Chachalaca
  20. Black-crested Titmouse
  21. Hooded Oriole
  22. Red-winged Blackbird
  23. Great-tailed Grackle
  24. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  25. White Pelican *
  26. Bewick’s Wren
  27. Orange-crowwned Warbler
  28. Mourning Dove
  29. Lesser Goldfinch
  30. Ringed Kingfisher *
  31. Eastern Phoebe
  32. Verdin
  33. House Wren
  34. Blue-headed Vireo
  35. Pyrrhuloxia
  36. Gray Hawk *
  37. Couch’s Kingbird
  38. Black Phoebe
  39. Lincoln Sparrow
  40. Common Grackle
  • Denotes Flyover

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When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !