January 26, 2018 Falcon Lake State Park, Texas

Pyrrhuloxia and Long-billed Trasher
Pyrrhuloxia and Long-billed Trasher

Sorry, Just More Birds

Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal

I had intended to only stay here at Falcon Lake for a week or so, but the iffy weather farther north where I am heading and the phenomenal good fortune I have had in attracting colorful birds to my campsite setup, have kept me here for three weeks now.

Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal

Shooting small birds in action is always a bit of a challenge, but with patience and practice, I have been able to get some pretty nice shots here and so I am hesitant to leave since I can’t duplicate this setup elsewhere. Several of these birds do not venture much farther north than right here and I have yet to find anyplace like this as far as the number of colorful birds go.

Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal

The main attraction to me has to be the Northern Cardinals interacting with the Pyrrhuloxias. I find the females of these two species to be as attractive as the more brightly colored males.

Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal

As you can probably sense from these photos, sharing a feeding spot is not something these birds tend to do. About the only birds that will willingly share the post feeder are the Green Jays. For everyone else, there is always a bit of a tussle to see who commands the perch alone.

Pyrrhuloxias
Pyrrhuloxias
Green Jay and Great Kiskadee
Green Jay and Great Kiskadee

Now into my third week here, I have finally had a pair of Great Kiskadees find my setup. These are the largest of the flycatchers and are very interesting to observe as they prefer taking their food on the wing rather than sitting down to dine.

Great Kiskadee and Pyrrhuloxia
Great Kiskadee and Pyrrhuloxia
Great Kiskadee and Pyrrhuloxia
Great Kiskadee and Pyrrhuloxia

While in flight, they will jab their beak into the peanut butter/lard/cornmeal slathered on the inside of the post, either getting a chunk or knocking it out onto the ground, where they instantly drop down to pick it up before someone else may notice it. All this action is accompanied by a shrill shriek with every change of direction.

Red-wing Blackbirds and Pyrrhuloxia
Red-wing Blackbirds and Pyrrhuloxia

At times the action is quite hot and heavy with several birds making a run at the coveted perch on top of the post. Near collisions occur regularly, but I have yet to ever see any two birds actually collide.

Pyrrhuloxia, Ladderback Woodpecker, and Curve-billed Trasher
Pyrrhuloxia, Ladderback Woodpecker, and Curve-billed Trasher
Long-billed Trasher and Red-winged Blackbird
Long-billed Trasher and Red-winged Blackbird

I find it interesting to observe the hierarchy as to who defers to who. The thrashers appear to be top dogs, not hesitating to knock anybody off the perch, followed closely by the Mockingbird, then the Green Jays. The Kiskadees will make a run at the Jays on occassion but remain perched in the bushes when the Thrashers or Mockingbirds are seated on the post.

The Cardinals and Pryyhuloxias challenge each other regularly, seemingly based on just the individual bird’s dominance or submissiveness. All the really little guys like the Orange-crowned Warblers, Black-crested Titmice, and The Bewick’s Wrens defer to everybody and just dart in only when the post is not occupied.

And then there are the #%&*# Red-winged Blackbirds that will challenge anybody when they charge the post in numbers, driving off the birds I am trying to photograph.

Green Jay and Mockingbird

Green Jay and Mockingbird

Long-billed Trasher and Mockingbird
Long-billed Trasher and Mockingbird
Pyrrhuloxia and Red-winged Blackbird
Pyrrhuloxia and Red-winged Blackbird

My success rate for these images is at best maybe one nice capture ( that I would bother to post ) out of maybe every 70 – 80 shots that I take. There really is no way that one can use autofocus on these little guys since the action is so fast so I have found that I have to manually focus on a point where I hope the action occurs and turn auto focus off. Thus it really is pretty much hit or miss. How the scene is setup determines how successful I might be ( more on that next post ).

Pyrrhuloxia and Long-billed Trasher
Pyrrhuloxia and Long-billed Trasher

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

When you click ( on the image below) 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 !


 

 

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.

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

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 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!

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

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.