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

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January 19, 2018 Falcon Lake State Park, Texas

Northern Cardinals with Prryhuloxia
Northern Cardinals with Prryhuloxia

A Little Rough Weather

Rainy Day Bird Watching
Rainy Day Bird Watching

Ran into a short stretch of cold, dreary weather the last few days that curtailed my birds in action photography. I managed to keep an eye on them through my window that just happens to be at eye level with the roof of the picnic table shelter at my campsite. After taking several days to draw in the birds, I didn’t want to quit feeding here even though I couldn’t do any photography due to the lack of light ( and the fact that it was a little uncomfortable with temps only in the 40’s ).

Prryhuloxia and Cardinal
Prryhuloxia and Cardinal

By late this afternoon, the rain stopped though the skies remained gray with no sunlight coming through the overcast skies. There was enough light to do some shooting and the abundance of birds in here today forced me outside to take some shots.

Prryhuloxia and Cardinal
Prryhuloxia and Cardinal

Actually the gray skies provide some of the best diffused light allowing the birds colors to really pop without having to worry about blown out highlights.

Prryhuloxia and Cardinal
Prryhuloxia and Cardinal

I always get a kick out of watching the many disputes these guys have over feeder rights.

Prryhuloxia and Cardinal
Prryhuloxia and Cardinal
Prryhuloxia and Cardinal
Prryhuloxia and Cardinal

I included this shot simply because I have a really hard time trying to figure out exactly what position the cardinal is in. Quite the contortionist!

Catbird and Mockingbird
Catbird and Mockingbird

The catbird was a new visitor today.

Green Jay and Mockingbird
Green Jay and Mockingbird
Green Jay and Red-wing Blackbird
Green Jay and Red-wing Blackbird
Green Jays and Prryhuloxia
Green Jays and Prryhuloxia
Catbird and Cardinal
Catbird and Cardinal
Male Prryhuloxias
Male Prryhuloxias
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals

The many male Cardinals are always squabbling over who gets to occupy the feeding post, they do not share.

Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinal and Curve-billed Thrasher
Northern Cardinal and Curve-billed Thrasher

A couple of nice sunny days are in the forecast this week, so I will be trying yet more of this type of shot, hopefully with a lot more light so I can use a little lower ISO and maybe get a little more depth of field.

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January 17, 2018 Falcon Lake State Park, Texas

Female Cardinal and Prryhuloxia
Female Cardinal and Prryhuloxia

The Cold Catches Up with Me

Temperatures last night dropped into the mid twenties and daytime temps only climbed into the thirties, it even spit a tiny bit of snow for a few minutes. So I mostly stayed inside and worked on the computer and took a trip to Rio Grand City to have my monthly bloodwork done and pick up some birdseed at Tractor Supply.

Pyrrhuloxia Pair
Pyrrhuloxia Pair

I had no real desire to venture outside and do any bird photography, but I did feel sorry for the birds in this extreme cold ( for South Texas, not the rest of you suffering from REAL cold a little farther up north ), and so went out occasionally and filled two feeders. Looking out the window, I did observe a lot of activity around those two feeders, with much more concentrated action on my post feeder than I was getting in previous days when the birds had more choices of where to land and feed.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

So, around three in the afternoon, I finally bundled up and grabbed the tripod and camera and set up to take advantage of the flurry of activity, hoping to be able to get some nice action shots.

Northern Cardinal and Red-winged Blackbird
Northern Cardinal and Red-winged Blackbird

Plenty of action, but unfortunately, because of the leaden gray skies, there was very limited light to shoot by and I was forced to use an extremely high ISO to be able to freeze any action at all resulting in very noisy images not suitable for enlargement or publication.

Northern Cardinal and Red-winged Blackbird
Northern Cardinal and Red-winged Blackbird

But the great interactions caught in this poor light might make for some good photo references for possible future paintings and I thought I might share them on the blog as well.

Green Jay and Red-winged Blackbird
Green Jay and Red-winged Blackbird

As I wasn’t outside fending off the blackbirds most of the day, they now felt entitled to come in even though I was out there. I absolutely despise these birds, that always arrive in huge numbers, because of all the food they consume and how they manage to drive off all the birds I am usually trying to shoot. But I will have to grudgingly admit that they did make a contribution to some of the better captures I managed today.

Female Northern Cardinals
Female Northern Cardinals

It is supposed to remain frigid tomorrow and then start to return to normal temps by the weekend, so there may be some decent, much sharper action shots  yet to be had.

Female Cardinal and Pyrrhuloxia
Female Cardinal and Pyrrhuloxia

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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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