March 20, 2016 Salineno Birding Area, Texas

Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals

End of the Season, Time to Move On

Worked the final shift today and closed the gates at 4 PM for the last time this season.

This week I am heading a little north to the Texas Hill Country to hopefully catch the spring wildflower bloom. Anyone out there with any suggestions for where to go and where to stay? I would love to hear from you!

Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals

Male Cardinals continue their mating season animosities. There are as many as a dozen males in the yard at a time all winter and there are very few squabbles, but, with spring in the air, in the last week that has all changed.

Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals

And so, now, the last of the Salineno small bird shots … I promise.

Altamira Oriole and Green Jay
Altamira Oriole and Green Jay
Altamira Oriole and Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Northern Cardinal
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Female Northern Cardinals
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Female Northern Cardinals
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal

FemalePostLookDown

Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Green Jay
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Green Jay
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Red-winged Blackbird
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Red-winged Blackbird

GoldenFrontGrJayAndBlkBirdPost

Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Green Jay
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Green Jay
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Great Kiskadee
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Great Kiskadee
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Great Kiskadee
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Great Kiskadee
Green Jay
Green Jay

GJiLandingPostDark

A Gathering of Green Jays
A Gathering of Green Jays
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Great Kiskadee
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Great Kiskadee
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinal and Long-billed Thrasher
Northern Cardinal and Long-billed Thrasher
Female Northern Cardinals
Female Northern Cardinals

All my small bird images have been processed and most of the decent ones have been posted, so now (finally) on to new subject matter! Thanks for bearing with me.

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March 12, 2016 Salineno Birding Area, Texas

Audubon Oriole and Northern Cardinal
Audubon Oriole and Northern Cardinal

Eight Days to Go !

Northern Cardinal and Long-billed Thrasher
Northern Cardinal and Long-billed Thrasher

We have had our first serious rainfall over the past two days, the first in four plus months to be exact. So that allowed me to catch up with some image processing, thus, yes, still more bird shots from Salineno.

Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Altamira Oriole and Female Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Female Cardinal
Audubon Oriole and Green Jay
Audubon Oriole and Green Jay
Audubon Oriole and Great Kiskadee
Audubon Oriole and Great Kiskadee
Green jays
Green jays
Green jays
Green jays
Green jay and Great Kiskadee
Green jay and Great Kiskadee
Long-billed Thrasher and Female Northern Cardinal
Long-billed Thrasher and Female Northern Cardinal
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

Red-winged Blackbirds

Red-winged Blackbird Harassing Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird Harassing Northern Cardinal

Red-winged Blackbirds are a very real problem here as elsewhere that birds are being fed, they want their share of the handouts, and obviously feel that their share is about 99% of the food put out.

Red-winged Blackbird Harassing Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Red-winged Blackbird Harassing Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Their constant, relentless attempts to mob the feeding area have admittedly gotten to me over the four months of attempting to keep them at bay. Their shrill trilling from the treetops around the yard and from their hidden perches in the bushes within the yard are like nails on a chalkboard to me.

Red-winged Blackbird and Green jay
Red-winged Blackbird and Green jay
Red-winged Blackbird and Green jays
Red-winged Blackbird and Green jays

My absolute disgust with these birds has made me reluctant to include images of them on this blog, or anywhere else for that matter. But they most certainly are part of the “action” shots I have been taking, for they are the central characters in most of the conflicts over food here.

Red-winged Blackbirds and Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbirds and Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbirds Harass Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbirds Harass Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbirds Harass Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbirds Harass Altamira Oriole

They arrive in numbers the second I turn my back or whenever I have my eyes locked to the back of my camera, driving off the birds we are trying to attract through sheer force of numbers.

Red-winged Blackbirds Harass Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbirds Harass Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbirds Harass Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbirds Harass Altamira Oriole

The Altamira Oriole is normally the yards dominant bird, not really backing down to any other bird when challenged, but even they are eventually forced to yield when the Blackbirds descend in numbers.

An Unusual Red-winged Blackbird
An Unusual Red-winged Blackbird

Lastly, this rather different Red-winged Blackbird showed up a couple of weeks ago and I have no explanation for the odd coloring. Anybody seen anything like this or know the reason for it?

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March 8, 2016 Salineno Birding Area, Texas

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

Finally Getting Some of the Good Stuff Posted

My Nikon D810 camera died and was sent back to Nikon for warranty repairs a couple weeks ago now. Since then I have been concentrating on getting a serious backlog of image processing done.

Female Northern Cardinals
Female Northern Cardinals
Female Northern Cardinal and Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Female Northern Cardinal and Golden-fronted Woodpecker

I still have hundreds of nice action shots to sort through and process, even though I haven’t shot anything new in two weeks. As I go through these images, and think back to where I started this action shot business three months ago, I can’t help but think I have made some pretty decent progress. My time here in Salineno has proven to me that you actually can teach an old dog new tricks.

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

Turns out that camera technique is only half the secret. Paying attention to how the props are constructed, where they are placed for bird flight paths, selecting the proper backgrounds, and knowing what time of day will yield which type of shot best, are every bit as important as knowing how to use the camera.

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

The images in this post were shot over several days with varying light conditions. Most of my favorite shots from here were taken between 7:30 and 8:30 in the morning or in the very last hours of useable light in the evening. All of the above shots were shot at that time of day, where the dark backgrounds and brilliantly lit subjects produce very dramatic images. Yet those are also the shots that require the most patience. Because of the dim light,  it becomes difficult to maintain the shutter speeds necessary to freeze wing motion and it takes an awful lot of shots taken to get just a few good images, but I have found that when all the conditions are just right and the subjects catch that golden light just so, well, the results speak for themselves.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Female Northern Cardinal
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Female Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Female Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Female Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Female Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Female Northern Cardinal
Two Female Northern Cardinals
Two Female Northern Cardinals
Great Kiskadees
Great Kiskadees

Another very different lighting condition, foggy mornings that yield very diffused light, produces  an entirely different type of image, these soft, pastel like shots.

Great Kiskadee and Green jay
Great Kiskadee and Green jay
Great Kiskadee and Green jay
Great Kiskadee and Green jay
Great Kiskadee and Long-billed Thrasher
Great Kiskadee and Long-billed Thrasher
Great Kiskadee and Long-billed Thrasher
Great Kiskadee and Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Audubon Orioles
Audubon Orioles
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Female Northern Cardinal
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Female Northern Cardinal
Great Kiskadee and Female Northern Cardinal
Great Kiskadee and Female Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Great Kiskadee
Altamira Oriole and Great Kiskadee
Altamira Oriole and Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Northern Cardinal
Altamira Orioles
Altamira Orioles
Altamira Orioles
Altamira Orioles
Altamira Oriole and Audubon Oriole
Altamira Oriole and Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole and Female Northern Cardinal
Audubon Oriole and Female Northern Cardinal

Midday produces the best light for freezing motion and thus some of the sharpest shots are taken then, though the bright backgrounds add little to the images.

Audubon Oriole and Female Northern Cardinal
Audubon Oriole and Female Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Green Jay
Altamira Oriole and Green Jay
Altamira Oriole and Green Jay
Altamira Oriole and Green Jay
Great Kiskadee and Female Northern Cardinal
Great Kiskadee and Female Northern Cardinal
Green Jay and Female Northern Cardinal
Green Jay and Female Northern Cardinal

The weather here at the start of March has me itching to head north for a change of scenery , routine, and some more comfortable temperatures. March 20th has been announced as the closing date for birding at Salineo, so I begin my countdown to departure, hoping that Nikon gets my camera sent back to me in time to leave on schedule. I hope to be able to catch some of the Texas springtime wildflowers as I head north and west from here.

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February 12, 2016 Salineno Birding Area, Texas

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee

Salineno Portrait Session

Yesterday I lugged my 600mm lens over to the birding yard for a portrait session with some of our colorful birds. The 600mm is actually too much lens for the normal flight action I have been shooting for the past couple of months, as I have been able to lure the birds in very close for these shots. But recently I added a large, as in seven foot tall, piece of old gnarled driftwood I found in the river, and planted it in the center of the yard only twenty feet from where our visitors sit to view the show.

This piece of driftwood has all kinds of nooks and crannies to hide our peanut butter/lard/cornmeal mix and thus has proven to be well received by our feathered friends and much appreciated by our visitors. It also has proven to be a great prop for taking some close, as in full frame, shots of our birds.

Audubon and Altamira Oriole Dispute
Audubon and Altamira Oriole Dispute
Audubon and Altamira Oriole Dispute
Audubon and Altamira Oriole Dispute
Audubon and Altamira Oriole Dispute Resolved
Audubon and Altamira Oriole Dispute Resolved

But before i get to the portraits, the above sequence of shots is of an Audubon Oriole defending it’s position on another of the props I have set up in the yard. These action shots are what make my day nowadays, and what I will be concentrating on in the remaining time I have here in Salineno. The Altamira is a much larger bird and is actually the bully in the yard, but this one Audubon tends to stand his ground with almost anyone trying to force him out.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

Now for the portraits, a male Northern Cardinal …

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

… his female counterpart …

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

… an Altamira Oriole, the largest of all the orioles and quite colorful also …

Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole

… the Audubon Oriole, under most lighting conditions, the most difficult bird to photograph here, it’s black head making it very hard to show any life in it’s dark eyes most of the time …

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

… one of my all time favorite birds, the male Golden-fronted Woodpecker. This is one bird I am still trying to catch in flight after more than three and a half months of trying …

Green Jay
Green Jay

… the spectacular, but very common here, Green jay …

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

… the Long-billed Thrasher …

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

… the petite Bewick’s Wren …

Olive Sparrow After Bath
Olive Sparrow After Bath

… and lastly, a wet version of the Olive Sparrow, just emerging from it’s bath.

Perfect Camo, Northern Bobwhite
Perfect Camo, Northern Bobwhite

Then just one more shot, one of our regular visitors that never uses any of the props I set up in the yard, the Northern Bobwhite ( quail ), a bird well camouflaged in this setting.

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